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Republicans Just Don’t Get It on Gun Control

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Because of the horrific nature of the shooting last year at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut — a shooting in which 26 people were shot dead (most of them children) — the subject of gun control has been in the news ever since like never before.

It was preceded by the deadly shootings at a theater in Aurora, Colorado; at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin; near the Empire State Building in New York City; in a high-school cafeteria in Chardon, Ohio; and at a college in Oakland, California — all in 2012.

The high-profile shooting cases before them that are still talked about are the Virginia Tech massacre of 2007, in which a gunman killed 32 people before killing himself (the deadliest shooting rampage in American history); the attempted assassination in Arizona in 2011 of U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, in which six people were killed and thirteen others were wounded; and the Columbine High School shooting in 1999.

Liberals, predictably, call for more draconian gun laws every time there is a mass shooting — as if gunmen who are planning to commit mass murder will be deterred by fear of violating federal gun laws.

Liberals have always believed in gun prohibition, but they can generally push the issue only after a high-profile shooting incident. Many of them — including many Democrats in Congress — would like to limit gun ownership to the military, federal law enforcement, and the local police. It’s just not politically expedient for them to introduce more gun-control legislation until they are able to exploit a tragedy such as the Sandy Hook shooting.

But it’s not just Democrats in Congress who periodically seek such legislation; Republicans sometimes join them.

Introduced in the U.S. Senate on April 11 by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) for himself and co-sponsors Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.), and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) was the “Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act of 2013,” an amendment (S.AMDT.715) to the “Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013 (S.649), which was introduced by Sen. Harry Reid on March 21. Sixteen Republicans joined Senate Democrats on April 11 on a motion to proceed with the bill.

Manchin and Kirk are freshmen senators. Schumer is well known as a strong gun-control proponent. Toomey is celebrated as one of the “conservative” Republicans in the Senate. He contributed a chapter introduction to Sen. Jim DeMint’s book, Now or Never: Saving America from Economic Collapse (Center Street, 2012), in which he argued that “we need to obey the Constitution again and get back to the spirit of our Founders.”

According to a Toomey press release, the three parts of the amendment can be summarized as:

Summary of Title I: This section improves background checks for firearms by strengthening the instant check system.

Summary of Title II: This section of the bill requires background checks for sales at gun shows and online while securing certain aspects of Second Amendment rights for law-abiding citizens.

Summary of Title III: This section of the bill creates a commission to study the causes of mass violence in the United States, looking at all aspects of the problem, including guns, school safety, mental health, and violent media or video games.

A companion bill was introduced in the U.S. House on April 16 by Reps. Peter King (R-N.Y.) and Mike Thompson (D-Calif). It was referred to the House Judiciary and Veterans’ Affairs Committees.

On April 17, the Manchin-Toomey amendment failed to gain the 60 votes needed to pass in the Senate. Six other amendments to Reid’s bill likewise failed on the same date, some of which were also supported by Republicans. Two additional amendments passed on April 18, both with overwhelming Republican support.

Naturally, liberal groups such as Michael Bloomberg’s Independence USA and Gabby Giffords’s Americans for Responsible Solutions support universal background checks. But also expressing support for the Manchin-Toomey background check amendment was the Independent Firearms Owners Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the National Shooting and Sports Foundation. The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (the nation’s second-largest gun-rights group after the NRA) initially supported the amendment, but then withdrew its support at the last minute.

Many Republican senators thought the Machin-Toomey proposal went too far — such as Sen. Tom Coburn, who introduced his own amendment on April 17.

But just as they miss the point on tax cuts, Republicans just don’t get it on gun control.

Even self-proclaimed Second Amendment defenders such as Senator Coburn support the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) that was mandated by the Brady Bill of 1993 and launched by the FBI in 1998. His amendment to Senator Reid’s bill would make all potential gun purchasers who do not have a concealed-carry permit obtain a 30-day permit through a consumer portal to the NICS when wanting to purchase a firearm in a secondary market such as a gun show or on the Internet.

But since when does the Constitution authorize the federal government to have a background-check system? Since when does the Constitution authorize the federal government to have Federal Firearms Licensees (FFL)? Since when does the Constitution authorize the federal government to have a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)? Since when does the Constitution authorize the federal government to prevent anyone from buying a gun? Since when does the Constitution authorize the federal government to ban certain types of guns, ammunition, or magazines? Since when does the Constitution authorize the federal government to prevent gun violence? Since when does the Constitution authorize the federal government to make any gun laws at all?

The Constitution authorizes none of those things. And just in case there was any doubt, there is the Second Amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” What part of “shall not be infringed” do Republicans not understand? The Second Amendment knows no exceptions.

The stated purpose of the Manchin-Toomey amendment was to “protect Second Amendment rights, ensure that all individuals who should be prohibited from buying a firearm are listed in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and provide a responsible and consistent background check process.” But how does one protect Second Amendment rights and at the same prohibit people from buying guns?

Clearly, neither the Constitution as originally written nor the Second Amendment has prevented the federal government from infringing gun rights and enacting any gun-control law it chooses to. Republicans and “constitutional conservatives” have even gone along with decades of federal gun-control legislation that make a mockery of the Second Amendment.

The terrible truth that only libertarians seem to recognize is that even if an elementary-school shooting, a high-school shooting, a theater shooting, a temple shooting, a college shooting, and a sidewalk shooting occurred every day, the federal government would still not have the authority to pass gun-control legislation of any kind.

Federal gun-control laws don’t need to be reformed; they need to be repealed.

The problem when someone decides to commit mass murder is a religious, ethical, moral, psychological, or physiological one; mass murder does not happen because of the availability of any particular type of gun, magazine, or ammunition or lack of a waiting period or background check.

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