It was the Republicans who turned guns into politics

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore.

The fact that it is legal for a teenager to buy two assault rifles and 375 rounds including at least seven 30-round magazines just after turning 18, with no waiting period, is not the result of a “failure” to pass gun control legislation. It’s not because the legislation is “stalled” in Congress.

It’s the direct result of decades of Republican filibuster.

And it’s not the Democrats who are making this a political issue. The urgent and desperate need to reduce the overabundance of arms in this country is a matter of fundamental humanity. It was the Republicans who made it political.

Political reporters who write that Congress is stalled and there is nothing to be done about it are glossing over — arguably even covering up — the inexcusably barbaric bargain the GOP has made to stay in power.

It has become political orthodoxy for Republicans to oppose virtually any type of gun control, not for any logical or defensible reason, but in order to keep the NRA and single-issue voters on their side.

Journalists who ask if Democrats can win on gun control this time — and predict they won’t — are missing the point. What this country needs is not for the Democrats to triumph over the Republicans on this issue. It’s for politics to be cast aside in the name of the little boys and girls of Uvalde, and Newtown, and whatever town comes next.

The need for new restrictions on the sale and possession of firearms is the ultimate evidence. The United States is a shameful and ridiculous outlier here. A number of common-sense provisions enjoy the support of a majority or even a super-majority of American voters: requiring background checks for all arms sales (92%); enact a 30-day waiting period for all gun sales (75%); requiring all firearms owned by individuals to be registered with the police (70%); raise the legal age to purchase firearms from 18 to 21 (68%); ban high-capacity magazines (65%); banning assault rifles (63%).

The problem is the Republican Party. The battle lines are as clear as it gets to anyone paying attention.

And yet journalists like Ashley Parker, Tyler Pager and Colby Itkowitz write articles with misleading titles like this: “From Sandy Hook to Buffalo and Uvalde: Ten Years of Failing Gun Control.”

The caption and text continued to blame, of all, President Biden – for trying but failing:

During the nearly decade-long period between Sandy Hook, Buffalo, and Uvalde, congressional efforts to significantly change gun policies have repeatedly failed, though lawmakers have occasionally resumed discussions on gun control following particularly heartbreaking tragedies. And Biden has played a pivotal role in many of those failed efforts, first as vice president under Barack Obama and now as president.

The authors also refer pejoratively to Biden’s praise for the 1994 assault weapons ban:

Biden frequently touts his role in passing an assault weapons ban in 1994 – but that bill included a 10-year “twilight” clause, meaning the law automatically expired in 2004 after Congress did not renew it.

This bill passed the Senate with a vote of 95 to 4 in 1993. Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan wrote a letter asking for its passage. In 2004, with Republicans in control of both chambers, renewal couldn’t even get out of committee.

In a bitter irony, the Post story was actually published on May 22, an earlier mass shooting, and was updated with a few words here and there.

Finally, in the second half of the 13and paragraph, the real antagonist has been introduced, with specious and unrefuted excuses:

Most Republicans remain opposed to any proposed changes, arguing that new restrictions would have little impact on the frequency of mass shootings and infringe on Americans’ constitutional right to bear arms.

(The story also violates the Post’s rules on anonymous sourcing — “We should not publish ad hominem quotes from anonymous sources. Sources who want to shoot someone should do so on their own behalf” — quoting “a former Democratic Senate aide, speaking on condition of anonymity to share a candid opinion,” belittling Biden’s work trying to pass a soft bill when he was vice president.)

Another Post story, by Colby Itkowitz, Marianna Sotomayor and Mike DeBonis, framed the issue in purely partisan terms — “After Uvalde, angry Democrats attack GOP over resistance to gun laws” — although the main paragraph gave a hint of the real problem:

Senator Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat who once organized a 3-hour filibuster in the Senate over the need for tougher gun laws in the United States, returned there Tuesday night to implore his colleagues to find a way to put politics aside and work together to stop the carnage of the mass shootings.

To put politics aside. The article continued:

“What do we do?” Murphy said, his voice rising. “Why are we here if not to try to get fewer schools and fewer communities to go through what Sandy Hook went through, what Uvalde goes through. … I am here on this floor to beg, to literally get down on all fours and beg my colleagues: find a way forward here. Work with us to find a way to pass laws that make this less likely.

Why are the journalists here? The Post wasn’t alone in missing the point.

The Associated Press has published a moving article by Susan Haigh and Lisa Mascaro on “an eviscerated Senator Chris Murphy”. But they wrote that he “demanded that lawmakers do what they failed to do after 20 children, mostly ages 6 or 7, and six educators in Newtown, Connecticut died on the 14th December 2012”.

Whose failure would it be? “Congress has been unable to pass substantive gun violence legislation since the collapse of a bipartisan Senate effort in the wake of this massacre,” they wrote. So, Congress.

And they put what should have been in their first paragraph in the eighth instead:

Although Democratic President Joe Biden’s party has little control of Congress, the gun violence bills have stalled over Republican opposition in the Senate.

CNN’s news analysis was titled “Gun Legislation Stalled in Congress. Here’s why that won’t change any time soon.

Jonathan Weisman, one of the two world-class sides of the New York Times, framed the case as a purely partisan dispute, in which Democrats mistakenly see an opportunity:

Just under a decade after the Senate’s failure to respond to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, Democrats are once again trying to turn outrage over child gun deaths into action to combat gun violence in America.

But with most Republicans opposed and an even more conservative Senate than the one that has obstructed bipartisan legislation to toughen background checks on gun buyers, the odds seemed long.

He failed to point out how unfounded and inappropriate the GOP position is. But you know he knows. Consider his tone in this paragraph:

The vast majority of Republicans have strongly opposed any substantial measure to limit access to guns or regulate them more strictly, basing their position on the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. There is no indication that the murdered children of Uvalde, Texas will shake that position.

The Times’ world-weariness was also on full display in this offer full of amorphous indignation from Thomas Fuller:

Misery mounts, and yet nothing changes, leaving Americans with nothing more to do than keep lists, mental spreadsheets about death that treat events like Uvalde as just another morbid tally with superlatives like ” second deadliest elementary school shooting.

But the conspicuous culprit was barely mentioned. And Fuller wrote that “states like Texas have gone ahead with some of the least restrictive gun laws in the United States.” But states don’t pass laws — in Texas, Republicans do.

The utterly unprecedented nature of Biden’s remarks on Tuesday night was all but lost in the overwhelming torrent of coverage. Unlike Barack Obama, who never dared to blame opponents of gun control after mass shootings, Biden lashed out not just with sadness but also with anger:

As a nation, we must ask ourselves: When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When in the name of God will we do what we all know we must do?

And he posed a particular question that journalists should ask and think about too:

Why are we willing to live with this carnage?

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