Leaders must cease fire over gun control laws

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

Gun control legislation always faced an uphill climb — even with great public support. According to a recent poll by The Washington Post and ABC News and ABC News, 86 percent of Americans support background checks for gun purchases. A CBS News poll has it as high as 90 percent. So why can’t the Senate agree with the public?

Last Wednesday, gun control amendments to expand background checks and ban assault weapons failed to reach the necessary 60 votes in the Senate. President Obama called it “a pretty shameful day for Washington.” Although the bipartisan Toomey-Manchin amendment to expand background checks raised hopes for a Republican compromise, that was not the case. Only four out of 45 Republican Senators joined 48 out of 53 Democrats to vote in support of the bill, according to The New York Times.

In hindsight, it’s easy to point fingers, but placing blame on others should not be a focus. Some could say that President Obama abused his bully pulpit, parading the parents of Newtown, Conn. to shame congressmen. Others could say that Republicans are too conservative, stuck in the last century, and still can’t accept their embarrassing defeat in the last election. One can easily find different people to point fingers at. But that accomplishes nothing and does little to help the country progress.

As suggested by a recent report from The Hill, the fate of gun control lies in the public’s hands. However, the public cannot vote on amendments. That power lies in the hands of what Nate Silver of The New York Times calls an ideologically divided House and a Senate that allows small conservative states to have just as much power as bigger blue states. Yet it is a Congress comprised of members who are voted into office by the citizens, and hereon lies a very fundamental problem.

Many Congressmen don’t feel the pressure from 90 percent of Americans because the only people they are worried about are those who have votes from their districts. With so many voting districts moving to extremes, there is little motivation for compromise — especially when considering the fact that Congressional re-elections are two to four years down the road. So unless we all pack up and move to North Dakota, it seems as if we’re in the same state as before: stuck.

But it isn’t hopeless. The climate for compromise seems to be slowly taking shape. Obama’s new proposed budget features concessions on his part to cut Medicare and Social Security. Bipartisan immigration reform seems to be gaining momentum. Last week, 95 Senators also voted to improve mental health treatment, according to The Huffington Post.

So let’s start here and work our way up. Let’s encourage our leaders to find a middle ground. Our political system might make reform difficult to achieve, but pointing fingers won’t get us anywhere, even if there is plenty of blame to go around.