Gun control advocates have far better public relations skills than the gun lobby. Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns released new ads today featuring families of Sandy Hook victims, which you can watch below. And President Obama held an event at the White House today, flanked by gun violence victims, in which he cited a story about Washington forgetting about Newtown and offered a somber message: "Shame on us if we've forgotten. I haven't forgotten those kids." After today's national "day of action" on gun control, Obama's activist group Organizing for Action is planning 100 related events, which should continue to call on Congress to act, and from across the country.
All of this is unfolding on one side while the National Rifle Association has rambled about video games from the 1990s and aired offensive ads about the president's daughters. One side of the PR campaign is working, as a majority of Americans are on the gun control advocates' side. And yet, the gun lobby is winning. Indeed, earlier this week, the NRA's Wayne LaPierre said of Bloomberg, "He can't buy America." That's true. Why would he even want to? It's much more cost-effective to buy Congress.
Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley is working on an alternative to the Democrats' gun bill that would not require universal background checks or put any limits on weapons or ammunition. Grassley's bill would increase penalties for "straw purchases" of guns, as in when people who buy a bunch of guns for someone else, Politico's John Bresnahan and Manu Raju report. It would also increase how much information about buyers' mental health is included in the background check system. Politico reports this could endanger the already endangered — and weakened — Democratic bill. Grassley's objection to a bill with universal background checks, his spokesman says, is that it appears to "violate the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens." Is there a constitutional right to anonymously own a gun? The gun lobby has suggested the bill has bigger ambitions. LaPierre has claimed universal background checks are being proposed to create a list of gun owners in order "to tax them or to take them."
The Senate did not even vote on an amendment to the Democrats' gun control bill that would have banned more than 100 assault weapons. A reported compromise would allow gun sellers to immediately destroy records of background checks on buyers — making the law unenforceable. How would police make sure you actually ran a background check if no records exist?
Even that measure is struggling to get Republican support, with only Illinois Republican Mark Kirk backing it, Politico reports. Grassley's bill is intentionally being crafted just in case Democrats are able to get enough Republican votes to overcome a filibuster. "One top Senate Republican aide called Grassley’s alternative bill 'a break-the-glass kit' in case Reid does round up 60 votes," Politico reports.
Meanwhile, the only gun measures that have passed since the Sandy Hook child massacre have actually relaxed gun regulations. They were added to a government funding bill earlier this month, and prevent the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives from requiring gun dealers to do yearly inventory checks to make sure no guns were lost or stolen, ban the ATF from canceling a gun dealers' license because of low sales, require the ATF to issue a disclaimer on gun data saying it "cannot be used to draw broad conclusions about fire-arms-related crimes," and broadly define "antique" guns so they can be imported more easily. "Don't let the memory of Newtown fade without doing something real," Terri Rousseau, the mother of Sandy Hook victim Lauren Rousseau, says in Bloomberg's ad, which will air in Connecticut. So far, the only thing real that's been done on guns is to make buying them easier.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.