Despite a numbing number of mass shootings America over the past two decades there has no been no significant legislation passed to do anything about it. The past weekend’s killing sprees in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, however, seem different.
There is bipartisan support for so called “red flag laws,” which would allow the authorities to seize weapons from people deemed a risk to the public safety, and more than the usual number of Republicans are Congress willing to go along with expanding the background investigations of would-be gun-buyers and perhaps even reinstate a ban on so called “assault rifles.” This time around the public outcry to do something is louder than before, the National Rifle Association is still reeling from various scandals that have cost it membership and clout, and President Donald Trump is keeping his options open while eyeing the public opinion polls.
Even so, there’s still a good chance none of these things will become law, and reason to think it might not make much difference even if any of it did.
Republicans have long relied on the money and votes of the absolutist sorts of gun rights advocates, who reasonably fear that giving an inch on gun control might mean ceding a mile to the absolutist sorts of gun control advocates who want to deny even the most law-abiding gun owners of their right to self-defense, Trump continues to listen attentively to the NRA, and another couple mass shootings won’t change that. Calling semi-automatic rifles of a certain style “assault weapons” doesn’t change the fact that they’re very popular, nor the fact that their owners tend to turn out to vote and are mostly concentrated in the majority of less populous states that usually vote Republican in presidential elections. Most of the laws the Democratic House majority has passed and soon will pass have little chance of even getting a vote in the Senate so long as Republican Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell is the majority leader in the upper chamber.
Even with the tentative endorsement of Trump the “red flag” law will have trouble getting passed in the Senate, and if it does there’s a good chance Trump will have changed his mind a decided to veto it. Should the bill be signed into law, there’s a chance that someone deprived of his Second Amendment rights for a crime he might or might not commit will take his case to the courts Trump has lately packed with strict constitutionalists and have the law overturned.
In any case, nothing being debated in Congress will end mass shootings. Confiscating all the guns in America is as impossible as deporting all the illegal immigrants or ending the practice of abortion or stopping people from smoking marijuana. America could make it harder for the criminally insane to get their hands on high-powered firearms that quickly fire multiple rounds of ammunition, and should seriously consider any possible way of doing so, but aspiring mass murderers will then intensify their efforts.
The fault lies not with the country’s laws, as imperfect as they clearly are, but rather with a sick strain of our popular culture that celebrates violence. That’s coming from Hollywood on the left and the gun fetishists and street brawlers on the right, and goes far back in our frontier history. That can’t be fixed in Washington, D.C., but will require soul-searching and spiritual revival everywhere. In the meantime we’ll have another election, and perhaps the political calculations will change with the culture.
— Bud Norman