Dick Durbin to Gabby Giffords's husband: We should have held a hearing after the Tucson shooting

Mark Kelly’s a smart guy — an astronaut, as you likely know, with a degree in aeronautical engineering — so I think he must know the reason why there was no hearing after his wife was shot. And if he knows the reason why, he must be seething internally listening to Durbin gladhand him this way. Right? If you’re serious about getting gun-control legislation passed through Congress, the aftermath of the Tucson shooting was a real opportunity. Members of both chambers knew Giffords personally; there was a nationally televised memorial for the victims in Arizona at which Obama spoke. He could have thrown the weight of his public influence into demanding new gun regs, the way he’s doing now after Newtown, instead of spending his politcal capital on … whatever he was doing in 2011. Ignoring the economy. Whatever.

Point is, there was plenty of public grief for Giffords and still is, which is why she and Kelly were on the Hill today testifying and receiving media coverage so sympathetic that it occasionally lapsed into myth-making. So why didn’t Durbin pound the table for a hearing back then? Because, silly: It was inconvenient for Obama’s and the Democrats’ electoral chances. It’s hard to remember now, but there were so many vulnerable Senate Dems whose seats were up last year that, circa 2011, many pundits (including me) thought the odds were better than not that the GOP would take back the chamber. Given the degree of gun ownership in rural parts of swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, tackling guns would have been extremely risky for The One and the party at large and might have become a huge distraction from the daily messaging barrage about the plutocratic Republican nominee who gave all his workers’ spouses cancer. Now that he’s been reelected and is throwing his popularity behind this, it’s a bit safer for the next crop of vulnerable Dems to engage on it. (But only a bit.) So imagine Mark Kelly sitting there listening to this patronizing bilge from Durbin, knowing that the reason the Deeply Concerned liberals in government couldn’t lead on gun control after his wife was shot through the head is because they were too worried about their own sweet asses on election day. That’s how much they “care.”

Exit question: What’s the relative of someone who was killed in Aurora last year supposed to think of this? Click the image to watch.

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David Strom 12:31 PM on December 01, 2022