Gun Rally?

Maybe it’s a product of the false hopes aroused when Manchin-Toomey was unveiled (Wow–Pat Toomey on a gun regulation bill?), but the recriminations and the vows of near-term vindication coming from supporters of this legislation today are both loud and (unfortunately) hollow.

The brave survivor Gabby Giffords is entitled to say whatever she wants on this subject, but her pledge to secure “a different Congress” not under the thumb of the gun lobby isn’t very convincing. Joe Biden caused a flurry by suggesting that the White House plans to undertake “executive action” on guns now that efforts in Congress have failed, but it appears this is mostly about actions announced back in January. And Joe Manchin promised to keep fighting for better background checks, but it sounds like he’s mainly interested in trying to find some formula the NRA will accept (good luck with that one!).

What’s disappointing to me, of course, is that gun regulation advocates seem to be counting on some unprecedented mobilization of public opinion to turn the tide (if it didn’t happen after Newtown, it’s hard to see it happening when memories of Newtown fade, and polls showing Manchin-Toomey as overwhelmingly popular didn’t cut much ice in the Senate), instead of focusing on the immediate cause of the legislation’s defeat: the inability to enact it by a majority vote. At the risk of beating a dead horse, I’ll note again that the false hopes about Manchin-Toomey arose from the successful cloture vote on beginning debate on the measure, even as cloture supporters were openly warning they’d flip when the debate was concluded and the actual votes were cast. I don’t know if it was a strategic error for Harry Reid to accept a unanimous consent agreement to set a 60-vote threshold for all gun bill amendments, since the outcome of an actual cloture vote after an actual filibuster might not have been different. But there’s zero question, on guns and every other issue, that the ability to thwart legislation by 41 Senate votes gives enormous power to the hard-core conservative wing of the GOP, even if its House bastion never comes into play. Filibuster Delenda Est.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.