Monday, March 25, 2013

Flogging Flagrant Firearm Fantasies

Pretty slick, those Republican spokespersons. On ABC's This Week, Peggy Noonan remarked

Here's where I think the problem is, I think Congress is attempting to act in a way that ignores a central fact. The central fact is that nobody in America really trusts Congress. If you're Congress, and you admit nobody really trusts us, then you make simple, discreet, five-page bills, not these big comprehensive things that involve assault weapons, and this and that, and putting it forward and then having everybody, say whoa, I'm not sure I trust you.

The reason Americans don't trust these big bills is because they think so much mischief is hidden inside.

But if you're paying attention- and the former speechwriter for President Reagan banks on people not doing so- you have noticed that the leader of the Senate, a Democrat, decided against including an assault weapons ban in federal gun control legislation.  

That firearms provision would have made a firearms bill more comprehensive, though more likely not to gain passages.    By contrast, on Thursday, the GOP-controlled House voted

... to approve a temporary measure to keep the government funded through the end of September. Government shutdown averted.

But it turns out the continuing resolution didn't just address spending. It contains six measures that limit how federal agencies deal with guns.

These are the first gun-related provisions members of Congress have passed since 20 first-graders were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. And while all of the public discussion is about new gun controls, these so-called policy riders very quietly do the opposite.

"There was very little discussion," says Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky. Rogers is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, which produced the bill that contains these riders. One of them dates back to the mid-1990s; the others have been around for seven or eight years, regularly included in spending bills like this one, without any debate.

"These are not new. These are general provisions that we've carried for a long time," Rogers says.

What is new is that the continuing resolution makes four of these riders permanent.

According to Zach Beauchamp of Think Progress, the riders

1) Limit enforcement tools against crooked dealers. One rider would prevent Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) agents from shutting down gun stores due to “due to a lack of business activity,” arguably a sign of criminal sales.

2) Shield gun dealers who “lose” their guns. This legislation precludes any federal law that requires gun retailers to count their guns and submit the results as a mechanism of determining whether any weapons have been lost or stolen.

3) Interfere with ATF gun trace reports. The ATF is now mandated to include, in any reports concerning its tracing of guns back to crime, that trace data “cannot be used to draw broad conclusions about firearms-related crime.” Academic work on guns has used trace data to firmly establish that several firearm regulations effectively prevent the spread of guns to criminal.

4) Expand the class of protected guns. According to Roll Call‘s John Gramlich, the fourth permanent law would “place a broad definition of antique guns and ammunition that may be imported into the United States.”

Many Democrats, facing a Hobson's choice, voted for the measure.  That included perhaps the House's most aggressive advocate of gun control measures, Carolyn McCarthy of New York, who lamented "What's tough on this particular vote is do we shut the government down?"

But the GOP still aggressively pursues its disinformation campaign. On the same program on which Noonan appeared, the issue of expanded background checks on firearms purchases prompted Karl Rove to claim

Let's be clear about this — this was prompted by the Sandy Hook murders. Those guns were legally purchased with a background check. This would not have solved something like that. Let's be very careful about quickly trampling on the rights of people. And look, you want to get something done?  Then stop scaring people.  Don't say we're going to keep a registry of all of these guns ..

Fortunately there to correct the GOP strategist was ABC's Terry Moran, who responded "Stop scaring people? You're scaring people with this Orwellian sense that black helicopters and the government, if we register guns, they're going to confiscate Americans' guns. That kind of paranoia..." A moment later, Moran confronted Rove with ."Who is going to confiscate all of the guns in America?"
Alas, Moran was not around earlier when Rove falsely claimed "We're talking about, in this instance, having a registry where if a grandfather wants to give a treasured shotgun to his grandson, or granddaughter, he has to register with the government and go and get approval as the government to give that gun to his grandchild."  Section 937 (f) (1) of the Fix Gun Checks Act of 2013 excludes family members.

Accuracy, though, is not an asset but a bug of the Repub campaign against gun safety measures. Rove makes things up to frighten people while Noonan implies that people distrust Congress because it adds provisions to make bills "comprehensive."  Alex Pareene observes

One fun fact about Peggy Noonan is that she always sounds like she is telling small children a story she is making up as she goes along. She is very good at performing “thoughtfulness,” and then saying airy garbage. Noonan said that the president’s poll numbers are “deflating” because “a number of people think the White House is playing games” on the sequester, and “also there is Obamacare.”

But they have in their promotion of a culture of death a powerful ally, one which always has their back.   The anti-law enforcement provisions included in the continuing resolution which funds the federal government through September were heavily promoted by the National Rifle Association, faithfully fulfilling its role as the criminals' lobby in the United States Congress.

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