20 September 2013

Gauzy Gun Grab Gambits

After the Navy Yard shooting , many are troubled at another massacre in America.  This has inspired progressive politicos to renew efforts to “do something”. 

[L] Gabrielle Giffords [R] Mark Kelly testifying before Congress Feb. 2013
One such source for grabbing guns is the “Americans for Responsible Solutions”, the gun control pressure group created by former Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ 8th) and her husband Mark Kelly.  Giffords  who was critically shot in the head in an assassination attempt in Tuscon, Arizona in January 2011.  Since then the couple has sought to “support the Second Amendment” while “keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people like criminals, terrorists, and the mentally ill.”.

We have disturbing problems - gun crime, mental illness, and the easy access that dangerous people have to guns. But our public officials seem more interested in political theater and special interest threats than in leadership. Congress, you must lead. Come together, take a sober look at the problem, and pass laws that protect our families and communities. Please act. 

How could anyone oppose that?

But as Oscar Wilde observed: “It is always with the best of intentions that the worst work is done.”  Digging deeper into to discern the policy prescriptions,  one discovers that the Americans for Responsible Solutions advocate:

universal background checks
limiting the sale on “assault” weapons
limiting high capacity magazines
stopping gun trafficking

Thus the bromides from Gabby and Mark’s open letter were translated into policies which are political non-starters that are also gauzy gun grabbing forays. 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-CA)  scary gun show and tell
The Assault Weapons Ban bill  which Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) championed in the Senate this Spring included all of those elements to varying degrees.  But S-150 was defeated in the Senate by a 40 to 60 vote.  Even after the Navy Yard shooting, Feinstein is "iffy" on reintroducing the Assault Weapons Ban legislation.  Apparently, Feinstein  thinks that even stricter gun would past the muster.   Feinstein was just one of several pro gun control legislators who used the Navy Yard Massacre as a platform for their political ends.   Alas, several of them pushed their pro-gun control proposals as the Navy Yard incident was still underway. 

While a universal gun background checks  may sound benign, it has a couple of  real world problems, as it won’t work and these universal background checks would evolve into something more sinister. 

 Since 1998, Federal Law requires licensed  gun dealers to do instant background checks and prohibits firearm sales to  criminals, domestic abusers, the seriously mentally ill, and other dangerous people.  What gun control advocates seek is to close the private sale or gun show loophole.  Giffords and Kelly cite Federal statistics that claim that 80% of all inmates got their guns by private means. 

The Federal Government’s report “Firearm Use By Offenders” reveals that nearly 40% of all crime guns come from black market street gun dealers and criminals don’t feel the need to register to be street legal.  Around the same percentage of friends or family members of gun owners commit firearm crimes, similarly circumventing universal background checks.  The amount of guns used in crimes that stem from gun show transactions today is a staggeringly low 0.7%.   

The other problem is the reality that universal background checks will become universal gun  registration.   Obamacare now requires doctors to enquire about guns in a household for many medical check-ups.  As the recent Minnesota data snafu showed, we know how secure this health information is when it goes on your permanent electronic record.  

Attempts to curb prohibited persons such as felons and the mentally infirmed, like the California Armed and Prohibited Persons System (APPS) pilot program seem to have morphed into gun confiscation efforts on ordinary citizens without due process or preventing “scumbags” from possessing firearms.  

The APPS program pounced on people who had not been declared mentally infirmed by the courts, but do you want to argue the point when you have ten armed law enforcement officers unexpectedly at your front door?   Former soldiers are concerned that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder may be used as a justification for depriving them of their Second Amendment rights, even if it was not formally diagnosed or just used as a means to get more VA support when returning from the battlefield.  

Another category of prohibited persons from passing gun checks are “domestic abusers”. One wonders if the false 911 call from George Zimmerman’s estranged wife was a tactic to gain advantage in an unamicable separation thereby depriving her husband of his notorious firearm while ingratiating herself  with the media. 

The vibe from liberal social media circles after the Navy Yard shooting was “Not again” and “Do SOMETHING” which is typically translated to more gun control, because passing a law shows that one cares.  Of course, there is the inconvenient truth that of the 15,700 fugitives that tried to buy guns in 2010, the Obama Administration only prosecuted 44 cases.  If only we would utilize the laws currently in effect instead of pining for panaceas in new legislation.

Another Americans for Reasonable Solutions platitude is about grappling with guns in the hands of the mentally ill.  Instead of concentrating on the weapon, those who are fighting gun violence might focus on a prospective root cause–video games.   What do the mass shooters at the Navy Yards (2013), Sandy Hook (2012), Aurora (2012), Tucson (2011), Virginia Tech (2007) and Columbine (2000) have in common?  The answer is mentally unstable individuals hooked on playing violent video games. What can be done about it?  That’s a good question. 

 When Vice President Joe Biden met with Hollywood and Gaming representatives, he noted that the nexus of video games and gun violence  was a complex problem and there was no “silver bullet”. Considering the 23 initiatives the Obama Administration boasts about taking after Sandy Hook, none dealt with this issue. It’s less problematic to take away Second Amendment rights from law abiding Americans than a politically costly assault on the First Amendment rights of violent video games.  After all, Grand Theft Auto made $800 million on its first day of sales recently.

Even after the Supreme Court Heller decision (2008) , it is almost impossible for an ordinary citizen to own firearms even if one wishes.  Living in the midst of the District of Calamity (sic), one is exposed to shootings on a periodic basis close to home, despite it being a strict gun control jurisdiction.  Of course, it would be worse in Chicagoland.    The Navy Yard shootings were no abstraction as this author knows several people in the line of fire at NAVSEA. 

But in my estimation, clamoring to do just “Do SOMETHING” is imprudent.  While dialoguing with an Americans for Responsible Solutions proponent, I noted that the Remington 870 pump shotgun  which the Navy Yard shooter used was one that was exempted from Senator Feinstein’s "modest proposal" as it is a popular hunting rifle.  My interlocutor interjected “That proves my point–we need to do better”.  It seems that the Swiftian allusion was not well appreciated. But it seemed like no contrary opinions were acceptable for one so convicted.

If the government wanted to do something, then for starters this Administration (and future ones) could enforce the gun laws already on the books with due process not by showy tactical teams in low risk situations.  Alas, after that,  there are not easy answers.  So it is worth having real debate on causes and solutions.  However, Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN 9th) goes on MSNBC and slandered Second Amendment supporters as being "Murderers Row", this does not seem like respectful or introspective civic discourse.  And refusing to respond to point by point challenges on the root causes of mass shootings or the consequences of the “Do SOMETHING” impulse makes it seem like the issue is being cynically stoked to fire up bases for partisan wedge issue politics at the expense of innocents. 

h/t: Nate Beeler

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