On Thursday, California Senator Dianne Feinstein along with other Congressional Democrats reintroduced an assault weapons ban bill that faces stiff opposition from Republicans—and even some Democrats.
Given this influence the NRA has on Capitol Hill—and the regressive recalcitrance of Republicans—is it possible any new gun control legislation can be passed?
Speaking on the Hill, Senator Feinstein introduced a bill targeting banning assault weapons—like the Bushmaster assault rifle used in the Sand Hook killings—and high capacity magazine bullet clips and a list of other weapons. Senator Feinstein was the original author of the 1994 assault weapons ban which expired in 2004 and tailored the current bill with alterations on the 1994 bill.
Senator Feinstein’s current bill would:
• Strengthen the 1994 assault weapons ban by moving from a two- to a one-characteristic test to determine what constitutes an assault weapon.
• Ban the sale, transfer, importation or manufacturing of approximately 150 named firearms, along with certain shotguns, rifles and handguns.
• Ban firearms with “bullet buttons and “thumbhole stocks.”
• Ban the importation of large-capacity magazine assault weapons.
• Ban high-capacity ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds.
Senator Feinstein’s bill has garnered the support of the Police Foundation, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and other groups. The California senator acknowledged it would be difficult to pass this legislation. “Getting this bill signed into law will be an uphill battle, and I recognize that—but it’s a battle worth having,” Feinstein said. “We must balance the desire of a few to own military-style assault weapons with the growing threat to lives across America.” She stated public pressure could force Congress to act. “We can win this,” she said. “But it depends on America and it depends on the courage of Americans.”
The NRA’S David Keene responded saying “Sen. Feinstein has been trying to ban guns from law-abiding citizens for decades. It’s disappointing but not surprising that she is once again focused on curtailing the Constitution instead of prosecuting criminals or fixing our broken mental health system. The American people know gun bans do not work and we are confident Congress will reject Senator Feinstein’s wrong-headed approach.”
The NRA’s response isn’t surprising. These merchants of murderous munitions care only about their profit-margin. So, the deaths of innocent people—even children—are just collateral damage as far as they’re concerned. The NRA’s worry here for the gun merchants’ bottom line is evidenced by the specious statements NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre made after President Obama’s inaugural address.
Speaking at a Reno, Nevada hunting conference, Mr. LaPierre attacked President Obama, because of his comments on proposed gun legislation, calling the president’s words a “mockery” and accused him of making America’s “lawful citizens less safe.” Mr. LaPierre’s statements were filled with countless baseless charges. But one primary reason for the NRA’s fear of new gun legislation is encapsulated by this comment Mr. LaPierre made “Obama wants you to believe that putting the federal government in the middle of every firearm transaction—except those between criminals—will somehow make you safer.”
The NRA’s concern here is: that the legal loophole which allows 40 percent of gun purchases to be done without a background check will be closed. Most Americans agree background checks should be done in every firearms transaction. Mr. LaPierre would like us to believe this is an outrageous intrusion of the federal government and will only help criminals.
Why would the NRA be against mandatory background checks? If 40 percent of weapons transactions are being handled without background checks how can gun dealers know if they’re selling to dangerous criminals? Sure, the background check won’t stop everyone—especially, first-time offenders—who may be buying a weapon to commit a crime. But isn’t this measure a no-brainer?
Clearly, the NRA and its death merchants are terrified of the potential profits they’ll lose if the background check loophole is closed. But those who traffic in these instruments of slaughter could care less for people who lose life and limb. Also, this isn’t about any fear the government will restrict Second Amendment rights, or, that stricter gun law enforcement will help criminals. The government regulates numerous aspects of our lives already requiring personal identification, documentation, and licenses for the ownership of cars, houses business etc.
Why should the ownership of guns be different?
Another aspect of this current debate has been the claim government is trying to seize the guns of every American. This theory postulates if the government unarms the populace it will then be impossible for the American public to stop a dictatorial government from future tyranny against the people.
This theory makes several wrong-headed assumptions and forgets some important things. First, it assumes regular citizens will ever conceivably be able to acquire firepower comparable to what our government will have, at any given time, which will provide the people an opportunity to overthrow said government. This is fantasy. The government will always outgun the citizenry in such a scenario.
But there’s another deeply flawed idea here: the notion the public would be, necessarily, doomed in such a situation. The truth is: governments can only defeat their people—regardless of how many weapons they have—when those people are divided and paralyzed by fear. No government can tyrannize a united, determined people—which is why all governments are petrified by popular uprisings. As the saying goes “the people united can never be defeated.” But any people who allow prejudice and blind ignorance to divide them from their fellow citizens—because of things like skin color—will always be defeated regardless of how many assault rifles they stockpile.
Ironically, the Second Amendment was instrumental in promoting prejudice and preserving slavery, as law Professor Dr. Carl T. Bogus, and others, have pointing out through the arming of state militias.
The Second Amendment reads “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” This language suggests the, supposed, “Right of the people to keep and bear arms” was to be done within the context of a “well regulated militia.” Why would that be?
The Second Amendment was adopted in 1791 when slavery—and slave riots—was still very much a part of the fabric of American life. That same year the Haitian Revolution—which led to freedom for all Haitian slaves—started. The American Government, run by plantation elites, was surely worried, especially, in light of previous slave rebellions occurring in places like Virginia, South Carolina and the Virgin Islands.
The Founding Fathers—many of whom were plantation owners—adopted a series of measures to discourage slave rebellions, including enacting “slave patrols,” which used the very same state militias to capture escapees, quell uprisings and kill rebellious slaves. The idea the Constitution guarantees a gun right to average American citizens was always dubious. If gun rights were meant to be regulated within the context of a “well regulated militia” why should the regulation of assault weapons be exempted at this time when it is causing so much misery and death?