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More MoJo coverage of the Senate’s failed background check bill.
On NBC’s Meet the Press last month, National Rifle Association honcho Wayne LaPierre, the face of the American gun lobby, delivered this message to New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg: “He’s going to find out that this is a country of the people, by the people, and for the people, and he can’t spend enough of his $27 billion to try to impose his will on the American public. He can’t buy America.” The day before, Bloomberg had announced that he would spend $12 million of his own money on an ad blitz pressing members of Congress to pass new legislation expanding background checks for gun purchases. LaPierre went on national television to tell the mayor that all those millions wouldn’t make the difference in the fight in Congress over new gun laws.
Guess what? LaPierre was right.
The Manchin-Toomey background check legislation that died in the Senate on Wednesday had everything going for it. Bipartisan sponsorship by two centrist senators. The support of 90 percent of Americans. President Obama’s full-throated backing. The momentum for reform created by tragedy and sympathetic advocates with gripping stories—ex-Rep. Gabby Giffords, the Newtown families. All the pieces were there.
Yet it failed. The bill won a 54-vote majority but fell short of the Senate’s 60-vote threshold to pass new laws, a high hurdle that progressives decry as undemocratic. But the main reason it failed—and this is the key point for gun-control advocates—is because the NRA has unrivaled political power, the kind of influence and muscle that Bloomberg, the Brady Campaign, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Organizing for Action, Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly, and the rest of the gun-control lobby can only dream of.