It's another open letter from Tom, this time to the pistol-packin' contingent


I suppose that, by now, the giddiness of watching the NRA use its Senate lackeys to smack around the parents of those dead first-graders is dying down a bit, but y'all are probably still pretty pleased with yourselves. In the words of Jefferson Smith, your powerful gun lobby reached into that hallowed chamber and grabbed 46 sycophants by the scruff of the neck and forbade them to vote for legislation that the NRA was all for just 10 years ago. Pretty neat trick, but then, mind control does work best on the weak-willed.

I would like to think that you guys could be gracious winners, but that's never been your long suit. Oh, yeah, speaking of winners, you didn't even do that. The background check bill passed the Senate by eight votes. It's only because of some ridiculous Senate rule that makes even the most righteous person quake at the mere mention of a filibuster that the bill is dead. It needed 60 votes to keep Rand Paul's skinny little butt in his seat and it fell six votes short of that. Everybody from Fox News to the Huffington Post reported that it got voted down, 54-46, when in fact it got voted up by that margin. (It would have been 55-45, but Harry Reid voted no for procedural reasons.)

Getting back to your being gracious winners ... that never happens. Y'all strut around and convince each other that you've saved the Constitution from the godless hordes. I've got bad news for you. There are actually 27 amendments to the Constitution, not just one. Here's even worse news for you: the Second Amendment is not even close to being the most important one. The one that gave black people their freedom or the one giving women the right to vote are both way more important than the one that allows you to turn your house into an armed fortress.

And, of course, the First Amendment is almost infinitely more important. We Americans have a national screw-you attitude that dates back centuries. I don't need to be armed to speak my mind. I speak my mind because I'm an American. We don't need to have a gun in one hand in order to flip somebody off with the other. And for the vast majority of Americans it will always be that way.

The outright lying by the people on your side actually got President Obama out of his comfort zone. And may I say, Mr. President, it's about damned time. You can be Cool Breeze when you're singing Al Green songs, but this is life-and-death stuff. You've got knuckleheads out there who see "b-a-c-k-g-r-o-u-n-d c-h-e-c-k" and read it as "gun registry." Paranoia runs even deeper than Buffalo Springfield thought.

I hate dumb-ass arguments and you and your media allies used a bunch of them. Sean Hannity—often a bully, rarely a deep thinker—chose merely to repeat over and over (and over) again, "This bill would not have prevented what happened in Newtown."

Really, Genius? Since when has any piece of legislation been designed to prevent something that has already happened? All any reasonable legislative body can do is to identify a problem and then try to nudge the country in the right direction. The background-check amendment (and it wasn't even a universal background check)—had it been in place—may not have prevented the Sandy Hook killer's mother from stockpiling an arsenal. But it just might, through some ripple effect, alter the circumstances around some future tragedy.

An even dumber-ass argument was "criminals won't get background checks." Yeah, that's part of what makes them criminals. They don't obey traffic signals, either, so should we get rid of red lights? Is a stop sign just a "feel-good measure?"

Traffic laws exist to help the vast majority of us function in a safe and responsible manner. They also serve to identify and punish those who would selfishly endanger the rest of us to further their own petty agendas. Traffic laws and background checks are both good ideas, even if they don't work all the time.

Since some of you are apparently terrified of identifying yourselves as law-abiding citizens, I'll go first: I declare that I'm not a convicted felon and I don't have any severe mental illness. There, see? I'm not on any national registry.

Looking long term, this may have been a Pyrrhic victory for your side. It certainly hammered a couple of extra nails in the Republican Party's coffin. The shortsighted gun vote might even embolden the Tea Party crazies to retreat to the self-deportation stance on immigration, dragging the Republicans with them, and in the process pretty much relegating the GOP to the status of regional party. We can only hope.

It's really too bad. When Harry Reid wussed out by taking the assault rifle and ridiculously overstuffed ammo magazine bans off the table, you guys had already won. You could have dusted off Wayne LaPierre's old plan for universal background checks and taken a step back from the Crackpot Precipice. But, no.

In 1999, Charlton Heston, speaking at a gun trade show said, "For a century, we have thrived independently. Now your fight has become our fight." The transition is now complete. You guys might think that you're the NRA, but the NRA is no longer you.