Gun Control 2013: Are Pro-Gun Congressmen to Blame For Gun Deaths?

This week, the Obama Administration and the families of the Newtown victims are pressing Congress to pass new legislation that will help prevent gun violence. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who spearheaded the compromise bill with Senator Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) in April met with the family members of victims personally on Wednesday. The Newtown Action Alliance and Organizing for Action will hold a rally on Thursday on Capitol Hill with Senate Democratic leaders and the senators from Connecticut.

The April 2013 proposed legislation to implement background checks on firearms sold at gun shows and across state lines is legislation completely within the vision of the Founding Fathers. The Second Amendment as interpreted by the judicial system disfavors excessive regulations on the possession of firearms within states. But regulations of the inter-state commerce of firearms under the authority of the Commerce Clause is exactly the power that founders envisioned giving the federal government.

The Constitution is not written with a hierarchy of amendments, but opponents of gun violence prevention bills think that their right to possess any weapon is absolute. If opponents of proposed gun violence prevention legislation had a more complete understanding of the separation of powers between the federal government and state governments under the Constitution, I don't see how Congress could fail to pass a constitutional bill on background checks. There is no right that is absolute under the Constitution. This includes the right to free speech, free exercise of religion, right to privacy, right to vote, or the right the travel. But Republican and Democratic opponents of gun violence prevention measures have concocted an alternate Constitution where the Second Amendment is absolute, but rights such as privacy and due process are expendable. 

Senator Lindsey Graham said this week that he was glad that the National Security Agency was listening to his phone calls. That's right, he's glad that the federal government has violated everyone's Fourth Amendment right to privacy, and is continuing to do so every day. It's too bad that not everyone lives such a privileged life as Senator Graham to never have to speak with or listen to someone who may be in trouble with the law. Yet for lawyers, social workers, journalists, and human rights advocates, the loss of their Fourth Amendment privacy protections for engaging in their public service reflects the sad state of America's political leadership. But, I'm sure they are comforted by the fact that they can buy an assault rifle and take out their anger at the gun range.

90% of Americans support background checks. Lindsey Graham and Peter King say that if we don't let the National Security Agency (NSA) spy on us, then terrorists will attack and kill us. Democratic Senators from Arkansas, Alaska, Montana, and North Dakota all opposed the previous attempt to pass gun violence prevention measures. If we don't pass laws that prevent gun violence, then is Congress responsible for the deaths of our children?

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Asheesh Bhalla

Asheesh has worked as a consultant and policy adviser at the World Bank, U.S. Department of the Treasury, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and National Archives and Records Administration. Born and raised in Southern California, he studied Arabic in Yemen and lived in Kabul where he co-founded an Afghan public health organization. Asheesh received his B.A. in Politics and Economics from the Gallatin School at New York University, M.P.H. from Columbia University, and J.D. from American University.

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