Why The Gun Bill Deserved To Lose, and Why We Should All Be Glad It Did

A bad day for Machiavelli is a good day for America.

A bad day for Machiavelli is a good day for America.

Consequentialism rules supreme in Washington, D.C.; that is the tragedy of our political system. If unethical conduct is perceived as having a positive outcome, few in D.C. will continue to condemn the means whereby those beneficial and lauded were achieved. Worse, the results will be seen as validating the tactics, moving them from the category of ethically objectionable into standard practice, and for both political parties

Thus we should all reluctantly cheer the likely demise of the Senate’s gun control bill yesterday. The compromise background check provision that failed wasn’t perfect, but it would have been an improvement over the current system. Nevertheless, the post-Sandy Hook tactics of gun control advocates, including the President and most of the media, have been so misleading, cynical, manipulative and offensive that their tactics needed to be discouraged by the only thing that has real influence in the nation’s Capital: embarrassing failure.

The tainted enterprise begins with the fact that it should not have been a priority at this time at all. Newtown did not signal a crisis; it was one event, and that particular bloody horse had left the barn. The supposedly urgent need to “prevent more Sandy Hooks” was imaginary, but it apparently served the President’s purpose of distracting attention from more genuinely pressing matters, notably the stalled employment situation and the need to find common ground with Republican on deficit and debt reduction. Meanwhile, the conditions in Syria have been deteriorating and North Korea is threatening nuclear war: why, at this time, was the President of the United states acting as if gun control was at the top of his agenda? It was irresponsible, placing political grandstanding above governing. In this context, Obama’s angry words yesterday about the bill’s defeat being caused by “politics” were stunningly hypocritical. The whole effort by his party was about nothing other than politics.

Then we have the President’s own flawed leadership style, which, typically, caused him to support the bill by making public speeches and denigrating the bill’s opponents, rather than doing the hard, presidential work of horse-trading and persuasion. With the budget and immigration reform on the table, seldom has any President had more bargaining chips to work with, but this President disdains bargaining. Indeed, his rhetoric about gun control, which included the suggestion that most Republican don’t care about whether children are shot or not, made his much-ballyhooed “charm offensive” ridiculous. It’s not charming to  make nice with adversaries over lunch and then publicly accuse them of heartlessness. But that’s Obama.

On other fronts, the gun control push was, if anything, even more objectionable:

  • Measures that had nothing to do with how Adam Lanza armed himself were continually hyped as necessary to “save our children,” by politicians, celebrities, talking heads and columnists. The appeals were aimed at emotion, not fact, reason or rationality, and designed to exploit grief and horror to rush through whatever legislation could be passed on a wave of sentiment.
  • Children, the Sandy Hook parents and gun victims like Gabriella Giffords were endlessly exploited and used as props, with Democrats reasoning that sobbing testimony is more valuable than informative testimony. Yes, parents who have lost children to a madman’s gunfire hate guns. So would I under those circumstances, which disqualifies such victims as helpful or analytical resources on the issue. Instead, cynically, they were made the centerpiece of public hearings, even to the extreme of having a brain-damaged ex-Congresswoman shakily mouth programmed testimony that amounted to nothing more illuminating than “guns hurt people.”  All of this was shameless, and it never stopped: even yesterday, Democrats packed the Senate gallery with families of the Newton, Aurora and Tuscon shootings.
  • The push for gun control tightening was advanced with a reckless disregard for facts, and with no interest at all in genuine public education. Charlie Rangel said that “millions” children were dying from assault weapon fire, an epic exaggeration that, if it was a slip of the tongue, was never corrected. The President wrongly attributed Newtown to a “fully-automatic” weapon, which was false. As The Washington Post pointed out twice, he insisted on using misleading and outdated data, representing it as accurate. Blogger Rick Jones, who comments here, took to his Facebook page to highlight an anti-gun ad trumpeting that PolitiFact’s determination that during the post- Newtown debate, the pro-gun side lied more often than the anti-gun side. Rick reasonably asked why either side should be lying at all.

The Politifact stats are fascinating. Compiling the statements it examined and its assessment of truthfulness, the Tampa Bay Times’ fact-checking site produced this chart:

Chart

Given the fact that PolitiFact’s choice of statements to check was selective and incomplete (Rangel’s whopper was not included, for example),  the chart’s lumping lies about trivia with lies regarding core issues, and the fact, denied by partisans, but pretty much undeniable, that PolitiFact has a well-documented leftward bias and habitually finds conservative lies more troubling than progressive ones, this chart is not something gun control advocates should be citing with pride. As the side that is advocating change, it has the burden of proof and persuasion: that even by this friendly and sympathetic arbiter’s lights the gun-control forces have told the complete truth less than 20% of the time is damning. “Yes, we lie, but the other side lies worse” is hardly an incentive to trust.

  • Gun-control advocates consistently demonstrated their ignorance of guns, and worse, didn’t seem to think it mattered. Even the House sponsor of that body’s gun control bill, Rep. DeGette,  showed that she didn’t comprehend how semi-automatic weapons work and what the purpose of her own bill’s ban on “high-capacity magazines” was.
  • The anti-gun advocates, including Vice-President Biden, Senator Feinstein and NY Governor Cuomo among others, repeatedly argued in terms of government control of personal choice, telling law-abiding gun-owners that they didn’t “need” powerful weapons to protect themselves. This is offensive and government overreach, as playwright David Mamet memorably asserted in an essay. His message: don’t tell me what I need to keep my family safe. This is the creeping autocracy that has infected the Democrats, and they should be wary of its real and sinister message: if the government can tell you what protection you need, it will soon be telling you how much money you deserve to make, how big a house you can have, and what kind of car to drive.
  • The anti-gun forces, including President Obama, repeatedly resorted to vilification of its opposition. Celebrities like Jim Carrey and media figure like Piers Morgan and the MSNBC mob carried this campaign of denigration and disrespect to offensive extremes, which were projected on their elected allies in Washington.
  • Perhaps most disturbing of all, the political forces for gun regulation encouraged the news media to abandon its ethical duty of objective reporting to assume the role of  a government propaganda arm, and to a great extent, the news media complied. This has long-term consequences, dire ones, for our liberty and system of government, and is, in my view, the single greatest reason we should rejoice that the bill failed.

I should be clear that none of these factors  had much to do with the failure of the gun control efforts. In all likelihood, they were doomed from the start. The GOP controlled House was unlikely to allow any  bill to go forward, and too many elected officials in both parties allow themselves to be, in essence, bribed by the NRA. (I must add, however, that the high-dudgeon protests about NRA influence from non-NRA supported Democrats is risible, given their own eager acceptance of similar enticements from teachers, unions, trial lawyers and others.)

Still, the high-profile failure of incompetent, dishonest and manipulative tactics can’t hurt, and maybe, just maybe, the next attempt at sensible gun regulations will be more professionally and honorably managed. In Washington, D.C. ethics, this qualifies as progress.

______________________________________
Sources: PolitiFact, Fox News, Politico

27 thoughts on “Why The Gun Bill Deserved To Lose, and Why We Should All Be Glad It Did

  1. “Nevertheless, the post-Sandy Hook tactics of gun control advocates, including the President and most of the media, have been so misleading, cynical, manipulative and offensive that their tactics needed to be discouraged by the only thing that has real influence in the nation’s Capital: embarrassing failure.”
    *****************************
    Absolutely agree.

        • Here in Colorado – we recently passed quite a few “gun-control” laws. I’m actually fighting the capacity-limit on magazines measure through citizen initiative.

          But to your question – what are worthy? In my opinion – I’m fine with closing the Gun Show loophole. Colorado as a state closed that loophole after Columbine and it’s not terribly restrictive. If you buy on the premises of a gun show, it’s just like you went to a permanent shop and you have a background check.

          Where Colorado has now, perhaps, overreached is that we now require any private transfer of firearm to have a background check with limited exceptions for immediate family members. A background check must be done through an FFL and that 3rd party FFL must maintain the paperwork. It may cost the 3rd party FFL up to $50 to be involved in this process but they can only charge as much as $10 or $12. So – few if any will participate and the citizens may not be able to conduct private sales.

          • Thanks Tim. I know that discussions of the measures you mention, and other measures, typically move very quickly into raging debate about issues of (to name a few) tolerable government intrusiveness, risks to/of liberty, risks of unethical if not illegal discrimination, and consensus on thresholds of what are reasonable expectations of personal responsibility and accountability.

            To me, the risks that go hand-in-hand with the privilege of owning or operating a gun – if I can use the term “privilege” and not be automatically branded a “rights-stomper,” “gun-grabber,” “police-statist” or “2nd Amendment-killer” – are similar enough to the risks that go with the privilege of operating a motor vehicle, that similar modes of regulation are worth considering. For example: I don’t want abusers of drugs or alcohol to have driver’s licenses (or even so much as to be able to get into a driver’s seat), any more than I want such persons to have access to guns. Because I support such privilege-limitation, I ponder and debate (with myself, mostly) the merits of mandating “consent to search” – that is, drug testing, but not only that – as part of ethical processes of authorizing, and re-authorizing, gun access and vehicle-operation access.

            I admit that I did not read the bill that the Senate rejected. I can only speculate in good faith that the bill contained some well-intentioned government intrusions related to preventing gun access by persons of dubious capacity to own and operate guns responsibly. I worry that a “healthy baby,” or a least, a salvageable, “viable” and ultimately “wanted” baby, was aborted.

            The legal purchase of the gun by former astronaut Kelly, husband of former Congress member and shooting victim Giffords, might have been dismissed widely as a cheap stunt for supporting passage of more gun controls. But honestly, Kelly’s action got me to thinking till my head hurt. Do we let one spouse protect another (plus self, possibly) by allowing immediate access to firearms, when one is under mortal threat (or already proven to have been a target of such a threat)? Or do we impose a waiting period or somesuch, with the aim of ensuring that a victim’s spouse is not feeling compelled to take vengeance or go on some other, new shooting spree?

            Okay, I probably got off-track a little there. And maybe I am even further off the track of discussing ethics, and getting more into the realm of politics. Waiting periods for gun access might not be sufficiently relatable to, say, age- or maturity-based restrictions on vehicle-operation access. I just am uncomfortable with the current state of gun access (and vehicle-operation access), and I want ethical conduct to reign amidst any and all efforts to alter that state. It seems that as long as we are admitting arguments about, for example, how the 2nd Amendment helps to preserve the 1st Amendment, perhaps we are not arguing enough about how to weigh (for example) the 4th and 5th Amendments, insofar as they relate to and intersect with the exercise of the first two Amendments’ promised/“guaranteed” fundamental rights.

          • Where Colorado has now, perhaps, overreached is that we now require any private transfer of firearm to have a background check with limited exceptions for immediate family members. A background check must be done through an FFL and that 3rd party FFL must maintain the paperwork. It may cost the 3rd party FFL up to $50 to be involved in this process but they can only charge as much as $10 or $12. So – few if any will participate and the citizens may not be able to conduct private sales.

            During the debate over the validity of voter ID laws, some have claimed that voter ID laws are bad because they disproportionately affect the poor.

            Does not this same logic apply to background checks?

  2. Maybe once the politicians have dealt with unemployment, the deficit, the debt, social security, North Korea, Syria, Israel, and Palestine, they can deal with young, male, paranoid schizophreniacs being unmedicated, and loose on the streets as a result of the efforts of advocates for the rights of the mentally ill. Query: Do young, male, paranoid schizophreniacs constitute a reliable, voting element of the Democratic “base.”

  3. A friend brought up that in a situation like this that President Obam once again showed his lack of leadership ability and in the same situation a statesman lik LBJ would have gotten this passed easily. I added that not only would he have gotten this bill passed easily, he would have gotten the NRA behind it and convinced them it was their idea.

      • Good ol LBJ…we can thank him for making me a Republican. During his gun control “leadership” it was easy to pass as the horrific events like both Kennedys, MLK, etc were evil deeds that forced the entire American population on their knees. It was a different society. The Vietnam War was raging, our soldiers were being spit on, the hippies invading Washington. So come on, we cannot use the word “leadership” or the lack of per Obama in this last mess. Totally different situations. The people now tell the NRA not the other way around. It is after-all a membership based organization that does not see the color of one’s skin but the overall belief that the common goal is the 2nd. And just when has Obama been a leader? Let’s see how he “leads” with the new Secretary of Defense & the Syria/Jordan issues.

        • Sorry but there is great deal of support in this country for universal background checks, I’m not saying that position is right or wrong just that there is a great deal of support for it. In that situation LBJ , no matter if you like his politics or not, was a master at getting legislation passed and of playing the political machine to get what he wanted. He threatened , he seduced he compromised. Obama has no idea how to do that. None.

        • And worse, the blame lies with him, 100%, as Bill I points out. If he really wanted this and was willing to go the distance, it was doable. As usual, it’s someone else’s fault. Has there been a 20th Century President less skilled in the essentials of effective leadership and so arrogant about it?? It’s between Carter, Harding and O, and I’m not at all sure that he doesn’t belong in last place

          • How could it have been “doable”? The data and facts were false. We have a criminal background system in place now. During Obama’s time there have been less than 100 mentally defectives that have been prosecuted under the law. Yet there are thousands waiting court for out standing offenses. It is my understanding that my local county DA is using my county tax dollars in battling felony cases because the feds refuse to do so. This bill failed simply due to the majority of the American people who either sent a letter/fax/email/phone calls to their elected rep. These senators voted “no” due to those who elected them told them you better vote “no”. And that is their job. I have already told President Obama why this American did not agree with the gun control package. However, the bill that Cruz/Grassley was favored. Narcissistic personalities always hit the wrong blame button, which Obama does… consistently.

            • All true. But, as usual, if Obama knew a thing about legitimate political negotiation and compromise, he could have had something passed that would have been worth passing, just not something that would make his gun-phobic, gun-hating, gun-ignorant base happy. Instead he denigrates half the country. I can’t remember any President going on that kind of rant because he didn’t get what he wanted. Weak, divisive, petty.

  4. Just so everyone is aware, the “gun show loophole” is not a loophole at all, but deliberate compromise language of the 1993 Brady law. The NRA and their supporters rejected the idea that all gun sales should be subject to background checks, instant or otherwise, but accepted the proposal that all federally licensed gun sellers must perform the checks. That remains true whether they sell at a gun show or not, and most gun show sellers are federally licensed dealers, which brings us to the reality that most gun show sales are probably subjected to checks, anyway.

    Also, for the record, the “loopholes” proposed in the just defeated law would have exempted sales and gifts between family members among a very few others.

    Today’s carve-out is tomorrow’s loophole. The characterization of gun shows as “loophole” in the law is ethics-challenged to begin with, and just another car in this train wreck. If this isn’t one of the most pure examples of the “slippery slope” argument at work, I don’t know a better one. The NRA and those sympathetic to it decided, quite reasonably, that this was little more than an attempt to go where they refused to go in 1993.

    There are all kinds of statistics, but the best ones available suggest that only about 4% of all gun sales actually take place at gun shows. I think that number is probably low, but given that a much greater number of guns are transferred through private transactions such as inheritance and gifts from family that this compromise legislation carved out — for now. Is there any real reason to doubt these would be the subject of the next legislation had this one been enacted into law?

    The point is this: The exemption of gun shows was NOT a loophole, it was a deliberate, negotiated carve-out from the Brady bill. This bill would have, by percentage, left intact most of those carve-outs, although it would have captured Internet sales, which are doubtless significant and virtually non-existent in the days of Brady’s passage.

    Perhaps the rational thing to have done was simply to place Internet sales under the Brady law, and stopped there. I suspect, but do not know, that would have plugged a much larger ACTUAL loophole (i.e. a genuine ambiguity) that was not foreseen by the original legislation. I also suspect, but do not know, that the sale of that concept to senators beholden to the NRA would have been much harder to reject, even if the NRA would probably have opposed that as well.

  5. Rather than trying to plug loopholes, we could actually try to enforce the laws we have now. Once our government figures out how to do THAT, then we can talk about new restrictions. California has gotten a lot of press recently for trying to take the guns away from people who have lost the right to possess them (felons, the extremely mentally ill, etc) because most states don’t. Their coverage has made it clear why California is broke, however. They send a heavily armed SWAT team to each house to recover the firearms they know (by records) are there. This is extremely expensive, Why they don’t just require the people’s relatives to turn in the firearms before they can be released (or get a warrant to seize the firearm before they are released) is beyond me. I guess that wouldn’t garner them much additional federal funding.

    If we aren’t enforcing the firearms restrictions we have now, we shouldn’t be passing more.

    • So imperfect enforcement of a state law should preclude us from passing a federal law?

      Aside from allowing the perfect to become the enemy of the good, aren’t we conflating two distinct and separate authorities to justify inaction?

      I sympathize with your position, but find it unconvincing in this case. The federal authorities seem to be enforcing gun laws, so your reasoning wouldn’t seem to apply to them.

      Now, if you made this argument about immigration, I might have been writing in agreement.

  6. “The Politifact stats are fascinating.”

    Most of the criticism of PolitiFact I’ve read here are excellent, but the critique accompanying the quote above somewhat misses the mark. It is the second chart, comparing pro-gun claims to the other side that should tug our eyebrows skyward, though both charts rely on selected stats (and will therefore likely suffer a contamination from selection bias).

    And this is PolitiFact’s notably outrageous claim: “Our analysis shows that some types of gun claims get higher ratings than others.”

    The “analysis” is a joke, It’s a fraud to pass off analysis of a sample contaminated by selection bias as an objective finding, unless of course one takes the step of nothing that the conclusion applies only to the biased sample (rendering it effectively moot to the issue as it stands in the real world).

    I’ll bet you meant to use the second chart as your illustration?

    • I’m not sure what your objection is, Bryan. I guess I wasn’t clear–the chart is indeed BS, but it still doesn’t show any statistically meaningful discrepancy between pro-gun and anti-gun misrepresentations…plus that’s AFTER the usual Politifact slant. And the stats only included the claims that PolitiFact chose to cover, which makes that stats worthless anyway, AND it doesn’t distinguish between the materially it of the lies. NO Lie is close to as absurd as Rangel’s “millions of children,” or the claim that the proposed gun regulations have children’s safety at their core.

      My point was that this chart was actually being cited by gun-control advocates, which is the height of desperation and nonsense. The second chart wasn’t thus cited, but it’s garbage too.

  7. Jack,

    I haven’t noticed anyone referencing the chart you reproduced to show a discrepancy between pro-gun and anti-gun representations. If that’s your context then you have a great point (it’s insane to use a chart that doesn’t compare pro-gun and anti-gun claims to compare pro-gun and anti-gun claims). I was unable to discern that context in your post, which did mention use of the PF article (not the first chart in particular) to compare the two types of claims (the claims compared on the second BS chart).

    It makes very slightly more sense for gun control zealots to cite the second chart, though ultimately it makes no sense because of the noted lack of a control for selection bias.

    To my eye, the chart you reproduced does not match the argument from Rick Jones (“the pro-gun side lied more often than the anti-gun side”). If Rick posted that same chart with his argument then double shame on him (for the bad argument plus the wrong chart). 🙂

    • I was unfair to Rick by not being clearer. He featured the anti-gun ad, but his comment was ironic, in the same lines as mine: since when is lying slightly less than the other guy something to boast about (if that is even the case), and shouldn’t the debate be held using truthful statements?

      • “shouldn’t the debate be held using truthful statements?”

        Yes! And statements that would possess relevance if true.

        I have no objection to what you’ve written other than I’ve had trouble figuring out precisely what it means. It seemed to me to give a pass to the part of the PolitiFact story most likely to mislead people. But now I see you were working it from a different angle (one where it would help a great deal if I had read what Rick wrote). Cheers, and carry on.

  8. Pingback: Letter To The Editor Nails It | My Underwood Typewriter

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