Toomey and Manchin’s Slippery Slope
This is just a baby step — nothing to worry about, wingnuts.

Senators Joe Manchin and Patrick Toomey



Well, assembled sophisticates, you’d better pull that extended arm back toward you and rescind the offer of the Martini, for I’m about to drop off society’s tightrope and out myself as one of those people naïve enough to advance a “slippery slope” argument in public. And about guns, no less.

Arguendo, let’s presume that the much-vaunted Toomey-Manchin “compromise” makes it out of the Senate unalloyed, and then that it then passes the House with nary a squeak from the right. Let’s then postulate that a majority agrees with the president that expanding background checks is a “reasonable” thing to do — redolent of “a commonsense approach” — and that those of us with the temerity to oppose it will be widely painted as “extremists.” Let’s allow, too, that, as promised, the law affords “exemptions” for in-person private transfers; that it “lets” family members lend or gift one other their firearms without inviting deleterious consequences; and that it stops happily short of imprisoning free American citizens for permitting others to shoot their guns on their land. For good measure, let’s also grant that the bill contains a couple of positive things, including that it would henceforth be legal for an American to buy a handgun outside of his state of residency providing that he underwent a background check. All in all, let’s admit that, in and of itself, this bill is not the end of the world.

Does this mean that you should shrug your shoulders nonchalantly and turn to other things? Should you stay at home? Should we presume that qui tacet consentire videtur?

Not on your life.

Alas, there is peril ahead. Why? Because today’s “exemption” is tomorrow’s “loophole.” No sooner will the glorious presidential ink have dried on that abject page, than those provisions that were sold a few days earlier as commonsense exemptions — the product of “bipartisan compromise” and other media-tested platitudes — will become structural problems, ripe for “standardizing.” Sure, Congress wouldn’t be so gauche as to include A or B or C in their bill today. But have no doubt: Within a few weeks of the bill’s passage, the eerie progressive silence that has marked this tortured process will be broken, and when it is, legions of prominent gun controllers will take to their feet in order to argue that it makes “no sense” for there to be “exemptions” to the almost universal background-check system.

They will cynically inquire as to whether keeping these loopholes open for the “industry” is more important than the lives of children, and they will profess that the existing system simply “can’t work” without them. Studies will be commissioned to demonstrate that tying off these “loose ends” is all that stands between the United States and broad sunlit uplands. And, while demonstrating not only that they don’t know the slightest thing about guns but that they don’t care that they don’t, ThinkProgress and Talking Points Memo and Salon will smirk and make oh-so-smug jokes about “black helicopters” and militias. After all, we already regulate commercial sales, Internet sales, and gun shows, right? This is just a baby step — nothing to worry about, wingnuts.


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