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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • CHRISTOPHERSON COLUMN: Would ten out of ten been enough for senate?

  • It’s no surprise that Heidi Heitkamp’s name is popping up in the headlines so much of late.
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  •     It’s no surprise that Heidi Heitkamp’s name is popping up in the headlines so much of late. After all, the freshman Democratic U.S. senator from North Dakota was one of only four Democratic senators to break ranks and vote against the senate bill last week that would have increased background checks for those looking to purchase firearms at gun shows or over the Internet. Those four votes helped kill the measure, which means only months after more than 20 first graders were gunned down in their school in Connecticut and everyone in the wake of that tragedy pretty much conceded that some type of stronger gun control legislation was imminent, no stronger gun control legislation will be passed.
        That doesn’t mean I’m necessarily in favor of all this after-the fact, reactive legislation that we seem to be witnessing on the part of our fearlesss leaders these days – after all, is Congress going to try to make it harder to buy a pressure cooker?
        But, still...
        Heitkamp said she had to listen to her constituents back in North Dakota, a gun-loving state. That’s a somewhat peculiar argument, because her state doesn’t seem to be enthusiastically embracing gay marriage, and yet Heitkamp recently felt she had to stand up for equal rights and announce that she’s in favor of gay marriage being legalized.
        Heitkamp is being ripped or praised in the wake of her no vote on the background checks bill. Some people are saying they’ll never vote for her again. Others are totally impressed by her decision.
        But Heitkamp should not be the focus of this gun control debate. In the bigger picture, she’s a bit player, if that. She’s just another lawmaker that feels unending pressure to answer to the special interests that give her money so she can get elected and re-elected.
        Most of the card-carrying, deer-hunting members of the National Rifle Association who maybe own a couple rifles, a shotgun for waterfowl season and maybe a handgun for home protection have no problem with increased background checks for those trying to purchase guns. When you take all of America into the equation, more than three out of four, most surveys show, are strongly in favor of more background checks. Some put the level of support at nine out of 10.
        But all those NRA members and all those common sense citizens don’t give lawmakers lots of money, so they don’t really matter.
        The NRA members don’t really even matter to the NRA. If boatloads of NRA members tore up their cards and cancelled their memberships in disgust over the NRA’s unreasonable stance when it comes to firearms legislation in this country, the NRA would carry on just fine. That’s because the NRA doesn’t need those small-time members; all the NRA needs to do is remain in bed with the big firearms and ammunitions manufacturers in this country and everything will be fine. It’s a pretty simple formula: The NRA gets a bunch of money from the gun and ammo manufacturers, and then it spends a ton of it on electing the candidates it likes, and defeating the candidates it doesn’t like.  You can bet the NRA has Heitkamp on its “nice” list these days.
    Page 2 of 2 -     Do you know how many side deals the NRA has with these manufacturers? Of course, they’re probably not supposed to, but there’s no law or regulation that can’t be loop-holed to death.
        We are not represented by the 100 senators and 435 representatives in the U.S. Congress. Sure, we hold some sort of symbolic power when we vote on Election Day. But the truth is that these candidates will tell us whatever we want to hear in order to get our precious vote, and then when they’re safely in office and immediately worrying about stockpiling enough money to get re-elected, they’ll start voting the way their big-money, special interest contributors want them to vote.
        The fact that up to 90 percent of the populace supports tighter background checks on firearms purchases, but in the halls of Congress such an astounding approval rate translates to absolutely nothing, is all the proof we need of our powerless, clout-free existence as a voting electorate. We are nothing to these people.
        And this bill was more watered-down than coffee in a nursing home cafeteria. It was just good enough to accomplish next to nothing when it comes to keeping guns out of the hands of criminals or mentally ill individuals. But the “doing something is better than nothing” argument wasn’t even enough to sway senators like Heitkamp.
        She knows something should be done. Heitkamp just didn’t dare vote in favor of the “something” that was placed before her, which, in reality, amounted to next to nothing.

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