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Eight days after Orlando shootings, US Senate rejects gun control bills

(Image: flickr_glasgows)

NRA logic: Don't let ten innocent go gun-less to keep one terrorist at bay

Just last week, the world witnessed the unfolding of a horrific massacre in an Orlando nightclub. Assailant Omar Mateen, a US citizen who had been profiled as a potential threat by the FBI since 2013, opened fire at a crowd of about 300 unsuspecting civilians, with a military AR-15 type assault rifle and handgun that were all purchased legally via standard regulations and procedures. With 49 dead and 53 injured – the worst mass shooting in the history of the US – the Orlando massacre caused a massive social backlash of citizens and activists calling for more stringent gun control laws in a nation mired with habitual shootings. The first chance that US lawmakers were given to rectify the pandemic of reckless gun ownership was bitterly rejected as Congress failed to forge a compromise on even the most modest of gun curbs.

Divided Senate rejects gun-control laws/Image:AP

The U.S Senate rejected four separate proposals on gun controls as Democratic and Republican senators decided to vote along party lines by blocking each other’s bills. Senators failed to agree on the degree to which gun control should be enforced in the most heavily armed nation in the world. Though last week’s massacre has pressured Congress to swiftly take the issue to the floor, the gun-control measures were ultimately lost amidst the lingering political power of gun rights defenders and the National Rifle Association(NRA). Not to mention the age-old continuance of political bureaucracy as many senators opted to disagree for the sake of disagreeing.

On the left side of the ring, Republican Senator John Cornyn said: “Our colleagues want to make this about gun control when what we should be making this about is the fight to eliminate the Islamic extremism that is the root cause for what happened in Orlando. My colleagues in many ways want to treat the symptoms without fighting the disease." In a tune as old as song, the senator attempts to divert the attention from one hand by using a soundbite from another. Despite the fact that Mateen had stated allegiance to the IS, the CIA has not been “able to uncover any link” between the Orlando killer and the jihadist group, dubbing the shooting as a domestic incident of terror.

On the other side of the ring, Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski said: “Why is it we would go through such incredible scrutiny to board an airplane to protect me against a terrorist, and yet we have no scrutiny of the people on the terrorist watch list to be able to buy a gun?" Easy. One side of the senate is subject to the lobbying might of the NRA while the other is too stubborn to realize that without a certain level of compromise, the status quo continues.

NRA protects interests with 2nd amendment/Image: flickr_DemocracyChronciles

The Republicans and the members of the NRA complained that the bills put forth by the Democrats violated the constitutional right to bear arms and that without “due process”, law-abiding Americans would be denied the right to purchase weaponry. Hence two of the Democrats’ proposed bills, one which would have barred suspected terrorists on the FBI’s “no-fly” list from purchasing firearms, while another would have closed the “gun show loophole”(currently, people can buy firearms at gun shows or online private vendors without a screen) by requiring every gun purchaser to undergo a background check, have been shut down by the Republican-dominated chamber .

Democrats, on the basis that the Republican proposals were too weak, kept a bill that would require law enforcement to be alerted if anyone on the terror watch list attempts to buy a weapon(though the suspect can only be blocked from sale for up to 3 days unless proven guilty) and another that would make It more difficult to add the mentally ill to the mandatory background check database(I fail to see how this is a gun “control” amendment) from being ratified as well.

Senator Murphy calls vote "out of step"/Image: EPA via BBC

The four gun reform amendments required 60 votes to advance(100 senators: 54 Republican, 44 Democratic, 2 Independent), and with none meeting that threshold, this marks the latest failed attempt to amend America’s gun laws in the wake of a series of mass shootings that have shook the nation from its roots. Apparently, recent mass shootings weren't enough to shake the nation's politicians from their trademark complacency. Reuters reported that after the votes, Clinton issued a one-word statement: “Enough”.

After Monday's vote, Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida asked, “What am I going to tell the community of Orlando?” Well, he’ll have to say that because the NRA won yet again, individuals who have been identified as a potential terrorist threat will continue to be able to buy firearms. With one million people currently on that watch list, there is no specific prohibition for those people to buy all the gear that they want, in certain cases, even without a routine background check.

Orlando tragedy unable to sway Senate/Image: Getty Images via BBC

Last week, Connecticut Senator and Democrat Chris Murphy held the floor for 15 hours in a filibuster that led to Republicans pledging to hold votes on measure for expanding background checks and preventing potential terrorist threats from obtaining guns. It wasn’t a sudden call to ban all weapons possession in a country that has more guns than people. It was a call to restrict the sale of firearms to people who have been deemed by the government as unsafe to bear arms due to their potential to harm innocent lives.

With the country gone into grief in the wake of the Orlando shootings, people hoped for a shift in sentiment within a senate that was adamant on resisting change in gun laws. Yet, the Congress would not have it. It was a bitter decision that denounces all that the candle vigils and global remembrance activism stand for. An inaction that compounds the tragic grief of all victims of gun violence.

49 deaths that prompted Senate's gun debate/Image: Reuters

The media reactions speak for themselves. The Washington Post deemed the decision an “absurd situation” where Republican senators put “the US Constitution’s Second Amendment above national security concerns” by protecting “terrorists’ right to bear arms.” The New York Times referred to Capitol Hill as the “slaughterhouse” as USA Today called the vote “an extraordinary act of cowardice”. Though a Reuters poll conducted last week found that 71% of Americans favor at least moderate regulations and restrictions on gun sales, politicians continuously succumb to the bureaucracy of DC lobbying and remain blind to the fact that lawmakers can save thousands of lives. Or are we asking too much when certain others recently rescinded on comments that suggest that victims of the Orlando shootings should have been armed to avoid the tragic massacre? Yet another self-afflicted step away from peace.

#Knife #shooting

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