There’s a lot of competition for the dumbest thing Democrats have said about guns over the past couple of days; from Joe Biden’s declaration that “allowing” the sale of semi-automatic firearms (the most commonly-purchased style of firearm in the country) is “sick” to Sen. Chris Murphy’s assertion that maybe police departments should be defunded if they don’t fully enforce every state-and-federal gun control law on the books (something we’ll be discussing in greater detail on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co).
Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina may have topped them both, however, with his response to CBS News anchor Margaret Brennan, who noted on CBS Sunday Morning that several recent suspects in high-profile shootings legally purchased their firearms and wondered what that says about current law.
Clyburn responded that’s all the evidence he needs to know that more gun control is necessary, before going off on a bizarre tangent equating gun ownership to chattel slavery.
“And that is, just because it’s legal does not make it the right thing. I tell people all the time, the institution of slavery was legal, but it was not right. Just because they purchased these weapons legally does not mean that’s what the law ought to be.
“We need to change these laws. Unfortunately, I’m going to be here in my district on Wednesday speaking at the funeral service of one of those young football players from the University of Virginia who died at the hands of the weapon that was, from all indications, legally purchased.
“That’s not the problem. Chesapeake, Virginia, that gun was purchased legally the morning of the event. We have to visit these laws and do what’s necessary to keep these guns out of the hands of people who should not have them. And that is what we need to do in this lame-duck session, and in a bipartisan way.
“Let’s protect the American people from demented people and make sure that we put some safety and security in people’s — when they’re shopping, when they’re sitting in churches.”
Clyburn went on to talk about the supposed need for a ban on so-called assault weapons; guns that weren’t used in either the Charlottesville shooting or the shooting at the Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia, but ignored the fact that, at least in the case of the Charlottesville suspect, felony charges that would have resulted in a lifetime prohibition on gun ownership weren’t pursued by local prosecutors last year, allowing the suspect to legally purchase a firearm after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and received a suspended sentence.
In fact, Clyburn seemed completely uninterested in pursuing policies that focus on the criminal justice system and its failures. Instead, he made it clear that he views legal gun owners as a much bigger problem.
“We need to sit down in a bipartisan way and say, look, what can we do to protect the public? Nobody wants to take anybody’s guns away. Your Second Amendment is there to protect everybody. But so is the First Amendment. But it’s not unfettered. It’s very clear.”
Let me get this straight; we need to “keep these guns out of the hands of people who should not have them,” but “nobody wants to take anybody’s guns away.” How does that work, exactly, especially when we’re dealing with individuals who apparently weren’t on the radar of law enforcement like the murderer in Chesapeake, Virginia? He went through a background check and was approved to purchase a firearm, but according to Clyburn clearly that wasn’t enough. So what exactly does he want to see that he believes would have prevented that attack? A waiting period? A mental health evaluation before every gun purchase? If Clyburn thinks the law needs to be changed, you’d think he’d at least be able to tell us what he thinks “the law ought to be.”
He can’t or won’t. Instead he offers up the bizarre comparison of a fundamental right exercised by tens of millions of Americans to the scourge of chattel slavery that deprived tens of millions of their inherent human rights. You know who thought the right to keep and bear arms was pretty damn important? Those newly-freed slaves who wanted to protect themselves against violent attacks by the KKK and other groups who wanted to keep black Americans under their thumb (and utterly disarmed). And after Reconstruction came to its ill-fated conclusion in the 1870s, those groups passed a host of restrictive gun control laws aimed at doing just that; some of which are still on the books in states like North Carolina, where Clyburn’s fellow Democrats are fighting to keep them in place.
If Clyburn wants to protect Americans from “demented people,” then making it more difficult for peaceable citizens to keep and bear arms in self-defense is a terrible way to go about it. Heck, even extensive psychological screenings for all gun buyers can’t weed out every bad actor. Just look at what happened in California this past weekend, when a former state trooper from Virginia (currently working in a county sheriff’s department) drove clear across the country and murdered the family of a teenage girl he’d catfished before he was killed in a shootout with members of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office. That suspect had to pass multiple psych evals in order to work in law enforcement, none of which apparently picked up his homicidal and sociopathic urges.
Not that Clyburn cares about the specifics. He’s not offering even bad ideas, merely spouting off empty talking points falsely promising greater public safety at the expense of our fundamental right to protect ourselves.