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The Failed Politics of the U.S. Background Check Bill

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Pres. Obama talks gun control during a visit to Colorado on Wednesday (credit: CBS)

Pres. Obama talks gun control during a visit to Colorado on Wednesday (credit: CBS)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

There has been much gnashing of teeth and great consternation this week over the defeat of the Background Check bill in the U.S. Senate. President Obama said it was a shameful day for Washington and gun rights advocates declared victory over those who would restrict their rights.

However, I am of the thinking that the infamous gun lobby is not nearly as powerful as they are being made out to be this week, nor was it a shameful week for Washington, at least not for the reasons that President Obama laid out.

If you keep the conversation at a high level, it’s easy to pick sides and throw large rocks at the other side, claiming one side is heartless and has been sold to the gun lobby and that the other side is solely interested in taking away guns from law abiding Americans.

Neither claim has any merit is my eyes. The truth of the matter is that politics was at play at every level and not played very well by some.

Let’s take a closer look at the pure political level of what happened to this bill.

The first question I would ask is if the bill was basic enough as to be supported by 90% of the general public, as the President maintains, how could Senate President Harry Reid and President Obama not be able to secure six more votes in support of the bill? Or, which seems to be the case, was the bill written with the fine print that nearly every single law in our land is written with, that truly prohibited significant bi-partisan support?

Secondly, is the NRA as powerful as their supporters and nearly every Democrat seem to believe? It looks like they are being handed credit for singlehandedly defeating the bill and wielding more political sway than our President and the entire Democratic party. If the NRA were truly that powerful, wouldn’t they have somehow been able to stem similar efforts in state legislatures like in Colorado?

Maybe the case is, which is what I suspect, that everyone involved is more than happy for the NRA to receive credit for being a bully that stopped this bill, whether the credit is deserved or not. The NRA can report to their membership, which has grown by 20% in the last five months, that the most powerful man in the world is powerless to stop them. And in contrast, President Obama and Democrats can already start producing ads saying that every Republican, alive or dead, is controlled part and parcel, by the NRA.

Next, if the lawmakers who crafted this bill were really interested in seeing it pass and get to President Obama’s desk, was it in a form that would even have a chance to get out of a committee in the U.S. House? According to my 9th grade Civics class, if bills are to become law, they need to pass both the Senate and the House. In order to do that, there is usually a fair amount of amendments, deal making and general political wrangling that makes it happen.

Except for the Munchin-Toomey amendment, it did not seem like many changes or deals were put forth on this bill. So either the politicians involved refused to arrive at any additional compromises that might make the bill much easier to pass not only the Senate, but also have a shot in the House, or they never really had a goal of the bill getting to Obama’s desk in the first place.

This is not a criticism of only one side of the situation. This is a pox on both houses moment since the Republicans allowed themselves to look like puppets of the NRA and the President and Democrats made themselves look politically impotent.

If 90% of the United States truly wants to see background checks on every gun sale in America, but the effort to pass a bill in the Senate fails by six votes, can you really only blame one party? If so, I think you are giving them far too much credit. This kind of political theater requires many players, and like every good mystery, not everything is what it seems to be.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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