The Corner

Richard Blumenthal’s Power Fantasy

One more law, and we’ll be able to “bring an end” to mass shootings. So claimed Senator Blumenthal over the weekend:

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) spoke to CBS’ Face the Nation Sunday morning and urged Congress to reconsider the gun control bills that were introduced after the Sandy Hook shooting but failed to pass the Senate, arguing that Congress would be “complicit” in future gun violence if it did not act.

“A year and half ago it seemed like we were on the verge of, potentially, legislation that would stop the madness and end the insanity that has killed too many young people, thousands, tens of thousands since Sandy Hook,” Blumenthal said. “I really, sincerely hope that this tragedy, this unimaginable, unpseakable tragedy, will bring back measures that would keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people who are severely troubled or deranged like this young man was, and provide resources. …90% of the American people want background checks to be heard, to be responded to, and to end the madness and insanity.”

“The legislation that failed to pass — it got support from fifty-five senators — would have provided a mental health initiative with more resources, greater ability for the Santa Barbara police to intervene, to use the sheriff’s word, to have professionals trained in diagnosing and detecting this kind of derangement,” Blumenthal continued. “Obviously not every kind of gun violence is going to be prevented by laws out of Washington but at least we can make a start.”

It was good of Blumenthal to concede at the end that “obviously not every kind of gun violence is going to be prevented by laws out of Washington but at least we can make a start.” But it was also dishonest. Quite literally ten seconds earlier he had cast his proposals as being likely to “stop the madness and end the insanity that has killed too many young people.” That’s not a start; that’s a panacea. “Stop” does not mean “limit.” It does not mean “make a start,” either. It means “stop.” Which is it, Senator?

Per ThinkProgress, Senator Feinstein has made a similarly bizarre claim:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) called out the NRA’s political dominance on Sunday. “Unfortunately the NRA continues to have a stranglehold on Congress, preventing even commonsense measures like universal background checks that have overwhelming support,” she said. “Americans need to rise up and say enough is enough. Until that happens, we will continue to see these devastating attacks. Shame on us for allowing this to continue.”

One wonders if Blumenthal and Feinstein have bothered to look into the details. Inconvenient as it must be for those of their bent to acknowledge, all of the federal measures that were proposed after Newtown are already in place in California. Those were: an “assault weapons” ban, a limit on the size of magazines, and the imposition of mandatory background checks for private sales. California already has all three laws — and many more besides — and the shooter failed to break any of them. Moreover, if the background-check system isn’t deemed to be good enough, there is nothing to prevent Californians from strengthening it. Indeed, in the aftermath of the shooting, some state lawmakers have proposed doing precisely that. Why didn’t they do it before? They certainly have the votes. Are they “complicit” in the killing?

As a rule, the Left claims that there is a specific need for new federal gun-control laws because the current patchwork quilt inevitably creates gaps. This theory holds, for example, that there is little point in Chicago instituting strict control when Indiana does not. Why? Well, because guns that are traded between the law-abiding and the criminal in Indiana will quickly find themselves across state lines, becoming problematic even in places that have instituted restrictive regimes. Thus, critics suggest, national solutions are needed. No point in Colorado’s limiting the size of magazines when Wyoming does not.

There are a number of problems with this argument — constitutionally, legally, and practically. But whatever its merits, it does not apply here. The shooter bought three handguns, not an “assault weapon.” The availability of such weapons in other states is therefore irrelevant. Further, as Blumenthal and Feinstein presumably know, federal law dictates that one can only buy handguns in one’s home state, and California law dictates that all such purchases — private or public — require a background check. The shooter went through such a background check. In California. Again, no other state was involved. He also bought 41 ten-round magazines in California, in compliance with state law. No other state was involved. All of which is to say that there really is no way that one can make the case here that a lack of national consistency contributed to the murders.

What, then, is their point? It isn’t that loopholes are to blame, it isn’t that California lacks the laws that he wanted federally, and it isn’t that California is run by people who will refuse to improve the background-check system if that is deemed necessary. Do they want a handgun ban, and, by extension, a repeal of the Second Amendment? If so, they should tell us.

Thankfully, others have been more circumspect. Even Janet Napolitano recognizes that there are no easy answers:

University of California President Janet Napolitano says a mass shooting in the community around UC Santa Barbara is “almost the kind of event that’s impossible to prevent and impossible to predict.”

The former secretary of Homeland Security who took over as head of the UC system in September made the remarks after a commencement speech in Oakland Saturday, a day after the rampage that authorities say left seven people including the gunman dead and seven others injured. UC Santa Barbara says students were among the victims.

Her view was backed up by students of such killings:

Mass murderers tend to have a history of pent-up frustration and failures, are socially isolated and vengeful, blaming others for their unhappiness, experts say.

“They all display deluded thinking and a lot of rage about feeling so marginalized,” James Garbarino, a professor of psychology at Loyola University Chicago, said in an email.

Since mass killings are extremely rare, scholars say there’s no way to predict who has deadly intentions, let alone who will reach a breaking point and take action.

This goes for members of the U.S. Senate, too.

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