The New York Times led Thursday's edition with the Senate defeat of President Obama's gun control proposals in a series of procedural votes, including one on expanding background checks that Democrats had hoped would pass. The front page featured a photo of an angry Obama in the Rose Garden after his quest for more gun control laws in the wake of Sandy Hook came up short: "Gun Control Drive Blocked In Senate; Obama, In Defeat, Sees 'Shameful Day.'"
The Times, which has avidly pushed "gun safety" measures since the massacre, portrayed it as a "search for solutions to the violence" tragically cut short. Jonathan Weisman:
A wrenching national search for solutions to the violence that left 20 children dead in Newtown, Conn., all but ended Wednesday after the Senate defeated several measures to expand gun control.
In rapid succession, a bipartisan compromise to expand background checks for gun buyers, a ban on assault weapons and a ban on high-capacity gun magazines all failed to get the 60 votes needed under an agreement between both parties. Senators also turned back Republican proposals to expand permission to carry concealed weapons and to focus law enforcement efforts on prosecuting gun crimes.
Sitting in the Senate gallery with other survivors of recent mass shootings and their family members, Lori Haas, whose daughter was shot at Virginia Tech, and Patricia Maisch, a survivor of the mass shooting in Arizona, shouted together, “Shame on you.”
President Obama, speaking at the White House after the votes, echoed the cry, calling Wednesday “a pretty shameful day for Washington.”
The Times editorial board sanctimoniously seethed alongside Obama:
For 45 senators, the carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary School is a forgotten tragedy. The toll of 270 Americans who are shot every day is not a problem requiring action. The easy access to guns on the Internet, and the inevitability of the next massacre, is not worth preventing....Patricia Maisch, who survived a mass shooting in Tucson in 2011, spoke for many in the country when she shouted from the Senate gallery: “Shame on you.”....It’s now up to voters to exact a political price from those who defied the public’s demand, and Mr. Obama was forceful in promising to lead that effort. Wednesday was just Round 1, he said; the next step is to replace those whose loyalty is given to a lobby rather than the people.
A "lobby" composed of at least 3 million NRA members, who count as people, no matter what the Times may think.
In a regretful-toned "news analysis" Thursday, "Despite Tearful Pleas, No Real Chance," reporter Jennifer Steinhauer insisted on using the loaded (unloaded?) term "gun safety" instead of the less-benign, more accurate phrase "gun control."
President Obama, his face set with rage, stood in the Rose Garden surrounded by the families of Newtown and former Representative Gabrielle Giffords and asked how a measure to expand background checks for gun buyers -- one supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans and a bipartisan majority of the Senate -- had slipped away.
“The American people are trying to figure out,” Mr. Obama said, “how can something have 90 percent support and yet not happen?”
The answer: The measure never really had a chance.
In the nearly 10 years since the expiration of the assault weapons ban, even modest gun safety legislation has proved impossible to advance on Capitol Hill, where the momentum has been in the other direction, with lawmakers pushing various expansions of gun rights. The 68 votes last week to allow the debate on gun legislation to proceed was a mirage, a temporary triumph granted by senators willing to allow shooting victims and their survivors the vote they sought with absolutely no intention of supporting the final legislation and crossing the gun lobby or constituents who see gun rights as a defining issue.
While the opening vote provided advocates a glimmer of hope, the Newtown shootings, the tearful pleas of the parents of killed children and an aggressive push by the president could not turn the tide. They were no match for the reason Democrats have avoided gun control fights for years: a combination of the political anxiety of vulnerable Democrats from conservative states, deep-seated Republican resistance and the enduring clout of the National Rifle Association.
At a moment when the national conversation about how best to stem the menace of guns in the wrong hands seemed to have shifted, it turned out that the political dynamic had not.
Steinhauer's preferences were clear from her tone:
Republicans armed themselves with disputed talking points from the gun lobby about how a bill to expand background checks and outlaw a national gun registry was instead tantamount to a national gun registry. Turning the dispute from gun safety to gun rights, they took to the Senate floor to denounce the compromise, even arguing with its sponsors, Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, and Patrick Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, two National Rifle Association-blessed lawmakers who could not contain their umbrage. Mr. Obama on Wednesday accused the gun lobby and opposition lawmakers of willfully lying about the measure.
But after the vote for the assault weapons ban cost Democrats seats in 1994, red-state Democrats have steered clear of gun safety measures, judging that the political fury of opponents would not be offset by support from those who favor tighter controls.
Steinhauer never paused from transcribing liberal emotionalism to point out that none of the measures voted down would have stopped Adam Lanza's rampage. National Review's Jim Gergahty summarized: "The Newtown shooter stole the guns he used, none of the recent massacre perpetrators purchased their firearms at gun shows, most of them hadn't done anything that would flag them in the instant-check system until they pulled the trigger, police ignored the warnings of the Aurora shooter's psychiatrist, and so on."
Jeremy Peters had a sympathetic sidebar story on Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein's latest failed attempt to ban guns, "For Senator, Bill’s Defeat Is Personal And Political."
But that did not keep her from trying. And it did not lessen the sting any for a lawmaker who has fought for stronger gun laws since watching Harvey Milk, her friend and fellow San Francisco city supervisor, bleed to death in her arms from an assassin’s bullet in 1978.
Milk was assassinated with a .38 caliber revolver, which would not have been banned under Feinstein's proposal (Feinstein herself carried one at the time). But apparently the emotionally charged symbolism trumps the actual facts about guns at the Times.