Texas used to have a healthy mystique about it that was often the envy of other states and far away places like Lithuania. That’s been lost for future generations now since the presidency of George W. Bush and a host of other Texas politicians who have been in the national spotlight of late. The butt of many jokes, Texas is now too often seen as a place where “stupid” comes to breed.
In a recent Senate roll call vote to see if a bill containing gun control legislation could come to the floor for a debate, the two Senators from Texas both voted against it. They were two of the 31 Senators who cast a vote against a debate on the package which includes a comprehensive package that expands background checks for gun purchases, increases penalties against gun trafficking, and invests in school safety. One of the amendments that will be proposed is a watered-down version for universal background checks offered by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa. A full-throated universal background check amendment could prevent criminals, gang members and mentally unstable people from buying a gun. The Manchin-Toomey compromise falls short of this and was even spoofed on SNL
In what was once considered the world’s greatest deliberative body, Senator Cornyn and junior Senator Ted Cruz voted to oppose discussion on any gun control measure including this important issue. It’s no secret that both are opposed to most if not all attempts to rein in gun violence, especially measures to inhibit the purchase of deadly assault guns like those used in the mass shootings this country has seen over the last 30 years. But that gun control measure will do little if we don’t also try to control who purchases any firearm for the very intent of inflicting harm on innocent people.
Recent polls show that a vast majority of Americans favor this sensible type of measure over every other suggestion that gun control advocates have presented. What doesn’t make sense about ensuring that a wife beater, a vengeful gang member or someone who has a criminal record that includes armed robbery or murder is restricted from buying a weapon that puts them at a distinct advantage over their victims? Currently there are background checks required if you purchase your weapon through a licensed gun dealer. But 40% of all firearms are sold through gun shows and private sells that are not governed under the same guidelines.
Most of the Senators who oppose added gun control measures will likely vote against this bill once it comes to the floor but appeared willing to allow their constituents the right to hear their pro and con views.
I suspect however that the gun-advocate supporters in the Senate will actually say very little other than some NRA talking point that has little basis in fact. They simply didn’t want to appear foolish as someone who would deny the constitutional prerogative of speaking freely and openly on a matter of grave concern. So what were Cornyn and Cruz thinking?
This is after all, in theory at least, a democracy. Only in dictatorships or oppressive oligarchs is speech suppressed that is critical of those in power. And therein lies the rub. Where does the real power lie?
For someone like Cruz, who campaigned on the theme about how his father fled the dictatorship of Fidel Castro to come to this country and make a life where people were, among other things, able to speak freely seems contradictory for him to oppose an honest and open debate on this issue. He knows he also can vote against this bill once it’s time, so why would he and Cornyn choose not to even allow any debate that would include universal background checks?
The Power of the NRA
Though 14 years ago Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, told Congress the NRA supported “mandatory instant criminal background checks for every sale at every gun show”, today he and NRA President David Keene now oppose such checks for a variety of reasons, most of them that struggle with credibility issues. From complaining to how much of a hassle this regulation would impose on “law-abiding citizens” to the obvious fear mongering argument that this legislation would lead to the slippery slope of confiscation, the NRA has dodged and weaved around how nine out of ten Americans favor universal background checks.
“When you cut through the clutter of the gun-control debate,” say William Saletan with Slate.com, “this is the easiest conclusion to draw: The NRA has no compelling argument against universal background checks. Checks don’t regulate what kind of firearms or ammo you can buy. All they do is keep guns out of the hands of criminals, abusers, and mentally ill people. That’s worth $5 and two minutes of your time. Pass the law.”
Clearly then the pressure here being put on Senators Cornyn and Cruz is NOT from their constituents. Even in pro-gun Texas where the NRA is trusted more on the issue of guns than Barack Obama by a 47% to 43%, more Texans favor a ban on assault-style weapons by a 49% to 41% margin. They also oppose the NRA’s suggestion to arm public school teachers and to putting armed police officers in every school. It is highly likely then that they would also support a universal background check, especially when you consider that across the country 84% of gun-owners and 74% of NRA members are supportive for “requiring a universal background-check system for all gun sales”.
So this can only lead to one conclusion. Cruz and Cornyn, like so many other politicians are dismissive of their constituents where there are powerful corporate interests that counter them. In this case it is the gun manufacturing lobby who are pulling the strings to cancel out the people who actually elected them. And who best represents the gun manufactures than the NRA.
In its early days, the National Rifle Association was a grassroots social club that prided itself on independence from corporate influence.
While that is still part of the organization’s core function, today less than half of the NRA’s revenues come from program fees and membership dues.
The bulk of the group’s money now comes in the form of contributions, grants, royalty income, and advertising, much of it originating from gun industry sources. SOURCE
Cruz received more money than any other Republican, on the Senate Judiciary Committee, including Charles Grassley from Iowa, in just his first year as a U.S. Senator along with earning the NRA’s top rating of A+. And though Cornyn only had an A rating from the NRA, he did receive $12,450 in donations last year.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas uses a life size photo of a Remington 750, a popular hunting rifle, to make a point about the proposed ban on certain kinds of guns