Democrats have created a false narrative on guns, and Republicans have been suckered into buying it.
But first, the good news. It looks like Trump is going to hold off on putting forward any “gun package” for another week or so. That gives us time to head this nonsense off before serious damage is done. If the wobbly R’s don’t stop and change direction right now, it’s going to cost them – all of us – dearly in 2020.
The most likely sucker moves the Republicans would make is to accept some kind of “Universal Background Check,” a “red flag” gun confiscation measure, or maybe even both. A ban on standard capacity magazines, is less likely, and a 1994-style “assault weapon” ban is unlikely to get any serious traction, but never underestimate Republicans’ capacity for self-destruction. If enough Republicans vote in favor of any of these to allow passage, it will hurt Republicans much harder than Democrats.
Proponents are using recent mass murders as the impetus for pushing these proposals, but none of them would have made a difference in those or likely future atrocities. “Expanded” or “Universal” background checks certainly won’t. Almost all of the mass murderers who have used firearms over the past 30 years, have passed background checks. Some of those were due to failures in the system, but most had clean records. In some cases, those clean records were thanks to “diversion” policies intended to avoid harming a young person’s future prospects. The few who didn’t legally purchase their firearms with a background check, either stole the guns they used, had someone else illegally buy them, or acquired them in some other, already illegal way. Another layer of laws isn’t going to prevent any of those kinds of acquisitions.
“Red flag” laws or “Extreme Risk Protection Orders” assume that a troubled individual who might harm himself or others will no longer be a danger if guns are removed, but leave easy access to car keys, gasoline, knives, and possibly other guns. The orders are issued ex parte, meaning no opposing view is offered. Too many Republicans, notably Rep. Dan Crenshaw and Senators Marco Rubio and Lindsay Graham, have stumbled into the red flag trap assuming that the laws can be drafted with safeguards sufficient to keep them from being misused. Experience at the state level says different, and more importantly, there are already laws on the books providing for supervised treatment for people who can’t or won’t seek treatment for themselves.
The bottom line: Prohibitions of cosmetic features did not work in 1994, and are going nowhere in 2019. So called “Universal Background Checks” can never block a mass murder. Red flag laws are both too much and too little – too much in the sense that they are guaranteed to be misused and abused, and too little in the sense that by focusing only on guns, they leave someone who is truly troubled, possibly without guns, but also without help.
The Republican attempts to offer a “reasonable compromise” by repackaging the anti-rights Democrats’ snake oil as “Gun Control Lite” will only hurt Republicans. It is an attempt to appease people who will never vote for them, by alienating one of the most important segments of their constituency. The gun community of 2019 will not stand for it. As my late father Neal Knox used to say, no matter how much tartar sauce you pour on rotten fish, it’s still rotten.
Republicans need positive strategies to attack the issue – genuine strategies, as opposed to the slow-motion surrender too many Republicans have offered over the past few years. Here are some suggestions:
Once they start down the gun control path, Democrats can be safely relied on to self-destruct, if you just give them time and space, and don’t interfere.
First, Democrats will almost always overreach, offering proposals that are repugnant to the vast majority of Americans, such as Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke’s declaration; “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.” Republicans stepping in and trying to soften these Democrat proposals into “something that can pass,” is just stupid.
Second, Democrats can be counted on to kill any bill that does not give them the level of government control that they always build into their proposals. The only amendments Republicans should ever offer, should be “poison pill” provisions that seem reasonable to most people, but which they know Democrats will reject.
Of the 4 basic proposals, Democrats know that a gun ban is a non-starter, so they’re just blowing smoke with that one. Likewise, magazine bans should also be dead in the water, but Republicans have allowed those to get more traction. The murderer at Parkland used 10-round magazines. The murderer at Sandy Hook used higher-capacity mags, but swapped them out several times before they were empty (what’s known as “tactical reloads,” a trick learned from video games). This is probably going to be used by Democrats as a trading chip. They know they don’t have a likely chance of passing it, so they’ll offer to take it off the table as a “compromise.”
That leaves “universal background checks” (UBC) and “red flag” laws.
The stated objective is to “keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.” But one of the core features of UBC proposals that is rarely talked about is the requirement for paperwork on the buyers, the sellers, and the guns. If the objective is just to prevent acquisition by prohibited persons, why are Democrats so insistent on creating a paper trail?
In reality, the paper trail – registration by another name – is the real goal. The very rare instances of a prohibited person acquiring a firearm, without a background check, through an otherwise legal private transaction and then using that gun in the commission of a violent crime, does not begin to justify the massive bureaucratic structure required for the UBC proposals.
Just as the lack of background checks on private transfers has been painted as a “loophole,” even though it was a negotiated compromise in passage of the Brady Act, so too will the lack of a computerized registry of guns and gun owners be characterized as a loophole in the future. Anti-rights zealots want the records to exist so they can complain about the records not being readily accessible and usable to track down “gun traffickers” and sources of “crime guns.”
If you doubt this is the real objective, just offer up an amendment that removes any of the paperwork requirements, particularly the paperwork retention requirements, and listen to the Democrats howl about it. Likewise, a Republican amendment to UBC proposals, that would exempt persons who can present a valid photo ID and carry license, would almost certainly be considered a poison pill by Democrat sponsors, resulting in them killing their own bill. Either of those, like any other Republican participation in this farce, should only be used as last-ditch, blocking attempts, to peel away votes, not serious proposals to try and pass.
Gun control laws don’t work. They never accomplish their stated goals, and certainly don’t prevent or mitigate the type of mass murders that have fueled the current push. They are neither good policy nor good political strategy. It is foolish for Republicans to ever play in the Democrats sandbox. This never results in anything other than the Republicans being covered in dirt and cat poop.
The best thing for Republicans to do in the wake of horrors as happened in Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton is to be thoughtful, compassionate, and conservative in their reaction. Focus on the Constitution and the restrictions of the Bill of Rights. Listen, and let the Democrats run with their outrageous schemes. Opponents of individual rights want to use crises as opportunities to stampede the herd over a cliff. It is conservatives’ job to be calm and rational in a crisis, and in so doing, highlight the panic and hysteria of their opponents.
The nation is at a tipping point. Gun control is a key issue and impacts an important voting constituency. Compromising on gun control gains Republicans nothing, and could cost them everything.