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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

D.C. Massacre Shows Need for Background Checks, Assault Weapons Ban

As a result of the horrific massacre in Washington, D.C.’s Navy Yard, the NRA and its political minions have suddenly eased off gloating about the Colorado vote in which a very small minority of eligible voters recalled two supporters of gun control from the state senate.
The massacre, in which a man who had a history of disturbing incidents with guns reportedly killed 12 people and wounded at least 8 others with an AR-15 assault weapon, a semi-automatic pistol and another unspecified gun, has evoked new calls for gun control. Senator Diane Feinstein’s statement on the massacre got straight to the point:

There are reports the killer was armed with an AR-15, a shotgun and a semiautomatic pistol when he stormed an American military installation in the nation’s capital and took at least 12 innocent lives…This is one more event to add to the litany of massacres that occur when a deranged person or grievance killer is able to obtain multiple weapons-including a military-style assault rifle-and kill many people in a short amount of time.
“When will enough be enough?
“Congress must stop shirking its responsibility and resume a thoughtful debate on gun violence in this country. We must do more to stop this endless loss of life.”

Senator Jay Rockefeller echoed the call: “We are becoming far too familiar with senseless, tragic violence. This is the seventh shooting since 2009, and these repeated incidents demand our attention.”
The NRA declined comment on Monday. Later on, they are expected to regurgitate the “a good guy with a gun is the only way to stop a bad/crazy guy with a gun” and “the real issue here is weak national security” memes. With respect to their argument that not much can be done about people with psychological derangement getting guns, however, Eugene Robinson responds in his WaPo column:

Opponents of gun control argue that, instead of infringing Second Amendment rights, we should focus on the fact that most, if not all, of these mass shooters are psychologically disturbed. But many of the officials who take this view are simultaneously trying their best to repeal Obamacare, which will provide access to mental health services to millions of Americans who are now uninsured.

Earlier this year legislation to curb gun violence, including mental health reforms and bills to provide stronger background checks and restrict high-capacity gun magazines failed in congress shortly after the Newtown, Connecticut elementary school massacre. In response, Vice President Biden announced that the Administration is taking executive action, which does not require congressional consent: As CNN’s Adam Aigner-Treworgy reports:

The first action closes a loophole that could allow individuals prohibited from purchasing certain restricted weapons to do so legally by registering them under the name of a trust or corporation. Calling this “an easy way to evade the required background checks,” Biden said this new proposed rule, issued by ATF, would require individuals attempting to register firearms under a trust or corporation to be subject to the same background checks as individual gun purchasers…”Last year alone there were 39,000 requests for transfer of these restricted firearms to trusts or to corporations,” Biden said.
The second action addresses U.S. military firearms sold or transferred to foreign allies. Currently the government must approve any re-importation of these weapons back to the United States, but the rule announced Thursday would deny nearly all such requests. The vice president said that since 2005, the government has approved the transfer of more than 250,000 of these firearms.
“We’re ending the practice of allowing countries to send back to the United States these military weapons to private entities,” Biden said. “Period. Period. The new policy’s going to help keep military-grade firearms off our streets.”

The reforms are welcome, but are small-scale in a nation that has more guns than people. Thus the Vice President emphasized that legislative reforms remain the “best way to reduce gun violence.”
“If Congress won’t act, we’ll fight for a new congress,” Biden said. “It’s that simple.” That’s the unavoidable challenge advocates of a sane firearms policy must accept to put an end to the NRA’s political bullying.

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