Thursday, January 31, 2013


Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly before the
 Senate Judiciary Committee (Susan Walsh/AP photo)  
        I watched some of the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on gun violence yesterday, including the moving testimony by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. She was granted the opportunity to address the Committee at the very start of the hearing, before the swearing in of the five witnesses who had been invited to testify. In case you missed it, click HERE. Gabby and her astronaut husband Mark Kelly, both of whom are gun owners, stressed the urgent need for Congress to act to curb gun violence in America.
        Having already stated my views on this subject (see my post of January 12), I simply want to share a few impressions of the hearing. Committee Chair Patrick Leahy's rational and bipartisan opening statement was followed by ranking Republican Senator Charles Grassley's opening remarks. He started off mildly enough, but then launched into a harsh criticism of President Obama, which in my view was totally uncalled for and hardly the way to begin a reasonable discussion of such an important issue. Whether he was throwing sops to the Tea Party or stating his own position, his castigation of the President was entirely inappropriate. But that's the kind of political posturing we have come to expect from Republican leaders these days.
Swearing in the witnesses - L to R: Mark Kelly, David Kopel,
James Johnson, Gayle Trotter, Wayne LaPierre (AP photo) 

        The Committee had selected five witnesses to present their various points of view. After listening to each one and to the responses of the Committee members, my long-standing impression that Democrats are so much more reasonable than Republicans was reconfirmed. The arguments put forth by NRA executive director Wayne LaPierre, which I've heard before, were misleading and his answers evasive. He wants people to be able to protect themselves against the police and the National Guard! Senator Dick Durbin very effectively rebuffed LaPierre's denial that background checks and enforced gun registration would be any hindrance to criminals.
        I was shocked by Denver University law professor David Kopel's testimony. He opposes gun registration and advocates arming school teachers! How can any intelligent person believe that the solution to gun violence is more guns? The NRA loves that idea, of course, so their corporate sponsors, the gun manufacturers, can sell more guns!
        Attorney Gayle Trotter, speaking for the Independent Women's Forum, an ultra-conservative, anti-Obama research and educational organization, was just as upsetting to me. She argued for women to have assault weapons at home to protect themselves and their children against intruders.
        Balancing the testimonies of these pro-gun advocates were the reasonable testimony of Captain Mark Kelly and the impressively fact-based presentation of Baltimore County Police Chief James Johnson, who pointed out that those involved in law enforcement are overwhelmingly in favor of strict gun legislation.
       The question is: Will common sense prevail? The extreme attitudes voiced by the pro-gun advocates and some of the comments by the Republican Senators, make me less optimistic about the passage of comprehensive bipartisan gun legislation. Public opinion will force Congress to do something, but it remains to be seen if there are enough level-headed Republicans who will join with the majority of Democrats in both Houses of Congress to enact a really meaningful and far-reaching gun reform bill.

No comments:

Post a Comment