ruling is a watershed win for good men and women all across America and is the
result of a decades-long fight the NRA has led.” This was the official
statement from long time NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre. He was so happy he couldn’t see
straight after the SCOTUS in a sweeping decision on gun restrictions in New
York virtually knocked out any controls on guns.
is the same LaPierre who did one of the greatest political tightrope acts in
history following the Uvalde, Texas school massacre in May. He condemned the killing
without once mentioning the word “gun” let alone “control.” LaPierre also wasn’t
shaken by the tepid, modest, and virtually toothless congressional gun control bill
finally Congress passed after decades of resistance. The SCOTUS decision pretty
much rendered the congressional action meaningless.
same could hardly be said about the continuing gun carnage in America that La
Pierre and the gun lobbies see, hear, and speak no evil about. At the start of
June, the country had wracked up 246 mass shootings. This was a record pace.
Massacres were getting so routine and commonplace, that there was a real danger
that they’d no longer make the news.
one meaningful piece of gun restrictive legislation that did any good was the
1994 assault weapons ban passed during the Clinton administration. It had a ten-year
shelf life. To no surprise, it was not renewed in 2004. The NRA and the gun
lobbies hated every moment of time that it was on the books. They worked overtime
to make sure that when it came up for renewal it was dead in the water.
The assumption is that the NRA and the gun lobby
are so all-powerful, and financially well-heeled, that they can beat back any
congressional move to impose tougher restrictions on gun access. It certainly has
done an expert job for decades at doing that. The NRA, for instance, did not
issue an official statement on the Sandy Hook school massacre in 2012 that
claimed the lives of twenty-six school children. It has been virtually mum on
the many massacres in the decade after Sandy Hook.
The NRA’s money, political influence, and the
saber rattle of gun control opponents were only part of the reason that tougher
gun control laws, no matter how many heartbreaking massacres occurred, always
faced a tough fight. It harked back to what then President Obama said about the
country’s gun tradition and history after his many attempts to prod Congress to
act on gun control. That is gun ownership is a fact of American life and a
rigidly protected constitutional right.
In the White House Obama simply followed the
precedent of nearly all presidents and that was to leave tougher restrictions
on gun sales and trafficking to the states. Some states did pass laws that
banned assault guns and high-capacity ammunition magazines, limited the number
of gun sales, required child safety locks on new guns, and outlawed the sale of
The huge drawback to the state-by-state gun
action is that it does not significantly limit the massive trafficking in guns
across state lines. It also doesn’t begin to address the question of how to
identify and then prevent the legions of human ticking time bombs that do not
have a criminal record and appear to be normal functioning individuals from
legally purchasing and even stockpiling weapons, which includes weapons of mass
destruction. Only Congress can pass a uniform federal standard to restrict the
manufacture, sale, and transport of guns.
This is where the fight begins and unfortunately
has through the years quickly ended. Congress was virtually mute on any gun
curbs in the years since the expiration of the assault ban. This did not mean
that gun control bills weren’t written and introduced. They were in every congressional
session. But not one piece of gun control legislation made it to the House
floor. In almost all cases, none of the proposed gun control curbs even made it
out of a House committee.
Gun control curbs were not dead in the water in
perpetuity in Congress. Following the Robb school massacre and the murder by a
white supremacist of ten Blacks in a Buffalo supermarket in May 2022, gun
control was back on the congressional table. Biden and the Democrats had been
lobbying for months before the massacres for a tough new gun control law. They
as usual got nowhere. But now with a freshly aroused public outcry after the
Texas massacre, there was some movement.
A handful of Republicans agreed to consider
proposed legislation. The most significant required stringent background checks
and an intensive review of juvenile and mental health records on sales to those
under age twenty-one. Even with this the ancient problem remains. The proposed
law does not ban outright the sale of assault weapons to young people. Nor does
it ban the sale of these weapons to anyone. The loopholes skirting even this
law are still wide open.
If the GOP and more than a few Democrats have
their way that’s not likely to change. The result: America will still resemble
more a gunfight at the OK Corral with more massacres and with the human pain
and suffering they bring being the order of the day.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His
forthcoming book is. The Midterms: Why They are so Important and so Ignored
(Middle Passage Press) He is the host of the weekly The Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Show 9:00 to 10:00 AM on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network. His
political affairs commentaries can be found weekly on thehutchinsonreport.net