“It begs the question: Who are we here to represent?”

Senate votes on background check bill

It really does. How in holy hell does a measure that has over 90% support in the public fail in the Senate? Apparently, a reasoned approach to gun ownership and safety, or any tools to mitigate gun violence in America, is patently ridiculous to members of Congress.

Gabby Giffords sounded off in a New York Times op-ed published late yesterday skewering Congress for their failure to rise to reason and surpass partisan politics. She asked us to join the next round of the fight in the best way we know how: at the ballot box.

I am asking every reasonable American to help me tell the truth about the cowardice these senators demonstrated. I am asking for mothers to stop these lawmakers at the grocery store and tell them: You’ve lost my vote. I am asking activists to unsubscribe from these senators’ e-mail lists and to stop giving them money. I’m asking citizens to go to their offices and say: You’ve disappointed me, and there will be consequences.

And there has to be. There has to be this time. Here’s a handy dandy list of the twitter handles for the “no” voters. Midterm elections for some of these folks are coming up in the next year. As responsible and reasoned citizens, we have to be vigilante. Our memories will need to be longer. A lobby has proven to be more intimidating than the constituencies that support these officials. 

Shit is so fucked up in Congress that some actually argued that parents and victims of gun violence in America had resorted to emotional blackmail in talking to representatives on the Hill to support measure that would keep guns away from people with criminal records or histories of domestic violence. It’s emotional blackmail and manipulation to have the families of gun violence from Newtown to Chicago lobby members of Congress to create laws to regulate gun sales and the purchase of ammunition online?

To quote Mr. Obama: Are you serious?

These are the same people who believe that we don’t have enough information to make our own reproductive choices, and push to require unnecessary medical procedures. We are required to go through a series of tests to operate a motor vehicle. We are required to undergo a series of tests to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. We get our references checked for jobs, and we are subject to credit score checks to purchase a home, or even to be deemed eligible for a credit card. And yet we are not required to undergo any background checks to purchase and own a firearm.

It’s amazing when you consider the cognitive dissonance here. I think it’s high time we redefine the term “pro-life” in this political landscape.

It’s time to turn the tables.

SYREETA MCFADDEN is a Brooklyn based writer, photographer and adjunct professor of English. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, Religion Dispatches and Storyscape Journal. She is the managing editor of the online literary magazine, Union Station, and a co-curator of Poets in Unexpected Places. You can follow her on Twitter @reetamac.

Syreeta McFadden is a contributing opinion writer for The Guardian US and an editor of Union Station Magazine.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/genabet/ Bet

    I think a big part of what is being left out of this discussion is that the Senate is a fundamentally undemocratic institution: regardless of the size of the state population, each state gets two senators. Therefore, states with small populations wield a disproportionate amount of power. I think at least part of the reason that the senate voted against what 90% of Americans wanted is because those people are not equally represented in congress.

    I broke down the numbers a little bit and found that the 21 states in which both senators voted against the bill contain only ~25% of the country’s population. Yet they control 40% of the vote. I explain it a little bit better in my blog post: http://threespacemen.blogspot.com/2013/04/gun-control-reminder-that-in-senate-1.html

    The bottom line is: this gun control issue is an issue of our federal governing system being fundamentally flawed and undemocratic. Why is no one talking about that? Because it’s so hopeless?

    • http://feministing.com/members/amale/ a male

      “90% of Americans support more gun control legislation. How is it that the senate can’t pass legislation that’s supported by over 90% of Americans, Obama asked.”

      Here we go again. Show me the source of your claim, almost everyone’s claim online or in media, that (over) 90% of Americans support “more gun control legislation.” Many people online have demanded the source about this 90% figure. I’ve found two very good ones.

      I am not a professor of English, and I see my own errors in my posts (obviously the majority of voters are not female Democrats), but I can read pretty well.



      Read very carefully what the actual questions and responses are. About 90% of people polled, with a 2-4% margin of error support “background checks” or more background checks. “Only” 47-56% depending on the poll, but with the same margin of error, actually support more gun control or stricter laws. Read the actual questions and responses for yourself.

      Repeat: Federally mandated background checks, including at gun shows, but with exemptions for individual transfers is already the law, has been since 1993. The newly failed proposal did not add to this, because it also exempted individual transfers. This is NOT the meaningful or “common sense” gun laws that people are looking for.

      Now what you say about the Senate is certainly true. One vote does not make for an equal voice when it comes to lawmaking. Have you ever wondered if there is a reason the founders of our nation and Constitution wanted it to be so? I live in Hawaii, one of those isolated, low population states. I for one, do not want US law to be dictated by California, New York, Florida, for example, even if they were the most level headed and progressive of states. I want law to be decided by consensus.

      You may not believe it, but I vote Democrat. I am 44 years old and belong to no party, but I have only ever voted for Democrats. The only major issues I am aware of where I differ from mainstream Democrats are my views on the Second Amendment and crime. My other views on universal health care, including comprehensive sex education, contraception, childbirth, and abortion, or many “women’s” issues like parental leave or equal pay for equal work, is actually more progressive than mainstream Democrats. I am otherwise about as socialist a person as you will find, and I do believe in redistribution of wealth, even globally. It should be mandated by law.

  • http://feministing.com/members/amale/ a male

    “And yet we are not required to undergo any background checks to purchase and own a firearm.”

    Here is the fundamental error of many people and politicians supporting the most recent failed proposal, and quite frankly, why you have little credibility on this issue.

    You actually believe, or are actually proclaiming in public (like numerous others), that background checks do not exist to purchase or own a firearm.


    In fact, a background check by dealers through the FBI is MANDATED by 1993 law, and has been carried out by the FBI since 1998. According to the FBI, “More than 100 million such checks have been made in the last decade, leading to more than 700,000 denials.” In a state like Hawaii (and as we have seen, states are free to pass more restrictive gun laws), ALL would be gun owners undergo a background check, and have their psychiatric history checked by the police.

    By Vice President Biden’s own admission, the government already lacks the resources to prosecute those who lie on their background checks to purchase a firearm. What would so-called expanded background checks accomplish?

    It is true that these proposed background checks does not cover individual transfers (states like Hawaii require the SAME permitting process for individual transfer), but the new Senate proposal would not have covered individual transfers, either.

    What would this proposal actually accomplish, other than grant an opening for gun control advocates to slip more restrictive amendments onto the passed proposal?

    Again, I live in Hawaii, with some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation. We have universal background checks. We have a registry and check of those with psychiatric treatment. We have a universal gun registry. We do have laws restricting ammunition purchases to those same people not allowed to own (or even handle) firearms. Concealed or open carry have never been permitted by police, though theoretically legal IF approved by the local police chief.

    We also have the lowest murder rate in the nation. I accept the restrictions on gun ownership in Hawaii, but Hawaii is not the continental US, and our low crime rate (fear is not as great here) is more than simply the rule of law. Hawaii DOES allow military styled “assault weapons” and high capacity magazines for rifles. The weapons used in high profile shootings with rifles are allowed here, and owned by many. They are not the weapons used in crime and murder. We have had high profile shootings or murders. With handguns. On top of our lowest murder rate, is the nation’s lowest murder rate using a firearm, less than 17%. The other 83% of murders are with “other.”

    What makes Hawaii different from the continental US, other than our being an island state (there still exists the possibility of smuggling arms in by post or ship, my dealer experienced one of my purchases mistakenly sent to him undeclared, but still legally received by him for sale to me), is our people and our culture.

  • http://feministing.com/members/amale/ a male

    Here is one source for the raw poll results which people use to claim 90% of Americans support X. Pay close attention to what the actual questions and responses are.


    Here is another


    It is true that approximately 90% of those responding support background checks or “greater” background checks for gun buyers (also pay close attention to how the numbers vary over time, and how numbers vary depending on the organization conducting the poll). Now remember that federally mandated background checks by dealers (including at gun shows) is already the law, has been for 20 years, and the most recent proposal also had exemptions for transfers between individuals. This is not the common sense gun laws that gun control advocates want. It is certainly not meaningful (on top of the thousands of other laws regarding guns or against committing crime).

    Now read the questions directly addressing bans on “assault weapons” or high capacity magazines holding more than ten rounds. Read what people support regarding gun control. It is not 90%. According to one Quinnipiac poll, 56%support a ban on “assault weapons,” and 56% support a ban on high capacity magazines. “Only” 52% of respondents support greater gun control.

    Depending on the poll the margin of error is about 2-4%. The barest of a majority, if any, supports stricter gun control in the US, even with recent high profile shootings fairly fresh in people’s memories. The CBS poll reports a majority do NOT support stricter gun laws (47%). One Quinnipiac poll even showed more people (46% vs 43%) believe the *NRA* better represents their views on guns than President Obama.

    Gun control is not as cut and dried or “common sense” as gun control advocates make it out to be. I studied statistics in university as a business major. It is most enlightening to show the demographics of the respondents, to illustrate the deep divide between Democrats and others, or men and women, on the issue of gun control. Gun control makes perfect sense if one is female and Democrat. The majority of voters may be so, but the majority of people, or lawmakers, are not female and Democrat.

    My point with all of this is, you do not want emotion based on current events to dictate US law. You do not want simple majority to decide US law, much less the actual US Constitution. I hate it, but we need a government of divided parties, who stand by certain issues based on party lines, who need to actually come to agreement to decide on matters of law. I do not want a Legislative or Judicial branch of government dominated by a single political party, not even my own.

    The reason I include the older Quinnipiac University Polling Institute poll (later ones also address gun control) is because this particular one included questions regarding abortion. “Only” 56% of respondents, that infamous 56%, believe that abortion should be legal in “all” or “most” cases (margin of error 2.3%). The remainder of respondents believe that abortion should be ILLEGAL in “all” or “most” cases, with only 6% “don’t know.”

    How would you like abortion, unlike gun ownership, is not protected by the US Constitution, not identified as a “natural” right, nor declared “shall not be infringed,” to be decided by how voters or politicians feel at a particular time, based on emotion?

  • http://feministing.com/members/georgesands/ justice day

    People should be more upset with the fact they can’t get a bill through congress regarding changing the reporting of sexual assault and rape in the US military. The problem in the military is epic and nobody seems to care.
    I for one don’t want more stringent gun laws that if anything would probably negatively affect rape victims.
    When guys like this will be allowed to carry guns.

  • http://feministing.com/members/amale/ a male

    I’d like to apologize for my disrespectful tone here. I am too accustomed to trying to be “right,” and I’ve been to Piers Morgan’s own blog and website to argue against his view of how the US should be since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.

    I understand gun control is a very sensitive topic, and sensible people would want to reduce gun violence. As stated, I am comfortable with my state’s restrictive laws. For myself. I could even live with a little more. However, I wouldn’t force Hawaii’s restrictions on law abiding people nationwide.

    I also confess I’ve been misreading the news myself. This measure was not actually a defeated bill. This was simply a vote to debate the issue on the Senate floor. Proposals do deserve debate prior to consideration.

  • http://feministing.com/members/amale/ a male


    Q: What word best describes how you feel about the Senate voting down new gun control legislation that included background checks on gun purchases?

    39% “Very happy/Relieved”
    47% “Disappointed/Angry”
    10% “None/Other”
    3% “No opinion”

    3.5 percentage point margin of error

    The article continues:

    – And, among those who said they were “very closely” keeping tabs on the vote, the split was even closer; 48 percent said they were angry/disappointed while 47 percent were relieved or happy. (That piece of data is indicative of the passion gap on the issue between those supporting gun rights and those pushing for more restrictions.) –

    So much for the almost unanimous claim about what 90% of “us” want, and how we are supposed to feel about it. The barest knowledge of the gun control issue (Google search to find actual poll questions, results, methodology), “critical thinking,” or even common sense should tell people that 90% of Americans are in fact, not in favor of gun control, even if questioned just days after recent high profile shootings.