About H.R. 2640, Senator Coburn, and . . . stuff

There's lots of discussion (some of it a bit heated) these days in the gun rights community about H.R. 2640, the NICS "Improvement" Act. This bill is championed by longtime enemies of gun rights, including Representative Carolyn "I don't know what a barrel shroud is, but let's ban them anyway" McCarthy, Senator Chuck Schumer (couldn't think of a catchy middle name for him), Paul "Have I mentioned that I was mayor of Ft. Wayne, IN?" Helmke . . . and it is also championed by the NRA.

On the other side stands Gun Owners of America, supported by the American Legion and the Military Order of the Purple Heart. Ted Nugent, interestingly enough (I don't remember him fighting the NRA on anything before), is also opposed. The Liberty Zone has voiced some pretty compelling arguments against it (most recently here). I've made no secret of my own opposition (here, for example), although not so much for the reasons most emphasized by the GOA.

My comprehension of legalese is quite shaky, at best, but after slogging through the text of the bill, and reading the points made at Snowflakes in Hell and at Of Arms and the Law, I am inclined to believe that the threat to veterans' gun rights is being significantly exaggerated by the GOA. The previous two links argue pretty effectively for the point that the bill includes fairly robust protections against the kinds of horror stories warned of in recent GOA alerts.

Then again, "robust protections" seemingly tend to end up being a whole lot less robust than one would expect. Take, for example, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms–how could that law fail to be enough to get Gary, Indiana's lawsuit against gun manufacturers thrown out? All it takes is a few judges whose personal dislike of certain provisions of the Bill of Rights outweighs their respect for the law, it would seem. How could Ohio's straightforward law banning municipal gun laws more strict than the state's be ruled insufficient to get Clyde, Ohio's ban of guns in city parks tossed out like the garbage it is? A State Supreme Court that has more respect for gun bans than for the laws that prohibit them, apparently. Therefore, although it would seem that veterans are protected by the way the bill was written, people can perhaps be forgiven for a lack of faith in those protections.

Still, for me, the much larger concern with the bill is that it constitutes a major (and quite expensive) expansion of the NICS program–a program that I simply cannot reconcile with "shall not be infringed." The idea of "keeping guns out of the hands" of felons, domestic batterers, and insane people certainly sounds good, but if these people are so dangerous (either to themselves or to others) that we cannot take the risk of allowing them to buy guns legally, then they would seem to be too dangerous to be trusted not to obtain guns illegally, or to simply commit their crimes with something other than a firearm. Such people should not be running loose in society.

As to Senator Coburn's "hold" on the bill, I applaud him, and believe that even supporters of the bill should lay off with the criticism. The hold is not an insurmountable obstacle–it only prevents the bill from being passed without floor debate (or with only perfunctory floor debate), and without a recorded vote. As pointed out at War on Guns, the requirement for discussion and vote for the passage of a new law is hardly an attack on our form of government. If Senators are unwilling to debate the merits of a bill they want passed, what does that say about the bill? If they do not want their constituents to know how they voted on the bill, what does that say about it?

Frankly, anything that makes laws more difficult to pass sounds good to me (and I realize that laws that I would like to have seen passed have been stopped in this manner–that's a price I'm willing to pay). It's unfortunate that a legislator's job is to . . . legislate–in other words, to pass more laws. In still other words, to make our bloated legal code even more grotesquely vast than it already is. In yet other words, to place more restrictions on what we can do. If Senator Coburn wants to introduce a speed bump into the process, I say more power to him.

Senators, if H.R. 2640 is so good for America, so necessary, then stand up on the Senate floor and defend it. If passing it is in the best interests of your constituents, put your name on your "Yes" vote, and proudly let them know of your support for it. If not, then I guess NICS doesn't need to be "improved," after all.