October 4, 2019

Gun Control Forum

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

“Democratic presidential candidates reiterated their call for gun control Wednesday in a forum hosted by MSNBC.” AP News, YouTube

Also on Wednesday, former Vice President Joe Biden unveiled a gun control plan which would ban the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high capacity magazines. Joe Biden

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From the Left

The left supports stricter gun control laws, but is divided over how far to go.

“The [gun licensing] process… takes about three weeks. Background checks take an average of 108 seconds. If someone is going through a suicidal episode or is a domestic abuser without a record, they could get a gun very quickly and harm themselves or others. With licensing, that person would be delayed and possibly deterred from getting a gun…

“When Connecticut established a licensing law in 1995, it was associated with a 40 percent drop in gun homicides and a 15 percent drop in gun suicides. Missouri had a licensing law for decades but repealed it in 2007. That change was associated with a 17 to 27 percent increase in gun homicides and a 16 percent increase in gun suicides. Background checks are supposed to stop bad people from getting guns, but they often don’t. Licensing picks up that slack.”
Madeline Marshall, Vox

At the MSNBC forum on Wednesday, “[Cory Booker] pointed out that in states with stronger gun laws, most of the firearms used in crimes come from states with much weaker laws. In 2017, half of guns traced by police in Boston had out-of-state origins… The same trend — or worse — has been found elsewhere, from Chicago to New York to Mexico… ‘We’ve created a system where you’re only as safe as the state near you with the least restrictive gun laws’…

“The biggest divide at the forum came when Democrats discussed mandatory buyback programs… A mandatory buyback program in Australia, paired with a ban on automatic and semiautomatic rifles and shotguns, was linked to drops in homicides and suicides. But even if a mandatory buyback for assault weapons were implemented in the US, it’s not clear that it would do much to reduce gun violence. Shootings with rifles, including assault rifles, make up less than 3 percent of gun homicides in the US. More than 70 percent of gun homicides are instead carried out with handguns… Still, there is some evidence that restricting access to assault weapons might reduce the lethality of mass shootings. For now, though, Democrats are deeply divided on the issue.”
German Lopez, Vox

“Some Democrats—who for years had assured voters that no one wants to confiscate their weapons—worried that [Beto O’Rourke’s recent comments about mandatory buybacks] had gone too far… But according to some veterans of past legislative fights over background checks, unapologetic attempts to push the gun control envelope are exactly what is needed… ‘Nobody who ever got half a loaf asked for half a loaf’… ‘If we really wanted universal background checks, we’d be talking about an assault weapons ban. If we really wanted an assault weapons ban, we would be talking about a constitutional amendment.’”
Kara Voght, Mother Jones

“The White House and Congress have made clear that 40,000 deaths [from gun homicide and suicide] each year — roughly 100 fatal shootings every day — doesn’t strike them as a national emergency or something particularly worthy of their time… [But] 83 percent of adults support universal background checks. 72 percent of adults support ‘red flag’ laws. 72 percent of adults support gun licensing. 57 percent of adults support banning semi-automatic assault rifles…

“The cynical view on gun reform is that little progress has been made. But there is a real silver lining: The battle for the hearts and minds of voters has already been won… What’s stopping reform isn’t public will, it’s the politicians who stand in the way of reform.”
Emma González and Tyah-Amoy Roberts, NBC News

Critics note that “almost every candidate who spoke [at the forum] has promised some kind of executive action to bolster gun control… The popularity of executive action in both parties began growing years ago, analysts say, driven by a growing tension between voters demanding dramatic change and a Congress increasingly paralyzed by partisanship and polarization… Presidents often say they’re being forced to act because of Congress’s paralysis. As the Senate and House have become more polarized, they have struggled to enact major bills — prompting presidential edicts on issues such as immigration and health care. The result can be a whiplash, where each new president enacts sweeping policies only to have them abruptly reversed when the opposition takes over…

“Many Democrats consider the Trump presidency a crisis that requires an emergency response, and they’ve been frustrated as the president uses his powers to do things such as transfer funds to build a U.S.-Mexico border barrier or enact rules aimed at weakening the Affordable Care Act… The Democrats’ policies would not amplify presidential power to the extent that Trump has sought to, but they do reflect a more president-centric approach to governing, a feature that’s become central to Trump’s tenure.”
Chelsea Janes, Washington Post

“Trump’s defenders will say this evidence is all circumstantial. But circumstantial evidence is not weak evidence: it’s simply evidence based on the circumstances in which an act of wrongdoing is committed — such as the license plate of a car that speeds away from a bank just after that bank is robbed. Criminals are convicted on such evidence all the time. They will also say that there’s no explicit quid pro quo proposal here. But… ‘even when a corrupt deal is struck implicitly, the government can still prosecute extortion on a quid pro quo basis. Circumstantial evidence can be enough to prove a criminal exchange.’…

“In the absence of an explicit quid pro quo over restarting aid, the context and circumstances are what will become the focus of the investigation. There is enough here to support impeachment. Whether it is also enough to convince Republicans and lead to removal is another matter.”
Noah Feldman, Bloomberg

Some suggest that Congress “remove Trump from office, so that he cannot abuse incumbency to subvert the electoral process, but let the American people make the judgment on whether or not he gets a second term… Removing Trump from office for the remainder of his term would disable him from abusing presidential power again and protect the integrity of the electoral process from inappropriate interference. At the same time, letting him run for a second term would permit the American electorate to decide whether Trump, despite his attempt to subvert the system, should have another chance… Decoupling removal from disqualification lowers the stakes and changes the constitutional calculus. As long as Trump can run again, Republicans cannot hide behind a claim that they are [the] ones protecting voter choice by opposing impeachment.”
Edward B. Foley, Politico

From the Right

The right is critical of Biden’s plan and stricter gun control in general.

From the Right

The right is critical of Biden’s plan and stricter gun control in general.

“Biden wants to create a national gun registry. This is where he is sure to meet the most resistance, and rightly so. The reason is that no sane gun owner will want his or her name on a gun registry after listening to this year's Democratic candidates on the trail… specific Democrats, Beto O'Rourke especially, have clarified and confirmed the real reason for creating such registries. A gun registry is the precursor to a mass gun confiscation. Gun owners are not paranoid for taking Democrats' promises literally on this topic… Gun violence in the U.S. is a small and ever-diminishing problem, but the media give the opposite impression. Last year, according to the FBI, there were approximately 10,265 gun murders in the U.S., down 6% year over year.”
Editorial Board, Washington Examiner

Biden is trying to have it both ways. By endorsing a plan that establishes a backdoor confiscatory regime for assault-style weapons without explicitly calling for such a regime, he risks alienating both gun-rights voters and Democrats for whom no gun safety measure is too extreme.”
Noah Rothman, Commentary Magazine

Dated But Relevant: “In 1995, the Canadian government passed Bill C-68, requiring Canadians to obtain a license to keep (or purchase) their firearms and then register each gun with the government. It took the Canadian government six years to implement the 1995 legislation with fewer than 2 million gun owners signing up for licenses as of 2001. Worse yet, the [Canadian police] later reported error rates of 43 to 90 percent in firearm applications and registry information… 4,438 stolen firearms were successfully reregistered without alerting authorities. Despite the promises of Allan Rock, then the justice minister, that the firearms program would cost only C$2 million, the cumulative total had ballooned to more than C$2.7 billion by 2012 — the year the registry was discontinued.”
Vincent Harinam & Gary Mauser, National Review

Biden’s plan also “contains provisions that would bankrupt gun manufacturers for the crime of selling fully functional, legal firearms. It would ban the sale of the most popular rifles in America and the standard-capacity magazines made for America’s most commonly used handguns… If a terrorist uses an SUV in a ramming attack or puts a bomb in a van, it’s not the automaker’s fault. Why should it be the gun-maker’s fault [if] an evil man uses a lawful product unlawfully?...

“Let’s be clear — what the Biden plan calls ‘weapons of war’ are not the weapons that our soldiers carry into combat. Instead, AR-style rifles are among the most popular civilian firearms in the United States. They are extraordinarily useful for self-defense, and they’re rarely used to commit crimes… the heart of the plan is a direct attack on the gun industry and on the inherent right to self-defense of America’s law-abiding citizens.”
David French, National Review

Rifles play a small role in crime. Rifles, of which ARs are only a subset, were involved in 403 (2%) of the 15,129 murders committed in 2017, according to the FBI. They were used far less often than handguns (7,032) but also less often than knives (1,591) or blunt objects (467) or even hands and feet (692). ARs have, of course, been used in a number of high-profile attacks, but they are not the most common guns used in mass shootings, and some of the worst attacks we’ve seen have been perpetrated with handguns and shotguns, making it questionable at best that confiscating them would prevent mass shootings…

“[Furthermore] New Zealand is halfway through its gun confiscation effort, which is supported by nearly every politician in the country, and its government has seized under 20,000 firearms. That’s a compliance rate of just 10%, according to the New Zealand Herald. A similar compliance rate in the U.S. would leave more than 14 million ARs and AKs in circulation…  [And] It’s fanciful to think a country with [Americans’] ingrained commitment to guns would accept a confiscation scheme when New Zealand, a place where such a scheme was passed with near-unanimous support, is having trouble implementing it.”
Stephen Gutowski, Washington Examiner

Some point out that “The only reason that there was any discussion of an expanded background check bill standing a chance was that Trump was talking about approving it. Even then, background checks weren’t going to be an easy sell… And all of these Democrats who are meeting in Vegas are [now] left in the position of having to basically say, you’re a horrible person who needs to be impeached right now. And oh, by the way… would you mind supporting our gun control bill that’s going to enrage your base?... Asking him for a favor right after saying you’re going to try to throw him out of office might not turn out to have been the wisest strategy.”
Jazz Shaw, Hot Air

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“Why did Modi pick this moment to do something so radical? Violence in Kashmir had been trending downwards for the last year, after all. The main reason, besides President Donald Trump's alarming offer to mediate a settlement, is that he wanted a distraction from India's mounting economic woes. India's GDP growth dropped from over 8 percent to 5.8 percent over the last year, and it is widely expected to dip further. Just as ominous has been the crash in consumer demand. India's usual problem has been an insufficient supply to meet its voracious appetite for vehicles, cell phones, and other similar goods. But sales figures for all consumer goods have posted a precipitous decline, slamming businesses that are dramatically scaling back investments.”
Shikha Dalmia, Reason

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