Allow me to explain why Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would take the assault-weapon ban out of the gun control measure.
It’s because of you.
Not you solely or specifically, of course. I refer to you in a general way as an Arkansas voter, thus an element of a gun-crazed electoral subset.
I refer to our pervasive identity in the Natural State as irrationally devoted to the self-enriching propaganda of the National Rifle Association.
You know the nonsense to which I refer: Any restriction of any kind of any weapon violates your constitutional right to defend yourself against an evil president who is coming for your gun,
You know the self-enrichment to which I refer: The more that the NRA can make you afraid, the more money the NRA receives.
So Arkansas paranoia rules the country. Arkansas paranoia helps keep it possible to shoot faster to kill more children in a shorter time.
What I am saying is that Reid’s action is largely about preventing U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor from losing too many of your votes in the next election.
It matters to the country whether the Democrats hold control of the Senate. It matters to Democrats in holding that control whether Pryor keeps his seat. It matters to Pryor’s keeping that seat whether you will vote for him.
So put yourself at the center of gravity on gun issues in America.
Reid is a practical politician who enjoys a Democratic majority and would like to preserve it, indeed build on it toward filibuster-proofing. He certainly does not want to imperil it for the next election cycle.
He has four Democratic senators from red states who face re-election in 2014, one of them Pryor. The others are Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, Mark Begich in Alaska and Kay Hagan in North Carolina.
Please understand that the Tea Party-infested U.S. House of Representatives will never approve an assault-weapon ban. So the Senate exercise of pursuing such a ban, led by California’s Diane Feinstein, is academic, pointless as policy.
So what Reid has done is pare the assault-weapon ban from the main gun control measure. He’s told Feinstein she can propose it only as an amendment.
Leaving it in the main bill would cause Republican senators to filibuster, blocking any gun legislation at all.
It would force Pryor and those three others either to vote to end a filibuster and thus for the ban, and thereby likely commit political suicide, or vote against any gun legislation and so outrage their bases that their re-elections would be severely weakened by a loss of supporter enthusiasm.
And it would be for no good reason since the House is not going to approve an assault-weapon ban anyway.
So Reid wants to give Pryor and the three others something moderate on guns to support, though it’s not certain they’ll do even that as long as there is an unsettled dispute about whether universal background checks would create a national gun owner database, which the gun lobby fears for some paranoid reason.
Then it would be up to these red-state senators to finesse with their liberal bases their separate votes against Feinstein’s amendment for the assault-weapon ban.
Pryor has spent his political life in those very kinds of finesses, first watching his dad do them and now performing them himself. He knows how they’re done.
Or used to be done.
He undoubtedly will say something privately to his base along these lines: “I opposed the assault-weapon ban because Republicans were going to filibuster it in the Senate and defeat it in the House. Faced with that reality, I voted the best way I could to make sure we would get at least some improvement in our gun laws.”
Translation: Do you prefer me on this tightrope or Tom Cotton and the Tea Party?
It used to be that a Democrat like Pryor could deflect the gun issue by publishing photographs of himself as a sportsman hunting fowl.
That’s what Pryor did in 2002. People leaving a big pre-election NRA rally in Springdale found photos like that on flyers that had been placed under their windshields while they worshipped inside with Wayne LaPierre.
But the right-wing has so devolved that the issue is no longer about hunting.
The contemporary gun zealot doesn’t care how much camouflage a politician lathers on his body or how many dead birds he carries out of a duck blind for a waiting photographer.
The contemporary gun zealot wants to carry any firearm of his choosing on his person at all times, regardless of what game is in season.
That’s because it’s always in season to be manipulated by the NRA and prepared for marauding Kenyan Muslim socialists coming to take your Constitution and your arsenal.