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July 27, 2009

Mightier Than the Sword

The recent defeat in the U.S. Senate of the "Thune Amendment" was a rare victory for proponents of sensible gun legislation. If this amendment were signed into law, concealed handgun (CCW) permit holders from states with lax standards would be allowed to carry guns through and into other states with tough and more restrictive CCW laws.

Although we can celebrate the fact that the amendment fell two votes short of the 60 required for passage, we must be mindful that 58 Senators voted for this dangerous and unprecedented legislation. This underscores the disproportionate support that the gun lobby has in the Congress of the United States at this time.

Conventional political wisdom has it that Democrats are convinced that gun control is a losing issue. The converse of that argument is that the supporters of stronger gun regulation will not hold their elected officials responsible for ignoring or voting the wrong way on the issue. Some years ago, there were polls conducted which showed that for gun control advocates, the issue ranked #5 on a list of issues about which they cared the most. For gun rights advocates, however, the issue ranked in their top two. This “commitment factor” helps explain why many elected officials feel they can ignore the wishes of gun control advocates, who vastly outnumber pro-gun advocates.

Some Members of Congress have been recently asking, "What has happened to the voice of supporters of sensible gun legislation?” Editorials in newspapers across the country have wondered, "Where is the outrage at the recent spate of gun violence in this country?" In defeating the Thune Amendment, we stood together and began to answer those questions, but more needs to be done.

The Congress will soon be taking their August month-long recess. They will be heading home to take the temperature of the voting public in their respective districts and states. There are two things you can take for granted: 1) The economy and health care will be the top items on everyone's agenda, and; 2) The pro-gun lobby will be well organized to see that their voice is heard.

Will you be equally committed to sharing your concerns about—and support for—sensible gun legislation? If you do not speak up this August, the voice of the NRA and its ilk will be the only voices heard and the prospects for saving lives in the future will be diminished. Remember, 58 Senators voted for the Thune Amendment because they think you aren't paying attention, or just don't care. Let's tell them otherwise.

As a sage once put it, you should always carry a pen because you never know when you will meet someone with a sword.

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