Source: Silvercore Training / Flickr

BETWEEN THE LINES: What we have in Congress — to paraphrase the iconic line from “Cool Hand Luke” — is a failure to legislate. That was quite evident last week after the Senate failed to expand existing gun laws without infringing on the Second Amendment. On top of everything else, because of undue filibustering rules, a 45 percent minority — too afraid to challenge the all-too potent National Rifle Association — defeated the will of the majority.

The American people — pardon the phrase — should be up in arms over legislation that would have strengthened and expanded background checks for gun sales.

With the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre still fresh in our minds, it was disgraceful, albeit not shocking, that nearly four dozen senators did nothing to assuage the painful memories of victims’ families or the overwhelming support of the American public in a clear cut triumph for the National Rifle Association.

The legislation would have extended background checks for buyers at gun shows and online purchases. The 54-46 tally was six votes short needed to break a filibuster. Under the current law, although people who want to obtain a gun need to have a background check for some purchases, such as from a licensed dealer, it is not necessary for them to go through such a process for other types of sales.

While the senators who voted against the compromise proposal were mostly Republicans, a handful of Democrats joined their gun-loving GOP colleagues. Nonetheless, one senator blatantly demonstrated his commitment to special interests. Montana Democrat Max Baucus, whose constituents strongly support background checks for gun purchases, sides with the opposition.

One has to wonder if even a massacre in their own backyards would coerce these NRA-coddled legislators to change their minds.

The NRA frequently argues that existing gun laws need to be better enforced, though it continuously lobbies for amendments and riders to legislation that makes it increasingly difficult for federal agencies to carry out their policing tasks. And, still, the NRA refuses to acknowledge thousands of gun owners, who clearly understand the need to balance public safety with their rights, champion common sense gun reform.

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, almost every American, especially our legislators, was more than willing to accept new restrictions in order to preserve our freedom and safety. So, why does it seem impossible to establish new restrictions on guns — without violating even the rash interpretations of the Second Amendment — that would further protect our well-being?

Despite the clamor for stricter gun control in the aftermath of the Newtown school shoot in December, support has steadily weakened. A recent Associated Press-GfK poll showed that 49 percent of Americans support stricter gun laws, down from 58 percent in January. In that survey, 38 percent said they want the laws to remain the same and 10 percent want them eased.

The NRA and misguided Second Amendment proponents should ponder what Conservative columnist George Will wrote in 1991: “Whatever right the Second Amendment protects is not as important as it was 200 years ago… The government should deconstitutionalize the subject by repealing the embarrassing Amendment.”

It’s long past the time when politicians, elected to serve the people who voted them into office, react to a senseless tragedy by ignoring their electorate and supporting the demands of special interests. Numerous polls in recent months have demonstrated that 90 percent of the nation support expanded background checks. But, obviously some of our legislators are not among them.

While the precise language of the legislation may have been flawed, most of the “No” votes were more than likely due to politicians who are commonly influenced by, or fearful of, the NRA. Sadly, only in the hallowed halls of Congress is the distortion of democracy repeatedly demonstrated as minority rules, and the conscience of the nation seems to have little significance.

By their April 17 vote, our gutless elected officials proved they are more indebted to the NRA than they are to their constituencies and the American people. For the good of the country, NRA-influenced legislators need to take one for the nation and bite the bullet — if they hope to protect it.

Gun control may be out of the spotlight, especially with the media riveted to the post-Boston Marathon bomb investigation. Even so, the 45 senators who capitulated to the will of the NRA, as they trampled on the graves of the victims of the Newtown massacre, deserve to be serenaded with TV journalist Arnold Diaz’s investigative series refrain, “Shame, shame, shame on you!”

According to the Huffington Post, since the Newtown, CT, shootings, there have been more than 2,200 gun-related deaths across the nation. Long after the taming of the Wild West, gun control remains a sticky issue in America. However, that problem will never be suitably resolved as long as spineless elected officials refuse to do anything to enact stricter gun laws.

Neil S. Friedman is a veteran reporter and photographer, and spent 15 years as an editor for a Brooklyn weekly newspaper. He also did public relations work for Showtime, The Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson. Friedman contributes a weekly column called “Between the Lines” on life, culture and politics in Sheepshead Bay.

Disclaimer: The above is an opinion column and may not represent the thoughts or position of Sheepshead Bites. Based upon their expertise in their respective fields, our columnists are responsible for fact-checking their own work, and their submissions are edited only for length, grammar and clarity. If you would like to submit an opinion piece or become a regularly featured contributor, please e-mail nberke [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.

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  • nyc cit

    We already have NICS system that does background checks every time you legally buy a gun at a store. What the UBC bill had is a bunch of amendments that attacked the rights of the law abiding gun owners and do nothing about criminals and mentally unstable. This bill would’ve made illegal for me to go to a range with a friend and let him shoot my gun without me actually doing a background check on him. If that friend would help me load my firearms into the car it would also make me a felon if I didn’t perform a background check on him. But what it would do at the end it would create a database of guns for future confiscations. The reason why it didn’t pass is because people didn’t want it, has nothing to do with the NRA or anything else. And because nobody knew which amendments the administration would introduce once the bill is passed. These are the reasons. Do you see anything restricting criminals or mentally unstable from getting guns in this bill? I don’t. In fact the amendment that would subsidize LEOs and school security guards was voted down by the Dems. So don’t tell me they care about public safety. Educate yourself before writing editorials on the subject.

    • Subway Stinker

      When the Left fails to move its anti gun agenda, they blame it on the NRA and a handful of US congressmen, even thought there is no real evidence that the anti-gunners are in the majority. When the Left is able to move its agenda, even in the face of broad public opposition, like with these annoying bike lanes, they laud progressive ideas and have scorn for the Majority. Oh, the double standard.

      • Tinman

        So, in your mind, the 90 percent surveyed does NOT represent a majority? Nevertheless, thanks for reading my column.

        • nyc cit

          The 90% number is completely bogus. I bet they phrased the survey question like this: Do you think a background check should be performed when a person is buying a gun? Of course 99% would say yes, I would do too. And we have those checks in place now, we had them since 1960′s. Now if somebody would phrase a survey questions that would reflect truly what the UBC bill had in it it would sound something like this: If your dad took you hunting do you think he needs to do a perform a background check on you before he lets you touch his guns? That would more accurately depicts what’s in the UBC bill. See, it’s all about how you phrase a question of these so-called surveys. Once again, Tinman, please educate yourself about what exactly the survey said before you throw these meaningless numbers at us. Another question: Do you believe in the Constitution of the United States?

          • levp

            Are you saying sellers at gun shows and private sales are now performing background checks on buyers?

          • nyc cit

            Yes, gun show dealers always have, those are the guys with tables at the show. If someone’s walking around the show with a gun on his shoulder that has “for sale” sign or in the parking lot then I doubt it. I also doubt there are too many of them. The state controls those those transactoins. Once again nobody has a problem with a background check, I and others have a problem with with the UBC bill that makes felons out of law abiding citizens and creates a national database of guns for later confiscation.

          • levp

            In a very few states, this is true. So few that I am only aware of one: Colorado.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_shows_in_the_United_States

            In the state of Colorado, all firearms sales/transfers at Colorado gun shows are subject to both FBI and Colorado CBI background checks, including private sales/transfers of firearms.

            But, even in Colorado:

            Private sale and transfer of firearms in the state of Colorado are still legal outside of gun shows.

            And:

            in many other states, private sales or transfer of firearms between private citizens of the same state are legal regardless of whether they occur inside or outside of gunshows.

            So, on this issue you are wrong.
            BTW, what is this “Odumbo” you are referring to?

          • nyc cit

            I’m wrong on what issue? I said that dealers do background checks at the shows but not private citizens. Please re-read my response before pointing out that I’m sooo wrong. And you know very well who’s Odumbo, you probably voted for him.

          • levp

            But, since there is no registry (ATF is prohibited from requiring purchase reporting – it’s done on volunteer basis), we will never know exactly how many sales are private sales, and how many are not.

            That’s why the proposed legislation is talking about “universal” background check – meaning for all transactions.

            Have you changed President Obama’s name in a demeaning way to bolster your argument? I thought we were having a logical conversation, but it appears not to be the case.

          • nyc cit

            For the last time: it’s not the background checks that worried citizens who bothered to read the UBC, it’s the intentions to make law abiding citizens jump through more hoops that would cost them more money and bloat the government even more while the tax payers foot the bill. That should worry all tax payers especially in our economy unless you’re a leech on society which I suspect a lot of Obama supporters are these days. And yes, I call him Odumbo, mainly because I don’t like him and his dumb policies that will drive our economy down and unemployment further up. Gun control is used to distract the kool aid drinkers in our country from the real problems ie economy and unemployment. And what about the fact that 1 in 5 high school graduates can’t read?? But yeah, let’s make sure we go after gun owners first, they are our biggest threat. Common sense is not so common these days.

          • levp

            Reminder: we are not debating education or taxation, but the fact that people on a terrorist watch list (among others) who can obtain firearms legally.

          • Local Broker
          • levp

            You are correct, it is more than Colorado. Still, that map is awfully red all over, isn’t it? Makes me glad I live in New York, though.

          • Local Broker

            Why every state that requires it is more dangerous than the ones that dont. Anyway i am not going to go back and forth like we have in the past even though i want to i will not give this article anymore views or attention. It doesnt deserve it. This is not journalism or an op-ed its fiction.

          • nyc cit

            Typical liberal non-sense, talk first – fact check later, that’s why nobody trusts them or their surveys anymore.

          • levp

            I have always admitted my mistakes. It is called integrity – something you might not understand, considering your spelling of “nonsense”. Typical conservative (LOL).

          • Tinman

            Yes, I believe in the Constitution, but it does NOT guarantee a gun for anyone who wants one! That sort of rash, misguided interpretation is the problem for those who support the NRA and oppose common sense gun laws.
            What kind of Kool-Aid are you drinking? You seem to be the first person to refute the 90% polling numbers.

          • nyc cit

            If I want a gun and I’m not a criminal or mentally unstable, why shouldn’t I have a guaranteed right to own a firearm? Also, like I’ve illustrated the 90% number might as well be true if you ask the right question. If you ask a question that correctly represent the information in the UBC bill then that 90% would drop down to like 5%. The devil is always in the details. If the bill is called Universal Background Check it doesn’t mean that that’s all it has. Did you read it? Since you said you also believe in the Constitution why would you think that a 90% majority should be able to tell the other 10% what they can or can’t do? We are not a democracy, we are a Constitutional Republic that guarantees rights for the minority. So I’m going to ask you again, why should I care about the 90% majority (even if your biased poll is true) if they want to infringe on my Constitutional right?

      • levp

        Note: Bloomberg and his administration are not exactly “the Left” (re: bike lanes).

  • Local Broker

    Proponents of civilian disarmament will never win because all their propaganda is based on lies and misinformation. I have never read one article from an anti that actually used any facts. When you claim 90% of people based on a poll of 1,100 people asked “do you support federal law for background checks on potential gun purchasers” you look like fools and lose votes just like you did. A better poll would be to ask 16,000 police around the country if they think checks would do anything to stop criminals, you all love cops. Well here you go http://ddq74coujkv1i.cloudfront.net/p1_gunsurveysummary_2013.pdf
    Please do research and use facts before you spew.

    • Tinman

      So, may I assume you do not beleive any poll is valid, since they are ALL based on a small, albeit representative segment of our society? Or do you have evidence that all polls have no merit?

      • Local Broker

        You can assume anything you want. Fact is the poll asks a simple question to 1,100 people without elaborating on the repercussions of a law like that. To claim 90% of Americans want something from a poll of 1,100 people is absurd and ridiculous. Did you know that only 4% of those same people in that poll dont care if that law was passed? They failed to mention that part. These gun control laws are nothing but control laws and will do nothing to prevent or stop criminals from being criminals. All it does is burden normal law abiding tax paying citizens. At the minimum 1 million defensive gun uses a year by private citizens. Think about how many people save their own lives or someone else by being armed and how much more crime and violence we would have if you disarm those same people. Why cant you just do some research on this subject from both sides with an open mind and write something without an agenda or personal opinion and see what comes out.

      • Local Broker