Shameful Days

By Beacon Staff

Gosh, I hate Congress.

About six weeks ago, the Senate Judiciary approved, on a straight party line, a gun control bill: S-649 – misnamed the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act. While watered down slightly from what gun-haters in Congress really lusted for (gun and magazine bans), it still stank.

Stinkiest of all was “universal background check” language: Every single gun sold or transferred (except nuclear family) would be required to pass through the hands of a licensed gun dealer. The dealer, for a fee (tax) to be set by the attorney general, would take physical custody of the gun, record the particulars, and oversee completion of a form 4473 – a hard copy record to be kept by the dealer, and then the government, forever. Borrow a friend’s gun? Gift? Friendly sale? Not without papers, comrade!

Gun-haters crave gun registration. After all, you can’t make up gun-confiscation lists unless you register the guns, know who owns them, and where the owners are. Gun-controllers call for “universal background checks” not to fight crime, but to get millions of guns back into the system, with current owner information on crispy-fresh government paper.

Of course, the fight over what might actually pass out of the Senate Sausage Factory then started. The fight supposedly ended last Wednesday with an orgy of seven “substitute amendments” that might replace parts of, or be added to, the final “gun violence” bill.

These amendments all had to pass with 60 votes, after four minutes of fake “debate.” With 60 votes, the amendments would become the language of the main bill. So – everything presented on Wednesday failed: The Manchin-Toomey “compromise;” a Republican substitute compromise without “universal check” tricks; straw purchaser enhancements; concealed carry national approval; veterans protection – these all failed to clear 60 votes, but had majority support.

Two other amendments, a new “assault weapons” ban and magazine ban, fell short of a simple majority, with the gun ban getting only 40 votes.

Just in case you are wondering, Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester voted “gun right” for the most part, with Tester supporting the White House-favored Manchin compromise and Baucus opposing. Soon after, a long-faced President Barack Obama declared “a pretty shameful day for Washington.”

Have a cigar? Nope … two MORE amendments were then heard Thursday morning. One, from John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), would cut community-policing funding a whopping 5 percent to state and local governments that release private gun owner information to the public (meaning nosy newspapers). Amazingly, that passed, with 67 votes.

Last was an amendment from Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), “To reauthorize and improve programs related to mental health and substance use disorders.” About time, with mental issues central to these mass killings? Also good was a “National Project Exile Expansion” targeted at the highest-homicide regions of America.

Of course, there was Title II, “expanding NICS checks for the safe transfer of firearms.”

And what an expansion – siblings up to first cousins are exempt, but all other transfers require a “licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer has first taken possession of the firearm,” then conducts a background check – almost exactly the same “fix” proposed by gun-hating Charles Schumer contained in the original S-649 bill approved by the Senate Judiciary. Only if states create their own self-check “consumer portal” system may private sales not involve dealer “possession.”

Guess what? Harkin’s amendment gathered 95 yeas and 2 nays, with only Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) having the brains to vote no.

I called Senator Lee’s office and they confirmed that the rotten background check language of the original bill has been replaced. The Harkin language is so similar to the Manchin-Toomey version, there’s no difference.

So, I wasn’t surprised when right after a “party lunch,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced he was pulling the bill, with White House support according to a Washington Post source. As the Post wrote, without mentioning the changes made by the Harkin amendment, “the underlying bill hasn’t been defeated and is still technically on the legislative calendar. As majority leader, Reid can bring up [the rewritten S-649] again at a moment’s notice.”

And he will – the next shameful day there’s enough blood.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.