I’m back from a short vacation.
NEWS BLOG (WSAU) I listened to President Obama’s address during the Newtown memorial service on Sunday night. I expected him to propose gun control restrictions during the speech. Instead he made the calculation that some groundwork must be laid before the specific proposal come. And come they will. “We need to change” was the operative phrase.
There are many things the President can do by executive order in this area. (And the President believes in muscular, assertive executive power; see the work-permit and non-deportation orders involving illegal immigrants from earlier this year.)
Let’s put all of these upcoming proposals through the following filter: “would this idea have prevented the Newtown school shooting?” I predict for many of the ideas that will come, the answer will be ‘no’.
I can think of some ideas that would have made a difference, but I doubt the President will propose them. Suppose we make a law that says attempting to buy a firearm after knowing that you’re on the non-approved list is a criminal act. Adam Lanza tried to purchase guns five times, and did not pass the instant background check on his first try because of mental-health issues. I propose that his second attempt should have been a knowingly unlawful attempt to buy a firearm, and should have been a felony. Then he’d have been behind bars instead of breaking into a school.
Suppose one of the conditions for getting a firearm license that there are no ineligible-for-guns people living at your address? That would be a change to the law that makes sense. If you have a felon or a mentally unstable person under your roof, you can’t have firearms in your home. That would have kept the gunman’s mother from keeping the murder-weapon in her house.
If you come to the conclusion that these laws are difficult to enforce, I agree. And this shooting is, in part, the result of another law that’s difficult to enforce. Lanza’s mother had a legal obligation to keep her firearms locked and secure in her home. She didn’t. And she paid for it with her life. But how to you assure that firearms are kept in a locked gun closet or safe in a private residence? You can’t.
I’m sure the proposals from Joe Biden’s gun task force focus on the kinds of weapons that people can and can’t own. That’s on the Obama Administration’s wish list. But it’s not where the solution lies. It falls under the heading of not letting a crisis go to waste.
Here’s a challenge for the President and other gun control supporters: propose a re-writing of the second amendment. Put forth language that you think represents the role firearms should play, if any, in modern American culture. If you truly believe the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings were transformative in the gun-control debate, you’ll never have as-good a chance to advance the idea. The political calculations say it would go nowhere. At last that would be an act of political courage.