President Donald Trump shakes hands with NRA executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre, has he arrives to speak to the annual meeting of the National Rifle Association, Friday, April 26, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
As I mentioned a few days ago, the shootings in El Paso and the mostly forgotten shootings in Dayton (which will go down as Antifa’s first but not last mass murder) are stampeding political Washington into doing something. Doing something for the sake of doing something is one of the most natural and stupid reactions to political risk. Usually doing nothing is much less damaging. In this case, the legislative proposals being pimped as the way to prevent mass shootings are expanding background checks for sale of weapons to personal sales and a federal so-called red flag law which gives the police the power to confiscate your weapons until you can prove to a judge that you are not dangerous.
The irony is that neither of these laws would do jack-sh** to prevent either of the shootings last weekend. The weapons were legal. They were legally purchased. Background checks were conducted. Neither of the shooters exhibited any behavior that resulted in them being reported to law enforcement as a danger to themselves or anyone else (despite AP’s deeply dishonest story from yesterday). None had any history of run-ins with law enforcement. As far as I can tell, neither were suspended or expelled from high school for behavioral issues. The Dayton shooter had some strange fixations but that, fortunately, does not give authorities to deprive people of liberty or property. In short, these laws are the epitome of the empty gesture.
Red flag laws, in particular, are pernicious. They not only set up a system where the police are incentivized to act on bullsh** complaints and judges have the incentive to take seriously otherwise bullsh** evidence to confiscate guns. Most troubling, they encourage persons with mental health issues to NOT seek treatment because of the inevitability of ending up in Big Brother’s database. And they are not actually effective at preventing the actions they are being passed to prevent:
CT passed a Red Flag law in 1999. Adam Lanza's mom never went to LEOs to stop him, dammit.
Per Duke study (and others) it is more of a suicide prevention law for oldsters with concerned relatives.https://t.co/DQvboFc8Br pic.twitter.com/qhPYdOl4Qi
— Tom Maguire (@Tom_Maguire) August 9, 2019
This is one of those situations where President Trump’s lack of a firm set of guiding principles is giving a lot of us the jitters. He seems to have gotten a bit spooked by the shootings in a campaign season and is trying to “do something” to convince suburban voters he’s not a wild man.
Trump Vows Action On Guns As He Praises NRA: They’ll Come Around https://t.co/azxj4GNMG6
— Talking Points Memo (@TPM) August 9, 2019
Reporter: 18 months ago you supported buying long guns at the age of 25. Raising the age. Are you considering bringing that back now?
Trump: We're not talking about anything specific. I can tell you, there's tremendous good will. I'm talking about meaningful..background checks pic.twitter.com/DuQXMpangq
— POLITICO (@politico) August 9, 2019
My gut feeling is that Trump’s campaign will tell him the folly of selling out gun owners and gun rights in hopes of getting positive press…because it is folly and the narrative has already been set that Nancy Pelosi is the driving force behind any legislation.
.@realDonaldTrump, after the horrific loss in Gilroy, El Paso, Dayton & Chicago, I urge you to call @SenateMajLdr McConnell & the US Senate back to DC to vote on House-passed bipartisan gun violence prevention legislation. It is our duty to #DoSomething. https://t.co/uDJII2gBxX pic.twitter.com/xbc9fsMflJ
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) August 8, 2019
There are three factors which I think give us a lot of hope that nothing happens here. Four factors if you include an electorate and Congress that has the attention span of a Jack Russell terrier with ADHD.
First, Chuck Schumer is going to sandbag any legislation that doesn’t include enhanced background checks. During the last panic over guns, Schumer realized it was more lucrative to kill gun control bills and fundraise on the failure to pass them than to actually pass a law. I doubt that he’s changed very much.
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) August 7, 2019
Mitch McConnell says he’s not going to act on it until the fall…which means never (see my Jack Russell analogy). McConnell is not going to lead the GOP into an election by passing gun control laws.
“It’s so insulting when Mitch McConnell says it’s premature to have a conversation" about gun reform says @RepSwalwell. “Was it premature to do it after Sandy Hook… and there’s going to be another city, sadly, until we find the political courage in the Senate to do something." pic.twitter.com/htm91ctIUx
— The Situation Room (@CNNSitRoom) August 8, 2019
And the NRA says no.
— NRA (@NRA) August 8, 2019
Just a day after Trump said he was open to mild gun control measures (like red flag laws, and background checks) the NRA’s CEO LaPierre nipped that instinct in the bud, calling to convince Trump that those policies would not sit well with his base. https://t.co/OtPwBhccSc
— Aviva Gabriel (@avivajazz) August 8, 2019
The NRA is weaker than it has been in years but it is still potent enough that it has to be dealt with by any GOP president.
Ultimately, this will die under its own weight. If it doesn’t, Trump is going to find that he just made his reelection campaign a lot harder.