Rarely have a seen a piece of supposed journalism as puffy as the story that NBC News put together on one-term Florida congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell joining the gun control group Giffords as a senior policy analyst. Ordinarily a one-termer becoming a D.C. lobbyist wouldn’t draw the attention of NBC News, but they give the former representative the star treatment, and in the process they absolutely bury the lede.
Yes, Mucarsel-Powell has a compelling personal story, having lost her father in a shooting in Ecquador in 1996. Mucarsel-Powell says that personal tragedy is what turned her into an advocate for more restrictive gun control laws.
If this weren’t a press release disguised as a news story, NBC News might have at least asked the former congresswoman why she believed that more gun control laws were the answer, given that Ecquador has very restrictive gun control laws and fewer than 200,000 legally owned firearms.
Instead, NBC News simply assumes and promotes the idea that Mucarsel-Powell has the right set of ideas to reduce violent crime in the United States, and it involves putting new, non-violent, criminal offenses in federal statute. What’s more, NBC leaves it until the very end of the story to quote this extraordinary statement from the anti-gun politician turned gun control lobbyist.
“We cannot continue to live in a country where gun violence has become a new normal. I do believe that the time is now … The House acted very quickly thanks to the work of Gabby Giffords,” Mucarsel Powell said.
“There’s no more time to debate this issue. There’s no more time to hear from Senate Republicans why they believe H.R. 8 is not going to prevent another mass shooting,” she said.
Unfortunately for Muscarel-Powell, if we were to close debate on this topic and hold a vote in the Senate today, H.R. 8 would fail. And it’s not just Senate Republicans who are the issue. Joe Manchin himself, the unofficial but actual Senate Majority Leader, has said he’s opposed to the current language of the gun control bills passed by the House.
Citing a “gun culture” and his own gun ownership, Senator Joe Manchin reaffirmed on Tuesday that he doesn’t support two restrictions on gun purchases that President Joe Biden says could prevent more deadly mass shootings.
“Not at all,” Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, told reporters at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday. “I come from a gun culture, and I’m a law-abiding gun owner who would do the right thing. You have to assume we will do the right thing. Give me a chance to.”
… “We’re going to try to do the responsible, reasonable thing,” Manchin said. In the past, the senator has proposed his own version of lighter restrictions on gun purchases, including background checks at gun shows and for online sales.
I doubt Manchin’s going to be able to get enough Republicans to join him in any watered-down background check bill, and he’ll need ten of them to reach the 60-vote threshold to end cloture. Muscarel-Powell doesn’t bring up Manchin, however, because she’s going to be lobbying him far more than Republicans, and it’s not helpful to publicly call him out when you’re trying to privately butter him up.
The reason why Muscarel-Powell wants Republicans to shut up is because they’re right about H.R. 8. It wouldn’t prevent any mass shooting, or any other shooting. At best it provides a charge for prosecutors after a firearm has been transferred without a background check, but there’s no way to proactively police every private gun transfer, any more than it’s possible to try to prevent every illegal drug sale.
Ironically, though, while Muscarel-Powell believes that there is systemic racism throughout all levels of government, she also apparently believes that creating a new federal offense punishable by up to a year in prison for transferring a firearm without going through a background check is going to be equally enforced all across our great land.
Not to down Debbie, but I’ve got some bad news: that ain’t gonna happen. I would suspect that a young black man who’s found to have transferred a gun to his buddy in Chicago or Baltimore without trying to find a gun store to do a NICS check is far more likely to face a charge under H.R. 8 than a white guy like me who sells a gun to my neighbor in rural Virginia without driving 20+ miles to find a gun store who’ll do a background check on a private transfer.
Muscarel-Powell may disagree, but I wonder if she’d be willing to bet that young black man’s life on being right. After all, under the law she wants, that young man would be a looking at months in a federal prison and a lifelong criminal record. If he was transferring that firearm with ill intent in mind, wouldn’t it be better to devote our time and resources to preventing those acts of violence to begin with? Is the answer really to send someone to prison for what amounts to a paperwork violation, and can you really say you’re a criminal justice reform champion if you’re advocating for more gun control laws that would put more people behind bars for non-violent crimes?
Well, NBC News won’t call you out for it, but I will. Since Debbie Muscarel-Powell is getting her paychecks from Giffords now, I’m guessing that criminal justice reform is a secondary concern to putting more gun control laws on the books and turning a disparate number of black and brown men into felons for something that shouldn’t be a crime in the first place.