Tuesday, April 23, 2013

With Last Week's Gun Vote, Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander Prove They Are the NRA's Bitches

Posted By on Tue, Apr 23, 2013 at 2:44 PM

The relationship between the NRA and Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander is like a bad marriage. The senators and countless other of their congressional colleagues believe that even the most benign disagreement with the NRA — which grades members commensurate to their loyalty — could find them out on their asses, clothes on the sidewalk, with nothing left to remember their former bond, other than herpes and an empty bank account. Metaphorically speaking.

Corker and Alexander, who up until now have maintained reputations as relative moderates, rejected the will of about 85 percent of Tennessee voters last week when they opposed background checks for gun buyers and regulations on assault weapons — without having the good grace or cojones, by the way, to defend their votes afterward except via emailed statements. Simultaneously, they ignored a series of troubling facts that reveal Tennessee to be a dangerous backwater relative to virtually every other state in the country.

Among them: Tennessee experiences gun violence about every 62 minutes. In fact, in 2011, Tennessee had more aggravated assaults per capita involving guns than any other state in the country, according to policy think tank Center for American Progress and a Tennessean analysis of FBI data. Somebody is murdered with a gun in Tennessee about every 30 hours, and over the last 10 years more Tennesseans have been killed with guns than soldiers in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined. The Volunteer State also has one of the highest rates of women being murdered by men in the nation.

These disheartening truths led the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence to give Tennessee a score of just 8 out of a possible 100 points in 2011. The organization says Tennessee is “among the 31 states that together export crime guns at a rate nine times higher than states with strong gun laws.”

Meanwhile, recent statewide polls show that 85 percent of Tennessee voters support “making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks.”

In other words, there is a serious problem with gun violence in Tennessee. And there is will among voters to fix it.

So what would possess two well-educated, typically reasonable men of social and political good standing to thumb their noses at these grisly statistics — not to mention, victims of crazies with guns — by opposing even the simplest, least controversial gun-control measures?

While the NRA has given Corker $77,468 in donations and political support over the last 10 years, he is far too wealthy to be swayed by money alone. The same goes for Alexander, who has received $18,269 in aid from the NRA over the same time period. They could probably bet that much on a golf game and never miss it (though they’d have the Baptists and God to answer to).

It’s not the money per se that keeps them in line as far as the gun lobby’s concerned. It’s fear.

The senators have enjoyed a solid ‘A’ grade from — and have a strong record of blind submission to — the NRA, whom candidates earnestly believe can make or break their political careers. Six years ago, the Corker and Alexander co-sponsored legislation to repeal the ban on semi-automatic weapons in the nation’s capital. And in 2009, they voted to allow Amtrak passengers to carry guns in checked baggage.

These guys really are the NRA’s bitches. But it’s a safe bet that when they voted last week against the very modest proposals of background checks and assault weapon regulations, they weren’t really doing so with conviction. Lamar Alexander can’t truly believe that video games are to blame for the gun killings that happen in Tennessee virtually every day.

What he and Corker no doubt do believe, though, is that if they fall out of political favor with arguably the most powerful special interest in Washington, the NRA could easily and swiftly bring them to their political knees by supporting an opponent or running negative advertising.

And they might be right. Or maybe there’s been enough bloodshed now that they’re operating under a flawed assumption, that the NRA is a straw man that hasn’t been revealed as such yet.

Unfortunately, Corker and Alexander won’t be the guys who take a risk to find out. They’re too scared to do what is clearly necessary.

As Erica Lafferty, the daughter of murdered Sandy Hook Elementary School principal Dawn Hochsprung, told The Huffington Post, “My mom was not scared in the halls of Sandy Hook. They should not be scared to cast a vote to protect millions of innocent people.”

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