Why Is Defying Majority Support for Gun Control ‘Cowardice’?

White HouseWhite HouseFormer
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who stood next to President
Obama yesterday, nodding as he
the senators who voted against his gun control
proposals for their “shameful” failure to agree with him,
the tantrum in today’s New York Times. As
gun controllers
tend to do
, she opens with an emotion-laden non sequitur:

Senators say they fear the N.R.A. and the gun lobby. But I think
that fear must be nothing compared to the fear the first graders
in Sandy Hook Elementary School felt as their lives ended
in a hail of bullets. The fear that those children who survived the
massacre must feel every time they remember their teachers stacking
them into closets and bathrooms, whispering that they loved them,
so that love would be the last thing the students heard if the
gunman found them.

This nonsensical juxtaposition has zero logical content yet
achieves Giffords’ goal of portraying her opponents as insincere
hacks who elevate their own petty political interests above the
lives of children. In case you missed the point, she drives it

Some of the senators who voted against the background-check
amendments have met with grieving parents whose children were
murdered at Sandy Hook, in Newtown. Some of the senators who voted
no have also looked into my eyes as I talked about my experience
being shot in the head at point-blank range in suburban Tucson two
years ago, and expressed sympathy for the 18 other people shot
besides me, 6 of whom died. These senators have heard from their
constituents—who polls show overwhelmingly favored expanding
background checks. And still these senators decided to do nothing.
Shame on them….

I am asking every reasonable American to help me tell the truth
about the cowardice these senators demonstrated.

In Giffords’ view, these senators are two-faced, because you
cannot truly sympathize with her unless you vote for the bills she
supports. But I am a little confused about the purported motivation
for this perceived betrayal. Obama and Giffords both insist the
senators who voted against new gun controls did so not out of
conviction but out of fear—specifically, fear that they would be
defeated the next time they run for re-election. If their
constituents “overwhelmingly favored expanding background checks,”
however, wouldn’t voting for the bill mandating those have been the
politically expedient thing to do? And why is opposing the will of
the majority a mark of “cowardice,” as Giffords says, rather than a
mark of courage?

Furthermore, why would senators be afraid of “the gun lobby”
unless they think it can sway voters against them? Isn’t that
ultimately the source of the NRA’s fearsome power? But if voters
are so easily manipulated, why should we be impressed by majority
support for expanded background checks or any other gun control
measure? I suspect that Giffords credits the majority with wisdom
only when the polls are going her way, just as she credits
politicians with integrity only when they agree with her.

“Speaking is physically difficult for me,” Giffords writes,
alluding to the disability caused by the gunshot wound she suffered
at the hands of Jared Loughner in Tucson two years ago. “But my
feelings are clear: I’m furious.” Obama
such feelings should carry special weight in the gun
control debate, and evidently so does Giffords, although they might
change their minds when confronted by a victim of gun violence who

does not
support their agenda. Assuming that parents of
murdered children are not all of one mind regarding the merits of
new gun controls (and they’re
), how do we decide whose feelings should prevail? Take a
vote of the victims?

Enough already. If you have an argument to make, make it. But do
not assume that the only possible explanation for your failure to
persuade people is their bad faith or lack of compassion.