Background checks big issue after U.S.’s worst mass shooting

After traveling to Switzerland, Australia, China, Japan and Germany, Stephanie Viehman arrived back to America noting one substantial difference between those countries and her own: gun control.

“They can’t conceptualize why anyone would need them,” said Viehman, of Ohio, about people in other countries with stricter gun laws.

In the week after the June 12 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, the U.S. Senate addressed several issues related to background checks and, once again, found itself nearly divided along party lines with some legislators and Washington, D.C. residents saying special interests are once again in charge.

Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy introduced a measure that would have strengthened background checks for those trying to acquire guns. Further, the amendment, known as S.Amdt. 4750, would have put in place research on criminal and mental health history, immigration status, indictment status and drug use as a part of its background provisions.

It failed, garnering only one Republican vote.

“I’m disappointed by the results tonight, but far from surprised,” Murphy wrote in a news release on his website in June. “We knew breaking the NRA’s stranglehold on this Congress would be a long, uphill climb.”

On the Republican side of the aisle, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa introduced an amendment that sought to “address gun violence and improve the availability of records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System,” according to Grassley’s website. Democratic California Sen. Dianne Feinstein vetoed it saying it didn’t go far enough to protect the public.

“If we use very narrow lists, if we do that, we’re left with a bill that has no teeth and misses many individuals who shouldn’t be able to purchase guns,” Feinstein wrote on her website.

Residents and visitors interviewed this week in Northwest Washington, D.C. said they don’t trust adequate legislation addressing gun control will happen this year–an election year in which 23 Republican senators are up for reelection–and said many leaders use the Second Amendment as a shield to stop what they see as important next steps in the gun control movement.

“Today’s lobbying world is clearly why they’re against it,” Washington D.C. resident Paul Alagero, 57, said of background checks.  “As much as everybody has the right to guns, it doesn’t mean everyone should have a gun.”

Many believe special interests and lobbying have taken over the debate and make it nearly impossible for conservatives on the Hill to take a stand on any issue related to the Second Amendment.

“It’s crazy,” said Rick Landry, 22, an American University law student.

The National Rifle Association each year donates millions to candidates in both parties although that money largely goes to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which wrote on its website that the NRA “is opposed to virtually every form of gun regulation.”

That powerful lobbying influences legislation, but a majority of Americans actually favor universal background checks.

A June 2016 Quinnipiac University poll showed 93 percent of Americans support gun background checks. That’s up from 86 percent who favored them, according to a 2015 Gallup Poll.

Viehman argued that a strong group like the NRA should be expected to have a lasting influence on the government. She said if they are that strong and wield that much power, they must represent the views of many Americans.

“Lobbying is what our country was founded on,” Viehman said.