For decades, American politicians have had a disturbing tendency to make big promises about tackling gun violence in the aftermath of horrific mass shootings and then, as the weeks go by, the headlines wane, and gun lobby bullying increases, lose interest.
You know the mantra: “We’ll keep studying the matter,” they say.
And tragically, the pattern appears to be repeating itself yet again. North Carolina Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, for instance, have won plaudits of late for their work with Democrats on some modest federal gun safety reforms, but as veteran journalist Darrell Ehrlick of the Daily Montanan argues persuasively in an essay published today by Policy Watch, the legislation is pathetically unambitious.
As he explains:
[The legislation] neither obligates the gun industry or the gun lobby to do anything meaningful. And it certain does nothing to curb the explosive expansion and development of different sophisticated weapons of war, nor will it impact what you can buy or gun sales, which have soared in the past decade.
Instead, the new laws will just place more work on the federal government, which will be set up for blame when something doesn’t work perfectly. The NRA and the gun manufacturers should be thrilled: They’re getting legislation that is disguised as action, but I can’t see any reason to believe it will make much difference in situations like Uvalde, Sandy Hook or Buffalo.
Ehrlick allows that the legislation would provide incentives for states to enact “red flag” laws — laws that allow courts to issue directives akin to domestic violence orders that would require individuals found to be dangerous to temporarily surrender their firearms — but as he also notes, there would be no uniformity to the laws or any requirement that they be enacted.
Indeed, here in Tillis and Burr’s home state, their fellow Republicans in the state House have already made it crystal clear they have no intention of allowing consideration of a red flag proposal anytime soon. In an interview with Policy Watch earlier this week, the longtime champion of such a law for North Carolina — Durham County State Representative and former state judge Marcia Morey — reported that she’s already received the message from House Speaker Tim Moore that her bill (which has never even received a hearing over a period of years) will be buried again in 2022.
The bottom line: While any advances — even tiny ones on the margins — are welcome, the supposed progress on tackling gun violence we keep hearing about is beginning to feel like a shell game. North Carolina voters, who overwhelmingly support stronger gun safety laws, must not allow the politicians behind the scam to get away with it.