In order to fully exploit national sentiment, there are currently various bills before the 113th Congress to strengthen gun control. President Obama is trying to make progress on this front through both signing 23 executive orders and promoting a plan focused on “universal background checks for all gun buyers, a crackdown on gun trafficking, a ban on military-style assault weapons, and a ban on ammunition magazines holding more than 10 bullets,” according to the Washington Post. However, his plan’s prospects seem grim in the face of Congress which, predictably, is focused on halting its progress.
In response to these initiatives, both the executive orders and Obama’s proposed plan, there has been an outcry from Congressional Republicans, either decrying Obama as a tyrant or yelling at him for trying to take away their guns. Congress’s stubborn adherence to the principle of no progress as being better than compromise is sickening, and this gun debate may be the last issue on which they can pull it off.
As its answer to Obama’s proposals, Congress has said it will consider proposals put before it, and, in fairness, Republicans leading the charge against Obama have even proposed an alternative strategy. Their approach is instead to re-examine America’s mental health system. This plan has merit, as said by Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), on USA Today, “a proper diagnosis and comprehensive treatment are critical to ensure we are identifying indicators of violent behavior that may lead to horrific crimes.” The danger is in the implication of stricter gun control and mental health care re-evaluation as mutually exclusive proposals.
The American people are getting tired of gridlock. In fact, they approve less of it now than they have in months, as found by a Gallup poll which puts Congress’s approval rating at 14%. The public has even given up on public decorum: when John Boehner was announced at President Obama’s inauguration, the crowd booed. With the continuation of this policy of inaction, Congress is quickly losing popular support, if it has any left.
Resignation to this strategy as a fact of contemporary politics is probably most notable by the inclusion of a sadly relevant fact in a CBS News article on the gun control legislation. “Getting the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster and pass a bill in the Democrat-led Senate won't be easy.” The de facto number of votes required for getting things down in the Senate has risen to 60, and for that we should be ashamed.
Politics is not meant to polarize issues or divide people along strict lines, it is meant to be a method through which rational people can put the interests of the whole above their own ideals and party lines. It is likely that, as Obama’s plan comes to a vote, parts of it will pass while others are flatly refused; the nature of the plan, and the outcry from the American people, will see to that. But, as limitations on types of guns or ammunition approach, I fear that we are likely to see a political stand-off, with the level of resistance to action, progress, and compromise to which we have become accustomed.