I was a massive nerd back in high school. Orchestra nerd, debate geek, advanced physics club…the whole nine yards. In the aftermath of the failed Manchin-Toomey universal background check amendment to Harry Reid’s gun control bill, I’m reminded of one of my favorite moments from high school debate club, and I think it perfectly explains the behavior of those who, according to recent polls, were disappointed or angry that the the whole thing crashed and burned so spectacularly . . .

There were two debate clubs in my high school: JSA and Model Congress. I belonged to both, but I always liked Model Congress better. There was something about the rules and procedures that struck my fancy, and they afforded the ability to hijack someone’s bill for my own twisted designs. Like when I tacked on an amendment to a universal healthcare bill to fund a NASA mission to place my cat in a geosynchronous orbit.

One of the things I learned was that people generally never read beyond the preamble and the first section of, well, just about anything. After that, they lose interest and just want to get on with the debate. So one week, as we were getting ready to start the debate, I slipped the following bill into the pile:

Preamble: To Feed the Homeless*

BE IT ENACTED [yada yada yada]

Section 1. All persons without a fixed place of residence, and who are found on the streets by police officers or who appear voluntarily, shall be brought to designated feeding locations where they shall be fed*.

Section 2. The schedule shall be performed as needed, as determined by those in charge of the process of feeding the homeless*.

Section 3. This bill shall go into effect immediately upon passage.

*To the lions.

Nobody actually read the whole thing. Which means that no one (except the small group of nerdy and similarly twisted friends of mine, one pictured with me above) realized what was going on.

One of the rules of debate was that a proposal’s sponsor and the primary opposition (the main guys in favor and opposed to a bill) could only speak about the preamble and nothing in the body of the bill. So I stood there for my five minutes talking about how great it would be to feed all the homeless, with my friend standing next to me and raising a postcard with an asterisk on it at the appropriate times. People thought it was strange, but no one actually realized what was going on. Even the primary opponent didn’t see it, instead prattling on about unfunded mandates and budget deficits.

Even through the first half of the debate, people were still tossing around the costs versus the benefits of feeding the homeless. Finally, one of my least favorite people got up to support the bill, and that’s when I let them have it.

“Point of inquiry.”

“On inquiry.”

“What about the welfare of the lions? Certainly their health would take a dip from the constant diet of homeless people?”

You could see everyone looking at the paper, and slowly coming to the terrible realization of what was going on. Not a single one of them had actually read the whole piece of paper. They all stopped after the preamble. They liked the way the title sounded, and didn’t care enough to read all the provisions of the bill.

That’s exactly what’s going on in Washington today. The universal background check bill failed because it was a complete piece of trash, but gun control advocates didn’t care. They wanted it to pass because it sounded good. Because universal background checks are the “right thing to do.” And as someone who supports background checks, I disagree.

There’s a difference between a knee-jerk reaction and a well thought out piece of legislation. This bill wasn’t well conceived and I cheered when it finally died its ignominious death. My co-workers were actually quite alarmed, but I cheered nonetheless.

Good government means actually reading and understanding the laws that you are voting on. Not just passing them because of their feel-good titles. And that’s what the emotion-driven gun control advocates can’t understand. Shame on us? Shame on you.

Also, damn I looked good back in high school . . .

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53 Responses to Why Gun Control Advocates are So Peeved About the Failed Background Check Amendment

  1. Chuckle.
    Sigh.
    Weep for the state of our current government.
    Chuckle again.
    Make a note of who voted the wrong way, so I can vote the wrong people out of office next time.

    • So WE can; I realize where your thinking went, but no man is a mountain. What we want is a honkin’ HUGE mountain range, impenetrable to teeth-gnashing, rabid control freaks.

      Not “I”; “WE”.

    • I was in Model UN in high school. One of my favorite memories of that is the time my disarmament committee passed a resolution that disarmed the chair of his gable…

      Debate clubs can be pretty great!

      • I was in the model UN also as an Algerian representative. As the week went on we decided that our government was overthrown and were now run by terrorists. Other countries also did the same thing and we formed an alliance against the west. We sent fake threats to the U.S. , Brittain etc through the middle schoolers who would act as couriers and take our notes to our country of choosing. Most of their reps were sticks in the mud and didn’t want to play. We also would disrupt all legislation possible and spew some unrelated slight that the west perpetuated upon us. It was a great week and we made a lot of people unhappy at our antics. Of course we did this 20 years ago. Now we would end up in jail and have the alphabet crew interrogate us for our joke. Then we would be banned from having a normal life for having some fun as a dumb kid.

    • I’m wondering, Nick, if you were also in the Chess Club? I was your basic, dogged non-joiner in high school, and later I found Groucho Marx, who gave words to the feelings I had: “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.”

      And I want to be honest about this: I succumbed a tad, as I was a photographer for the yearbook. Except it was a fitting task for me – spending a lot of time in a darkroom made me feel safe and secure.

      I’ve long since changed, but only to a degree.

      • I joined the anime club, mainly because there was a smokin’ hot chick in it who I quite fancied. But other than that, I mainly drifted where there was free pizza on offer.

  2. Speaking of nerds…are you also the Nick Leghorn (I can’t imagine there are many of you out there) that gave the talk about the NYC Taxi system at HOPE a few years ago?

    • Guilty as charged. I was nervous as all hell, but it was a blast. I spoke at the following HOPE as well, but they rejected my talk about “Hacking with Gunpowder” for the recent one. Wonder why…

  3. I’ve noticed this all along. It never really mattered what the bill said, only that it would be universal background checks, and “no one can be against universal background checks. It’s common sense!” But as I’ve said before, the Devil is in the details. We see a lot of that out here on the left coast–bills that someone thinks would be a great idea, but no one bothered to think through. Like banning “military and hollow point bullets,” along with banning all lead based ammo. Or creating a massive bureaucracy to have ammo purchase permits with background checks and reporting of all ammo sales (and no method to pay for it except, of course, to tax the buyers of ammo, and no way to process the mass of useless data generated. It really is sad that the banner sells the bill, no matter what the bill says.

  4. I tried explaining to one of my liberal colleagues, but he kept getting bored as I differentiated between background checks, fingerprinting, concealed carry, “continuous journey” and travel in restricted states, etc. and he is a lawyer with a degree from Georgetown . . . . just sayin.

    • What did you expect from a lawyer? TIME IS MONEY. TIME IS BILLABLE. MONEY IS TIME. DON’T I HAVE TO BE SOMEWHERE?

      “First, we kill all the lawyers” has been a glowing insight for over 300 years.

      • Well, not ALL the lawyers. Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry (and Ralph) come to mind as lawyers friendly to freedom.

        • since I am a lawyer, I appreciate the sentiment. as for the prior comment, in-house lawyers are not on the clock and don’t bill hours. . . . just saying

        • Thank you, Shenandoah, for putting me in such august company. I’m sure that if Jefferson and Henry were here, they’d say the same thing. 🙂

  5. Judge a man by the content of his heart, judge a law by its content of justice. On the finding of malicious material, the former should face justice and the latter be discarded.

    • I’d like to judge by the contents of his heart, but open heart surgery is expensive, and other options tend to make the judgement a moot point.

  6. Thank-you, I’ve noted the same thing, and it’s been a lonely fight. “Yes, yes, yes” I’ll say to the bereaved antis, “you’re for background checks, but was the end worth the means? How could you _not_ be appalled at this bill? You did read it, didn’t you?”

    • The point is not to do something positive, nor is it to do something wrong (major exceptions stand out here); the issue is to JUST DO SOMETHING.
      Anything. It gets them off the hook for the hidden evil.

  7. Nikola Tesla: Mr. Angier, have you considered the cost of such a machine?

    Robert Angier: Price is not an object.

    Nikola Tesla: Perhaps not, but have you considered the *cost*?

    Robert Angier: I’m not sure I follow.

    Nikola Tesla: Go home. Forget this thing. I can recognize an obsession, no good will come of it.

    Robert Angier: Why, haven’t good come of your obsessions?

    Nikola Tesla: Well at first. But I followed them too long. I’m their slave… and one day they’ll choose to destroy me.

    Robert Angier: If you understand an obsession then you know you won’t change my mind.

  8. In counterpoise to your supposition, Nick, I would guess that most severely aggrieved anti-gun partisans express ennui when you go into details for this reason: They basically hope and assume there will buried details noxious to the pro-2A people, and they have no patience for those who consider that a bug, not a feature. And Dirk, it certainly isn’t Georgetown Law’s fault.

    • Just remember Randy Barnett is a Georgetown Law prof. My alma mater is doing some good, even if my former Criminal Law prof wrote a NY Times article advocating that we dump the Constitution a few months ago.

  9. In HS, I got a Canadian nominated for president at our school wide mock convention (nobody knew who he was but they trusted me).
    They were “this close” to nominating Nixon and being a Libertarian, I couldn’t let that happen. McGovern didn’t have a chance.
    I thought adults (congress) would never let stupid stuff like that happen.

  10. Our favorite squirrels were always in our funding planks…

    Out of three pronged funding there would always be either a: Benefit fish fry and rock concerts or b: legalization and monopolization of marijuana industry by the USDA.

    Sometimes, opponents would ignore case-side argument completely.

  11. I came across people who couldn’t understand why I had a problem with the idea of internet sales BGC, even as I explained guns do not get shipped to the purchaser, but to an FFL who would do a BGC on the purchaser. I attempted to explain my discomfort with the wording promising no registry by the Justice Department, in that it should have stated no registry by ANY agency or office of the government, as registration is a forebear to confiscation. The response given me by all was “If they let you buy it, why on earth would they take it away”, not withstanding governments doing precisely this on a state level by enacting new legislation. It is amazing how most people, led by the talking heads in the press, never bother to look into the minutiae of a bill, then bitch when those of us who actually decide to read and understand the bill-have issues with it. As the old saying goes-the devil is in the details. For those who are advocates of gun control, the details do not matter, only the control.

  12. So, why not flip it around? Someone, like the freshman Sen from North Dakota, proposes a bill titled “Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement” Act. After the usual rainbows and unicorn farts, gut the NFA and GCA. Then if gun grabbers vote against it, they look bad. Lately, however, Congress hasn’t shown much interest in actually READING laws they pass (see Affordable Care Act/need to pass it, THEN you can read it).
    In short, pull a Leghorn.

  13. Sounds kinda like what happened to the entire legislature and governor’s office in Arkansas with constitutional carry. 🙂 In this case though, their inattention was a good thing.

  14. Nick, that’s you and a buddy in high school? I thought it was an old picture of Flo & Eddie from The Turtles.

  15. Nick, you should consider running for Congress. A) you could probably
    out debate most of the members and B) after slipping a few gems into
    Federal legislation, you can bet someone will be reading entire bills
    before voting (through probably just the aides).

  16. I think this is why all geekily minded former high school kids of a certain age loved the vulcans, but really just wanted to be klingons.

  17. I’ve heard that drafting legislation is comparable to making sausage.
    I’ll bet this was coined by a Senator who literally, has never made sausage.
    This is how they hide the corruption, and ultimately, the responsibility for
    their vote. They’ll stop for the photo-op regarding the preamble, then act
    like innocent bystanders when the bad parts of the bill(that they slipped in
    there) are finally enacted. Is it any wonder that we got the Obamacare bill?

    “We have to pass the bill, so that you can find out what’s in it.”~Nancy Pelosi

    When the Speaker of the House can say something this patently offensive,
    about a piece of legislation, you can be sure that the corruption in the bill is so great that it has to be buried in fine print just so it passes committee.

    Hey, aren’t these gun-grabbing pols the same hippy generation of the 60’s
    who once warned us that we should never trust anyone over 30? Well….?
    They became the very people they said couldn’t be trusted. I guess it’s hard for them to see the irony, now that they’re drowning in their hypocrisy?
    These are the exact people the Constitution was written to protect us from.

  18. I think he stole that poster from some where else and just edited it. I swear I have seen that poster with different words and instead of the AR it was originally an AK, which would explain the AK mag and flash surpresser as left over from the original image.

  19. Why Gun Control Advocates are So Peeved About the Failed Background Check Amendment?

    Simple, they were beaten at their own game.

    This gun grabbing episode helped me understand how this whole “emotion not logic sales pitch” liberal thought process works, except for one thing:

    Why is it that the Big City liberals want to change the rest of the country? They are still going to live in their big cities, which they already own, and are there very happily living without their constitutional rights and so forth. So what difference would changing the rest of the country make? What’s the big “win” for them that they have to put so much effort into it? I can’t make sense of that just yet.

  20. I’m confused…did Nick say he was a supporter of background checks / prior restraints on constitutionally guaranteed rights?

  21. The people that were supposed to be restricted through background checks, are supposedly primarily those that have mental health problems.

    Does this mean that the gun control legislation would have overridden the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and allowed mental health records to be available without the consent of the patient?

    Does this mean the hundreds of thousands of mental health patients that have been released because of liberal legislation removing their confinement, are now going to have these hard fought rights revoked?

    Does this mean that the BGC, override Obamacare, even though the administration is ordering Doctors to commit a felony by asking?
    From the “Affordable Care Act” ….
    ‘‘(1) WELLNESS AND PREVENTION PROGRAMS.—A wellness and health promotion activity implemented under subsection (a)(1)(D)may not require the disclosure or collection of any information relating to—
    ‘‘(A) the presence or storage of a lawfully-possessed firearm or ammunition in the residence or on the property of an individual; or
    ‘‘(B) the lawful use, possession, or storage of a firearm or ammunition by an individual.
    ‘‘(2) LIMITATION ON DATA COLLECTION.—None of the authorities provided to the Secretary under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or an amendment made by that Act shall be construed to authorize or may be used for the collection of any information relating to—
    ‘‘(A) the lawful ownership or possession of a firearm or ammunition;
    ‘‘(B) the lawful use of a firearm or ammunition; or
    ‘‘(C) the lawful storage of a firearm or ammunition.
    You may verify this at:http://housedocs.house.gov/energycommerce/ppacacon.pdf and http://wizbangblog.com/2013/01/10/obamacare-amendment-does-not-forbid-gun-and-ammo-registration/.

  22. Just got to your editorial,loved it ,also loved my speech class too,good times.The gun control legislation was a piece of flawed work,it did not have the legitimacy to attack the root of the problems at hand.A mental health databank tied to NICS,better prosecutions of criminals using guns in crimes,and school police officers,yeah I know that you got hand wringers that say that they don’t want more guns in schools but in Mississippi we have school police and tese days we don’t have trouble in the schools from even crazies trying to come in and kill the children and teachers.The background system we have now needs up dating,and more personnel to handle the volume of checks,more than 25,000 checks a month,that is a lot of firearms going to the law abiding,glad to see it.Also glad to see Missouri passing 2nd Amendment protections,I wish all the rest of the non-leftist states would pass something like it.Our next battle will be to let ours Senators know that we don’t want them to ratify the U.N. arms treaty,that will be gun registration on a worldwide scale,ya’ll know that confiscation would come right after that,and that would be when the insurrection would start,that is actually brewing now.People all over are talking about it,if DHS has it’s way we will be in another revolution,they already are monopolizing the ammo demand,they want either civil war,or to keep the ammo dried up so we have no way to fight back,when tyranny comes knocking.I don’t practice as much,still shoot good,but am saving what I have in case,not dying a slave,if they come for mine taking some with me.Keep your powder dry.

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