Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has decided to approach the troublesome issue of gun control craftily. Reid said that rather than include all of the pending gun-control legislation in one big package, he plans to break it up and offer the most controversial components of the legislation as stand-alone amendments. His stated purpose for this decision is to avoid having the whole package shut down due to the most objectionable provisions. In reality, the strategy is designed to downplay the extreme proposals and provide cover for senators from pro-rights states by allowing them to vote against the most egregious proposals.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said that Reid told her on Monday he was not going to bring her “assault weapons” ban bill to the floor, but that he would instead allow her to offer it as an amendment to another gun-control bill. Reid said that he would take two votes on Feinstein’s legislation. The first vote would be on the entire bill, which proposes banning future manufacture and sale of most semi-auto rifles along with many pistols and shotguns, and banning the sale of magazines capable of holding over 10 rounds of ammunition. The second vote would be on just the portion of the bill restricting magazines of greater than 10-round capacity.
Expect that both of these amendments will be backed by large quantities of emotional hyperbole about “death-spraying killing machines” and “weapons of war,” along with heart-wrenching references to the atrocities in Newton, Conn., Aurora, Colo., and the attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Neither proposal has much chance of passage in the Senate, and Reid knows it. He also knows that voting for these proposals could seriously hurt some senators’ chances of re-election. That’s why he’s going to “greenlight” a “No” vote from senators representing pro-rights states.
From there Reid will push for passage of Sen. Chuck Schumer’s bill criminalizing private firearm transfers and Sen. Patrick Leahy’s bill increasing penalties for illegally buying and selling firearms. Both of these proposals have been reported in the major media with a pleasant, “common sense” aura about them, but both are seriously flawed, and represent significant threats for gun owners.
Gun owners’ objections to the banning of certain types of guns and ammunition feeding devices are obvious and well-documented. Concerns about “universal background checks” – that is criminalizing private transactions with Schumer’s “universal background check” proposal – are less obvious, but just as onerous. Along with being useless and unworkable as a crime-fighting tool, the Schumer private-sale ban threatens principles of liberty and private property, and it opens the door to greater federal control over a fundamental, enumerated civil right.
Finally, Leahy’s “anti-trafficking” bill cobbles together a new crime, “gun trafficking,” from a collection of activities that are already federal felonies. The bill is so poorly worded and so draconian in its penalties that it invites abuse and has the potential to destroy peoples’ lives over simple paperwork errors and honest mistakes.
All of these proposals are being offered up in response to horrible atrocities. But not one of these bills would have prevented or mitigated any of those tragedies. And all of these proposals create new complications, problems and legal risks to responsible gun owners and dealers who have no criminal intent and who pose no threat to anyone.
Legislation, like litigation, should not be sport. It should not be about winning points and delivering blows. It should be about solving real problems and promoting liberty. But just as our nation’s courts have become adversarial arenas where the objective to win rather than to serve justice, so too the halls of our legislative bodies have become playing fields where winning is everything and party politics and re-election plans are more important than the Constitution or serving the people.
Gun control doesn’t work. No gun-control scheme has ever reduced crime or suicide, but they have often snared unsuspecting innocents who were doing no harm, and they infringe on our fundamental rights.
Senators need to be hearing from constituents now urging them to vote down all of these proposals, and to focus their efforts on ideas that promote liberty, support the Constitution and that actually work to accomplish the stated goals without creating even bigger problems.
Senators’ offices can be reached by calling (202) 224-3121.