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Profiles In Cowardice And Courage From Our Shameful Senate: Mark Begich And Mark Kirk

Memo Pad

Profiles In Cowardice And Courage From Our Shameful Senate: Mark Begich And Mark Kirk


On Tuesday 45 senators — mostly Republicans, but some Democrats — made cynical political calculations by choosing to protect the NRA gun merchants over America’s children, betraying the families of Newtown, CT, and the nation in their failure to pass stronger gun laws.

It was expected that the right-wing Republicans in the Senate would reflexively vote against any common-sense gun safety measures. Only slightly more surprising was the cowardice of the four red-state Democrats who voted against expanding gun background checks — senators Max Baucus (D-MT), Mark Begich (D-AK), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Mark Pryor (D-AR). But at least Baucus, Heitkamp, and Pryor are keeping a low profile as they face the angry 92 percent of Americans whose demands for universal background checks went ignored.

Begich, however, spoke up with a pathetic excuse for voting against background checks. He told The New York Times that “it’s dangerous to do any type of policy in an emotional moment. Because human emotions then drive the decision. Everyone’s all worked up. That’s not enough.”

Never mind that it has been four months since Newtown. Never mind that poll after poll after poll shows a majority of Americans, including gun owners and NRA members, support universal background checks. Never mind that Vice President Joe Biden put together a task force that convened 22 meetings with law enforcement professionals and gun safety experts and collected ideas from 229 organizations, concluding that universal background checks would reduce gun violence.

And in a conference call with donors on Thursday, Begich explained that he voted yes on the rejected Grassley-Cruz alternative amendment — which was thrown together and introduced at the last minute — because it had a better chance of passing the House than Manchin-Toomey, even though Grassley-Cruz did nothing to expand background checks, and in fact included pro-gun measures such as allowing interstate firearms sales and interstate transportation of firearms that would undermine existing state laws. Grassley-Cruz also would have made it easier for mentally ill people to obtain guns.

And besides Grassley-Cruz, did Begich say anything about making an emotional policy decision when on Wednesday he voted yes on the Cornyn amendment that would have allowed “concealed carry reciprocity”? The NRA-backed bill would make it legal for someone with a gun permit from a state with weak gun laws that allows concealed carry, like Arkansas, to carry that concealed weapon across state lines to a state with tough gun laws, like New York.

That must have been a completely rational, well-researched decision.

Amazingly, although the Senate rejected the Cornyn amendment, the measure received 57 votes, which is three more votes than the Manchin-Toomey background checks bill received. Think about that —  a bill to loosen gun laws received more votes than expanding background checks. That was the Senate’s response to Newtown.

To Begich, expanding background checks is a dangerous policy driven by human emotion, but allowing any yahoo with a concealed-carry permit to walk around Times Square or Hollywood is just common sense.


  1. charleo1 April 19, 2013

    Yesterday the Senate put on public display, why in poll, after poll, 88% of
    the American Public, is very dissatisfied with Congress. The Senate remains

    dysfunctional. And it’s leading members quietly refuse to fix it. With every bill
    filibustered as many times as it takes to kill it, the majority’s will is truncated,
    by the minority. We keep hearing elections matter. If true, then why isn’t the
    bill, supported by 90% of us, headed to the House of Representatives today?
    Instead it’s lying in tatters on the Senate floor. I can’t count the times when
    conversing with those evidently pleased with the unprecedented obstruction.
    Ask me, well, if you wanted the Dream Act, or taxes raised on the wealthy,
    or DOMA struck down, or any number of other Left Wing ideas, why didn’t
    you guys do these things when you had a filibuster proof majority, if you wanted
    them so badly? In other words, we Republicans know how to use a majority
    when we get one. Now, without calling for Party purity, or voting as a block in
    all circumstances. I do think, if one runs as a Democrat, they should at
    least believe in the core principals of the Party. And, when the President, leader
    of your Party, and 90% of the public wants your affirmative, vote. But, you just
    can’t quite bring yourself to giving it. Then, you should resign as a liar, and a fraud.
    Go to the back of the line. Pay all your back taxes, and allow yourself to be correctly
    identified, as a Republican.

    1. James1754 April 25, 2013

      Let us all hope the senate remains dysfunctional.

  2. option31 April 19, 2013

    This IS a Constitutional issue and should not be taken lightly as people are proposing. We cannot take ANY Constitutional issue lightly even if the majority are for it. Look at what has happened to the 5th, the majority now consider if you take the 5th you are guilty because you refuse to talk, even though prosecutors regularly twist what people say, and you want to avoid any possiblity of that. Look at the 4th, it basically no longer exists because the majority would rather have had alleged drug dealers dealt with than follow the 4th and now we have people being arrested and homes and cars searched even their person like in NYC because a cop is “suspicious”. If this is worth doing it needs to be not in haste but in clearly thought out process not knee jerk reactions.

    1. charleo1 April 19, 2013

      To take the position, that convicted felons, and the insane, must continue
      to be permitted to buy any weapon sold on the open market, just not from
      a licensed gun dealer, to protect your Second Amendment Rights, is absurd.
      The Brady Bill, and the ban on assault type weapons, supported by the NRA,
      and Republicans, at the time. Was much more comprehensive than the Senate
      Bill. And that didn’t bring a jack booted, government thug to your door to
      confiscate your guns. And neither would have this milk toast, legislation.
      The problem with being extreme, it’s either all in, or all out. Radicals can’t
      see, or refuse to see, nuance. They can’t tell the difference between

      regulations, that would help keep guns out of the wrong hands. And a law
      nullifying the Second Amendment. Regulations, bad. No regulations good.
      And so it goes with every issue. Whole hog, or nothing. That’s why the
      Republican Party has not been able to solve a single problem, or offer a
      solution to any challenges facing the Country today. Illegal aliens bad.
      No amnesty. All must go. Compromise? Compromise bad. Take, or leave,
      our extreme positions. For those are the only ones we have.

      1. montanabill April 19, 2013

        Do we need more background check laws? From the Washington Post:
        2010: 34,459 felony convictions/indictments, 13,862 fugitives tried to illegally purchase firearms
        44 prosecutions
        So while you are busy castigating the Republicans, maybe you should reserve just a little venom for the current administration.

        1. Lynda Groom April 19, 2013

          Bill did you check your figures and compare them with those of the last Bush administration? FYI, in 2010 a full 80,000 Americans were denied guns after providing false info regarding criminal histories during background checks. Its a felony to lie during the process. As Justice Dept officials have said a number of times such crimes are inherently hard to prosecute, because it’s tough to prove that someone was knowingly and deliberately lying on the form.
          During a recent exchange between Senator John Cornyn (R-Tx) and John Walsh, the US Attorney for the District of Colorado the following was stated. There is little point going after people who had already failed background checks–since they were unable to purchase guns anyway. ‘There’s no way the Department of Justice could have prosecuted all 1.5 million people who were rejected over that 15 year period.
          As to the venom for the current administration, perhaps you be interested in this information. During the Bush administration they made some progress on 2 Federal Gun Laws and virtually none on the 20 others. During that period about 1 in 1000 cases ever saw a courtroom either. It is not just the current administration that you should be directing your anger.

          1. montanabill April 19, 2013

            Didn’t say it was limited to the current administration. Simply pointing out that if you don’t enforce current law, no need to pass new laws.

            By the way, just because a person is rejected, doesn’t mean they did something criminal. Only if that person was a convicted felon or had some other specific legal reason why shouldn’t be trying to buy a gun and tried anyway. That was only about half of those rejected.

          2. James1754 April 25, 2013

            I believe the last time I heard the basic argument I was five. It boils down to, “Well if he does it, then I can do it.”

            The laws on the books are not being enforced, why do we need more laws?

            And as far as rejections go, over 90% are later granted, there are problems in the system.

  3. Lynda Groom April 19, 2013

    We truly seem to be living in the land of OZ. Just what will it take to make our leaders see the light of reality and reason? It sure beats the heck out of me.

  4. James1754 April 25, 2013

    I could not get past the first paragraph. The bills being considered would have had no effect on crime and done nothing to prevent another mass shooting.

    But it appears to be a nice propaganda piece.

  5. Elliot J. Stamler May 17, 2014

    I am a New Yorker and a member of several gun-law reform organizations including the Brady and Giffords organizations. Nevertheless the Cornyn Amendment does deal with a subject that is not nearly as straightforward as your article presumes. In NY we have a strong carry-permit law. When an out-of-stater with lawful carrying rights in his home state is arrested here he is subject to a minimum of l year imprisonment. This is not fair. Some means should be found to have such out-of-staters informed if they go into a jurisdiction like NY and exempt them from serious criminal liability. Here it’s entirely up to the discretion of the county DA as to what happens. The Cornyn Amendment is NOT the answer but neither is the present status equitable or reasonable. Perhaps some legislation requiring all handgun owners to receive annually a list of jurisdictions where they cannot carry weapons without a permit.


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