Last year, I wrote a letter to my senator, Mark Warner. In it, I appealed to him to reconsider his position on gun violence, to support renewal of an assault weapons ban, a ban of mega magazines, and closing the gun show loophole for potential mass murderers. My senator wrote a polite letter back reminding me of his “A” rating by the NRA and his staunch support of the Second Amendment. He noted my concerns and wished me well. Yep, I knew where he stood.
Shortly thereafter came the slaughter of 20 little children and their teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary. In the next few days, Senator Warner was quoted on radio and TV as saying he was rethinking his opposition to gun control. There was even a story about the senator saying his young daughter was deeply affected by Sandy Hook and had appealed to him to support actions to reduce gun violence.
Senator Warner, too, was deeply affected… for a few weeks. But, he laid low during public discussions of the president’s proposed measures to seriously address gun violence with important policy actions including a new ban on assault weapons of war, a ban on mega magazines, universal background checks on gun buyers, research on the causes of gun violence and more. The deeply affected, but A-rated Warner remained silent while a couple of senators, also with gun lobby A-ratings, but stiffer spines, Manchin-D of West Virginia and Toomey-R of Pennsylvania, put forward a less than universal background check proposal and stout-hearted Diane Feinstein-D of California put forward her proposal to ban assault weapons and mega clips.
Last Wednesday, Warner, after no doubt carefully counting the votes and possibly consulting with NRA pals, voted a timid yes on a watered down background checks proposal and NO on the assault weapons and mega magazines ban. Who knows, his NRA rating may fall to A- or even B+. That probably worries him more than what he’ll tell his daughter he did at work on Wednesday—no doubt about his staunch defense of the Second Amendment. What could he tell her about the 30,000 or more Americans who will die the year after his votes—not to mention about future victims of the massacres with AR-15s and their mega clips.
It’s true that Senator Warner was not alone among the cowards in the Senate—there were a few slinking Dems and all but a handful of Republicans. But, Senator Warner is my Senator, nominally a Democrat. Why couldn’t he vote with Senator Tim Kaine in support of the common sense measures proposed by the president?! Kaine had the spine to stand up to the NRA.
As President Obama said after the Senate action, it’s time to take action against those who choose to curry favor with the gun lobby over saving the lives of 30,000 victims of gun violence each year. Warner will seek re-election in 2014. Besides his top NRA rating for gun proliferation, he has a remarkable record of service to corporate America—from climate change and health care to minimum wages and worker rights, he protects the interests of the powerful. He has his groove and won’t change. The question is, can the 99 percent afford six more years of him?