Beat the zealots on immigration reform, then gun control

On Tuesday, I wrote about two senators’ bipartisan plan to expand background checks on gun buyers, saying it was a common-sense measure and should pass.

On Wednesday, its sponsors -- Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, an NRA member, and Republican Sen. Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania -- all but conceded they don’t have the votes.

Thus, 26 children and teachers slaughtered in Newtown, Conn., and 12 people gunned down at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. -- and those are just the most recent atrocities -- and Washington still can’t muster the political willpower to pass even watered-down, common-sense laws.

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So I surrender. I might as well face facts, run down to the local gun show and buy a weapon and plenty of ammo. Gun control, like those children at Sandy Hook Elementary, is simply dead in America.

Or is it? News on another hot-button issue -- immigration -- makes me wonder.

On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of senators delivered their immigration overhaul legislation, and lo and behold, folks from all sides think Congress will actually deal with the issue this time.

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As my colleagues Lisa Mascaro and Brian Bennett reported, even prominent conservatives are on board:

“It is high time that Congress act to reform immigration and visa laws that are diminishing our country’s competitive position in the global economy and wasting precious resources for no good reason,” said Rupert Murdoch, who is the chairman and CEO of News Corp. and a co-chair, along with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and executive J.W. “Bill” Marriott, of the Partnership for a New American Economy.

“We are very encouraged by the bipartisan commitment emerging in Washington to fix our nation's broken immigration system,” said Marriott, the executive chairman of Marriott International, who said his company celebrates the achievements of immigrants “by championing improved access to the American dream.”

And those on the other side of the debate sounded equally optimistic, and willing to compromise:

“Although it’s not the bill we would have written, it represents a strong bipartisan agreement and an excellent start to the coming debate,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, an advocacy group.

Eliseo Medina, secretary-treasurer of the powerful SEIU union, said the bill “sets the stage for a debate over how we can produce a bipartisan solution that honors our American values and strengthens our economy.  This legislation is long overdue and there is no question that our immigration system is broken.”

Last year at this time, I wouldn’t have bet a nickel that Republicans and Democrats could come together on immigration. And granted, there’s a long way to go. But what a difference a year -- and another losing presidential campaign for the Republicans -- makes.

So perhaps there’s hope for gun control as well. Perhaps, as the GOP learns the lessons of defeat and clues in to the changing demographics behind those losses, even gun control will be back on the table.

For too long, the country has been held hostage on immigration reform by right-wing zealots. As I wrote Tuesday, the same is true on guns.

So if we can break through on immigration, perhaps that will spill over to gun control.

And I won’t have to go to that gun show.


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