Via Mediaite, even a grandstander as pompous as Morgan knows better than to sneer at a vet the way he routinely does at other gun-rights activists. Boston, the author of the letter read ’round the blogosphere, does well for himself but I always come away from these debates wondering why the two sides end up dancing around crime stats and the minutiae of what makes an assault weapon an assault weapon. That’s fine, but that’s not what’s at the heart of this. The heart of it is that gun owners don’t trust gun-grabbers’ motives. Right? It’s nothing as grandiose (to me, at least) as fearing that the government’s going to enact martial law or something. It’s the belief that, despite their professions of “reasonable” regulation, people like Morgan or Joe Biden would keep pushing until they’d banned private ownership of firearms completely if they could. (Morgan might admit as much, Biden wouldn’t.) The failure of their own policies practically compels them to do that: Columbine took place during the last assault-weapons ban, but supposedly that just proves that the ban wasn’t strict enough so we need to make it more onerous this time. There’ll be more mass shootings even if a new ban is enacted, and those will be cited as proof that the new ban needs to be stricter still. Realistically, there’s no scenario where they decide that they’ve gone far enough. Once you’ve reached that point, where you can’t trust your opponent to volunteer and abide by a limit to his own regulatory ambition, what’s left to debate? Where good faith is lacking, there’s nothing to discuss.
Having said all that, I do think Weigel’s right that people are overreacting to the prospect of The One issuing some sort of executive order on guns. For one thing, it’d be uncharacteristic of him to risk his own political capital by acting unilaterally on something as controversial as that. He wants Congress to take the lead on this (as usual) so that he bears as little responsibility as possible if it fails or even if it succeeds and there’s a major backlash. He may issue an order but it’ll deal with marginal stuff. If he did issue one that was more ambitious, there’d be so much outcry and so many lawsuits that his second term would be tangled up in this for months or years. And he doesn’t want that. When push comes to shove, I don’t think he cares much about guns. He’d be happy to ban them, I’m sure, but my sense is that it’s not the sort of thing that drives him. What drives him is the “fairness” that comes with raising taxes by four or five percent on rich people and then doing jack about entitlements while the treasury slowly melts down from unfunded obligations. That’s the sort of thing of which great presidential legacies are made.