Majority Leader Harry Reid announced Tuesday that gun control legislation in the Senate will emerge from committee disemboweled. The ban on assault weapons is dead, with no more than 40 Senators expressing support, and the ban on big ammunition clips is on life support. A “victory” at this point will be, at best, watered down background checks. And that is in the Senate. Mr. Boehner’s GOP controlled House will likely demolish background checks, too.
Flashback to the
weeks after the Newtown, Connecticut massacre. We pledged to make a
difference; we vowed that it was different this time. We posted
article after article and meme after meme on Facebook. We shouted down
NRA supporters in comment threads and in Washington, DC, we staged a
little march on the NRA offices and held a candlelight vigil or two.
And then we lost focus.
spend an awful lot of time crowing about our clever online organizing, but
Internet activism has given us the attention span of fleas. We hang out on web sites where anyone can
start a petition on any topic at any time. But political victories
require real organization, real leadership and although it pains most of
us to admit it, laser focus on a relatively small number of issues.
While we flitted about signing a hundred Internet Petitions on dozens of
topics, or engaged in useless cyber fisticuffs with Tea Party trolls in
comment threads, the NRA was working. They shored up their votes in the
Senate and lobbied their supporters online and offline. The Tea Party joined the fray, coordinating meetings and informing supporters with fusillades of email alerts, including one with the astoundingly crass
subject line "Bang Bang". But Bang Bang, they won. In the realpolitik of legislative advocacy the
NRA was savvy and effective
while our brave new online world was little more than sound and fury,
Look back at your Facebook feed from Tuesday,
the day Senator Reid announced the debacle. How many posts about gun
violence did you see? How many appeals to mount a massive lobbying
campaign to support the assault weapons ban in the Senate? Now, count how many shares you received about
the clever folks that painted gay pride colors on the house across the
street from the Westboro Baptist Church. Post your counts in the comment
feed below. On my Facebook page, it was Cool Colorful House 7, Gun
Control 0. Yeah, the stunt with the house was worth sharing, but what is
ultimately more important?
As I type tonight, police sirens are
wailing, heading down Pennsylvania Avenue and racing south across
the Anacostia River, where gun violence is as frequent as a sunset. If those
sirens aren’t responding to a shooting tonight, they will be tomorrow.
While we pat ourselves on the back for painting a house, kids are dying
of gunshot wounds from DC to Denver to LA.
The NRA wins; we lose. It’s as common as the gunfire.