Gun measure goes down

After false reports of an arrest in the marathon bombing case, yesterday proved to be a hurry-up-and-wait day in Boston. In Washington, however, it was a day of decisive action. Shameful action, in the view of President Obama and Gaby Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who survived a bullet to the head and has become the country’s most outspoken advocate for reasonable gun restrictions.

In the Senate, only 55 members could bring themselves to support a measure that would extend the requirement for basic background checks on all gun buyers to situations like gun shows not covered under current law. Polls show 90 percent of Americans support such a move. The National Rifle Association itself had once supported such mild reform before switching course and digging in against any move to extend controls over the acquisition of guns.

With the NRA unleashing the full fury of its lobbying muscle, four Democrats from conservative-leaning states buckled and opposed the measure, as did New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte, the lone New England senator voting against the background check amendment.

Speaking in the Rose Garden after the vote with Giffords and family members of victims of the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting at his side, Obama called it “a pretty shameful day for Washington.”

But it was Giffords, shot in the head two years ago while holding constituent “office hours” in a shopping center parking lot, who delivered the most blistering response to yesterday’s vote. Giffords, one of 13 people injured in a shooting rampage that claimed six lives, authored a scathing op-ed in today’s New York Times that is unsparing in its condemnation of those senators who voted against the background check measure..

If senators feared the might of the NRA lobby machine, she wrote, “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.”

“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,” she wrote. She then delivered an unusually blunt political call to arms to the overwhelming majority of Americans who support reasonable new gun control measures, urging them to exercise their political might to secure a different outcome than yesterday’s.

“Mark my words: if we cannot make our communities safer with the Congress we have now, we will use every means available to make sure we have a different Congress, one that puts communities’ interests ahead of the gun lobby’s,” she wrote. “To do nothing while others are in danger is not the American way.”

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein said op-eds “almost never change American politics.” Giffords’s analysis, he says, “might prove an exception.”

The Times editorial page scolds the Senate for failing to heed an “overwhelming national consensus to tighten a ridiculously lax set of gun laws.” Slate argues that gun control advocates won’t win in Congress until legislators fear them as much as they fear the NRA; this is where folks like Michael Bloomberg enter the equation.

A Times analysis on the vote suggests it will take a even more concerted effort like that to pass new gun control measures. Yesterday’s effort, writes Jennifer Steinhauer, never really had a chance, because Congress is impossibly far behind public opinion on guns. “At a moment when the national conversation about how best to stem the menace of guns in the wrong hands seemed to have shifted,” she writes, “it turned out that the political dynamic had not.”

–MICHAEL JONAS

MARATHON BOMBINGS

The Globe reports this morning that authorities have clear surveillance video images showing two separate suspects at the bombing scene near Copley Square and says the images will be released today in order to seek public assistance in identifying the suspects.

Yesterday’s news was marked by a rush of reports that a suspect was under arrest and, in some reports, on his way to the Moakley federal courthouse. The media misstatement mishegas became an object lesson in the dangers of rushing news reports out the door. CNN, in particular, comes in for intense criticism. In yesterday’s Download, even before yesterday’s wild afternoon of ultimately erroneous reports, CommonWealth’s Gabrielle Gurley sounded a note of caution about the media urge to “be first,” which can often trump the imperative to get it right.

As President Obama comes to town for an interfaith service, the Dorchester Reporter’s Bill Forry offers a lyrical tribute to Martin Richard, to the strength of community, and to one Dorchester resident’s moving gesture to honor the memory of a young boy. Michael Jonas takes stock of a shaken city that has unenviably joined the global club of places that have come to know terrorism from first-hand experience.

Local imams have been saying many prayers for Monday’s victims, writes Yvonne Abraham — and they are also praying fervently that when a suspect is arrested he not be a Muslim.

The identify of the third bombing fatality was released yesterday, and the Globe profiles Lingzi Lu, a Chinese national who was studying for a graduate degree at Boston University. Gov. Patrick meets with the parents of Martin Richard, the child killed in the bombing. Former Herald cops reporter Michele McPhee interviews her fiance, a Boylston Street firefighter who treated Lingzi Lu at the bombing scene, for Esquire.

The Globe looks at the long recovery road ahead for Monday’s bombing victims who lost limbs.

A group of Cape Cod marathoners vows to run in Boston next year.

Boston magazine interviews the marathon’s longtime finish line coordinator.

Kenya, home to dozens of marathon winners, reacts to the bombings.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The first wave of candidates for mayor and City Council in Boston arrived at City Hall to sign up for nomination papers, though most of the higher-profile hopefuls stayed away, apparently out of deference to the victims of Monday’s bombings.

Plum Island residents ponder whether to rebuild their homes on the fast-shifting barrier island.

Members of the Fall River Housing Authority board are getting frustrated over delays in approval of a new director.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

The FBI arrests a Mississippi man in the ricin mailings to President Obama and Mississippi Republican Sen. Roger Wicker.

New York magazine ponders Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s next moves.

Kansas passes a law allowing state officials to order urine tests of any welfare recipient suspected of using drugs. Those who fail would lose their benefits until they complete a drug treatment and job skills program, Governing reports.

ELECTIONS

The Bay State Banner interviews Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry who is running for the First Suffolk state Senate seat vacated by Jack Hart.

In the “hell hath no fury…” department, Jenny Sanford is quietly undermining her ex-husband Mark Sanford’s run for Congress.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Rescue workers search for survivors of a fertilizer plant explosion that killed 15 and injured more than 160, Time reports. Check out this video of people taking pictures of the plant when it suddenly explodes.

Catholic leaders in Worcester oppose a slots parlor there, the Associated Press reports (via Lowell Sun.) A poll conducted by the Chicago-based slots developer indicates a majority of residents favor it if it is paired with a hotel, the Telegram & Gazette reports.

EDUCATION

Salem State University looks to expand its campus, the Salem News reports.

A new study suggests charter schools receive less funding than traditional public schools in five cities, the Washington Post reports.

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Wind turbine controversies hit towns on the South Shore