CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "The amendment is not agreed to." Those words were spoken by Vice President Joe Biden on April 17 at the conclusion of a 54-46 Senate vote requiring 60 votes for passage. This, of course, was the vote on legislation to expand background checks for gun purchases at gun shows and online.
Of the 46 dissenting votes, 42 were cast by Republicans and four by Democrats. President Obama later characterized the voting as, "a pretty shameful day for Washington."
Obviously for many, it has become difficult to understand the results of that vote when attempting to compare national polling ranging anywhere from 70 to 90 percent representing those seeking stricter background checks. Why such a distinction between votes cast by each party? How is it that a representative body of 100 Senators comprised of 53 Democrats, 45 Republicans and 2 Independents come down on such radically differing positions on an issue that conceivably would have offered a greater degree of safety to all Americans without infringing on their 2nd Amendment rights? What different inner voices speak to those in that hallowed chamber?
Why, for example, in states such as New Hampshire, did Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte choose to vote nay despite constituent polling tracking at 84 percent favoring expanded background checks? Or in Ohio where Republican Sen. Rob Portman cast his nay vote even though 72 percent of Ohioans sought stricter background checks? Or in Arizona where Sen. Jeff Blake voted no while 70 percent of his constituents called for expanded background checks?
The final tally on that "shameful day" found 46 senators voting in opposition to this legislation, a baffling disparity between how the votes were cast versus constituency preference.
Attempts to explain it remain subjective to some extent. Does this imply that positions on virtually any issue of national consciousness become immediately divisive subject to Party affiliation? Or, as Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Penn., stated following the vote, that several of his Republican compatriots in the Senate chose to vote nay because they didn't wish to be seen helping President Obama. If this is a representative body, who or what do those members represent?
Senators Toomey and West Virginia's Joe Manchin were co-sponsors of the failed legislation even though each carries the much heralded 'A' rating from the NRA. The merits of the bill were egregiously distorted and maligned by the gun lobby. Gun lobbyists used blatant lies. They warned of an instant creation of a national gun registry even though the wording clearly stated the opposite. Deep-pocketed extremist groups once again trumped the sentiment of a vast number of Americans.
There appears to be a glimmer of a silver lining that may restore common sense following the vote on that "shameful day." Polling subsequent to April 17 indicates that aggressive attempts by the gun lobby to thwart passage of meaningful gun legislation may be "back-firing" in the form of voter disgust. This disgust may manifest itself with a voice of reason as voters step into the voting booth in 2014 and 2016, provided other legislation fails to pass.
Many Republicans in Congress continue to demonstrate that the values they regard as near and dear to an essential moral fabric necessary for America to flourish are beginning to press them into a corner of obscurity, particularly when used to pass judgment on others. Inflexible and condescending positions they continue to cling to - a woman's right to choose; marriage equality; a self-serving interpretation of the 2nd Amendment; embryonic stem-cell research -- are leaving them behind. Judging a person's character, in part, based upon his or her choice of religious worship (or lack thereof) is limiting the demographic options for the party. An anachronism by any other name is still an anachronism.
So yes, Sen. Toomey was right in stating that several of his party's faithful who voted overwhelmingly 'nay' on that "shameful day," likely did so to not be perceived as helping the president, even though approximately 90 percent of Americans polled feel the same way as that person in the White House.
Let's hope that this is just the tip of an out-of-touch 'moral imperative' iceberg.
Gossard, of Charleston, is a retired Union Carbide supply chain manager.