The Corner

None of Obama’s Own Gun Control Proposals Have Anything to Do with the Shootings in Charleston

Presidnent Obama speaks on the Charleston shootings at the White House. (Alex Wong/Getty)

It didn’t take too long until we heard the oh-so-predictable calls for more gun control. Speaking this morning during an emotional press conference, the Mayor of Charleston, Joseph P. Riley, expressed his disappointment that the massacre at Sandy Hook had not yielded a “major national effort” to restrict the right to keep and bear arms. Later, he signaled his intention to “push on” toward that goal. He was quickly joined by the President of the United States, who used his remarks as an opportunity to propose that Something Needed to Be Done:

Giving voice to intense heartache, anger and sadness, President Barack Obama said Thursday the South Carolina church shooting that left nine people dead shows the need for a national reckoning on gun violence.

Obama, who knew the pastor killed in the Charleston attack, said he has been called upon too often to mourn the deaths of innocents killed by those “who had no trouble getting their hands on a gun.”

“Now is the time for mourning and for healing,” the president said. “But let’s be clear. At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it.”

The million dollar question, though, is, “Do what?” It is all very well to criticize the National Rifle Association and the Republican party for opposing further gun control, and yet it remains an inconvenient truth that not one of the reforms that the Democratic party proposed the last time it ventured into this debate would have changed the outcome here.

Back in 2013, when the country was still reeling from the abomination at Sandy Hook, President Obama hoped to achieve three things: 1) He hoped to ban so-called “assault weapons”; 2) he hoped to limit the size of commercially available magazines; and 3) he hoped to force all the states to require background checks when a firearm is privately transferred. Because the killer used a pistol with a regular magazine, the first two of these proposals are irrelevant here. Per Reuters, the shooter’s “father gave him a .45-caliber pistol for his birthday this year.” That pistol would not have fallen under any of the “assault weapons” bans that were proposed by Obama and his allies in Congress. Moreover, magazine capacity does not seem to have been an issue. The New York Times reports that the shooter took his time, stopping to talk and “[reloading] five times.” Had he been limited by law to ten rounds per magazine — as Dianne Feinstein would have liked — he would have been in no worse a position. (Most .45s come with magazines that hold seven, eight, or nine rounds.) 

It remains an inconvenient truth that not one of the reforms that the Democratic party proposed the last time it ventured into this debate would have changed the outcome here.

As for the third: Even if we presume that the problem was that the killer wasn’t picked up by the system (it wasn’t), Obama’s much-vaunted “universal background check” proposal would not have applied here, either. “Toomey-Manchin,” the failed bill that contained the measure, explicitly exempted all transfers between family members and close friends — not, you will note, because it contained a “loophole” or a “typo” or an “oversight,” but because such exemptions were deemed to be “common sense.” I’m sorry to be a killjoy, but the truth is the truth: Had the Democratic laundry list of 2013 been implemented in its entirety, what happened this morning would have gone down in exactly the same way.

(For the record, the story is similar at the state level, too. In the handful of jurisdictions that have implemented their own universal background-check systems, family transfers are usually excluded from regulation. Had the killer been operating in California, Colorado, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, New York, Iowa, Nebraska, or Delaware — or, for that matter, in 35+ other states — he would have been exempted from the rules. Had he lived in Rhode Island, Maryland, Connecticut, or New Jersey, he would not. And that’s before we even get to the questions of a) whether he’d have been picked up by such a check, and b) whether he’d have simply got a gun from somewhere else.)

#related#As one might expect, the killer also broke a host of laws that were already on the books. When he received the gun, the AP reports, he was out on bond in connection with a “felony drug case.” This alone rendered him ineligible to own a firearm. Per the DOJ, existing federal law holds that “persons awaiting trial on felony charges are prohibited from receiving firearms.” By giving him one for his birthday while knowing that he was awaiting trial, the shooter’s father committed a federal crime that is punishable up to ten years in jail; by receiving the gift, his son did, too. (The pair also broke a set of identical state-level prohibitions.) In addition, by driving his firearm to the church without a permit and then by taking it inside without the express permission of the pastor, the shooter violated a host of state-level concealed-carry and trespassing laws, some of which attract felony charges. He does not seem to have much cared.

They never do.

Most Popular

Elections

Kamala Harris Runs for Queen

I’m going to let you in on a secret about the 2020 presidential contest: Unless unforeseen circumstances lead to a true wave election, the legislative stakes will be extremely low. The odds are heavily stacked against Democrats’ retaking the Senate, and that means that even if a Democrat wins the White House, ... Read More
Culture

What We’ve Learned about Jussie Smollett

It’s been a few weeks since March 26, when all charges against Jussie Smollett were dropped and the actor declared that his version of events had been proven correct. How’s that going? Smollett’s celebrity defenders have gone quiet. His publicists and lawyers are dodging reporters. The @StandwithJussie ... Read More
Energy & Environment

The Climate Trap for Democrats

The more the climate debate changes, the more it stays the same. Polls show that the public is worried about climate change, but that doesn’t mean that it is any more ready to bear any burden or pay any price to combat it. If President Donald Trump claws his way to victory again in Pennsylvania and the ... Read More
White House

Sarah Sanders to Resign at End of June

Sarah Huckabee Sanders will resign from her position as White House press secretary at the end of the month, President Trump announced on Twitter Thursday afternoon. https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1139263782142787585 Sanders, the daughter of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, succeeded Sean ... Read More
Politics & Policy

But Why Is Guatemala Hungry?

I really, really don’t want to be on the “Nicolas Kristof Wrote Something Dumb” beat, but, Jiminy Cricket! Kristof has taken a trip to Guatemala, with a young woman from Arizona State University in tow. “My annual win-a-trip journey,” he writes. Reporting from Guatemala, he discovers that many ... Read More
Politics & Policy

On Painting Air Force One

And so it has come to this. Two oil tankers were just attacked in the Gulf of Oman, presumably by Iran. The United States and China are facing off in a confrontation that is about far more than trade. The southern border remains anarchic and uncontrolled. And Congress is asking: “Can I get the icon in ... Read More