Patrica Maisch holds a photo of 9-year-old Christina Green, as she testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2011, on the need for background checks on all gun purchases. Christina, who was born the day the Twin Towers were attacked, was the youngest victim of Jared Loughtner, the gunman who killed six and grievously injured Arizona Representative Gabby Giffords in 2010.
Patricia Maisch told the Senate “Shame on you!” when they refused to allow debate on universal background checks for gun purchases. Because she used angry words to protest, rather than angrily buying a gun, Capitol Police put her through a background check.
Last Wednesday, the NRA owned and operated Cirque Du Senate used their filibuster rule to kill every gun safety measure Majority Leader Harry Reid put before them. Large capacity ammunition clips. Assault weapons. Even stiffer penalties for gun traffickers went down. To the victims of gun violence, to the families of those murdered by guns, to the Sandy Hook parents watching from the Senate Gallery, it must have felt like being flashed the Washington version of the middle finger. No, it must have been worse. The equivalent of being flipped the bird would have been a no vote. Requiring a super-majority in order to strangle every single proposal before it could even draw breath, while the victims looked on? That must have seemed like the Washington equivalent of a fraternity mooning. The senators may as well have pulled down their pants and wagged their asses in the air toward the gallery.
The amendment which would have required universal background checks was the one crumb senate watchers thought conservative lawmakers might throw the grieving Sandy Hook parents. When it was defeated, a voice from the gallery violated the decorum of the senate by shouting “Shame on you!” It was a woman’s voice, and her words echoed through those marbled halls as clearly as if the Liberty Bell itself had rung them out. “Shame on you!” the woman shouted.
I know the senators heard her; Vice President Biden, presiding over the session in case his tie-breaking vote was needed, called for order, but no heads turned toward the sound of the accusation. Listening at home, a thousand miles away, I could hear the anguish in that cry, but no senator was curious as to the source of such pain in their midst. Perhaps they had just enough vestigial conscience left to fear meeting the gaze of a mother whose baby had been dismembered by a Bushmaster assault rifle. “Shame on you!” the woman admonished them. But her words crashed and shattered on the stone cold hearts of senators too busy guarding their fat reelection funds to consider a law that would ask a man buying a weapon made for war, the common sense question: “What’s your name, and what are your intentions?”
The woman who dared utter that plaintive cry was someone you have heard of before. Patricia Maisch is a lovely, white-haired Arizona senior, who looks polished and refined and eminently suitable to be any lucky child’s doting nana. Patricia had the misfortune of being one of the constituents standing in line to have her picture taken with Gabby Giffords the day Jared Loughner went on his shooting rampage. Patricia says when the woman next to her was shot, she instinctively lay down, hoping he would think she was already injured, but as she lay on the ground, she was waiting for the bullet meant for her.
Instead she came face to face with the shooter.
When the shooter stopped to reload, two men on the scene tackled him. He landed inches from Patricia, and as he reached into his pocket to bring out a fresh ammunition clip, she grabbed that clip and held on. Bystanders remember her screaming, “Give me the gun!” though Patricia says she has no memory of that. She sat on his feet until the police arrived, and then she hurried off to get paper towels from a nearby store to help one of the men who had tackled the killer, because he was bleeding where his head had been grazed by a bullet.
After that horrific experience, Patricia Maisch could have gone back to her life. No one would have faulted her if she had counted her blessings and put that day behind her, knowing when her time had come to act, she did not fail. Instead, Patricia joined the campaign for laws to keep guns out of the hands of the Jared Loughners of the world, including testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on behalf of the “Fix Gun Checks Act” which failed to get any traction in 2011, even after Gabby Giffords was so grievously wounded.
Patricia Maisch was sitting in the Senate Gallery Wednesday, among other gun violence survivors and family members who have had their loved ones killed by guns, when the senate voted down an amendment that would have extended the same ID checks now performed at gun shops, to gun shows and Internet sales. She spoke three words of protest: “Shame on you.” They weren’t vulgar words. They weren’t threatening words. Certainly the sentiment those words expressed is exactly the sort of speech the First Amendment protects. Yet, Patricia was escorted out of the gallery by security.
The very first thing security asked this potentially dangerous wielder of words, was the common sense question: “What’s your name and what are your intentions?”
They held Patricia for almost two hours, about twice as long as it takes a gun dealer to perform a background check. She was asked why she was in Washington and how long she intended to stay. Security then demanded her social security number in order to do – you guessed it – a background check.
It made complete sense to those who guard the lives of the senators to make sure Patricia Maisch, who came armed only with words of protest, was not a danger to them. Why can’t those well-guarded senators entertain the possibility that it just as sensible to give the same amount of scrutiny to those who wish to live among us commoners with personal arsenals, in case they might seek to do their protesting with guns in local elementary schools? How can we not even be allowed to ask “What’s your name, and what are your intentions?”
Photos from Zimbio
Jean Ann Esselink is a columnist at the New Civil Rights Movement, and straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle.