As I watch the Senate's gun control legislation limp along toward a symbolic vote, I once again have to disagree with crackpot chickenhawk Ted Nugent on something he said on CNN yesterday. Nugent called the bill "a feel-good measure." But he said it with a sarcastically negative tone when, in fact, Nugent and the rest of the NRA-sponsored gun zealots should be feeling pretty damn good about it.
On one hand, I suppose the bill is the best we can do at the federal level. Following the bipartisan accord between Democratic Senator Joe Manchin and Republican Senator Pat Toomey, the bill expands the background check system to close the gun show loophole; it creates a commission to study gun violence; and, well, that's about it. The rest of this "feel-good measure" actually genuflects to the entrenched gun culture and offers up some startling concessions.
First, the only federal gun control legislation we're going to see following the Sandy Hook massacre is titled The Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act. Most of the title is essentially a sloppy, open-mouthed tongue-kiss to the gun people. The Second Amendment Protection Act. Of course the Second Amendment has become synonymous with universal gun ownership, allowing not only hunters and sportsmen to annihilate things that can't shoot back, but it's also been expanded to protect psychotic paranoid quasi-militia chickenhawks like Ted Nugent -- the military equivalent of Star Trek convention attendees, dressing up in camouflage drag and popping off about killing liberals, commies, Muslims and, more than anyone else, government officials who they insist are plotting to nab their guns and enact Sharia law. If this was truly a Second Amendment Protection Act, it might say something about protecting the notion that anyone with a gun ought to be prepared to join the military and to have their firearms regulated per military standards.
But I'm nit-picking. The fact of the matter is that instead of a solid gun control bill in the aftermath of Sandy Hook, the U.S. Senate has once again crumbled under pressure from the NRA. Buried deep in this Huffington Post rundown of the Manchin/Toomey deal, we find this:
The other step forward came from Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), who said they had come to an agreement with the NRA to beef up restrictions on gun trafficking.
Why the hell is the NRA allowed to trespass anywhere near a government building in the year 2013, much less invited into Senate chambers where its LaPierre orcs have collaborated with leading senators?
Second, the bill allows concealed-carry permit holders to cross state lines with their firearms as long as the permit holder is "staying in temporary lodging overnight, stopping for food, fuel, vehicle maintenance, an emergency, medical treatment, and any other activity incidental to the transport." What could possibly go wrong? "An emergency" and "any other activity" could include a wide variety of other locations where permit-holders could carry their weapons. And even if the bill limited the concealed-carry to specific, well-defined locations, the concession, according to Manchin and Toomey, will lead to full concealed-carry reciprocity. In other words, this is a stepping stone to a nationwide concealed-carry law.
Ironically, we learned yesterday that paranoid hooples were scrambling to get concealed-carry permits in advance of the law passing, out of fear that the bill would somehow prevent them from attaining permits. Funny. The bill actually expands concealed-carry permits and does nothing to restrict the various state laws.
Third, the bill bans the government from creating a gun registry. Good news for rednecks who don't want the government knowing who owns which guns -- you know, like they do with cars, boats and so forth -- but who also spent much of the previous decade welcoming warrantless eavesdropping and other forms of government overreach. I'm still unclear why a national gun registry is a bad thing, or, for that matter, unconstitutional. The same party fighting against registering your firearm with an appropriate government agency has no problem forcing every voter to acquire a government issued photo-ID in order to vote. No civil liberty infringements there, but making sure the government can monitor illegal trafficking and gun sales is totally out of the question.
Toomey's website made sure to ballyhoo the following things that aren't in the bill:
The bill will not take away anyone's guns.
The bill will not ban any type of firearm.
The bill will not ban or restrict the use of any kind of bullet or any size clip or magazine.
This is your "gun control" bill. The feel good hit of the Spring -- if you're a gun fetishist. And it's not even going to make it through the Republican-controlled House. Think about that for a second. It's somehow still too anti-gun and anti-Second Amendment to be approved by the crazies in the lower chamber.
Make no mistake, this legislation rolls back progress on what can be achieved with gun control legislation by 20 years. In 1993, we had the courage to pass the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. In 1994, we had the courage to pass the assault weapons ban. Today, we can't even limit the size of ammunition magazines because "sportsmen" think it's too inconvenient to reload so often. Boo-hoo. And this nothingburger won't even pass. I'm not sure what needs to happen for us to realize the difference between owning one or two simple handguns or shotguns and demanding the absolute constitutional right to own gnarly military-style semi-automatic human-killing machines. There's no valid justification, constitutional or otherwise, for the latter to be so utterly sacrosanct in this country. Shame on Congress and shame on all of us.