Congress is Actually Doing Something About Gun Violence For Once
It's getting to the point that you can damn near set your watch by mass shootings in America, and it looks like Democrats in Congress may finally be fed up with it. At the behest of Rep. John Lewis (D. GA), House Democrats are staging a sit in to force their Republican counterparts to vote on gun measures. Not pass them in the Dems favor, but vote on them at all. This is something that Republicans tried to avoid like the plague, but it's becoming harder to overlook the growing pile of bodies that won't shrink by their inaction.
Before we get too far down the rabbit hole here, I think it's important for me to mention that I am an enthusiastic gun owner. I'm sitting two feet away from one right now. So all of my fellow gun owners who may be reading this and screaming “God damn liberal pussies don't even know 'bout guns! These homos don't understand nothin,' by God!” can go ahead and calm down right now. I know your Mema made you an American flag quilt with the Second Amendment stitched on it when you 'was knee-high to a possum,' but hear me out.
The big measure that Congressional Democrats are trying to get a vote on is to keep people on the FBI's terrorist watch list from buying guns. It's fairly easy to understand the big problem with this. It's an idea that circumvents due process. But people on these watch lists aren't allowed to fly, and nobody cares. That's because there is no Constitutional provision that guarantees the right for citizens to take to the skies. This is unsurprising, given the fact that human flight was something that our Founding Fathers could only conceive of as the kind of myth that derives when humans become gods! They had no conception of it. That's why we have amendments. The document was designed to change and grow at the hip of society.
While I don't think that we should get rid of due process under any circumstances, I understand that every bill is a high/low bid during term negotiations. In this case, House Democrats are saying "We need to get rid of due process so we'll be safe!" Republicans counter with "Hell, no! More guns! We propose that gun manufacturers make a gun for kids based off of the safety scissors concept!" "No!" say the Democrats. "But how about if we get rid of really big guns?" Conservatives reply with "Absolutely not! But let's talk about those federal background checks so that you'll shut up." This goes on and on until we get an underwhelming, half-conclusion to a problem. So, it's understandable that the group who proposes a law swings for the fences. You gotta have wiggle room in a negotiation. It's too early to freak out.
But Republicans have no intentions of holding this vote anyway. They've hijacked democracy to such a degree that voting in the House of Representatives is now uncouth. Despite the fact that over 80% of Americans support suspected terrorists not getting guns until they clear their names, and upward of 90% favor federal background checks, Conservatives (who hold the majority in the House) blatantly refuse to even entertain a vote. Hence the sit-in. You can't get 90% of Americans to agree on the color of shit, but we have that kind of crushing majority on gun laws. I never thought I'd see the day.
As a bit of a side note, it's important to recognize just how incredible it is to see these members of Congress sitting on the floor, exercising their right to protest. Congress is a group of people who generally shows it's discontent with government shutdowns. They usually take an obscenely long vacation, then try to dress it in the drag of radical action. This is a wholly different approach. This minority group is refusing to allow any further business to be conducted until the growing pandemic of gun violence in America is addressed. They aren't doing it from their second homes on beaches that we're too poor to know exist. They're doing it from directly inside of the belly of the beast. That's an unprecedented tactic, and should be applauded by any true believer in what the democratic process is supposed to be.
Now, for the measure itself. It's true that there have been people wrongly placed on many different watch lists, and that the people on these lists have yet to be convicted of any crimes. It's unknown the exact number of people for whom this is true, but the highest number I've heard so far is 3%. If this is accurate, then a comparable number of people have been wrongly executed by this very country. More if you include the Salem Witch Trials and The Trail of Tears, but most people don't wanna go back that far. Either way, we seem to turn a blind eye to suspected terrorists having the right to not have hummus sprayed up their asses by the CIA in Guantanamo, but if they're on our soil, we can't infringe on their rights to own guns! Seems a bit hypocritical, really.
The truth is that Congress needs to look very closely at both sides of this coin. If one of the leading pieces of criteria to end up on the terrorist watch list wasn't the obtusely vague term 'reasonable suspicion,' then we could get a little more traction on the issue of not arming people on that list. We'd have a lot more faith that they belonged their if our government was still hungover from the Patriot Act. If actual evidence was needed to be placed on the list in the first place, then due process wouldn't be in significant jeopardy. We have the most vast and sweeping intelligence program in the history of mankind, but we can't seem to get a fucking list right. That seems like a pretty big problem in and of itself.
Let's take a quick look at the other measure that's supported by an unimaginable amount of Americans: Expanded background checks. I have an analogy that I've used many times during the countless gun debates that I've felt require my two-cents over the years. I'll use it again now. When I was about 20 years old, I got a job at Applebee's as a waiter. This cherry gig required me to not only submit to a background check, but to take a personality test to ensure that I wouldn't snap and drown a tween in her fourth order of ranch dressing for her chicken tenders. A few years later, I bought my first gun. No such test was required. They made sure I wasn't a felon or the involuntary alumnus of a mental institution, and then handed me a .40 caliber Smith & Wesson handgun with a 14 round clip. It seems to me that we could integrate part of the Applebee's hiring program into gun sales.
The idea of expanding background checks also helps to close the gun show loophole. This, for the uninitiated, is the legal aperture that allows anyone with an ID to buy any gun that they can afford, free of any further scrutiny, as long as it's at a gun show. It's a similar situation online.
We're all kidding ourselves if we think that there's an easy answer to the problem of gun violence in America. Getting rid of all of the guns isn't even close to possible. There are as many guns as people in this country, and that's just accounting for the ones that we know about. Letting everyone have a gun is as stupid and insane an idea as I've ever heard. There are a lot of people in America who can't even operate a car without smashing it into another car because they don't recognize the enormity of the responsibility, and hardcore Conservatives want them to have a semi-auto, 30 round, killing machine? Get fucking real.
This is not an all or nothing situation. Nuance is required if the bi-weekly mass shootings in the US are going to show any signs of slowing. We need to stop being willy-nilly with placing people on terrorist watch lists, not give guns to people on those lists, require a light personality test along with a federal background check for gun purchases, stop treating guns like they aren't a big deal/responsibility, and not stifle every vote that has to do with guns because Congress doesn't wanna get slapped on the wrist by the big dick of the NRA. It's pretty simple when you give it just a little bit of that critical thinking that the fifth grade taught you.