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Wednesday, April 16, 2014
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Published: 4/18/2013

Change the Senate

How is it that 90 percent of Americans want background checks for gun purchases by felons and people with a history of mental illness, but Congress cannot get this done?

How is it that most Americans want a limit on gun-magazine capacities and believe the typical hunter does not need access to a semi-automatic weapon, but Congress can’t approach those reforms?

You can talk about minority rights, the construction of the Founders, the power of lobbyists versus the sustained interest of Americans. But at the end of the day, a lame, pathetic Congress can’t get much done on any issue, major or minor.

When the country looked to Congress to do one reasonable, modest thing about gun violence, the U.S. Senate — with the parents of children killed in Newtown, Conn., looking on — voted to do nothing. As President Obama said, it was “a pretty shameful day in Washington.”

The President drew the right conclusion: Advocates of gun control must get better organized. They must be as passionate and vocal as gun-rights absolutists. And they must stick with it. Make public safety an issue in key races; win elections; change Congress.

There is hope, and a model. Both come from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Last week, Chicagoans chose a successor to former Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., in a special election.

Mr. Bloomberg, a billionaire, feels deeply that the nation needs comprehensive gun control. He spent more than $2 million of his own money to support a pro-gun control candidate in the Chicago race, Democrat Robin Kelly. She won.

Mr. Bloomberg has set himself up as a one-man anti-National Rifle Association. He has shown that the NRA can be fought, and beaten. Democrats and liberals who feel passionately about particular issues need to adopt Mr. Bloomberg’s method, whether the cause is immigration reform, meaningful gun control, climate change, or just a functional Congress.

Focus on a key issue in a race for the U.S. House or Senate. Change Congress, and you change Washington.

Americans must not accept the proposition that the NRA runs Congress. We must not accept the proposition that this society cannot defend itself — cannot even try to keep weapons of war out of the hands of thugs and lunatics.

Generalized outrage or concern will not change the political landscape. Changes in public-opinion polls alone will not change Congress. Targeting specific issues and candidates will. The political right has known this for years.

Said former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords: “Over two years ago, when I was shot point-blank in the head, the U.S. Senate chose to do nothing. Four months ago, 20 first-graders lost their lives in a brutal attack on their school, and the U.S. Senate chose to do nothing. It’s clear to me that if members of the U.S. Senate refuse to change the laws to reduce gun violence, then we need to change the members of the U.S. Senate.”



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