A loss for ‘middle ground’

The tragedies and loss of lives this past week in Boston and West, Texas were horrific. We are reminded that neither of these incidents was a result of handguns or even M-16 rifles, but there were others who most of us don’t know about who were victims of gun violence last week, and that too is a tragedy.

When President Obama declared last Wednesday as a day of shame in Washington, he should have extended the shame to all of those who lobbied against the Manchin-Toomey gun bill. This bill prohibited the seizure of legally owned guns, and included a provision that denied the government the right to form a federal registry. The sole purpose of the bill was to require background checks when purchasing a firearm from a gun show or over the Internet. It did not allow for registration or a background check when a family member gifts or sells a gun to another member of their family, or for private sales between neighbors or friends.

According to PolitiFact, the amendment was centered on background checks for gun shows and over the Internet, two areas that are currently exempt from federal law. It specifically exempted transactions between family members from the background check requirement. “The purpose of the Manchin-Toomey amendment was to find middle ground.”

“As under current law, transfers between family, friends and neighbors do not require background checks. You can give or sell a gun to your brother, your neighbor, your co-worker without a background check. You can post a gun for sale on the cork bulletin board at your church or your job without a background check,” a press release from the senators said.

But the NRA disagreed; they said that this amendment would “criminalize certain private transfers of firearms between honest citizens, requiring lifelong friends, neighbors and some family members to get federal government permission to exercise a fundamental fight or face prosecution.” This is not true.

The Manchin-Toomey amendment protected the Second Amendment rights of individuals to bear arms. No one would be able to take away any individual’s gun(s) under this amendment.

What do legitimate gun dealers think? I have asked a couple and they have said the same thing, “Where is the level playing field? How is it reasonable that the legitimate gun dealer has to ensure that the proper papers are filed and background checks are completed but an individual who secures a booth at a gun show doesn’t?” A recent Gallup Poll showed that while every legitimate gun dealer might not agree with Manchin-Toomey, they do feel they are too often required to jump through hoops when the other guy isn’t. Whether they believe the debate over gun control is valid or not, they believe that gun shows should play by the same rules they are required to play by. “Why should a criminal or mentally impaired individual be allowed to go to a gun show and purchase a gun that they would not be able to purchase at the local gun dealership on the corner?” Gun control just makes sense.

But making sense is not something our elected officials in Washington seem to be capable of. The senators who voted against the Manchin-Toomey bill were called cowards and gutless by their constituents and members of the media, as well as private individuals via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media sources. While the NRA lobbyist cheer this defeat, there have been more than 400 deaths in America due to gun violence since Sandy Hook, and we continue to see an average of 18 gun related deaths each day. And then there is the governor of Texas!

Texas Gov. Rick Perry gave a press conference this week regarding the tragedy in West, Texas; he was wearing a shirt with a logo that made me wonder how on earth someone so ignorant could have ever been elected governor. Let me say again, the Manchin-Toomey bill specifically prohibited any gun seizure. And yet, Gov. Perry stood there proudly wearing a shirt embroidered with a Star, a gun, and the phrase “Come and Take It.” This is the kind of stupidity that incites riots, creates an environment of fear, anger, and inflames others to act on emotion rather than fact.

This is another of the NRA’s tactics to provoke the extremists to stockpile their weapons and barricade their doors. It is this type of mindset that causes the haters to hate and the White Supremacists to build communes and vow to fight to their death against the government we saw this at Ruby Ridge and with the Branch Davidians in Waco.

Where is the ability to be reasonable? Where has sanity gone when we are faced with tragedies? Has the emotion of fear become the emotion of the day? Do we need to accept Gov. Perry’s bravado style of taunting and intimidation? Is his style what is right for our country? Our children? Our communities? Haven’t we seen enough carnage and killing lately to last us a lifetime? When will our elected officials do what is right for the American people who put them in office rather than succumb to the will of the NRA and the Tea Party extremists?

We need elected officials who vote for what the American public sees as reasonable. We don’t need cowards or bullies such as those we have seen in the U.S. Senate and the Governor’s Mansion in Texas; we need our elected officials to do what is needed to ensure the safety and freedoms of each of us.

Have a great day.

Vicki Westling is a Dunkirk resident and author. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com