If a bipartisan Senate group proposes an essentially toothless gun law, should Democrats support it?
Surprisingly, the US Senate may be about to pass some sort of gun safety law. Yes, I said that would never happen, and I may still be right. But if I’m wrong and it passes, it would be essentially toothless legislation.
Count the paths. It would not ban semi-automatic assault weapons and it would not raise the age from 18 to 21 to purchase such weapons. There is uncertainty about whether it would address the single gun remedy most favored by Americans — polls run to around 90% — universal background checks, including gun shows and Private sales. These background checks don’t hurt anyone or the Second Amendment.
But he reportedly has a kind of red flag law, designed to temporarily take arms away from those deemed dangerous to themselves and others. Red flag laws are so obvious that even Florida introduced one after the Parkland Massacre. But the other parts of the law would add more armed staff to schools — which is better, at least, than arming teachers — and add money for mental health. I’m all for more money for sanity, but also pretty sure it would have next to no impact on most shootings, mass shootings or otherwise. And we have seen armed personnel in schools repeatedly fail.
The question is whether to pass such toothless legislation, which would nevertheless enrage the gun lobby, or insist that we do better. There’s the argument that doing something – anything – would lead to more opportunities. And there is the argument that the Republicans could then say they did something and that will have to be enough.
It’s a tough call. And I wouldn’t know what call to make until or unless there was an actual bill to consider.
Here is some context. I just saw the most chilling statistic in the wake of the latest mass shootings, which seem to be everywhere you look in the days following the Buffalo and Uvalde massacres. It’s an illusion, by the way. These mass shootings have always existed, although on varying scales from year to year.
But we seem to only notice the worst and deadliest of shootings, especially hate crime shootings, church shootings, mass school shootings, and most importantly, elementary school mass shootings.
The sad truth is that most shootings simply go unnoticed.
And again, the Over 40,000 of Americans who die of gunshot wounds each year is not the most frightening number – not the thousands of (often preventable) suicides, not the thousands of (often preventable) homicides, not even those who die a death accidental (the mother of a 2-year-old child is being held for manslaughter after toddler shot and killed his father). Oh, yeah, the Potential Compromise Act ain’t got nothing on either secure gun storageeven though every year hundreds of children accidentally kill themselves or others.
By the way, the number of more than 40 thousand is too rarely cited. We’re too busy counting the dead and wounded, say, on South Street in Philadelphia, where an altercation that started with fistfights ended with a few people drawing their guns, killing three and injuring 15 others. To our knowledge, the weapons were purchased legally. By the way, there were plenty of cops on the scene, which once again clearly shows the absurdity of the good guy argument with a gun, especially when we allow shooters to buy AR-type assault weapons, which evolved from military weapons designed to kill as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.
Once upon a time, the statistic that Americans have nearly 400 million guns for 330 million people was a shock, but that was a while ago. Everyone knows the number of guns, despite nationwide efforts to keep guns unregistered. Anyone who wants to know – statistics are available everywhere – would have seen this equation: more weapons = more deaths. You could search for it.
Now I guess you’re wondering what could be scarier than what we discussed. Well, there you go, and I hope you’re seated:
In the latest CBS-YouGuv poll, 44% Republicans agree with the idea that tolerating mass murder is simply part of the price we pay for our freedom – even if it comes at the cost of more than 40,000 lives, lives that belonged mostly to those who had no not have a say in the matter. No wonder so many people seem largely untouched by the more than one million Americans who have died from COVID. That’s the price we have to pay, I guess, so that we don’t have to wear masks on planes or be forced to get vaccinated.
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The 44% figure is as shocking as anything I’ve seen – except perhaps one that shows gun violence is now killing more Americans under 20 that even the leader of longtime death, car accidents.
The overall poll numbers are a bit more encouraging. Seventy-two percent of Americans say we are not doing enough to stop gun violence. But 44% of Republicans is more than enough to keep most Republican politicians in line. If anything were to pass, it would take 10 Republican votes to overcome the inevitable filibuster. That’s why it’s toothless or nothing, although some Republicans would apparently agree with asking for waiting periods for under-21s.
I’ve seen encouraging news from Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the most conservative Democratic senator who represents a Trumpian-majority state, the same Manchin who picked it up himself — often with Kyrsten’s help. Arizona’s Sinema – to block much of Joe Biden. and more progressive bills from Democratic senators to become law.
Manchin says he doesn’t understand why anyone needs assault weapons. He thinks we should raise the age to buy guns to 21. Yes, he actually does.
And then there’s Bret Stephens, the conservative New York Times columnist who has a weekly online chat with liberal columnist Gail Collins. Stephens is calling to raise the age limit for buying long guns to 21, to require every gun owner to purchase a gun safe, for psychiatric evaluation and criminal background checks, for a three-day waiting period and for a full firearms safety course. Reading this, I think that’s pretty much what I would say, other than also banning assault rifles and automatic pistols and severely limiting the size of ammo clips.
Stephens even laid out a great idea for a campaign ad for a moderate Democrat, which goes like this:
“I believe in the Second Amendment. But not for this guy,” followed by a photo of Tucson, Arizona, mass killer Jared Lee Loughner; “or this guy” – a photo of Aurora, Colorado, mass murderer James Holmes; “or that guy” – a photo of Newtown, Connecticut mass murderer Adam Lanza.
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He would go on to say, “I also believe in the right to own firearms responsibly for hunting and self-defense. But not for that” — a photo of the scene outside the school in Uvalde; “or this” – a photo of the Buffalo grocery store scene; “or this” – scenes from the Parkland Massacre.”
It continues from there, incorporating Stephens’ ideas from above, but ends like this: “This is not about denying your constitutional rights. It’s so that your children come home alive from school.
I don’t know why anyone would object to it. But, sadly, I know there are millions of Americans who would oppose it and do it so hard – so hard that it almost drowns out the constant gunfire we allow ourselves to live with.
Mike Littwin has been a columnist for too many years to count. He covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions, and countless mind-numbing speeches in the snow of New Hampshire and Iowa.
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