Khalil Spencer: A Modest Proposal.

As we continue to accomplish very little with regards to solving the problem of gun violence, I have a modest proposal. Well, maybe not so modest. But what the hell.

NRA showFirst. Stop trying to ban categories of guns such as ARs that have long been in circulation, since that creates a battle royal and since most of these guns are owned with little real risk to society in proportion to the political battle that would ensure if we try to ban them.  The lion’s share of shootings, including multiple shootings, are done with handguns. ARs are a convenient political target for the left as a symbol of what they see as America’s Gun Problem.

But as a hedge, and as I suggested in 2015 we can, if necessary to keep Junior from mowing down his school or place of work, modify the 1934 National Firearms Act to regulate ARs and some handguns, i.e., arms more lethal than garden variety hunting rifles, shotguns, and some large unconcealable handguns, in some manner between machine guns and Dad’s Remington 1100. That doesn’t mean people can’t have exotic guns or, “modern sporting rifles”, or whatever you want to call stuff. It just means it will be a little harder to own more lethal guns, there will be a little more screening, and not every bozo who walks into a gun shop can come out armed to the teeth with his Man Card intact. How we decide what would fall into this category should be decided carefully so we don’t run afoul of Heller or intractable political issues. As a point of discussion, how about if owning “modern sporting rifles” and/or being able to carry concealed require a common, higher level of screening than traditional low capacity firearms and hefty handguns more at home in the woods. A “basic” firearms owners identification card (FOID) could be had by anyone who scores 100% on a Form 4473 and one could upgrade if the spirit moved one.

Secondly, stop trying to keep people from owning guns if they have not proven that they should be disqualified. Once we decide on categories of firearms, how about national reciprocity with ownership? Or at minimum, a state-issued FOID card with national reciprocity? Make it shall-issue after jumping through reasonable hoops.  Each gun owner would have an ID card, similar to a driver’s license, that would allow some or all categories of guns to be owned, openly or concealed, analogous to a license that allows individuals to drive just cars vs allowing the person to drive cars, motorcycles, eighteen wheelers, etc. Of course this means red and blue states have to compromise on M.Q.’s but in return, we could stop talking about gun running from so called weak law to strong law states and I could plink at tin cans with my old man’s hand cannons in NYS without fear of being chased down by Andrew Cuomo. State level sensitivities such as not carrying in government buildings could be preserved. What a concept.

Background checks? Easy.  Private sales/transfers between owners would be done by entering a computerized NICS-like system with a pair of FOID numbers, PINs, a gun serial number and description and presto, a private exchange is done between previously cleared people based on their level of screening. You want to be screened to own an M-60 for shits and grins or sell one to your buddy who is equally screened? Sure, why not? Right now there are hundreds of thousands of legally owned machine guns. They are never in the news because you have to be pretty squeaky clean to own one.  Just show you are responsible for the damn thing and God bless ya.  Just make sure you can afford the ammo.

Finally, stop moving the goalposts and messing with people who have never crossed paths with the law. The biggest, and often enough legitimate fear that gun owners have is that the rules are too fluid and often the changes are bewilderingly stupid. Want examples? Start with California. These situations make Molon Labe an understandable, if not a legally defensible response. Plus, these situations result in single issue politics at the polls, which doesn’t help the bigger issue of running the country.  The recent editorial by Santa Fe Mayor Webber, i.e., that he would attempt to circumvent the state constitution’s preemption clause, is yet another example of why gun owners are wary of trusting government. Sure did bug me that this showed up in the Santa Fe New Mexican three months after I moved here. No, I didn’t get a call from Mr. Mayor as a “responsible gun owner”, either.

I think we need to do more to keep guns under control, i.e, from being diverted from the legal to the illegal side of the house and to ensure the irresponsible dofus and clearly identified legal loose cannon is not sending rounds whizzing past my hair do. That means some controls on ownership (i.e., theft prevention and periodic cross-referencing with court records) and transfer (to ensure you don’t sell that semiauto to someone about to blow away his wife after she got a restraining order against her slap-happy hubby). But if the laws are designed to control transfer  and reward lawful ownership rather than prevent ownership by good people (i.e., California et al), maybe we can get past the impasse.

The 2A was written so that a citizen militia (of whoever passed for a citizen back then) could be called on to defend the state and/or nation and to try to prevent the unwarranted amassing of power by a government that no longer represents its people. UCLA Law Professor Adam Winkler covered that pretty well in Gunfight and there have been numerous papers written about the evolution of arms and self defense in England and America. Heller’s contribution was explicitly including in the 2A the right to have a usable weapon for self defense in the home. The historical reasoning behind the 2A implies some standards need to be met among the people. For one, it would be wise if we don’t elect assholes who we might genuinely worry about as far as usurping excessive power (hence the ballot box and high school diploma with an A in rhetoric and civics are far more powerful tools than the sword) and two, that we know the limits of being armed and therefore, know muzzle from breech as well as the law of self defense. No American who has thought carefully about the often-used Jefferson quote about watering the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots and tyrants wants to live in an Anbar Province, no matter how pissed off he gets at Big Gubbmint. Any doubts? Read the history of the Civil War.

Fix the country with a saw and hammer, not with a match and gasoline.

 

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Do We Need To Invent A Whole New System To Control The Violence Caused By Guns?

I have just finished reading a lively and provocative Medium column by my friend Ladd Everitt, and I feel obliged to respond. Not that I have any real difference with him on the issue of gun violence; rather, I believe hi solution to the problem could be somewhat more nuanced, more realistic and most of all, possibly even coming true.  So I left Ladd a handclap but now I’m going to give him a slightly different point of view.

AR red             Before getting down to the solution, however, I do want to say that his comments about the shenanigans which led to a Brady law that did not include a mandated waiting period are right on. At the time that Brady was passed, I happened to be living in New Jersey, where every purchase of a handgun required a separate application to the county sheriff whose approval process could take maybe a couple of days, maybe a week, maybe longer, who knew?  But I never felt that this was some kind of burden being imposed on me; if anything, it gave me an excuse to go back to the store where I was going to buy the gun (my favorite being a wonderful outdoor sports emporium, Ray’s Outdoors, on Route 22 in Plainfield, the location now being a strip mall or some other nondescript place.)

What made the idea of a national waiting period chancy from the very start was not so much the opposition of the NRA, whose job it is to object to every gun-control bill, but to the requirement that the waiting period would be imposed so that local law enforcement could run a background check. Talk about an unfunded mandate – there was simply nothing in the bill which spoke to how local or state law enforcement agencies would bear the costs of this effort, which was one of the factors which doomed the waiting-period provision from the start.

Ladd’s argument for a national licensing system along the lines of other Western nation-states is made by just about every GVP advocate all the time. But why reinvent the wheel? We already have such a system, which happens to be the licensing procedures established in 1934 with the National Firearms Act, usually referred to as the NFA.  This law, the first attempt by the feds to get into gun regulations big time, enumerated certain types of weapons, in particular, full-auto guns, for which private ownership required a serious background-check process by the feds. You may recall that last year Donald Trump’s idiot son tried to get silencers removed from the NFA list but the idea was buried thanks to what happened in Las Vegas on October 1st.

The fact is that the gun-control systems found in most Western nation-states happen to have been developed before or shortly after World War II and were modeled on our NFA. Why do these countries experience much lower rates of gun violence? Because they put handguns on the list of weapons which require both detailed background checks and an explanation for why the gun is needed at all. The original draft of the NFA also had handguns on the proscribed list, but this provision disappeared before the bill became law.

The problem with Ladd’s idea about national registration is that we would end up with a process which would be cumbersome, costly and complicated because of the millions of guns purchased each year, many of those weapons don’t contribute to the occurrence of gun violence at all. A concealable handgun like a Glock 43 or a Ruger LC9 is the weapon of choice for shooting someone down, ditto an AR-15. But does anyone really believe that a bolt-action hunting rifle like a Remington 700 or a Ruger 77 is a threat to public safety or public health?

We don’t need a whole new gun registration system in order to bring our horrific rate of gun violence down.  We just need to regulate the sale and ownership of the most lethal weapons by listing them with the NFA.

 

That Old Time Religion Ain’t So Pro-Gun.

Back in April, 2016 when D.D.D. Trump showed up at the NRA meeting and was endorsed by America’s ‘first civil rights organization,’ a lot of folks in the gun violence prevention (GVP) movement began to think that if the worst of all possible worlds happened and Schmuck-o Trump actually became President, their efforts to reduce gun violence might come to a crashing halt. Because it’s one thing to have a President who is ‘pro-gun’ just because every Republican politician is pro-gun; it’s another to have a President who builds an entire political campaign out of being pro-gun.

billboard16x9             But it now appears that not only has the presence of D.D.D. Trump in the White House provoked a resurgence of GVP activity, along with significant political gains, but more important there has been a growth in the number and type of GVP organizations which did not exist a year or even six months before.  Part of this new GVP wave is due, of course, to the kids from Parkland, make no mistake about that. But I am seeing something much deeper and wider than just a response to the mass shootings; I am seeing what appears to be a significant social and cultural change.

How do you explain the fact that a billboard telling Christians to support gun control has just gone up in a North Carolina county that gave Trump-o 55% of the vote?  Now granted, the group which paid for this – the North Carolina Council of Churches – has always been a liberal voice among religious groups. But they didn’t run a roadside message like this after Sandy Hook, and evidently this billboard is going to be placed in other locations throughout the Tar Heel state.

When the groundswell first started after Parkland, the immediate response of the gun-rights noisemakers was to dismiss the entire effort as just another example of how the gun-grabbing elitists were ‘using’ kids like David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez to promote their own, nefarious aims. And in previous pro-gun, anti-gun contests, selling the idea that the liberal elite was trying to deny average Americans the ‘right’ to defend themselves was an argument that usually worked. But this is different. You can argue with Bloomberg, you can argue with Soros, but it’s not all that easy to argue with Jesus Christ.

Over the years, much of the so-called strength of the pro-gun movement has been explained as not reflecting the size of their movement per se, but the degree of energy and commitment that promotes their cause. Again and again, public surveys find that gun owners are much more likely to engage in political activity about regulating guns than advocates from the gun-control side.  But when outfits like Delta, United, Avis, Hertz and the bank which was issuing NRA credit cards all cut their ties to the Fairfax boys, this sends a much more powerful message than some jerk-off ‘good guy’ who sends a snarky or profane email to a Facebook page promoting more regulation of guns.

How much of the new-found GVP effort is tied directly or indirectly to the growing disillusionment and disgust with Trump? Just as nobody was willing to imagine or predict that Schmuck-o would win the election, so nobody ever imagined that his behavior since moving into the Oval Office could provoke such an anti-Trump storm. But the good news about building a political movement is that it’s always easier to attack than defend, something which the pro-Trump collective is now realizing in spades.

Take a look at the new gun law that just went into effect in Vermont.  This law takes Vermont from the least to one of the most regulated of all 50 states, and it was signed by a Republican governor who, until last week, was rated an ‘A’ by the NRA. Vermont has an active and energetic gun-rights group, some of whom showed up to heckle Governor Scott as he signed the gun bill. Guess what?  The ‘good guys’ lost a big one and the virus may spread.

When The 3rd Way Gets It Wrong, They Really Get It Wrong.

Far be it for the little ol’ gun guy to question the creds or experience of political activists like Jon Cowan and Jim Kessler, but every once in a while, even the self-appointed gurus of the Left get it wrong. And not just a little bit wrong. Completely and totally wrong.

3rd way             Actually, the Third Way group isn’t really Left, they are…gee, I’m not sure what they are. But they certainly aren’t on the alt-right/white. And they certainly believe that their ‘high-impact advocacy campaigns’ will help liberals figure out what to say and what to do about the important issues of the day. And with all those Parkland kids marching around, what could be more important than gun control today?

What Kessler and Cowan have come up with is the idea that the NRA has never been as panicked as it is right now, that the future for America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ is even more dim, and that the boys from Fairfax  are “the most vulnerable they’ve been” in the combined 50 years that the authors of this piece have been “battling” the NRA.

There’s only one little problem.  All the facts used to bolster their narrative are true (remember, Third Way is a ‘think tank’ so they only base their arguments on real facts) but these facts are mostly besides the point. Yes, the NRA has lost some contests at the ballot box; yes, their rural base is shrinking; yes, their advocacy magazine has ‘only’ 650,000 subscribers; yes, they joined the rest of the alt-right/white in demonizing the Parkland kids.

But here are some facts that Cowan and Kessler didn’t mention, and the reason they didn’t mention these facts is that for all their combined 50 years of battling Gun-nut Nation, these two guys don’t really know anything about gun-rights organization and they certainly don’t know anything about guns. Which happen to be typical among members of the gun violence prevention (GVP) movement, but since these groups only talk to each other, this lack of knowledge and experience makes no difference at all.

I subscribe to the American Rifleman which, along with American Hunter, are the two NRA magazines which Cowan and Kessler believe aren’t read by the gun-activist crowd. This only proves that neither of them has ever bothered to look at Rifleman or Hunter because they would discover that both contain countless advocacy and activist content, it’s basically the advertising which appeals to a different readership, not what the editorials say. True, the rural base is shrinking and this could affect the electoral landscape after 2022.  But what do Cowan and Kessler have to say about the upsurge in concealed-carry (CCW) licenses, most of which are issued to people living in the burbs? Finally, Stinchfield did some Gonzalez-bashing on his NRA television show, but did the NRA say anything after Parkland which remotely resembled Wayne-o’s crazy rant a week after Sandy Hook?

Let me break it gently to Cowan and Kessler: In 1960 Gallup asked Americans how they felt about a ban on handgun ownership. Not restrictive licensing or more regulations – an absolute ban.  And 60% of the respondents said it would be a good idea.  Know what that number fell to last year? Less than 25 percent!

The fact is (note the use of the word ‘fact’) that a majority of Americans believe that keeping a gun in the home is more a benefit than a risk. And since less than 40% of American homes contain a legal gun, obviously the majority who believe in the positive social utility of personally-owned weapons includes many people who don’t own guns.

This dramatic shift in how we think about guns isn’t the handiwork of the NRA. It’s a function of how American society has evolved and what America thinks and believes about violence, crime and serlf-defense. Until and unless organizations like Third Way acknowledge and understand what this means, casting the NRA as the bogey-man preventing gun control won’t accomplish a thing.

 

 

Who’s Worried About The 2nd Amendment? Not The Gun Guys I Know.

For most gun owners, there is scant interest in the debates about the 2nd Amendment which break out whenever a particularly senseless act of mass gun violence occurs. The latest discourse started off last week when retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens published an op-ed calling for a repeal of the entire amendment, as if such an idea has even the slightest chance of ever taking place. Thank you Justice Stevens for filling up some space in The New York Times criticizing the 2008 Heller decision by repeating much of what you said in your Heller dissent.

constitution             But now another voice has emerged in the form of Laurence Tribe, not just a Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard, but the oracle whenever the Establishment feels that a constitutional legal issue needs to be to be explained to the unwashed, semi-literate masses like you and me. Professor Tribe takes issue with Stevens, noting that eliminating the 2nd Amendment would probably make it more difficult to pass specific gun regulations, noting further that the Heller decision already gives the government authority to ‘regulate’ gun sales.

Further, according to Professor Tribe, repealing the 2nd Amendment is a sideshow when the real problem is protecting our children from the carnage and the fears of carnage represented by events like Parkland and Sandy Hook. And what is the real problem says Professor Tribe? It’s the “addiction of lawmakers to the money of firearms manufacturers and other unimaginably wealthy funders.” So what he’s suggesting is not getting rid of the 2nd Amendment, but getting rid of the ability of gun companies and other ‘unimaginably wealthy funders’ to pay the costs of pro-gun, political campaigns.

And exactly what does Professor Tribe hope would happen if his solution to the problem of gun violence was actually invoked? Let me break the news to you gently, Professor Tribe, nothing would happen, nothing at all.

I bought my first, real gun in 1956 when I was 12 years old – bought it at a tag sale in Florida, thus engaging in my first ‘straw’ sale. Over the next 52 years, until 2008, I personally bought and sold 500 guns, at the rate of 10 guns a year isn’t such a big deal for a gun nut like me. During that same half-century, the arsenal of guns privately owned in this country probably grew by roughly 100 million guns, if not more.  Know how many of those millions of transactions were protected by some kind of constitutional shield? Not a single one.

I went to my first NRA show in 1980 held in a large auditorium in Philadelphia not far from Constitution Hall. I think Reagan came through and gave a quick speech because this was during his Presidential campaign, but I don’t recall that people walked away from the exhibits to listen to the Gipper, nor did anyone seem to care. It’s seductively easy to promote the idea that the reason we have so many guns around is because there’s this great, big conspiracy between the gun manufacturers, right-wing politicians, Conservatives with money and the NRA. But that’s not the reason why Americans own 300 million guns.

Last night I debated John Lott at Northern Michigan University in Marquette. We drew a pretty big crowd, perhaps half were local folks, many of whom came over from the nearby Upper Peninsula, which is about as strong a gun area as anywhere within the USA. I began by asking the gun-nuts in the audience to identify themselves, and a lot of older, white men raised their hands. They also smiled and laughed – they liked the idea that the guy who was about to lecture them on why we need more gun control also knew how to use the language they use among themselves.

If Professor Tribe believes for one second that these guys own guns because they want to be ‘free,’ – oops, I forgot. Professor Tribe’s a Constitutional scholar, but he doesn’t know anything about guns.

 

What Happened On March 24th?

What happened is that a group of determined high school kids decided that they were going to do what nobody else has been able to do, namely, create a new, national narrative about guns. And they did it with dignity, with decency and with no ulterior motives other than to express themselves about why schools need to be a gun-free zones.  They’ll leave it to the ‘adults’ to figure out how to protect them from gun violence in a rational and disciplined way, but the one thing they won’t do is accept the idea that the best way to protect ourselves from violence is to use violence, which is why the ‘good guy with the gun’ nonsense peddled by Gun-nut Nation was drowned out.

march24Not that the NRA didn’t try to get their usual, nonsensical narrative out there.  Of course they did. But since the Dana Loesch rant went nowhere last week, this week they trotted out Colion Noir. And Noir did what he always does: a little hip, a little cool, a little bit of this and a little bit of that, all of which added up to his usual admixture of half-truths, total fabrications and just another primitive attempt to make people believe that what he says has anything to do with reality at all.

First Colion reminded the Parkland kids that they were using their 1st-Amendment ‘rights’ to attack the 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ of legal gun owners, as if any of the gun-control proposals floating around Congress threaten the 2nd Amendment at all. Then Colion managed to weave a complete fabrication into his spiel by lamenting the ‘fact’ that a deputy sheriff in St. Mary’s County received no media attention after stopping the shooter at a Maryland school. Of course Colion then wrapped this lie around an even bigger fable by saying that the incident at Great Mills High School was proof once again that ‘good guys with guns’ will stop ‘bad guys with guns.’ Except nobody in the gun-control movement has ever been against placing armed, law-enforcement personnel in schools; it’s the presence and behavior of armed civilians like Colion that we are worried about.

But let’s not waste any more time or space on the NRA; their job is to promote the ownership of guns, so how could they not come out with a narrative designed to do anything other than keep their members in line? On the other hand, even the NRA‘s best buddy (a.k.a) Donald Trump spent yesterday ducking for cover in Palm Beach, while also sending out a positive message to the Parkland marchers just in case. I mean, what else was he going to do? Tell the 50 pro-gun demonstrators who showed up at the Boston march that he had their backs in the face of the 50,000 who marched for the other side?

I have received a number of emails and Facebook messages from participants in yesterday’s event, some of whom tell me that they need more information in order to speak credibly about guns. Here’s a typical comment: “I am concerned with the people in the middle who could be supporters. We don’t do ourselves any favors when it appears we can’t do the research and understand what we are arguing for.”

So with all due respect to Colion Noir who wants you to believe that what he says about guns is really true, here’s a little resource which explains gun terminology which you can download right here for free. Or you can spend a few bucks and buy the fancy version on Amazon, for which I get a whole, big, buck twenty-five.  Either way, you’ll have the basic know-how you need the next time you go out and join a march.

And there will be a next time.  I guarantee it. I really do.

 

 

 

Is The NRA Ready To Make A Deal on Gun Control?

In the aftermath of the shocking yet exhilarating electoral victory crafted by Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania’s 18th CD, I have seen numerous comments within the gun violence prevention (GVP) community raising concern about Lamb’s ‘pro-gun’ approach.  That’s understandable, given the fact that his very first television ad contained a snippet showing him blasting away with his beloved AR-15. Which presents something of a dilemma for the GVP crowd going into November, because they have tied themselves to a campaign to ban assault rifles, among other things.

lamb             Actually, Lamb isn’t the first post-Trump Democratic candidate to fashion a campaign around being pro-gun.  Last year a Republican, Greg Gianforte, overcame an assault of a reporter as well as the charge that he was a carpet-bagger to win a special election against Rob Quist, the latter beginning his campaign with a television ad showing him shooting what he claimed was his family’s trusty, ol’ Winchester to prove he was a Montana native through and through.

If I wanted to make a quick buck, I’d go downstairs to my private gun range (that’s right, I can get up from this computer, walk down a flight of stairs and bang away to my heart’s content) and do a couple of shooting videos that could then be sold to the DNC.  And every Democratic candidate running in one of those ‘soft’ red Congressional districts could splice a piece of video into their television ads to prove they are ‘pro-gun.’

Could control of Congress in 2018 depend on which party is better at selling a message about how much they love guns?  Whether or not this turns out to be the case, what I find interesting is how the NRA has suddenly begun to change its messaging in what is obviously an appeal to sell itself beyond its most extreme base. According to Chris Cox, the NRA is ready to engage in a ‘broad discussion’ about the ‘culture of violence’ which exists today. The purpose of this discussion is to “take action to prevent violence and protect 2nd Amendment rights,” including gun-violence restraining orders (GVRO) which the NRA used to oppose.

Even the NRA’s hard-and-fast opposition to expanding background checks all of a sudden appears to have changed.  Before last week, America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ opposed any extension of background checks, anywhere, anytime at all. But last week the narrative changed. Here’s Wayne-o’s latest message to the faithful: “We will oppose any attempt to make people engage in a background check to transfer a gun to a relative, neighbor or friend.” How’s about selling a gun to someone you just met? I didn’t notice that Wayne-o is saying that any and all gun transfers should take place without a NICS check.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that when the 116th Congress begins its 2019 session that the majority switches from red to blue. And let’s further say that a new gun-control is proposed expanding background checks to secondary sales. Right now the bill that has been filed by Senator Murphy (D-CT) basically prohibits the transfer of any gun to anyone without first doing a background check unless the person receiving the gun is a spouse, domestic partner, child, sibling or other relative of the person getting rid of the gun.

Guess what? Figure out how to define ‘friends’ and ’neighbors,’ add them to that list and you’ve got yourself a comprehensive, national background-check bill. But it takes both sides to come up with language which each side can sell to their constituencies as being nothing other than what they have always said.

Until last week the NRA opposed any extension of background checks – no ifs, ands or buts. All of a sudden, the tune has changed. I’m not saying the NRA is morphing into a gun-control organization. But it’s one thing to take a shot at the enemy, it’s quite another to sit down and make a deal. Is either side in the gun debate willing to see something like this actually occur?

A New Gun Law in Florida? Will Wonders Ever Cease?

I was asked to write something ‘happy’ for today so here goes.  The Gunshine State’s Senate has actually passed a gun law which regulates guns. Now you might think this is no big deal because the new law, as written (but not yet approved) puts no new rules on the ownership of black guns (not a racial term, it’s what we call assault rifles in the gun business) but several parts of the law are significant in terms of the potential impact on violence caused by guns.

florida              More important, this is the first time since the last Ice Age that Florida has been in the forefront of what appears to be a national movement to tighten at least some gun restrictions, which is a complete turnaround since this state has always been a laboratory to test laws which will make it easier for everyone to exercise their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ Florida was an early state to move from ‘may’ issue of concealed-carry permits to ‘shall’ issue; it was also the first state to pass a ‘stand your ground’ law, and it tried, ultimately unsuccessfully, to criminalize doctors who talked to patients about guns.

Not only does Florida lead the nation in developing pro-gun laws, it probably is also the state whose legislators file some of the dumbest and craziest gun laws that simply can’t be true. But they are true.  I’m talking about a bill drafted by State Senator Greg Steube which makes the owner of a public space liable for damages if he declares his property to be a ‘gun free zone,’ and then a customer is shot because he couldn’t respond to an armed threat with his gun.

This law assumes, of course, that if an armed customer was confronted by a threat he would be able to protect himself from getting shot by dint of the fact that he had a gun on his person. Well, since we have a President who pretends to believe the same thing, why should we be surprised when a State Senator in Florida believes the same thing? The good news is that Steube’s bill is still sitting in the statehouse trash somewhere, but the fact that he could even dream up such a stupid idea gives you a hint as to why I am surprised that Florida may actually pass any kind of gun-control measure at all.

The new Florida statute contains language which increases the minimum age for long gun purchases from 18 to 21. It also extends the state’s three-day waiting period for handgun purchases to all guns, bump stocks are banned, and in a compromise, it allows school districts to arm certain individuals who are present in schools but does not authorize arming teachers because Governor Scott made it clear that he would oppose any such move.

Gun-control activists in Florida and elsewhere wanted much more; a ban on assault weapons as a start. But I’m not sure that this bill should be seen by my gun violence prevention (GVP) friends as a loss, and I’ll tell you why.

First and most important, if Florida legislators are willing to split away from the NRA on even the slightest grounds, this makes it easier for office-holders in states that have not been as subservient to America’s first civil-rights organization to do the same thing or more. Second and perhaps equally important is that the debate in Tallahassee on an assault weapons ban was notable for the fact that opponents of the measure didn’t try to convince anyone that an AR-15 was no different from any other ‘modern sporting rifle.’ That cockamamie idea, right out of the gun industry’s playbook, was decidedly left unsaid.

We will surely see more state-level gun debates in the weeks ahead, and I’m willing to bet that in some other reluctant state legislature somebody will stand up and say, “If they could pass a gun-control bill in Florida, why can’t we pass one here?”  That’s a question are which has never been asked before.

 

 

Trump Versus The NRA? Not Such A Big Surprise.

Want to watch what may be the most remarkable minute of video ever devoted to gun violence? Try the snippet posted by The New York Times from yesterday’s ‘gun summit’ at the White House, with President Trump (TRUMP? TRUMP?) asking ‘Joe’ and ‘Pat’ whether their bill would include a prohibition against guns being sold to anyone under the age of twenty-one.

prayerNow for those of you who, like me, sometimes suffer from short-term memory loss, Joe and Pat are also known as Manchin and Toomey, whose gun-control bill introduced after Sandy Hook ended up dead on the Senate floor.  And for good measure as Trump’s new-found buddies nodded up and down saying they would add this provision to their bill, Trump adding, “I’d rather have a comprehensive bill that’s harder to pass than a bill that’s easier to pass but does nothing at all.”

Today I’m going to look at Alex Jones who will no doubt be telling me that the entire White House meeting was faked, that it wasn’t the real Dianne Feinstein sitting next to the President and agreeing with everything he said, who even gently smiled when Trump told Steve Scalise, the NRA toady who was shot in the rear end last year, to take his national reciprocity bill and stick it someplace near his wound.

Can you imagine the Breitbart headline, the big one in red, reading: TRUMP THE GUN GRABBER?  No, you can’t. But that’s what came out of yesterday’s sit-down between what was mostly a group of Senators committed to gun control and a President who never stopped reminding the NRA that he was the best friend they ever had. The truth is that with a friend like that, as the old saying goes, the NRA doesn’t need any more enemies. Personally speaking, I never believed that Herr Donald was ever such a great friend of the NRA.

For years Gallup has run a poll asking people to identify the single, most important issue facing the country today.  The last time they ran this poll was in January and the gun issue received the lowest possible score – one percent. Which is more or less the score that guns always receive because other than moments when the media fixates on a particularly nasty shooting, guns simply don’t seem all that important compared to other human affairs.

What gives the NRA its aura of power is that people who are pro-gun activists can usually be counted on to hold conservative positions on most issues – taxes, education, welfare, you know the rest. The NRA is a true membership operation, and take it from someone who has been a member of America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ since 1955, they do a remarkable job when it comes to care and feeding of the folks who fork over $40 bucks a year.

But the fact that NRA stalwarts can be counted on not only to come out in force for a gun issue, but also make themselves heard on other conservative political points is the group’s greatest strength but also its greatest weakness. Because let’s say that Trump suffered some kind of brain fart and decides that guns have to go. Who will his most devoted followers turn to next? Hillary? Yea, right.

I’m no fan of Schmuck-o Donald, but he and I are both New York guys. And one thing for sure is that guns simply don’t count in New York’s political DNA. On the other hand, if you’re trying to convince the alt-right/white that you’re conservative through and through, what better way than to pretend that anyone who loves the 2nd Amendment is your best friend?

I’m not saying the gun violence prevention (GVP) movement has a new friend. I’m saying that a Republican President may have wriggle room on the gun issue which a Democratic President would never have. And that happens to be a political fact of life that the boys in Fairfax better understand.

Let’s Hear It For Those Parkland Kids.

Yesterday I wrote a column talking about how the post-Parkland gun debate is different from all previous post-shooting debates because of the spontaneous emergence of social media networks driven by high school kids. I’m not saying this is anything other than coincidence, but today’s New York Times is carrying a major article which basically says the same thing. Except that the NYT story goes beyond my basic point, describing in detail about how national gun-control organizations like Everytown have mobilized lobbyists, members and advertising to respond to the usual pro-gun defenses from the other side.

parkland4              Most of what the NYT reportage said about the new-found strength of the gun-control community is correct. But their understanding of what is really driving the dynamics of what they refer to as the ‘anti-gun’ movement misses the larger point. Obviously, having Trump in the White House, as opposed to Obama, creates a fundamental difference when it comes to the public debate about guns. And it certainly is the case that what Trump says today about gun control may be very different from what he’ll say the next day or the next.

Trump’s behavior reminds me of what Sitting Bull once said about Crazy Horse after the massacre of Custer at the Little Bighorn in 1876.  Back in 1868, both Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse agreed to a treaty which the U.S. Government broke before the ink was dry. Crazy Horse then claimed that he never signed the document, but when asked whether Crazy Horse did sign the treaty Sitting Bull replied, “Of course he signed – Crazy Horse would do anything for a free meal.”

So now we have someone sitting in the Oval Office who will say anything to grab the media spotlight, no matter whether he means it or not. Will Trump really push for increasing the minimum age for purchasing guns? Will he try to get the DOJ to figure out a legal maneuver that would ban bump stocks?  Who knows what’s on his mind, but mind or not, I can tell you this: If Hillary Clinton was the 45th President, she would have gotten on Air Force One and flown down to Florida no later than the day after the shooting, done the requisite hospital visit, then thanked the first responders, photo-ops at every stop. At some point there would have been a tearful, emotional speech and a demand that Congress do what they should have done after Sandy Hook; i.e., pass some kind of legislation to ‘end this horrifying gun violence’ or words to that effect.

Wayne-o Lapierre talked for 37 minutes yesterday at CPAC, a speech which was the ‘official’ response to Parkland by the NRA. He started off with the usual bromides about the ‘terrible tragedy,’ this and that, but then went into a long rant about how the Democratic Party had been taken over by a European-style ‘socialist’ elite, whose headway had been briefly stopped by the election of Trump. The way Wayne-o rambled on and on about this threat, you would have thought that Barack Obama was still in the White House trying to figure out how to push the country further to the Left.

Every time there was a mass shooting since 2008, Gun-nut Nation could and did respond by attacking the guy from Kenya and turning gun control into an issue between ‘us’ – the good guys – versus ‘them.’ Which is exactly how Trump behaved throughout his entire Presidential campaign as well as his tenure in the Oval Office until February 14 when everything changed. And what changed is that, for the very first time, the public debate about a political issue is being defined by the kids. Not by the lobbyists, not by the organizations, not by the media and the editorial boards, but by the kids.

The best thing which has ever happened to the movement to end gun violence is that we no longer have a friend at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Thank God for the kids.