EDITORIAL - NRA Congress: Even a credit card bill becomes a gun law

Written by Susan Mannella on .

For stark symbolism, nothing beats the story of how Congress approved attaching an amendment to allow loaded guns in national parks and wildlife refuges to a worthy bill - signed by President Barack Obama on Friday - imposing new restrictions on credit companies.

The Associated Press called it a stinging defeat for gun-control advocates. But it was beyond stinging. It was a virtual acknowledgement that the National Rifle Association owns Congress.

Consider: This amendment was in reaction to no known problem. National parks have not been the scene of gun-related massacres that have required armed citizens to come to the rescue. Moreover, park rangers didn't want this amendment for the simple reason that it will make their jobs more difficult.

For 25 years, a perfectly good compromise dating back to the Reagan administration had balanced the rights of gun owners and respect for public safety. It allowed visitors to bring firearms into parks, but they had to be kept unloaded and stowed away.

This would not even be an issue now but for the outgoing Bush administration, as a parting gift to the gun lobby, enacting a new regulation last December to allow loaded weapons in parks. That regulation was later overturned by a federal judge who found that the Interior Department had not done the proper analysis.

Congress did no analysis on this either, but the NRA saw what had happened, pulled its puppet strings and found many members happy to dance to its tune.

Remember the right-wing paranoia about how President Obama will take way Americans' guns? Not a chance. This amendment, which was first offered by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., passed only with the help of compliant Democrats.

The Senate approved the amendment 67-29 - with the help of 27 Democrats, Pennsylvania Sens. Arlen Specter and Bob Casey among them. The House passed the amendment 279-147 with 105 Democrats voting yes. Rep. Jason Altmire of McCandless was one in this roll call of shame (on the GOP side, Rep. Tim Murphy of Upper St. Clair, also voted yes). In this area, only Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, had the guts and good sense to vote no.

The excuses offered for this vote - that it would save gun owners lawfully entitled to carry guns from bureaucratic hassles and confusion - ring hollow. This was about the NRA and its supporters in Congress declaring that the 2nd Amendment trumps all other rights.

The NRA did this because it could. When a bill about credit cards that has nothing to do with guns is made pro-gun, it sends the clear signal that the gun lobby can do anything it wants - and damn the public interest.


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