News that Gets My Goat
News today from Washington that Congress has passed the first gun–related measures since the Newtown schoolhouse massacre that killed twenty elementary school children three months ago.
The Congress passed a spending bill to continue funding government operations and attached two measures to make permanent a pair of often-renewed NRA-inspired rules that first; forbid the use of any Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms gun data by social scientists or public health professionals to study the cause and effects of gun violence in America, and second; prohibit the ATF from requiring licensed gun dealers to take inventory of their stock.
Let’s take these separately; first, consider this common event. Somewhere in America, a proud owner of a new automatic pistol is showing it off to an acquaintance. Being safety-minded, he removes the magazine before handing it to his friend to admire, unmindful that he’s already jacked a round from the magazine into the tube. His friend then pulls the trigger, firing that forgotten round god-knows-where. This probably happens at least once a day in America. Now; if some concerned doctor, say at the Harvard Injury Control Research Center has decided to study such incidents, he has to do it working from scattered reports from law enforcement agencies all across the country because Federal authorities are prohibited from sharing any data they may have. This would be an impediment to doctors or scientists who might lobby legislators to require that such firearms sold in this country be designed to indicate to the user when a round is in the chamber or that it not fire when the magazine is removed.
And secondly; imagine some day in the future. In this future, President Justin Bieber is attacked by a cell of heavily-armed bi-polar ex-cons from North Korea. Law enforcement authorities trace the automatic weapons used in the attack to a gun dealer in the Rio Grande Valley, and Congress and citizens ask who is responsible for selling these guns to the international cell of deranged criminals. Well, Mr. Jimmy Bob Inbrid, proprietor of Valley View Guns and Liquor need only say that the weapons in question were ‘lost or stolen’ from his extensive inventory, which is ‘too durn big to count or keep track of anyways’ and he is home-free.
Such legislative ham-stringing of law enforcement belies the oft-heard line from the NRA that “we don’t need more gun laws; we just need to enforce the ones already on the books.” The ATF has not had a permanent director since 2006, when at the behest of the NRA, Congress decreed that the ATF Director would thereafter be confirmed by the Senate. The ATF today has the same number of agents that it had in the 1970’s, when the US population was just over 200 million. Now we have half again as many people and twice as many guns.Such is what we’ve come to expect from the sausage factory that is Congress, where the will of the people is of little note to legislators in the sway of the gun manufacturer’s lobby; the NRA, which spent $15 million last year on campaign contributions and lobbying. Despite all that spending, the NRA actually had a losing record in races they tried to influence last year; and there lies the answer to this problem of democracy. “Gun Rights” legislators are going to have to have their asses handed to them by ‘voters for gun sanity’ before they stop bowing to the increasingly bizarre demands of the gun lobby. Let’s do it.