The Corner

Democrats Respond to Shellacking by Proposing More Gun Control

Having lost control of both houses of Congress, having been effectively wiped out in the South, and having ceded control of most of the states to the Republican party, some Democrats in Congress are hoping to lick their wounds and pivot to . . . gun control?

Per The Hill:

Gun control advocates in Congress are looking to revive failed legislation strengthening background check regulations.

A handful of Democratic lawmakers said Tuesday they plan to push once again for universal background checks on all gun sales in the new Congress, even though they recognize it will be an uphill battle with Republicans taking majority control.

As per usual, the push will be accompanied by a parade of lies:

Background check legislation failed to gain traction in the outgoing Congress despite a string of high-profile school shootings that gun control advocates had hoped would turn the political tide in their favor. They say it’s only a matter of time.

“When you don’t pass background checks, it’s just much more likely that someone will get their hands on an illegal gun and use it to kill their neighbors or their classmates,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).

This, I’m afraid, is nonsense. Such as it is, the case for extending background checks to private sales rests upon the presumption that the involvement of the state will lead to fewer felons getting their hands on firearms, and that the number of guns that are available to criminals will therefore diminish. The problem at hand, advocates claim, is that entirely well-meaning gun owners have no way of knowing whether or not the person they are selling to is prohibited from owning a gun. Sure, they concede, it is already illegal for anybody to transfer a firearm to a person who isn’t allowed to own one. But, as of now, the law only requires the seller to believe that he is engaging with an honest man. Consequently, we need background checks to prevent honest mistakes that lead to deleterious results. These checks, moreover, have to be imposed nationally. Why? Well, because otherwise criminals will merely source their guns from areas without restrictions and then move them around the country on the black market.

Given the sloppy, cynical, and intrusive manner in which such regulations tend to be written, I am extremely skeptical of this argument and of the sort of legislation that it usually yields. Still, whatever your view on the issue, you should at least be irritated when a public official tells you a blatant lie, as Chris Murphy is seen doing in the article quoted above. At a stretch, Murphy’s claim that an illegal gun might be used to kill your “neighbor” can be woven into his broader theory. But he cannot propose in good faith that background checks on private sales are likely to reduce the number of school shootings in the United States.

For a start, school-shooters are almost always too young to buy, receive, or possess a weapon of any kind, however that weapon is obtained. Furthermore, whether a mass shooter is young or old, in almost no instances does he obtain his firearm via an unchecked private sale. Indeed, a review of mass shootings in the last two decades reveals that killers invariably a) buy their weapons from a dealer and pass a background check in the process; b) steal a weapon from its legal owner; c) take a weapon from a family member or a friend; or, very occasionally, d) buy a gun on the black market, away from all regulations and all oversight. The number of instances in which a mass shooter has obtained a firearm via an unchecked private sale is absolutely tiny – to the extent that it is reasonable to say that the the two issues are unrelated. We could pass federal background check extensions tomorrow and it would still be the case that younger people would remain legally unaffected and older people would remain practically unaffected. The link that Senator Murphy draws simply isn’t there.

Why, then, does he continue to connect the two? Alas, the answer is simple: Because he knows full well that the only way that he will be able to muster public support for new gun control measures is to pretend that they will stop another Newtown. And so, after each and every shooting, we see progressives roll out the reforms that they have wanted all along but sell them as if they are tailored solutions that will prevent the event that was just in the news. Now, is this clever? Certainly. Is it effective? Temporarily, yes. But it is also wildly dishonest.

Funnily enough, a few moments before I found the story in The Hill, I’d just finished reading Tim Carney’s piece on the Democratic party and its diminishing fortunes in the South. “Democrats,” Carney argues, have “waged a culture war against the South, trying to force Southerners to stop “clinging” to their guns and to God.” As evidence for this, Carney points to some sadly typical attitudes within the media and the political class at large:

The best explanation comes from the mouth of President Obama himself. Speaking to San Francisco donors in 2008 about white voters in the Midwest, Obama lucidly expressed his low opinion of all non-rich voters in flyover country: “they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion.”

Naturally, Democrats and the Left have tried to pry Southerners away from their guns and religion. Gun control has largely been a culture war effort for Democrats. “Some of the southern areas have cultures that we have to overcome,” was Congressman Charles Rangel’s explanation for why gun control was both needed and difficult.

The Washington Post’s Gene Weingarten cursed the Second Amendment as “the refuge of bumpkins and yeehaws who like to think they are protecting their homes against imagined swarthy marauders desperate to steal their flea-bitten sofas from their rotting front porches.”

Does the party really want to follow Chris Murphy over this cliff?

Perhaps so.

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