I didn’t care too much about gun safety/control before Sandy Hook. But the thought of those precious little… It just hurt. Charleston hurt. Orlando. They just keep coming. Larger numbers. More frequent. More horrific. More and more pain. And yet, our elected officials sit on their hands. Matter of fact, that’s too generous: states have recently enacted laws allowing firearms in state parks, churches, schools, bars…
It’s not getting better. It’s getting worse.
There’s no silver bullet to such a difficult problem. And there are limiting factors in the 2nd Amendment, the Supreme Court, Heller, money in politics, and the NRA.
But there are also possible solutions: We should require background checks for all firearm sales, allow the CDC to research the health impact of firearms, and lift the ban on suing arms manufacturers for damages. We should have gun buy-back programs, tax ammunition at a higher rate, and require identifying markers on bullets. Demonstrated proficiency, registration, and insurance should be prerequisite to firearm purchase. The sale of military-style assault weapons should be banned.
Those particular weapons (modeled after the M-16 we used in Vietnam; and which our military is bright enough to keep them locked away when not in use) are designed for most efficiently murdering humans. They are marketed as such. They are the best selling type of firearm in the United States. There are literally millions of them in the country. Every time there is an horrific event, gun fetishists come out in droves and buy even more. (And whenever a Democrat happens to reside 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, whipping their paranoid anti-government frenzy into froth.)
An assault weapons ban means that they cannot be legally sold in the United States. We had such a ban (yet the 2nd Amendment somehow survived), which expired when Bush 43 was in office . But the things are damn sturdy, so they’ll continue to be around long after their sale is banned.
If we really want to start and whittle the number down, we would (again) need to eliminate the ban on suing gun manufacturers for damages, ban import, and enforce severe punishments for trafficking.
Ideally they would be kept at, say, a range where they could be checked out by the owner for target practice. But that’s not the world we live in.
Also, assault weapons are only used in a small number of shootings. The most horrific, to be sure. And the one’s most likely to result in actual legislation (if 20 white kids getting slaughtered at school wasn’t enough…). But a small percentage of the overall number. Most are via handgun. Plus, a third of firearm-related deaths in the US are suicides. So again, the problems are myriad with no panacea.
The seemingly-lowest hanging of fruit, latched onto by the Democratic Party, is banning the sale of firearms to people on the no-fly list. If you can’t get on an airplane, you shouldn’t be able to buy a gun. Sounds simple and to the point. Seems like the exclamation point to an argument.
Unfortunately – and as usual – talking points are stupid; and Democrats are idiots. It may sound nice, and perhaps it can be used as a cudgel to beat Republicans (in a 15 hour filibuster to force a vote, for instance). But in practice it is little more than an empty platitude to gun safety proponents. And it’s just terrible policy.
If Democrats were serious, they would propose companion legislation to ensure that these lists are just and are consistent with our stated ideals. That they don’t perpetuate profiling and the erosion of civil liberties. Otherwise they should just shut up and stop with this game of political football. This is a serious issue. It deserves to be treated it as such.
This whole planes and guns thing – while perhaps good intentioned – only feeds into the concerns of the paranoid. It feeds into the narrative of punishing the innocent for the actions of a few. It’s bloated and opaque. It’s a combination of bureaucracy, secrecy, and government overreach.
As is often the case, there is a bit of term-swapping happening. The no-fly list is one thing. There were 16 people on the no-fly list before 9-11. It has grown over ten times since the failed underwear bombing in 2009, to at least 47k. Then there is the National Counterterrorism Center’s Terrorist Screening Database, aka the terrorist watch list – and which the AP reported to have grown by at least 1.5m during Obama’s first five years in office. Then there is the bill as proposed by Democrats, which would ping anyone who has been investigated by the FBI for links to terrorism within the past five years.
I don’t pretend to know how many terrorists, or even terrorist sympathizers, there are with American passports/citizenship. But forty-seven thousand, let alone one-point-five million, are numbers which suggest that these terms and programs are being loosely applied and misused.
In fact, Civil Rights Legend Rep John Lewis said he was stopped from boarding planes dozens of times in a single year. Sen Ted Kennedy (RIP) told a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that he had been stopped numerous times as well.
Nearly half of the people on these lists are admitted to have “no known links” to terrorism. Let alone whomever happens to pique the interest of a random FBI agent (with their policy of investigate-every-lead-no-matter-how-ridiculous).
Dead people can be placed on the list, along with “categories” of people. There needn’t be “concrete facts” nor “irrefutable evidence”. You needn’t be a terrorist, or even a suspected terrorist – a person could be suspected of associating with a suspected associate of a suspected terrorist sympathizer (a family member of someone on your contact list, perhaps).
Then we have terrorism itself, defined as something as little as the “degrading” of property for the purpose of causing government action (anti-war vandalism, perhaps spray-painting a Peace sign on a piece of military equipment).
Worst of all, this, without judicial redress, creates a second class of semi-citizens who maintain only some of their Constitutional rights as Americans.
Until a federal court ruling in 2014, you wouldn’t even know if you had been placed on such a list. If you are informed as such, the government still refuses to disclose why that is, or how to go about being removed.
Though technically all of this is supposedly unclassified, both the Bush and Obama administrations have been terribly secretive on the matter (as has been their wont). Then-Attorney General Eric Holder said that disclosing information about these lists would pose “significant harm” to US national security.
While perhaps a nice thought – and easy politics which combine fear of terrorism, gun safety advocacy, and the pain of tragedy – using these secretive and oft-abused lists to restrict the sale of firearms simply makes no sense. It is counter-productive in the long-term battle of ideas. It is misappropriating the pain of these tragic events. It is – perhaps out of ignorance – pretending to do something positive about a serious issue while instead doing harm.