Reid, Robinson
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) (Michael Reynolds/EPA)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid knew for certain he didn’t have the votes in the Senate to pass the assault weapons ban. He for sure didn’t have the votes to supersede a filibuster. And he didn’t likely even think seriously about having the votes to pass the House. But still, Eugene Robinson argues today, morally, he should have given it a try.

Moral righteousness, or the feeling thereof, is a prime driver of the current push for stricter gun control. Public desire for tougher gun control is higher than it has been in more than a decade — near 60 percent, according to this Gallup poll — because of 20 dead first-graders and the pleas from some of their parents. If we get national gun legislation now, it’s because of the feeling that it’s the right thing to do.

So surrendering on the ban for practical reasons — it was going to fail anyway — is deeply disappointing to Robinson. Acknowledging so early in the fight that, dead children or no dead children, Reid is afraid of the politics of a vote on an assault weapons ban is a tough pill to swallow.

Not so much for the commenters, though. Commenters think Robinson is being naive, for various reasons.

For expecting more from Reid, says jfschumaker:

This is yet more proof, if any were needed, that the Democrats made a major strategic mistake when they returned Harry Reid as their leader in the Senate. He won re-election in Nevada by the thinnest of margins, and is beholden to interests, like the gun lobby, who do not represent the Democratic Party at large. His leadership on issues like gun control and the filibuster has been either weak or non-existent.

For thinking an assault weapons ban would be an effective idea, says blert:

If the concern is gun violence, Feinstein’s ban was misguided to begin with. Banning semi-automatic rifles, which account for perhaps 1% of all gun deaths, is nonsensical. These are not the weapons that people ought to worry about. If someone dies from a gunshot wound, odds are better than 9 in 10 that the gun was a handgun.

For forgetting Reid’s need for comity in the Senate, DOps says:

The Feinstein bill failed because it was typical of the over-reach which characterizes today’s governance process. Instead of staying clearly focused on the mission of addressing gun violence (security, mental illness, and weapons) she crafted a bill which was virtual diatribe on weapons ownership. If you want to broker collaborative change, you don’t start by hitting your would-be collaborator across the nose with a stick. The Tea party sometimes does this and gets the raspberry from Gene and all the other leftie pundits for doing so.

For losing hope too soon, argues tarryhhart:

There are those who think this fight is over. I don’t think so. I think this is the right time. Those 20 dead kids make the difference. This is just the first battle in a war. Clearly the NRA is only wounded. Not on its knees. The real action will be after the 2014 election. Gay rights took decades and then suddenly the time was right and a lot happened in a short time. This could be the time for gun regulation.

For expecting senators to fight harder than activists, suggests denver13:

Politicians respond to demands from the public. Keep up the pressure to rid the country of weapons and clips designed for mass murder.

For discounting the role of weapons manufacturers in the process, says cpwash:

Honest law abiding gun owners have taken blame they don’t deserve on killing the AWB. Congress is, for better or worse, owned by corporations. Many of these corporations realize that AW’s are highly profitable and have keep them in business, so they don’t want to change the status quo. It is the corporations, and their money, that have made their wishes known to their congresspersons.

And for using up momentum on something less popular and less effective than background checks, says Pthomas2mm:

I agree that the victims’ families deserve a vote. They deserve a vote on serious legislation aimed at the the issues that caused such crimes. The AWB has NOTHING to do with addressing anything of the sort. The AWB is an effort on the part of advocates to “take advantage” of the tragedy. It is a cynical attempt to play on the emotions of the tragedy. Using the pain and grief of the families in particular and the public generally, to advance a policy agenda is hardly “moral” or “doing the right thing” it is quite the opposite. I have no problem with background checks (particularly closing the “gun show loophole”) depending on the ability to reasonably enforce it. That is a good first step.

And of course there are those in the comments who don’t trust the motives of Reid or Robinson. It’s easy, using moral justification, to slide from one kind of weapons ban to an all-out firearm ban, argues Zavid Zavidov. Reid is considering these voters as well.

“The parents of those 20 slain children deserve a vote on the assault weapons ban. The families of the 30,000 Americans who will be killed by gunfire this year deserve a vote.”
“The biggest factor in gun violence is the gun. Until we begin to deal with the weapons themselves, we are working at the margins.”

Why can’t true blue-hearted progressives like Mr. Robinson just come out and say “We want to ban ALL guns – handguns, assault-looking weapons, hunting weapons, sports weapons”. Why do those with views like Mr. Robinson’s insist on playing games with passages like above?