Wicker voted to proceed with debate and consideration of the bill under an open-amendment process, along with 18 other Senators with an A or A+ rating from the National Rifle Association. That means there will be debates on amendments, votes on amendments and debate on the bill. In the end, Wicker doubts the Senate will have the votes to pass the legislation, but more than that, the final bill is still subject to a filibuster requiring 60 votes. “I would of course filibuster passage of a final bill if it contains gun restrictions, a weapons ban or any infringement on Second Amendment rights,” Wicker said. Were the bill somehow to make it through the Democratic controlled Senate, the Republican controlled House of Representatives is unlikely to even consider it.
Still, many conservatives went ballistic: “why debate a right?” Had the “no debate” side of the argument won during the drafting of the Constitution, we would have never had the Bill of Rights including the Second Amendment. In principle, I agree that our freedoms are God given; that freedom is a natural human right. But in practice, I’m thankful there were debates and votes and as a result we have the Second Amendment spelled out to restrain the government. Debate doesn’t hurt our rights.
Wicker believes conservatives can win the debate on gun rights; but to win you first have to make the debate. Some Republicans view the election and reelection of President Barack Obama as evidence the GOP has a messaging problem; they believe Republicans need to better explain and deliver the message of conservatism. But “we’re not going to talk about the Second Amendment” is not an effective way to deliver that message. If Republicans want to engage the American people on an issue, they should not fear debate.
Don’t get me wrong, killing bad bills using parliamentary procedures is a legitimate tool to stop bad policy. Many bills need to die. A filibuster against a motion to proceed to debate is properly used when the rights of the minority are restricted. But when given the opportunity to offer amendments and make the case, why not take the fight into the marketplace of ideas? There is still the opportunity to filibuster later.