Our topic today is gun regulation. Come on, stop banging your head against the patio grill. That thing is hot.
Americans really need good news. This time of year, we have to live with a deluge of horror stories about mass shootings, snuffing out the lives of people who were just going about their business when some guy (OK, almost universally a guy) comes along and starts shooting into the crowd.
For example, last week a man wearing body armor and a ski mask walked down a street in Philadelphia, accidentally detonating an assault-style rifle, killing five people.
The alleged shooter, 40-year-old Kimbrady Carriker, had — you may not be surprised by this — a history of acting out and mental disorders. And, of course, several guns.
We cannot constantly observe all the disturbed people in our country. But you’d really think we’d do a better job of keeping them from being armed.
Police believe Carriker’s weapons included what we now call a “ghost gun” – we have a nickname for the little devils. You can build them using kits that are sold online. Who does it, sure, much easier to arm yourself without any authorities noticing. “Yesterday’s gun show is today’s online sale,” John Feinblatt of Everytown for Gun Safety told me.
It’s not as if this is an area in need of more extensive consumer service. Last year Everytown counted and found there were nearly 78,000 licensed gun dealers in the country. Which, the organization noted, amounts to “more than all McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway and Wendy’s locations combined. combined“
This does not include, of course, the very large number of people who buy and sell guns without bothering to obtain licenses. Or by doing the theoretically required background check.
On the bright side, proponents of sensible gun regulations will remind you of the huge victory last summer, when Congress passed a bipartisan bill increasing funding for gun safety programs and tightening a loophole in the law barring spouses with a history of violent behavior from getting guns. Now a similar rule applies to live-in partners who are not married.
Yes, that’s what it’s about – and I swear to you, they had to work like hell to get through it.
Enter the Supreme Court. The judges decided that later this year, they will deal with what is known as the Rahimi case. Zackey Rahimi, a Texas drug dealer with a sensational history of bad behavior, was accused of assaulting his former girlfriend and was under a court order to leave her alone. He was exactly the kind of person Congress had in mind when members passed that law prohibiting people subject to domestic violence protection orders from owning guns.
But Rahimi – taking time out from a busy life on parole in which he opened fire in public five times over two months – appealed. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals sided, bowing to the Second Amendment and ruling that stopping people like Rahimi from owning guns was unconstitutional.
The appeals court did take note that he was “hardly a model citizen”. Who says they ignore the real world?
Next stop, the Supremes, who haven’t been too sympathetic to gun-safety laws lately. Last year, the majority ruled that New York could not limit the types of people allowed to carry a concealed weapon around the city. The New York philosophy was that keeping a weapon for defense in your home was one thing and carrying one outside was another. But the judges apparently felt that if you don’t like the idea of hundreds of people walking around your neighborhood packing heat, you should… stay inside a lot.
What do you think they will do about Rahimi? Agree with the lower court that the founding fathers would have let him keep the gun? Making another scary rule that will give Clarence Thomas a chance to add his own interpretation that is even scarier? Or take the opportunity to reassure the anxious public with a message We’re Weird But Not Crazy?
No reason to be optimistic. But on a happier note, many states have passed or are working on passing or thinking about passing major gun reforms. Ten now largely prohibit assault weapons, those amazing pieces of weaponry that function almost like easy-to-handle machine guns. (In Washington, Joe Biden pushed hard for a federal ban.)
There is also talk in the Senate of passing a safe-storage law that would essentially require people with small children to keep their loaded guns in a place where the children can’t reach them. I know, it doesn’t seem like much of a lift, but you’re still talking about defying the wishes of the gun lobby.
“It’s an uphill battle,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. “This debate has become so polarized, it’s all up.”
However, we are talking about progress! Except…wait. While many states seem to be trying to move toward more gun safety, others seem to be going the other way. Guess where citizens just got permission to carry concealed firearms without a permit?
A) Florida B) Florida C) Florida
Most Americans – a recent Pew poll says 58 percent — thinks we should have stricter gun laws. About two-thirds favor banning super-lethal weapons like assault-style rifles. And 88 percent favor preventing mentally ill people from buying guns.
We’ll stop here, pour a drink and think about the 12 percent who aren’t sure it’s a bad idea to let the mentally ill buy guns.