You may be wondering how we're doing on gun control.
Joe Biden promised to tackle it on "my first day in office," which he didn't. Give the man a break — he's got to get his COVID relief bill through Congress, and you can appreciate that he's rather distracted. But absolutely no reason we shouldn't start to nag.
We've been hearing a lot about the gun debate in Washington lately, but it's mostly on the weirdo side. Who can forget the virtual House committee meeting during which Republican Lauren Boebert sat with a pile of large firearms behind her? This was in a session on a proposal to stop members from bringing their guns to committee meetings, so you'd have to admit she was on topic.
We will pause while you ask: When did our lawmakers start bringing guns to the office? Isn't that sort of … 19th century?
Well, yeah, but it still goes on. Members of Congress can keep guns in their offices and carry them unloaded pretty much anywhere on the Capitol grounds, except the House or Senate floor. Last month Rep. Andy Harris, a Republican, reportedly approached the House chamber while packing heat. When he was stopped, Harris tried to palm the gun off on a colleague, who sensibly declined the gift.
On the plus side, extremely optimistic citizens might have taken heart when Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, one of the fiercest/craziest gun control opponents, recently attempted to boost her credibility by announcing she now believes mass school shootings and the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center actually did happen.
Progress! Meanwhile, in her spare time, Greene has introduced a bill to make it illegal for the federal government to spend money on gun control enforcement.
If there was ever a time to pick up the gun safety battle it would be now. The pandemic, which has made just about everything worse except soap sales, has turned a whole lot of Americans into tortured souls. "No matter how you look at it, gun violence is an epidemic within this pandemic," said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety.
The folks at Everytown estimated that 22 million guns were sold in 2020, up 64% from 2019. And given the fact that there are more than 390 million guns in private hands, you will not be startled to learn that a lot have been going off.
You hear stories every day. Domestic violence, little kids accidentally shooting themselves with the gun Dad keeps in the bedroom. (Unintentional shooting deaths by children rose more than 30% in March to May 2020 compared with the same period in the years before.)
There are so many ungodly cases you really have to do something unique to get attention. Recently in Pennsylvania, three people were fatally shot in a fight over snow shoveling.
Two FBI agents trying to execute a search warrant in a child pornography investigation were killed by the suspect, who happened to have an assault rifle on hand. Perhaps you remember assault rifles. They're the rapid-fire, military-style guns — extremely efficient for a mass shooting — that Congress refuses to ban. Or now, anyhow. Back in 1994, it prohibited the manufacture of semi-automatic assault weapons, under the leadership of Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Joe Biden.
The ban, alas, included a 10-year expiration date, a compromise to placate the ever-popular Tiny Group Of Swing Votes In The Senate. Nothing could get our nation's leaders to bring it back, even a mass shooting of six educators and 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary.
There's not much doubt Biden is eager to get some serious reform underway. "His heart is on his sleeve when it comes to this," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. Sadly, there often seems to be a gap between the issues Biden really, really cares about and the ones he's actually going to do something about. But even if he charges ahead, there's only so much he can do by executive order, and whatever it is won't have the staying power of real legislation.
If we're lucky, sometime this year a gun bill — at least a modest one toughening up background checks — will make it to the Senate. In between paeans to the Second Amendment, opponents will tell the nation that their constituents want to have weapons on hand to defend themselves and their families from evildoers.
You do wonder how the founding fathers would have felt about the right to bear arms if they knew their nastiest neighbor had just installed a printer that manufactures guns in his basement.
The stories about how a Gun Saved The Day aren't generally all that convincing. The Heritage Foundation recently ran a list of 11 incidents in which "a gun stopped matters from getting worse." One case involved a robber who threatened employees at a pizza restaurant in Georgia. The workers won the day by grabbing another gun and catching him off-guard. It was indeed good news. But the fact that the workers were able to get the gun because the holdup man decided to use the restaurant bathroom before leaving with the money was … kind of a help.
One problem with our gun debate is that it has the wrong starting point. Let's raise the bar. Demand that nobody be able to purchase a gun without passing a test demonstrating she knows how to aim it. You'd be astonished at how many enthusiastic owners that would eliminate from contention.