Newtown families lobby for voice in gun control debate
A 68-31 vote in the U.S. Senate cleared the way for debate on a gun control bill that would expand background checks and increase restrictions on firearms purchases.
Earlier, President Obama flew about a dozen family members of Newtown massacre victims to lobby lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The families met with opposing senators and, according to reports, stayed away from policy debates, instead simply sharing their stories of loss and heartbreak. Parents like Francine Wheeler, who stood in for President Obama during his weekly radio address, took to the airwaves to call upon Senators to come together to pass “common sense gun responsibility reforms.”
The procedural vote buoys the confidence of gun control advocates who view any win against the gun lobby, however small, as a powerful statement. Longtime gun control proponent Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) stated, “With the vote that we take today, we are turning the page against the NRA’s dominance.”
What the legislation would actually accomplish is still very much in doubt. There is no provision to ban assault weapons or limit high capacity magazines. And although it enjoys some bipartisan support in the Senate, passing through the GOP-dominated House will be far more difficult. In fact, experts have warned that House Republicans could carve so many holes in the limited restrictions the bill does provide that it could actually benefit the gun industry.
As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) put it, “The hard work starts now.” The debate will be emotional and contentious. But at least it will be had. Without the inspirational efforts of these families to share their stories and demand a voice, the issue would probably not have come this far. It remains to be seen whether meaningful legislation can be passed, but with these families engaged and out-front, it has a fighting chance.