Shame on Congress

Shame. On. You.

Patricia Maisch had it right when she yelled those three words from the gallery following the Senate’s defeat, 54-46, of a background checks bill on gun purchases.  Maisch was present two years ago in Tucson when a gunman with an assault weapon killed six people and wounded 13, including former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

By agreement of Senate leaders, a 60-vote majority was needed for approval.

It’s fair to say that a lot graves were walked on yesterday.  Graves that should never have been dug in the first place.  Graves of those lost way too early — of children, teens, college students, and adults killed by gun violence at Virginia Tech and Columbine; in Aurora, Tucson, Newton, Chicago, and countless other communities.

The grave stomping was committed by 41 Republican Senators and four Democratic Senators who stubbornly and cowardly refused to support a basic bill on background checks that repeated polls showed 90 percent of Americans supported.

Those who voted “no” were 90 percent of Republicans and Democrats Mark Begich of Alaska, Max Baucus of Montana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.  That’s Begich, Baucus, Heitkamp, and Pryor.

Of the Senators who voted “nay,” Erica Lafferty, the daughter of the principal at Sandy Hook, who was killed along with 20 children — first graders — and five other educators, said: “The next time there’s a mass shooting and they’re asked what they did to prevent it, they’re going to have to say nothing.”

If that isn’t enough, imagine the nerve.  The nerve of so-called leaders who knew what was right but instead voted to protect their paychecks and to remain deep in pockets of the filthy rich and cold-blooded gun lobby. “Leaders” who voted no with Newtown families and their former colleague, Giffords, in their midst. If that doesn’t turn your stomach, I don’t know what will.

To be a leader requires the ability to empathize. If a person can only understand the depth of a tragedy when it happens to him and not to his fellow citizen, he is not a leader.  If a person cannot see a problem with guns when 20 terrified first graders are mowed down in cold blood, she is not a leader.  If people cannot look into the eyes of a colleague who was nearly killed and can no longer function in Congress, and still not see a need for drastic changes, they are not leaders. They are cowards.

But make no mistake.  There is passionate resolve on the part of those who desire stricter gun laws.  The Newtown families aren’t going away.  Gabby Giffords isn’t backing down; just take a look at her editorial in today’s New York Times. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, the Democratic co-sponsor of the background checks bill has pledged to continue his push. (Although his Republican co-sponsor Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, sadly, has said he is moving on to other business.) The folks in Colorado aren’t giving up — that state and Connecticut recently passed stricter gun laws.

We are not giving up.  As President Obama said: this was just Round One.  Cowardice doesn’t win in the end. What is Right does.

Your voice is needed.  You must contact the officials who opposed this legislation and tell them they will not have your vote. If they don’t have your back and the backs of our babies, why should you have theirs? Go to www.senate.gov Click on the red “senators” tab and find your representative.  Then, write an email, leave a voice mail.  Do it again.  And again.  Make it the issue of the 2014 election.

More regulations — sensible regulations of which we are in dire need after losing hundreds of thousand — will happen. Comprehensive background checks.  Restrictions on magazine sizes.  Perhaps even an assault-weapons ban.

All are common-sense measures.  No brainers.

Shame on Congress if it takes another tragedy before they do their jobs.