Lions? Yes. Humans? Not so much. Four Democrats in the U.S. Senate were lightning-quick to offer legislation to prevent what happened to Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe from happening again. Who says you need a powerful union or an army of lobbyists in politics to move an agenda? The next question is, will a bill for Cecil the lion move faster through the Senate than any of the Ferguson, Mo.-related bills?
Cecil was killed by apparent trophy hunter Walter Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota, during a trip to the African nation last month. An uproar of international outrage over the death of Cecil erupted a week ago, and four U.S. senators have very quickly followed up with legislation.
Suddenly Congress isn't so gridlocked.
Many have pointed out the difference between the outrage over an animal and the reaction to the never-ending onslaught of police brutality and deaths at the hands of police or in police custody.
Since the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was shot eight times last August by former Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, legislation related to police brutality has been introduced in the House. But the Senate has been far slower to act, and few Ferguson-related bills have been offered.
The Senate sat silent on the question of police brutality until the shooting death of Walter Scott in Charleston, S.C., in April jolted the state's two Republican senators into action. Last week one of them, Sen. Tim Scott, introduced legislation that would provide $100 million a year for police body cameras. Only one of the four Democrats who introduced the bill for Cecil the lion is a co-sponsor of Scott's body-camera bill: Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.). He, along with South Carolina's other senator, Lindsey Graham, joined as a co-sponsor on July 29—two days before the Cecil bill, formally known as the Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large (CECIL) Animal Trophies Act (pdf), was introduced.
Currently, Scott is the only U.S. senator who has offered a bill directly related to police brutality since the shooting death of Brown almost exactly a year ago. There is also an older bill that predates Brown's death, which would ban the use of racial profiling by law enforcement, offered by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a lead sponsor of the CECIL Animal Trophies Act. This bill was offered numerous times before the death of Brown.
Scott's legislation would create a grant program to fund police from 2016 to 2021. His legislation is the most likely police-brutality bill to become law since the Death in Custody Reporting Bill, which was sponsored in the House and was signed by President Barack Obama last December, making it the first Ferguson-related bill to become law.
The House has been much more active in terms of legislation regarding police brutality. Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Steven Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Al Green (D-Texas) have all offered bills specific to the concerns of the Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality, but several of the bills have failed to find a Senate sponsor to partner with.
The CECIL Animal Trophies Act would extend restrictions already in place regarding animal "trophies" to include animals that have been considered for listing as endangered as defined by the Endangered Species Act.
Will it pass? Will it pass the Senate and the House and become law? Will it pass the Senate before Scott's bill to fund police body cameras?
Only time will tell.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article indicated that Walter Palmer was based in Wisconsin. His dental practice is in Bloomington, Minn.