“Gun grabbers” is an inflammatory name for gun control advocates. After all, these firearms-focused folk don’t want to prise guns from [the cold, dead fingers of] Americans lawfully exercising their Second Amendment right to bear arms. No, they want to change the laws so that most Americans can’t get their hands on guns in the first place. Or if they can, these not-gun grabbers want to make sure that privately owned guns aren’t too dangerous; from the way the weapons fire bullets (never automatically) to the amount of bullets they can fire without reloading (no more than 10). And they’d like them registered with the government, for a little look-see whenever they’re sold. As a certain non-presidential presidential hopeful likes to say, how’s that workin’ out for ya? Not good. You know gun control is on the ropes when Newsweek has to invent a new name for their poster children . . .
Gun-safety advocates would argue that Obama has a moral duty to stanch the bleeding, and that may be true. But what’s particularly interesting right now isn’t the moral equation. It’s the practical one. Look beyond the hoary Washington logic, and it’s clear that the present moment may be peculiar enough, and the forces at work potent enough, to produce real movement on gun safety—provided Obama proceeds carefully.
That means no outlawing specific guns. No relitigating the Second Amendment. And no frantic liberal overreach. Just two precautions that a majority of voters favor, according to a new NEWSWEEK-DAILY BEAST Poll: background checks for every gun buyer (which 86 percent of respondents support) and a revival of the recently lapsed ban on the kind of high-capacity clips that Loughner used in Arizona (which 51 percent support). If Obama came out in favor of these modest reforms, he’d have libertarians (such as the Cato Institute’s Robert A. Levy), Republicans (Rep. Peter King), independents (Bloomberg), and Democrats (Sen. Frank Lautenberg) on his side. Even Dick Cheney, a longtime hunter and NRA supporter, now admits that “maybe it’s appropriate to reestablish” limits on “the size of the magazine that you can buy to go with semiautomatic weapons.”
The diversity of this group reflects a simple truth: that the vast majority of us have more in common with [anti-gun filmmaker and Virginia Tech survivor] Goddard than with the two-dimensional culture warriors—the latte-sipping elites, the paranoid survivalists—who have dominated the debate for decades.
We respect guns, gun owners, and the Second Amendment, and yet we want gun violence to be as rare as possible. We know that guns can contribute to a community’s safety, and yet we acknowledge that none of the 18 mass shootings since May 2007 was stopped by a legal-handgun carrier.
If Obama recognizes this reality, and takes action, it’s possible to imagine us having a grown-up conversation about guns for the first time in almost 20 years.
Wow. That is—sorry “was” one long paragraph (I broke it up to save TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia from wandering mouse click syndrome.) When did Newsweek become so unprofitable that the editor couldn’t afford to hit the return key?
Anyway, don’t you just love being called a two-dimensional cultural warrior, and infantile with it? Me neither. But there are compensations for enduring this kind of abuse: humor. The best kind: unintentional humor. Check this:
Back at the Lyric Theatre, Goddard was doing his part. Watching his documentary, it was impossible to ignore how little we’re doing to stop dangerous people from buying deadly weapons. Of the dozens of private sellers Goddard and his colleagues encountered at gun shows, not one ran a background check before selling them firearms, Goddard says. Vendors in Maine were the toughest: they requested a local ID. “Minnesota has a system where you can get a permit to buy a gun that proves you can pass a background check, and if you don’t have that, some people won’t sell to you,” he says. “But you can just walk to the next table and buy one there without it.” In Texas, Ohio, and Virginia, Goddard easily bought semiautomatics, often without bothering to show ID. “I bought AK-47s, TEC-9s, a Mach 11, a slew of handguns,” he says. “We could have bought books that tell you how to convert a semiautomatic to a fully automatic and how to make a homemade silencer. There were .50-caliber sniper rifles being sold to the general public almost everywhere we went.” In fact, the only time Goddard, who now works for the Brady Campaign, came under close scrutiny was when he delivered his weapons to the police. “I had to show my ID and answer all kinds of questions,” he says. “None of which were asked at the point of sale.”
As Living for 32 drew to a close and the lights in the Lyric came up, one student asked Goddard what kind of action Congress had taken since Tucson. Not much, he said. Then he smiled ruefully. “You’d think they would realize that all American citizens want to be sure that weapons are not sold to people who shouldn’t get them.”
And I know just where to start.