Congress Voted To Block Gun Safety, But Made Progress Elsewhere
Yesterday’s attack at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, CA has reignited calls for commonsense gun reform. According to one definition, the San Bernardino attack was the 355th mass shooting in 336 days. It wasn’t even the first mass shooting of the day yesterday. Four people were also shot early yesterday morning in Savannah, GA.
Unfortunately, San Bernardino was just the latest in a string of domestic terror attacks: Planned Parenthood, Umpqua Community College, a Minneapolis Black Lives Matter protest, Charleston, Isla Vista. The list goes on. But these acts only represent a fraction of all gun deaths. Almost 90 people are killed every day with a firearm. Our gun murder rate is 20 times higher than other developed nations.
It has now become routine that, after tragedies like San Bernardino, conservative politicians in the pocket of the NRA offer thoughts and prayers to the victims but no action to reduce gun violence. Today, Senate Democrats forced some of these politicians to do more than just think and pray. During the Senate’s budget ‘vote-o-rama,’ Sen. Feinstein (D-CA) offered an amendment that would close the terror gap, which allows individual terror suspects to legally purchase guns. Sens. Manchin (D-WV) and Toomey (R-PA) offered their bipartisan background check compromise as well. Both amendments failed to pass, showing once again, the NRA’s power over conservative lawmakers.
In every other country, this is not normal. A mass shooting nearly every day is not normal. A gun death every 25 minutes is not normal. A Congress, 24 hours after an act of domestic terrorism, that refuses even to prevent those with known ties to terrorism from legally purchasing guns is not normal.
Blocking commonsense gun laws wasn’t the only thing Senate Republicans slipped into today’s budget reconciliation process. Ignoring the more than 50 health care repeal votes thus far, Senate Republicans also attached legislation to the spending bill that would repeal large parts of the Affordable Care Act. This would wreck insurance markets across the country, raising costs and driving up the number of uninsured. But Senate Republicans didn’t stop there. They also included language in the bill to defund Planned Parenthood, which would cut off critical health services for millions of men and women across the country. These are just two of the many harmful riders Senate Republicans are attempting to attach to the spending bill that could lead to another government shutdown.
While much of this week, both in and out of Congress, has been dominated by bad news, a few significant forward steps were taken. Yesterday, the House passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the rewrite of No Child Left Behind, which expired eight years ago. ESSA, which still needs to pass through the Senate, will do much more to serve all students, particularly those who are most disadvantaged. And in another rare show of bipartisanship, the House finally approved the highway trust fund bill, which will provide $305 billion to repair and expand highways, bridges, and transit across the county. Finally, even more good news came from the Department of Defense who opened all military combat jobs to women, marking another important step towards equality in the military.
BOTTOM LINE: It isn’t possible to stop every act of gun violence, or make sure every American gets the care they need. But our lawmakers have an obligation to do everything they can to keep Americans healthy and safe. Instead of pushing partisan legislation that would make it harder for hardworking Americans to get the care they need, our lawmakers should focus on commonsense legislation that can help keep our country safe.
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