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Semi-tough

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The 2013 legislature was protective of gun-carriers and red-light runners, but it came down hard on voters. The first two groups might kill a few people, (or a lot). The third might remove from office a few Republican legislators. This was seen as the greater danger by Republican legislators. Their priorities are different from normal people's.

Every mass murder by gunshot, such as the recent incident in Connecticut, stirs the hearts of Arkansas legislators, though not in the way that outsiders might expect. The lawmakers rush to shield guns and gun owners from any proposed restriction, and, if possible, to increase the number of pistol-packers in the state, thus pleasing the NRA. This year, the legislators responded to the slaughter of schoolchildren by passing a law that would allow the faculty and staff of state universities to carry guns on campus, unless the governing bodies of the universities opt out. We're hoping that the institutions of higher education will be more level-headed than the General Assembly, and it seems likely that they will. The legislature also voted to exempt concealed-carry permits from the state Freedom of Information law, so that you can't learn whether your neighbor is packing until he tells you or shoots you.

Those who work in downtown Little Rock know that red-light running here is only a little less common than breathing. Nonetheless, a bill to let Arkansas cities use cameras to catch the offenders, as is done successfully in other American cities, was rejected overwhelmingly. Legislators evidently felt it would take the fun out of intersections.

Inclined to vote Democratic, the elderly, the poor, and minorities are those most likely to be harmed by a bill that requires photo identification of all voters, so the Republican majority shouted the bill through. The only kind of voter fraud it would prevent is already non-existent, as Governor Beebe noted when he vetoed the bill. The legislators still could return to the Capitol and override the veto, which is just the sort of meanness that many of them enjoy, and which would advance the Republican belief that only rich white men deserve a voice in government.

Which reminds us of another group the legislative majority cracked down on. The black flag of "no quarter" waved in the legislators' war on women. It was hard to keep track of all the bills that were intended to deprive women of control of their own bodies, so the Republicans didn't try; they just passed all of them. They know what they don't like, this bunch, if not much else.

Congress didn't pass any gun-control legislation, either, but at least the Senate tried, and the bill would have cleared the Senate except that Republicans and renegade Democrats like Mark Pryor now use the filibuster freely to prevent majority rule. The filibuster was used rarely in the past. During Franklin D. Roosevelt's 12-year tenure as president, the Senate used the filibuster six times. In the last six years, the Republican minority in the Senate has used the filibuster to block or stall legislation or presidential nominees more than 170 times. This is not your father's Republican Party, or your father's Pryor either.

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