When the House of Representatives passed a pair of gun control bills a couple of weeks ago, Democrats sure sounded eager to take up the debate in the U.S. Senate. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed to bring the bills to the Senate floor for a vote, declaring that the time for “thoughts and prayers” had passed in favor of substantive legislation that would save lives.
Of course, we know that the background bills approved by the House aren’t going to make a difference in terms of public safety, because criminals aren’t generally getting their guns through legal means to begin with, and the idea that they would suddenly start doing so if background checks were required for private transfers defies credulity. It sure sounds like Democrats know that this is the case, because suddenly the debate in the Senate isn’t about H.R. 8 and H.R. 1446, but about passing “something” simply to show that they can.
Don’t take my word for it. Senators Tim Kaine of Virginia and Massachusetts’ Elizabeth Warren made it abundantly clear in their comments to Buzzfeed that the chief priority for Senate Democrats is smacking down the NRA, not saving lives.
“I want to see us take real, concrete steps on gun safety. We don’t have to do every single thing at once. We could just take a bite, enough to show that the NRA does not have the entire Congress by the throat,” said Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
This approach could put the Senate at odds with the Democrat-controlled House, which just passed two bills to strengthen background checks and require them for nearly all gun purchases. One compromise being considered is a previous bill from Sens. Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey to expand background checks to sales at gun shows and online, but not when individuals sell or give firearms to friends or family.
Options like an assault rifle ban are likely off the table. But some Democrats think they could get to 60 votes with a limited background check expansion paired with other more narrow measures, such as expanding extreme risk protection orders, which let police preemptively seize guns from people deemed to be dangerous.
“My preference would be to do something like background checks just to show that we can,” said Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine. “The NRA kind of walks around like they own Congress. I would say, rather than wait for a comprehensive bill, why not do something?”
If Schumer, Warren, and Kaine truly believed that universal background checks, gun registration, and bans on commonly-owned ammunition magazines and firearms were truly valuable life-saving measures, they would be demanding up-and-down votes on these bills right now. They’re not. Instead, their top priority is trying to prove that the NRA isn’t an all-powerful organization that has the ability to quash any and every gun control bill that’s introduced in Congress.
Do you think good people living in bad neighborhoods really give a damn about a political pissing contest between Democrats and the NRA? If you live in a city like Chicago, where violent crime is soaring and would-be legal gun owners are stuck in a bureaucratic limbo and unable to get the permission slip needed to own a firearm, do you really care if Democrats pass some sort of watered-down gun control bill just to show that they can?
The most pathetic thing about Kaine’s comments is that there really are things that could be done on a bi-partisan basis to address violent crime without putting any new gun control laws on the books. Democrats are talking about grants to states to implement “red flag” and gun licensing laws, but they could easily direct that money towards targeted deterrence efforts as well as bolstering witness protection programs.
As we discuss on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co, one of the factors fueling the cycle of violence is the unwillingness of many victims and witnesses to come forward. Part of that may be the code of the streets, but there’s also the very real concern of retaliation. Why risk your neck testifying in open court if the guy on trial is going to get a slap on the wrist in return? Why put your name out there if his associates are still on the street and are able to target those who speak out?
This isn’t a hypothetical situation, but something that’s played out daily in cities across the country. In Indianapolis, for instance, Malik Halfacre is now facing four murder charges after allegedly killing the mother of his child and three members of her family in a dispute over a stimulus check. It turns out that Halfacre could have been sentenced to 16 years in prison on aggravated assault charges back in 2017, but ended up getting probation instead after witnesses refused to testify.
It seems to me like this would be an area where Republicans and Democrats could collaborate on a practical, real-world solution to help bring violent offenders to real justice, but instead buffoons like Tim Kaine are focused exclusively on trying to deliver a legislative defeat to the NRA rather than doing something substantive in terms of public safety.
It’s bad enough that anti-gun politicians are intent on destroying our right to keep and bear arms, but it’s downright insulting that they’re using the residents of high-crime neighborhoods as a prop for their political ambitions. Whether you’re a gun owner or not, you should be infuriated by the senators whose top priority is trying to embarrass the NRA instead of delivering constitutionally sound and effective tactics to reduce violent crime and save innocent lives.