Tuesday night I attended a political meeting. The business was wrapped up pretty quickly and the group decided to take advantage of the situation by breaking into a freeform political discussion. At one point the question of what is happening with gun regulation and what I thought the ultimate outcome would be was addressed to me. I expressed the disclaimer that I neither had a crystal ball nor inside information and then I offered my analysis. I said that there were four areas that would be addressed with a decreasing chance of something of substance being done about them.
The first area is the so-called shadow sales. A guy like me, with a clean background, purchases a gun and then resells it to someone who is ineligible to purchase a gun on their own. While this transaction is currently illegal the penalties are so small and the cost of prosecution so high that prosecutors often determine that it is not in the public’s interest to pursue the case. I expect the penalties to become more severe while largely utilizing the framework of existing laws. This will conform to both conservative and progressive talking points while providing prosecutors and judges with the tools they need.
Slightly less likely, but still very probable, is an expanded background check system. As is usually the case with legislation, the devil will be in the details with this one. Most people think this is already in effect and the public sentiment in favor of it is overwhelming. If executed properly this should plug the gun show loophole and augment efforts to stop shadow sales. This is a very safe vote for members of Congress. Only the extreme fringe opposes it and if that is who beats you in a primary or election you weren’t long for Congress anyway.
Likely, but far from a sure thing, is a limit on the round capacity of ammunition clips. I think there is a good chance that clip capacity could be limited to ten rounds. Protecting the right of Americans to protect self, family, home and hunt is critically important! With the ten rounds in the clip and one in the chamber if you haven’t gotten the bad guy who breaks into your home in the dead of the night it’s probably game over for you anyway. I doubt any deer is going to remain in range for 11 shots and if you haven’t hit it by then you shouldn’t be out in the woods shooting anyway. Again, public opinion is very strongly on the side of limiting clip capacity and members of Congress should be able to vote in favor of it without putting their seat in jeopardy.
The fourth area I am sad to say doesn’t look like it will survive the legislative process in Washington. That is an assault weapons ban. While this defies comprehension for most progressives it is a realistic prediction. Public opinion is in favor of an assault weapons ban, but by a much smaller margin than the previously discussed regulations. The only “justifications” I have heard for the need of average citizens to own assault weapons are fun and to defend themselves against fictional foes. A child’s life is much more sacred than your fun and I simply don’t feel that you should have equal or superior firepower to the military or law enforcement. Regardless, this is a much more politically risky vote for many members of Congress, (Democrats included in many cases), and I simply don’t think a sufficient number of them will display the necessary courage. Most progressives, me included, are not single issue voters. I may well be disappointed in and disagree with Democrats who vote against an assault weapons ban but I will look at their overall record when deciding whether and how vigorously to support them. The true gun nuts will disown their member of Congress based on that single vote. Especially to a Republican at primary time it could terminate a career.
I compliment the American media for keeping this story alive. Sandy Hook is the real catalyst for this legislative effort. Part of the gun industry’s plan was to slow down the process and let it fade from the forefront of American discourse. The holiday filled calendar and transition from the 112th to the 113th Congress played into their hand. The American media is infamous for covering one story to death while relegating others to token coverage or totally ignoring them. Despite the fiscal cliff, sequester and abdication of the Pope they have continued to give gun regulation significant coverage.
While “half a loaf” is all that may be achieved it would still be the most significant gun regulation in American history. The clock is still running and don’t expect legislation to reach the floor of the Senate, (where it will start), until April. We must keep the conversation going – twenty babies is too high a price to pay for any level of success and sadly that blood has already been spilled.
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