President Donald Trump, the supposed populist renegade overtaking the Republican party, has a unique way of threatening to overturn the people’s will in favour of the status quo. Earlier this week, the Democrat-controlled House passed a bipartisan bill to expanded universal background checks requirements when purchasing firearms — which is supported overwhelmingly by the general electorate (over 90%) and National Rifle Association members (over 74%) according to various non-partisan polls.
This new bill, aptly named The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 (HR 8), was originally sponsored by both Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Rep. Peter King (R-NY) who helped secure a 240 to 190 victory with crossover support. Now being described as the largest gun-control measure in decades, lawmakers are seeking to close the notorious “gun show loophole” that previous legislation overlooked. For those genuinely spreading the meme of ‘we just need to enforce the current laws’, it’s best to consider where past governments have failed in their addressing of the gun crisis.
Under current federal laws, it is only required of licensed dealers to conduct background checks on their customers to oversee red flag concerns such as criminal record, history of mental illnesses or other considerations indicating “bad guy with a gun”. This isn’t required of private unlicensed sellers, whether selling their product at literal gun shows or on random sites on the internet, where the dealership landscape is almost an anarcho-capitalist wet dream. The exception being that dealers are expected to make transactions automatically proceed within three business days if their fact-gathering check isn’t completed —meaning the new bill allows the market to make informed decisions before the sale of lethal materials.
The new bill does allow for exceptions. Background checks need to apply to those only regifting or using “temporary transfers” of guns among family, friends or hunting purposes. Another provision states a temporary transfer is justified in situations where it’s “necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm” unless there is suspicion it’ll actually be used in a crime — showcasing how their law specifically limits access for criminals unable to pass an actual background check enforcing accountability, not as a means to harm the innocent gun owners of America now being used as political pawns.
This was the narrative used by Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s own Institute for Legislative Action, who issued a statement to NPR calling the bill “extreme” while expecting us to believe the government just wants to “make criminals out of law-abiding Americans” by expanding the current laws. “[Actual] criminals, on the other hand, will continue to get their firearms the way they always have: through the black market, theft, and straw purchases,” Cox continued to fearmonger. “Forcing more government paperwork and additional fees on good people trying to exercise a constitutional right will do nothing to make Americans safer.”
The debate surrounding gun control, which culturally dissolves into vitriolic partisanship, often forces America’s lawmakers into this state of perpetual gridlock where the camps only unify behind a tired message of “thoughts and prayers” for the victims of politicised mass shootings instead of actual policy to address their concerns. This law seeks to break the cycle. “We have been partaking in a grisly ritual: We have a mass shooting, we have a moment of silence, and then there has been inaction,” said Rep. Katherine M. Clark (D-MA), the vice chairwoman of the House Democratic Caucus and organiser for the 2016 sit-in protest after the Orlando shooting, releasing her statement to The Washington Post on Tuesday. “This signifies the end of that.”
Two problems remain, however: the GOP establishment and veto threats from the Gridlocker-In-Chief. In the past, similar legislation has failed to pass Republican-controlled branches of government as placing any intervention between a customer and his gun is considered an unconstitutional “infringement”. The Trump White House immediately threatened a veto after the HR 8 vote by declaring this another “burdensome requirement” restricting the Second Amendment’s “guarantee of an individual right to keep arms” without any oversight conditions, according to their memo.
This statement flies in the face of Trump’s own anti-immigration stances as over two dozen moderate Democrats signed onto a GOP amendment to inform immigration authorities of when undocumented immigrants are caught buying firearms, according to sources from Bloomberg. Trump, regularly invoking the threat of groups like MS-13 in his justifications for the border wall, doesn’t hold to this protectionist standard when their members could freely buy firearms to attack his own citizens.
On principle, voters universally support the protective measures — but why not their president? Trump’s $30M in donations from the NRA leadership could be just as much of a contributing factor as being a genuine cuck to their gangland cause. Democrats, including House Majority Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), have seized on gun control their top policy priority by allowing for legislative and cultural attention often neglected by governments past. “We were not able to get a single hearing or have a single vote in the House under the last majority,” said Rep. Thompson in his speech earlier this week. “It’s a new day, it’s a historic time and this will help save lives.”
The minority of them, in any case. According to recent research, it’s believed one in five gun transfers (sales or otherwise) are conducted without any form of background check policies to ensure informed consent, though were “limited” to “moderate” in preventing certain homicides and suicides contributing to the death toll, according to a study from The Rand Institute. In any case, addressing the problems even slightly will also surely help maintain the Democrats’ political power as the opposition to the NRA has only increased throughout the 2018 mid-terms and slew of shooting scandals.
This includes the rise of candidates such as Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA) who won against the NRA funded Karen Handel (R) by running on gun control policies popular among those state voters. McBath often framed herself as a first-hand sympathetic character for the gun control movement due to the history of her 17-year-old son being shot for the non-crime of having his music be too loud for his murder’s personal liking. Such blatant gun violence has also spilt into attempted political assassinations.
Last week, a United States Coast Guard lieutenant who was later identified as a white nationalist was arrested with a stockpile of weapons and a list of political targets that included prominent Democrats and broadcast journalists. This overshadows the notorious 2017 shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) who was wounded by a far-left activist. Once these politicians were been placed in the firing line did bureaucrats somewhat question the Second Amendment’s enabling of terrorist actors.
Others, however, continue to lie. “I’m proud to work with the NRA to oppose these gun control bills they are bringing to the Capitol — HR 8 and HR 1112,” Scalise said in a public statement on Twitter. “Both of these bills will strongly infringe upon the rights of law-abiding citizens to buy and ultimately share their own guns. Law-abiding citizens will be treated as criminals and criminals will be untouched.”
He’s suggesting dealers can’t inform ICE when finding illegal status when conducting the check while loaning guns is forbidden, both of which false. While ICE-contact just isn’t federally mandatory, another bill being opposed by the reactionary right is HR 1112 which would grant the FBI more time to complete background checks on the very criminals Scalise was talking about. Only through lying can their arguments hold weight.
“What’s really sad about this is that they hide behind some of these tragedies,” Scalise also said in a Fox News interview defending the president. “Their bill would not have done anything to stop these tragedies.” This is also untrue. It was 2015 when a white supremacist was able to buy a gun and kill nine churchgoers in Charleston, S.C. Under a mandatory background, which the shooter purposefully avoided due to a violent drug arrest, would such an event have been harder to commit — though would hurt the bottom line of rifle manufacturers lobbying behind Scalise and the GOP.
Trump’s previously taken on the NRA lobbying following the Stoneman Douglas shooting which killed 17 people. In a public meeting, Trump glibly joked that his party’s lawmakers were “afraid” of the NRA and said the group had “less power” over him by comparison. While the president somewhat stuck to his word on publicly supporting minimum age increases on firearms and imposing his ban on bump stocks, a veto would be a strong reversal towards the establishment orthodoxy he swore to fight — and his most rabid supporters, such as Turning Point USA spokesperson and shooting survivor Kyle Kashuv, should hold their candidate accountable for abandoning the promise of “being very strong on background checks”.
“I would think that they should let it come to a vote,” King said, urging his Senate colleagues to consider the bill and the public support. “This is not going to affect more than probably less than 1% of the American people and the ones it will affect either suffer from mental illness or are criminals. So to me, it’s a phony issue being raised by some of the gun groups.” As these reactionary pro-gun organisations, such as Everytown, continue to dump over $400,000 in advertisement purchases across TV and social media for the GOP, don’t expect the partisans-for-hire to have a good faith conversation and sudden changes of heart when it’s the benjamins lining their suit pockets.
Thanks for reading! This article was originally published for TrigTent.com, a bipartisan media platform for political and social commentary, truly diverse viewpoints and facts that don’t kowtow to political correctness.
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