Friday, April 19, 2013

Beyond the Pale, or is that Pail?

The Senate vote that failed to give us reasonable background checks for gun purchases is over for the moment, but it is so clearly not over.

While the four Democratic Senators who voted against the bill (not counting Harry Reid who needed to vote no to be able to bring the bill back at a later time) are from Red states.  In pondering the question some my wife and I wondered aloud how many people those four Senators represent?  Well, Sandy looked it up before I got around to it and here is a bit of a window on political logic.

North Dakota     699,628 people
South Dakota     833,354
Montana          1,005,141
Arkansas            731,449

This adds up to the staggering sum of 6,539,144 people represented by those four Senators.  On first glance that calculation seems like a significant number.  If these four Democrats were feeling the heat of their constituents then it makes some sense, if they want to keep their jobs, that they would come down on the side of voting against the bill.  They live in states that may not be in line with the national polls showing that 90% or so of the people who want to have background checks for gun purchases.  It takes a bit of pondering to see what Heidi Heitkamp, for example, had in mind when explaining her position after the vote.  What she said was, paraphrased, that the problem is what is in peoples minds not what is in their hand.  In other words, mental health is what she wants to see worked on rather than directing our efforts at gun control of any sort.  Hmmm, for a Congress that is shorting the funding of everything in sight she might as well have said that there is no real reason she voted, "No" on the bill.

Given that there is another observation about the population number that bears repeating.  While 6.5 million people are hounding the Senators from those Red states if you look at just the population of New York (19,570,261) or even just 90% of New York City (8,244,910) you might notice that these Red State Dem's are not focused on the real questions about reducing gun violence.

In the last few days I heard one commentator say that perhaps we just don't understand the gun culture in the middle of the country and that we have to give these Senators some slack because they live where people hunt more.  I know of no state where there is no hunting and as far as I can see there are guns everywhere anyway, even without hunting.  We actually do UNDERSTAND gun culture more than that.  In fact, we understand it so well that we have ignored that there are about as many gun deaths in United States per year as there are automobile related deaths.  We have worked together, as a country, to lower the automobile deaths and have had considerable success in reducing the number and percentage of fatalities over the years.  We have done virtually nothing to slow the gun related deaths since 1994.

Representative government means that we have people putting our wishes, the majority wishes, into law.  It is not just the four Democratic Senators that failed us, of course.  There are the Republicans that voted to kill the gun violence despite the will of the people... it's just that we noticed the four stand out votes more than those from representatives who have blocked some much legislation in the last 5 years.  It is shameful but I don't have much expectation for those Senators anyway. It is a question of how we bring this up for a vote again as quickly as possible.  It is just a drop in the bucket.

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