Commentary

Snake oil salesmen have nothing on Congress as it tries to sell gun control to America

June 16, 2022 4:19 am

Two Tennessee Arms clear polycarbonate AR-15 lower receivers flank a traditional forged aluminum receiver. The two polycarbonate receivers are what is often referred to as “ghost guns.” (Photo by Mitch Barrie via Flickr | CC-BY-SA 2.0)

Whatever the National Rifle Association is paying for the votes in the U.S. Senate, it’s not enough. They’re getting one heck of a deal.

And no organization should be more excited to support the measures that the Senate is contemplating than the NRA. It’s a bill that is all hype, no substance and won’t affect gun owners, gun safety or the NRA’s silent but co-equal partner, the gun manufacturers, in any meaningful way.

The Democrats in Congress, so desperately hungry for any kind of political win in a midterm election year, are remarkably quick to seize upon these legislative table scraps of policy to try to convince the American public that it’s really a feast.

In reporting done by States Newsroom, Washington D.C. reporter Ariana Figueroa outlines how this new gun reform and gun control package would work, and it neither obligates the gun industry or the gun lobby to do anything meaningful. And it certain does nothing to curb the explosive expansion and development of different sophisticated weapons of war, nor will it impact what you can buy or gun sales, which have soared in the past decade.

Instead, the new laws will just place more work on the federal government, which will be set up for blame when something doesn’t work perfectly. The NRA and the gun manufacturers should be thrilled: They’re getting legislation that is disguised as action, but I can’t see any reason to believe it will make much difference in situations like Uvalde, Sandy Hook or Buffalo.

For example, the new legislation would encourage and even provide money to states that enact “red-flag” laws, which would allow local authorities to temporarily remove guns from people who are deemed a threat to themselves or others.

But that law doesn’t create a uniform federal approach, leaving a patchwork of states rules and laws. The truth is that states that have already adopted these measures will get some money, and states that believe red flag laws are an intrusion on the Second Amendment will refuse the money and be no better off.

The Democrats crow that this is the most substantial, substantive legislation on guns since 1994, and while that may be true, that’s more of a commentary on the depths of dysfunction of Congress more than any valedictory lap.

Other weak-tea measures include allocation of mental health and gun violence money to states, something that was bound to happen anyway. Moreover, it continues the incomplete narrative that Republicans are currently hiding behind: That this recent wave of gun violence is not about guns, but mental health. And while the two certainly cannot be separated, to blame the violence on mental health seems to ignore the only commonality that runs through these otherwise disconnected events from Florida to Nevada to New York to Texas – the guns.

The legislation also aims to “curb” the straw purchasing of guns by third-parties for people who are ineligible or should have them, without acknowledging that purchasing guns for people like that is nothing more than an admission from the federal government that it will start taking action to do what in many cases should have been illegal anyway – keeping guns from people who should legally not possess them. One of the questions on a gun background check already requires purchasers to swear they’re buying the gun for themselves.

And to the extent that this legislation will increase any background checks for gun purchasers, including 18-year-olds who become old enough to purchase guns, the new legislation, if passed, just places those checks on the shoulders of federal agencies, so that if the system misses a person who just happens to go on a rampage, then the responsibility and the narrative will be one of government failure, with none of the fault going to the gun lobby, gun manufacturers or gun owners. I can just hear the congressional inquiries now.

The Democrats would like to keep the public’s attention focused on all the provisions of this new bipartisan legislation as they stuff it full of filler provisions that add legislative roughage to the bill, but do little to make meaningful change. The Dems are hoping that the American public, desperate for change, will see the quantity and pay no attention to the quality.

Yet, this bill doesn’t limit the sales of assault rifles or guns with high magazine capacities. It doesn’t address the scourge of ghost guns, untraceable firearms that can be created in your own public library with the aid of 3D printers. It doesn’t close the gun-show loophole, where guns can be purchased without a background check. And it continues to give gun manufacturers legal protection that shields them from any liability for their products, a shield given to virtually no other industry.

As I survey the legislation, I can’t help but wonder: What in God’s name does any of this have to do with a “well-regulated militia?”

This legislation has nothing to do with protecting the hallowed Second Amendment, instead it’s a testament to the corrosive power of money in politics.

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Darrell Ehrlick
Darrell Ehrlick

Darrell Ehrlick is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Montanan, after leading his native state’s largest paper, The Billings Gazette. He is an award-winning journalist, author, historian and teacher, whose career has taken him to North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Utah, and Wyoming. With Darrell at the helm, the Gazette staff took Montana’s top newspaper award six times in seven years. Darrell's books include writing the historical chapters of “Billings Memories” Volumes I-III, and “It Happened in Minnesota.” He has taught journalism at Winona State University and Montana State University-Billings, and has served on the student publications board of the University of Wyoming.

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