Like a lot of Americans, I’m not exactly thrilled with the current state of our political system, so in theory I’m one of those disenchanted voters that the group No Labels is courting ahead of the 2024 election. But with the group releasing its platform labeled “Common Sense” this week, it’s clear that No Labels is no home for Second Amendment supporters.
While No Labels says its purpose is to “bridge the divide and reestablish the voice of America’s commonsense majority,” recognizing that “most Americans are decent, caring, and patriotic individuals who prioritize the well-being of our nation over partisan interests”, the organization’s position on the Second Amendment and gun control might as well have been written by Everytown or Giffords.
Americans have always had the right to bear arms, and most Americans today support Second Amendment rights. But Washington has also long exercised the right to put reasonable limits on gun ownership, beginning with the National Firearms Act of 1934, which outlawed the machine guns that organized crime members were using to cause mayhem on American streets. In 2021, nearly 49,000 Americans lost their lives to firearms, a level of carnage unparalleled in any other developed country. Two commonsense measures can make a difference.
One measure would prohibit gun purchases among people under 21. Young people are the most likely victims and perpetrators of gun violence in America, especially the mass shootings that terrify every American parent. Research has shown that more 18 and 19-year-olds are arrested for homicide than people of any other ages, and scientists’ growing knowledge of the brain tells us that full mental maturity isn’t reached until the mid-twenties, yet our laws permit individuals to purchase potent weapons like AR-15 rifles as early as age 18. A “No Gun Purchases Under 21” law wouldn’t bar parents from buying guns for their children and could include exceptions for any head of household under 21 or members of the US military or public safety employees. But raising the age for gun purchases can save lives.
The second measure would be to enable universal background checks by closing the notorious gun show loophole to ensure all firearms are sold with the same level of scrutiny required for licensed gun dealers. Right now, nearly a quarter of all firearms in the US are purchased without a background check. Washington also needs to close another significant gap in the federal background check system known as the Charleston Loophole. Under existing law, gun purchases can proceed automatically after three business days if a federal background check has not been completed. But in 2015, a mass murderer killed nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, with a handgun he purchased after the three-day waiting period, but before his federal background check could be completed. Had the background check been completed, he would not have been able to purchase a gun because he had a previous drug conviction. There is already bipartisan support in Congress for legislation that would close the Charleston loophole by requiring 10 days to complete a federal background check instead of three.
I’m not going to regurgitate the arguments against these particular measures, which I’m guessing you’re already familiar with. I’m not surprised in the slightest to see No Labels trot out their support for a couple of gun control provisions even while shying away from things like a ban on so-called assault weapons or “red flag” laws.
No, what’s really galling is that despite their professed interest in reaching Americans in the middle, they’re offering absolutely nothing for gun owners who are rightfully concerned and incensed over what we’re seeing from Democrats in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Bruen. I’m not sure who exactly is supposed to be enthralled by No Labels’ proposals, but gun control advocates are likely to stick with the Democrats and their full-throated assault on the right to keep and bear arms, while Second Amendment supporters like myself are left cold by the group’s myopic focus on “reasonable” gun control measures.
What about the tens of millions of Americans who possess a concealed carry license, for example? National Right to Carry reciprocity seems like a pretty common sense piece of legislation to me, but not to No Labels. How about the federal GRAM (Gun Rights and Marijuana) Act, which would allow individuals in states that have legalized or decriminalized cannabis to possess a firearm and pot without worrying about going to federal prison? Again, pretty common sensical, but completely absent from No Labels’ policy prescriptions.
Just like the gun control lobby, No Labels pins the blame for violent crime on “guns”, not the trigger-pullers themselves. They’re not demanding strict enforcement of federal statutes prohibiting “straw purchases” or ending plea bargains for repeat, violent offenders. They’re calling for the creation of new, non-violent, possessory “crimes” that target lawful gun sales instead, all while failing to offer any relief whatsoever to the onslaught of anti-gun legislation introduced at the state and federal level since the Bruen decision was handed down. And when pinned down, spokespeople like Joe Manchin offer up weaselly soundbites instead of simply stating whether or not the group would back something like a ban on so-called assault weapons.
No Labels may claim to be reaching for the middle, but that’s certainly not the case when it comes to its gun policies. Instead, they’re serving up stale ideas promoted by anti-gun groups and failing to offer anything of substance to the tens of millions of voters who are rightfully concerned about the erosion of our right to keep and bear arms. Unfortunately, it’s both easy and accurate to label No Labels a pro-gun control group that merely pays lip service to our Second Amendment rights.