AOC: Expanding background checks to include juvenile records in the Senate gun bill might be racist

AP Photo/Alastair Grant

Nothing in the world would be funnier than progressives tanking the first Senate gun-control bill in 30 years on “something something white supremacy” grounds.

It’s unimaginable that Democrats would gift-wrap a talking point for the GOP by killing gun legislation that has bipartisan support in the Senate but AOC’s concerns here highlight a tension on the left about guns. On the one hand, they want more laws to limit Americans’ access to firearms. On the other hand, they want fewer cops and an end to “the carceral state.” If you want guns off the street but you also want to defund the police, how do you prioritize between those two?

I have no idea where that leaves her in terms of policy preferences. We want to make sure that under-21s can’t buy guns if they committed crimes before they turned 18, but if a disproportionate number of black kids have juvenile records relative to whites, then we should … let them buy guns? We want more funding for mental health so that troubled kids have a way to get help before they do something violent, but … we shouldn’t fund mental health clinics or else we’re whitewashing misogyny and white supremacy?

“If we’re talking about just using this as an excuse to dramatically increase an enforcement mechanism that we know is not capable, right now, of preventing mass shootings, then I’m not really interested in doing something for show for the American public,” said Ocasio-Cortez of the Senate bill this past weekend. If Democrats got their fondest wish and somehow managed to pass a new assault-weapons ban tomorrow, how would they propose we enforce that without increasing police resources?

I don’t know what AOC’s recommending in her argle-bargle to Eric Garcia beyond simply evincing conscientiousness about progressive social-justice hobbyhorses. Notably, when fellow Squad member Ilhan Omar was asked about the bill, her response was more coherent and consistent. We don’t want kids, especially violent kids, getting hold of guns, right? Well, including juvenile records in the background-check database helps with that.

“I don’t think so, because the criminal background check is about preventing them from obtaining weapons,” Omar said in response to concerns about criminalization. “And we certainly do not want weapons in the hands of juveniles to begin with, and we certainly don’t want them in the hands of someone who’s exhibiting criminality.”

When Politico’s Jordain Carney (a friend of your reporter) asked about the spending for student resource officers, Omar said: “We will see what the legislation actually says, right, with the language.”

My guess is that the bill passes the House with a handful of Democratic no votes, AOC probably among them. Remember when Pelosi mocked her and the Squad for valuing their progressive “purity” over meaningful compromise? This is what she was talking about.

But in fairness to Ocasio-Cortez, she’s not the only Dem who reportedly thinks the Senate bill goes too far in certain respects. Amid lefty jitters that Senate Republicans will get cold feet and bail out of the deal before it can pass, some are worried that it does too much:

For now, senior Dems think progressives will ultimately back a bipartisan deal if it does pass the Senate. Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), for instance, said she imagined she would back a Senate-passed gun bill but stopped short of full-throated support until she saw the details.

“I just want to make sure we’re not putting more guns on the street or, you know, into the hands of people in schools. … I hope they don’t put things in there that would force people to vote against it,” she said…

House progressives are particularly concerned about school security funding: While many of the conversations have been about “hardening” schools with locks and gates, Democrats are worried that it could also mean paying for more cops in schools. That could be a nonstarter for the Congressional Black Caucus, as well as some progressives.

No armed teachers, no militarized schools. That’s the line House Dems seem to be drawing. But that makes me think back to last year’s Build Back Better fiasco, when House progressives refused to move forward on the bipartisan infrastructure bill for months in the mistaken belief that they could exert some leverage over Joe Manchin on BBB by doing so. They couldn’t. The Senate’s razor-thin margins meant Manchin had a de facto veto over the package and, as a senator from a deep-red state, he had no reason not to exercise that veto if he didn’t get his way. In the case of the Senate gun bill, the margin probably isn’t razor thin *if* the House approves the Senate bill as-is. For instance, Punchbowl believes that Mitch McConnell is likely to support it.

But any alterations by the House to the bill that comes out of the Senate will risk spooking Senate Republicans and killing the compromise. It doesn’t matter how anodyne Pelosi’s changes are; the mere fact that her fingerprints are on a compromise bill will create intense pressure from the Republican base to oppose it. It’s one thing to back a deal negotiated by John Cornyn, it’s another to back one rewritten by Nancy Pelosi to advance her sinister gun-grabbing agenda.

So Pelosi and AOC are probably going to have to accept that the Senate bill is a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. And if they leave it, they’ll have a hard time explaining to their own base why they, not the Republicans, felt obliged to kill gun-control legislation.

Here’s Tucker Carlson trying to get a grassroots backlash going by criticizing red-flag laws, which are realistically the only legal mechanism that might keep guns out of the hands of some dangerous people. If he thinks RFLs will end due process, I have bad news for him: By that logic, due process already ended decades ago when courts began granting TROs against people engaged in threats and harassment.