Almost a weeks ago, before the nation was glued to the television sets with all things the Boston manhunt, we watched as the United States Senate, voted not to allow closure on debate effectively killing the Manchin-Toomey amendment.
The defeat came not on a simple majority of Senators, but rather was accomplished through parliamentary procedures that require 60 votes to end debate and proceed on the question. The measure failed by a vote of fifty-six for ending closure to forty-six against closure ensuring the legislation would fail because a minority of senators voted no.
I do not know whether the Manchin-Toomey background checks legislation was a good or whether it would be effective. Certainly requiring a universal background check, one, which is the same in each state, may be a good idea. Background checks are effective for law-abiding citizens; they are a feel good solution, which allows society to feel protected. They do not stop gun violence.
They will not automatically lead to a national gun registry if the federal government is not allowed to maintain serial numbers of weapons but then again individual states, such as New York are free to do so. Today as it has been through most of our history the real threat to liberty comes not from the central government but from state and local governments abridge the right of their citizens.
Two hundred years ago Mr. Madison, in Federalists 10, reminded us, that one of the ills of society, which our constitution was designed to prevent, was the power of faction be it majority or minority. The United States Senate, has allowed a parliamentary procedure ending a filibuster which requires 60 votes to thwart legislation and preventing the United States Senate from taking an up or down vote where the majority prevails. This is not how the system should work; this does not make for good governance.
While this legislation may have passed the Senate, although doubtful; it never would pass the House of Representatives. There are factions in this country who fear that anything but an absolute reading of the Second Amendment is the road to perdition; yet these same groups are more than willing to throw their weight around so as to stifle debate in the United States Senate. Go figure, are they afraid they will loose or that the majority of Americans will see their views as extreme.
Before anyone accuses me of being a typical East Coast educated elitist (which I plead guilty to the charge) they should also know that I am a gun owner, owning somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty weapons, and that I enjoy shooting. I am also a civil-libertarian and I believe that all the Bill of Rights are important, but that as history has shown us none of the Bill of Rights are absolute, I repeat none are absolute. There are exceptions to each of the Bill of Rights. I have grave reservations about many aspects of gun control; as I feel we are trying to punish law abiding citizen for the actions of a few; but having said that our nation needs to have a robust debate about guns and gun control. We should not allow the minority to thwart that public debate.