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“Bump Stocks” Take a Dive

Every mass shooting incident is inevitably followed by a renewed push for stricter gun control laws, but so far none of them have brought about any significant policy changes. Sunday’s record-setting massacre in Las Vegas, though, seems likely to result in some sort of ban on something called a “bump stock.”
Despite the public’s natural instinct to do something to after a mass shooting, gun control advocates have been unable to come up with anything short of a total ban on private ownership that would have averted or mitigated the tragedy. A total  ban on private gun ownership would require two-thirds of the states ratifying a constitutional amendment to repeal the Second Amendment, which isn’t going to happen in any living American’s lifetime, followed by a nationwide confiscation program, and you don’t have to be paranoid about your gun-owning neighbors to foresee how that would wind up with a lot of guns being pried out of a lot of cold, dead fingers, so the proposals have mostly been limited to background checks and waiting periods and limits on the number of bullets in a magazine and bans on certain types of guns, along with other assorted tweaks. Background checks and waiting periods are already law, though, magazines can be so quickly replaced that limits are ineffective, and the deadliest firearms have been banned for decades.
Partly because gun control advocates are proud they know nothing about guns, and gun enthusiasts pride themselves on knowing everything about them, the Second Amendment has largely survived all the debates, even when the Democrats were in charge. The longstanding attempts to re-ban “assault weapons” have faltered when the gun enthusiasts rightly noted that it’s a meaningless term, sometimes used to describe rifles that are no more deadly than your pop’s hunting rifle but have certain scary-and-military looking features, and the gun control advocates seemed not understand the difference between the now-common semi-automatic weapons and the long-banned fully automatic ones.
“Bump stocks” blur that distinction in a deadly way, though, and both sides of the debate seem to understand that. It’s news to us, as well as to many far more enthusiastic gun owners than ourselves, but a “bump stock” is a gizmo that allows one to alter a perfectly legal semi-automatic rifle so that with one pull of the trigger it fires bullets as rapidly one of those long-banned fully automatic rifles. As of now the sale and purchase of these gizmos is legal, and although actually using one is a felony the fellow who killed 59 people and wounded more than 500 others in Las Vegas also decided to break that law. Such a deranged person would have broken any gun law you might have passed with any guns he could have gotten his hands on, of course, but it seems certain that he wouldn’t have killed and wounded quite so many people if a law had deterred someone from selling him those gizmos that he used on his armory of legally-acquired weapons.
The Democratic Party in general and its gun control advocates in particular sense a rare winning issue, and the Republican Party in general and its gun enthusiasts in particular don’t seem eager to fight this battle. The Speaker of the House has signaled his willingness to ban “bump stocks,” and even the National Rifle Association has agreed the Bureau of Alcohol and Tobacco and Firearms should tweak their interpretations of existing law to stop people from selling the gizmos. In the past they’ve taken a never-give-an-inch stance on any gun control regulation, with a plausible argument that it might wind up with a police state confiscating guns from cold, dead fingers, but the starting point on slippery slope has been a ban on fully automatic weapons ever since they were first banned in the 1930[s after the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and were more fully banned during the Reagan years, so they’re not giving much ground this time around.
Those sorts of gun enthusiasts who are preparing for a revolution against the better-armed “deep state” or the Zionist Occupying Government or a mass shooting on some public square will object that their Second Amendment rights are being violated, but we’d like to think that the vast majority of our gun-owning neighbors have no need for a “bump stock.” No one uses them for hunting, our more knowledgable gun-owning friends tell us that home defense is probably best handled with a semi-automatic hand gun with a full magazine, and for now we’re not ready to foment any armed revolution in the country. Let the gun-grabbers win this battle, as far as we’re concerned, and let a reasonably-interpreted Second Amendment win the war.

— Bud Norman

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Guns and Tears and Shady Statistics

One hardly knows where to begin grousing about that awful speech President Barack Obama gave about guns Tuesday. There was the usual annoyingly self-referential style, the same old calls for respectful argument and the same old slurs against those disagree with him, typically distorted statistics, yet more executive actions that override duly passed and signed laws, the predictable bad policies billed as “common sense,” the obligatory assurances that he believes in the Second Amendment and the rest of all that constitutional stuff, and he even threw in a couple of tears to make it seems as he cares.
Perhaps the most galling thing about the speech was that Obama chose to give it in the first place. He had a chance to persuade the public to persuade their legislators to pass his favored gun control laws when his fanatically loyal party controlled both chambers of Congress, and then again when the major media were crusading for more gun regulations after the mass shooting at a Connecticut school, and at this point we suspect that most Americans would prefer to hear what their president is doing about the inflamed Middle East or the sputtering economy or the rapidly accumulating national debt or almost anything other than some pointless gun control rules that only the most rule-abiding gun owners will abide.
We say “rules” rather than “laws” because there are already laws that quite specifically define who is a gun dealer and thus has to conduct background checks and obey other existing laws, and Obama’s executive action extends that definition to anyone who wants to sell his brother-in-law an old handgun. The extra-constitutional power grab is all the more offensive because it is unlikely to prevent any criminal or mentally ill person from acquiring a gun, and is more likely to prevent a law-abiding citizen from acquiring a weapon needed for self-defense. By now such rule by presidential fiat is taken for granted, and even some Republicans seem eager to wield such newfound imperial powers, but one can hope that some outrage about it still persists.
How insulting, too, that Obama would shed few a tears over the deaths that his policies won’t prevent. About two-thirds of those 30,000 gun deaths that Obama lamented are suicides, so as long as there are poisons and razor blades and tall buildings and gas ovens and rope and other means of self-inflicted death no amount of gun control will stop those, and we can’t recall when Obama has never spoken about the largely white and middle aged suicide problem. Another phony-baloney statistic that Obama offered was about Connecticut’s 40 percent decrease in gun deaths since it passed laws similar to what he has proposed, which is true enough but best understood in context of the unmentioned fact that the national homicide rate has declined 50 percent in that time while gun ownership has increased as substantially. He also mentioned an increase in Missouri’s homicide rate after loosening its gun laws, but neglected to say anything about the spike in the St. Louis area’s murders since the “Black Lives Matter” movement sent the police there into retreat. Nor did he mention the interesting statistic that his own Justice Department has had 38 percent fewer convictions on existing duly passed and signed gun laws than the gun-crazy Bush administration, and of course he once again didn’t say anything about alarming rate of murders in Chicago, the community he once organized and is now under the imperial control of his former chief of staff.
Don’t worry about slippery slope toward even more draconian gun restrictions, though, because Obama once again went through the “ritual” — his own term — of assuring the American people that he was a former adjunct professor of constitutional law and is sure enough committed to the Second Amendment. He didn’t say “If you like you guns, you can keep your guns,” but it had the same suspicious ring to it. It’s enough to make one cry, even if you’re not the lachrymose type like former House Speaker John Boehner, who was laughed at by the same people who were choked up by Obama’s tears, but we react more in anger than in sorrow.

— Bud Norman

How to Peeve a President

On another cold and gray day in a winter that seemingly will never end, with both thunderstorms and snow in the forecast, it gave us a sunny and heartwarming feeling on Wednesday to hear President Barack Obama sounding very irked.
A proposal to expand background checks for gun purchases had just failed to win a required super-majority in the Senate, effectively ending all legislative attempts at gun control until the next media-fueled public frenzy, and the president was clearly displeased. Speaking in the White House rose garden shortly after the vote, Obama had a scowl on his face and anger in his voice as he claimed his opponents had “willfully lied” about the proposal. Looking as if he were about to spit, as we say out here in gun country, Obama declared it “a pretty shameful day for Washington.”
Except for the slightly higher than usual dudgeon, the speech was typical of Obama. Characteristically unable or unwilling to acknowledge the possibility of an honest disagreement with him, he accused the senators who had voted against the proposal of political cowardice. He also cited “some polls” to claim that 90 percent of the public was in favor of the plan, making it odd that a political coward would defy such an improbable majority of public opinion, but apparently the “gun lobby” induces much fear in the hearts of weaker men.
Obama vowed to continue his quest for further gun control measures, but for the moment it looks unlikely that he will succeed. The Senate also voted Wednesday on a bill banning “assault weapons,” which is Democrat-speak for semi-automatic rifles that look somewhat like actual assault weapons, but it went down with only 40 votes. A few more modest proposals also fell short of a super-majority, with several Democrats who face re-election battles in heartland states defecting from the party line on every vote, and all of the proposals would surely fare even worse in the Republican-dominated House of Representatives.
Nor will there likely be a more propitious moment for such gun control measures in the near future. The defeats in the Senate followed an all-out media blitz after a deranged gunman’s horrible massacre at a Connecticut school, the full efforts of Obama’s reputedly irresistible powers of persuasion in a series of cross-country speeches, as well as concerted campaign by the well-organized and well-funded anti-gun lobby, and they will all find it difficult to sustain the effort. A poll not cited by the president suggests that 96 percent of the country thinks the government has better things to do than pass more laws for law-abiding gun owners to abide, and the public is likely to grow even wearier of the debate in the wake of Wednesday’s votes.
Despite all the hoopla, the vote also came at a time when there were plenty of distractions to provide cover for any Democrat feeling party pressure to vote against his constituents’ wishes. Wednesday’s news cycle was dominated by contradictory and quickly-retracted reports about the bombings at the Boston Marathon, along with the strange case of an Elvis impersonator from small-town Mississippi allegedly sending ricin-laced but bi-partisan hate mail to a Republican senator from his state and the president, and much of the media would have been quite content to let a total gun ban go unremarked.
The failure to pass anything under such favorable circumstances will be considered a significant political setback for the president, and we suspect that’s why he seemed so very angry in the rose garden. Obama insisted that the proposals would somehow save some unspecified number of lives, and he no doubt believes it, but lives were also at stake in Benghazi and Fort Hood and Fast and Furious and at the Boston Marathon, and he never seemed so thoroughly peeved when making speeches on those matters. It takes a political defeat to really get under the president’s thin skin, and that’s why it gives us a sunny and heartwarming feeling to see it from time to time.

— Bud Norman