It’s not NRA dollars that are blocking gun control. It’s the NRA’s narrative | Ana Marie Cox | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk
Of all the senators who attempted Wednesday to rally support for the doomed Manchin-Toomey background check amendment, Connecticut’s Democratic freshman representative, Chris Murphy, probably faced the greatest temptation to borrow the moral authority of the Newtown families. They are his constituents and many were present in the chamber.
He’s young – the youngest sitting senator, actually – and an early Obama supporter, given to occasional bouts of (understandably) overwrought emotional rhetoric. During his very first floor speech as a senator last week, which itself took on gun legislation, he read the names of the Newtown victims – and some of the 3,000 other victims of gun violence since 14 December – into the congressional record.
Murphy’s also been a vocal, unusually sharp critic of the National Rifle Association. He described their response to the the Newtown tragedy – the “National School Shield” Program – as “unhinged”, “revolting”, and “tone deaf”, declaring himself “flabbergasted” by the group’s press conference and calling out the program for what it was: a bald ploy for further political power.
“This was a chance for the country to come together. The NRA made the decision to gain membership by ginning up fear and becoming even more radical.”
But on Wednesday, Murphy eschewed the inflammatory, easy route of shaming gun rights extremists (though I have no qualms about that path myself). Maybe because the battle was already lost, his speech had a tone of exasperated regret, tinged with earnest bewilderment. He was forthright about what a vote against universal background checks means:
“You are basically saying you are OK with more criminals getting guns.”
(This sentiment has been echoed by the amendment’s Democratic co-author, Joe Manchin.) Murphy then took a step back from his focus on the NRA as the bill’s primary antagonist and articulated the question so many of us have: 90% of Americans support the kind of background checks laid out in the Manchin-Toomey legislation. Why isn’t it passing? Sure, he said, it’s tempting to lay blame entirely on the NRA: