Quotes of the day

The White House is weighing a far broader and more comprehensive approach to curbing the nation’s gun violence than simply reinstating an expired ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition, according to multiple people involved in the administration’s discussions.

A working group led by Vice President Biden is seriously considering measures backed by key law enforcement leaders that would require universal background checks for firearm buyers, track the movement and sale of weapons through a national database, strengthen mental health checks, and stiffen penalties for carrying guns near schools or giving them to minors, the sources said…

To sell such changes, the White House is developing strategies to work around the National Rifle Association that one source said could include rallying support from Wal-Mart and other gun retailers for measures that would benefit their businesses. White House aides have also been in regular contact with advisers to New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I), an outspoken gun-control advocate who could emerge as a powerful surrogate for the Obama administration’s agenda…

In addition to potential legislative proposals, Biden’s group has expanded its focus to include measures that would not need congressional approval and could be quickly implemented by executive action, according to interest-group leaders who have discussed options with Biden and key Cabinet secretaries. Possibilities include changes to federal mental-health programs and modernization of gun-tracking efforts by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.


The White House and gun control supporters are gearing up for a whirlwind month, with plans to pass reform legislation before outrage over the Sandy Hook massacre has a chance to fade

Boston mayor Thomas Menino, co-chair of Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns, told the Boston Herald this week that an optimistic Biden had assured him that Obama would sign legislation “by the end of January.”

“We had been led to believe their report would come by end of January, but we’re hearing they may want to have something out by January 15, even quicker than expected,” Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, told TPM…

Glaze acknowledged the NRA has long held an advantage not only in its cash resources, but in its large and active grassroots membership, which has rallied in the past to whip members of Congress against gun control bills. For gun control advocates, they’ll have to offer a compelling case that lawmakers who squelch reforms will pay a price in the midterm elections and that means building their own active network of supporters. Glaze is confident they can do so, citing recent polls showing restrictions on extended ammunition clips and an expansion of background checks to be popular nationally.


“It hit me in a way that the others didn’t, and that’s terribly unfair to those other families, but I would not be honest if I said otherwise. This hit me in a way that no other incident has in years,” Casey said in an interview. “I found myself being more emotional about this than virtually anything I’ve ever worked on.”…

Casey’s introspection isn’t a unique tale among normally pro-gun Democrats. Across Capitol Hill, lawmakers ranging from Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia to Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky are acknowledging that the Sandy Hook tragedy has, at least for now, left them open to reconsidering measures they once staunchly opposed

It’s not just congressmen who have reexamined their opinions, according to Rep. Tim Holden of Pennsylvania, a normally pro-gun Democrat whose campaign received a contribution from the NRA’s political arm during the 2012 cycle. “I was just talking to my brother a couple of hours ago, and he’s a much more avid hunter than I am; and he was, like, something’s gotta happen here,” he said.


I recently visited some Latin American countries that mesh with the N.R.A.’s vision of the promised land, where guards with guns grace every office lobby, storefront, A.T.M., restaurant and gas station. It has not made those countries safer or saner.

Despite the ubiquitous presence of “good guys” with guns, countries like Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia and Venezuela have some of the highest homicide rates in the world…

Scientific studies have consistently found that places with more guns have more violent deaths, both homicides and suicides. Women and children are more likely to die if there’s a gun in the house. The more guns in an area, the higher the local suicide rates. “Generally, if you live in a civilized society, more guns mean more death,” said David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. “There is no evidence that having more guns reduces crime. None at all.”


“The argument against gun-safety provisions is always, ‘Because it doesn’t solve everything, we shouldn’t do anything.’ And I don’t subscribe to that,” Van Hollen said. “Just because a particular effort won’t prevent … one particular incident, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything that might help in other incidents.”…

In a heated exchange, Van Hollen challenged Jordan to join him in support of background checks for all gun purchases, not just those conducted by licensed dealers. Jordan declined.

“I support it for concealed carry,” Jordan said.

“No, I’m talking about before you can go out and buy a semi-automatic weapon,” Van Hollen said.

“You have to remember what the Second Amendment says,” Jordan responded. “It’s about freedom.”


Strengthening mental health checks is obviously important, and a national database of gun sales could have some use, particularly for post-shooting investigations, and closing the so-called gun show loophole, as I’ve written before, would at least place a stumbling block before unqualified gun buyers. But unless and until the government comes up with a plan to radically reduce the number of guns in civilian hands (roughly 300 million, and that number is most likely growing at a torrid pace, because discussion of stringent gun control measures sends gun buyers flocking to stores and gun shows), then not too much will change. Which is why I believe law-abiding, screened and trained citizens should be allowed to carry handguns, if they so choose. It’s an unfortunate, but realistic, response (not the only response, of course) to the tragic fact that criminals and the dangerously mentally ill have fairly easy access to weaponry…

The population of concealed-carry permit holders in the U.S. now exceeds 9 million, and this group is responsible for very little crime — they commit crime at a rate lower than the general population, and lower than police officers, and they certainly, as a rule, don’t open fire on anyone who looks threatening. They are not the problem, and concealed-carry generally is not the problem. It may even be part of a solution, until such time as a giant magnet appears over the continental U.S. and sucks into the sky America’s civilian-owned weapons, or until the gun control movement convinces the majority of Americans who believe in private weapons ownership to open a debate about the 2nd Amendment.

In the meantime, I can’t get two Newtown numbers out of my head: 26, the number of people, mainly small children, who were murdered in the school; and 20, the number of minutes it took the police to arrive.


People will tell pollsters that the widespread availability of certain types of weapons makes the nation more dangerous rather than safer, but they don’t support measures to curtail their use. If Newtown hasn’t pushed the numbers much, why not? One plausible explanation is a lack of trust in the people who would be doing the regulating

We are now approaching four years since the U.S. Senate enacted a budget. The last was in April 2009. And bear in mind that federal law requires an annual budget. Imagine the ire of the senators toward a private firm that treated legal requirements so casually.

Amid such ineptitude, “Trust us, we’ll protect you,” isn’t a very persuasive case to make to the tens of millions of Americans who have guns — often very powerful ones — in their homes. And directing fury at gun owners for their lack of trust isn’t likely to increase their faith in government.

As a general proposition, arguments born of emotion are not likely to be well thought out — or to persuade those not already on board. Yet anger has been very much the style of the case for gun control over the past few weeks.


The shooter stole the guns from his mother, who passed a background check (Connecticut has that); the guns, being stolen and used rather than resold, would have been effectively invisible to a hypothetical database; the guns were not in fact owned by a mentally unstable, violent person who used them to murder children (they were stolen by somebody who used them for that); and penalties for possession of firearms around schools or by minors obviously had no effect on the shooter (who was, by the way, a legal adult).

Now, I’m not going to tell you that Nothing Will Ever Pass. Politics doesn’t work like that. What I am saying is that initiatives like this reveal pretty comprehensively that the Democratic party is, at bottom, uncomfortable on an institutional level with the very concept of guns. That this tracks pretty well with the march of the New Left through the Democratic party’s institutions is no accident. In 2013 we are going to see the New Left put lots of pressure on recalcitrant Democratic politicians to renounce their affiliation to the basic civil right of self-defense; and while I do not expect Congress to pass any serious legislation along those lines while the GOP controls the House, we are going to see some notable defections among the Democrats. If Obamacare taught us nothing else, it taught us that a Democratic politician is a Democrat first, a Democrat second – and, say, pro-life a distant third.

So I recommend that nobody trust anybody in the Democratic party to keep from mucking with the Second Amendment. They’re a weak reed that will break in your hand. Simple as that.


Gun control has been a central preoccupation of President Obama’s career ever since his time in the Illinois State Senate (where he famously missed a crucial vote while he was on vacation in Hawaii). During the 2008 campaign, Vice President Biden was dispatched to quell fears of Obama’s agenda on guns: “I guarantee you Barack Obama ain’t taking my shotguns, so don’t buy that malarkey…If he tries to fool with my Beretta, he’s got a problem,” Biden told a Virginia crowd, touting his own gun ownership.

President Obama has also been careful to avoid direct confrontations with those he once referred to as “bitter clingers”–white, working-class, gun-owning, and religious Americans. He voiced open support for gay marriage, for example, only when it had become a sticking point with irked liberal donors in his 2012 presidential campaign.

Now, with re-election out of the way, President Obama has the “flexibility” he boasted of to former Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. And he is prepared to exploit the Sandy Hook killings to the fullest to enact a gun control agenda many decades in the making.


The Californian picked to lead congressional Democrats’ efforts on gun control says the positions held by some gun rights advocates are unnecessarily divisive, and that government action should go beyond simply outlawing certain weapons…

The phrase “gun control,” Thompson said, is not comprehensive enough for the discussion.

“A lot of times when you talk about gun control, you turn off more than half of your audience,” he said in the interview. Possible solutions can include “everything from the background checks to the assault magazines, the assault weapons, the mental health (system) capacities that we have, our culture of violence that seems to be so overwhelming right now.”


Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D, told me this morning on “This Week” that while all options should be on the table to address gun violence, President Obama’s reported plans to curb shootings are ”way in extreme” when I pressed her this morning on the kinds on measures she could potentially support.

“I think you need to put everything on the table, but what I hear from the administration – and if the Washington Post is to be believed – that’s way, way in extreme of what I think is necessary or even should be talked about. And it’s not going to pass,” said Heitkamp, a member of the National Rifle Association.

Heitkamp, who has an “A” rating from the NRA and was elected in a state that Gov. Mitt Romney won by nearly 20 points, stressed the importance of addressing mental health as part of the effort to curb violent shootings.


Asked if there was any new gun legislation he might be willing to approve, Cruz replied, “I don’t think the proposals being discussed now make sense.” Senator Dianne Feinstein, he said, is proposing a national gun owner registry, which he disagrees with. “I don’t think the federal government has any business having a list of law-abiding citizens who choose to exercise their right to keep and bear arms,” Cruz added.

However, he said he would support an improvement in the quality of the federal gun database. He also noted we need “common sense” measures like ensuring criminal conviction barriers and mental health barriers to gun ownership.

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