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Tyranny of the Minority Sinks Meaningful Gun Control LegislationRalph E. Stone Salem-News.com
Failed gun control legislation has again fallen victim to the tyranny of the minority.
(SAN FRANCISCO) - Given the Sandy Hook Elementary School killings, the shootings at a supermarket near Tucson, the pleas for gun control legislation by the parents of the Sandy Hook victims, and the testimony by Gabrielle Giffords, victim of the supermarket shootings, you would think that reasonable gun control legislation would likely pass in the U.S. Senate. Regrettably, it is not to be.
Legislation strengthening background checks -- supported by 90 percent of Americans -- was defeated in the Senate 54 to 46.
The ban on dozens of military-style assault weapons was also defeated by a vote of 40 to 60; a bipartisan amendment to stiffen penalties for “straw purchasers,” 58 to 42; and an amendment to limit the size of ammunition magazines, 54-46.
It was a shameful time in the Senate. Failed gun control legislation has again fallen victim to the tyranny of the minority.
Then again, any gun control legislation would have faced an uncertain future in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Except for the proposed assault weapon ban, the remaining gun control legislation received a majority in the Senate. Why then didn't they pass? Because the Senate failed to reform its filibuster rule and as long as the filibuster rule stands, gun control or any legislation for that matter can be defeated by a minority -- 41 votes -- or never even come to a vote.
As majority leader, Senator Reid set the rules of the Senate prior to the current term of Congress. However, he allowed the super majority requirement -- 60 votes -- prior to any meaningful vote to stand and, as a result, preserved the threat of a filibuster, stating, "I'm not personally, at this stage, ready to get rid of the 60-vote threshold . . ..
With the history of the Senate, we have to understand the Senate isn’t and shouldn’t be like the House." Thus, Senator Reid bears much responsibility for the defeat of pending gun control legislation in the Senate.
What is the U.S. Senate filibuster rule anyway? It usually refers to any dilatory or obstructive tactics used to prevent a measure from being brought to a vote. Senate Rule XXII permits a senator, or a series of senators, to speak for as long as they wish and on any topic they choose, and unless "three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn" (usually 60 out of 100 senators) brings debate to a close by invoking cloture. In recent years, the majority has preferred to avoid filibusters by moving to other business when a filibuster is threatened and attempts to achieve cloture have failed.
Until members of Congress are penalized at election time for opposing gun control legislation, senators, fearful of the National Rifle Association, will use the filibuster rule to doom any future gun control legislation in the Senate.
Salem-News.com writer Ralph E. Stone was born in Massachusetts. He is a graduate of both Middlebury College and Suffolk Law School. We are very fortunate to have this writer's talents in this troubling world; Ralph has an eye for detail that others miss. As is the case with many Salem-News.com writers, Ralph is an American Veteran who served in war. Ralph served his nation after college as a U.S. Army officer during the Vietnam war. After Vietnam, he went on to have a career with the Federal Trade Commission as an Attorney specializing in Consumer and Antitrust Law. Over the years, Ralph has traveled extensively with his wife Judi, taking in data from all over the world, which today adds to his collective knowledge about extremely important subjects like the economy and taxation. You can send Ralph an email at this address firstname.lastname@example.org
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