“God-darned” is his word, not mine. You know I can do better.
Kasich, a former Fox News host and member of Congress, saved his strongest rhetoric for the gun issue. He suggested he would favor expanding background check laws to cover private gun sales; banning so-called bump stocks that make semi-automatic weapons fire bullets faster; and outlawing assault weapons like the AR-15 that was reportedly used in the Florida massacre…
Kasich recounted a conversation he said he had with an unnamed gun collector. “Would you feel as though your Second Amendment rights would be eroded because you couldn’t buy a God-darned AR-15?” Kasich said he asked the man. Parkland suspect Nikolas Cruz is believed to have used an AR-15, a popular semi-automatic rifle used many mass shootings.
A few days ago BuzzFeed reported that he’s looking at 2020 and trying to decide whether to primary Trump as a Republican or to break with the party altogether and run as an independent. I don’t know what he’d accomplish with a primary apart from giving NeverTrumpers a place to park meaningless votes. He’d lose every state to Trump by 60+ points (except Ohio) and would be old news by the time of the general election. If he ran as an independent, he’d be a factor all the way to Election Day. He’d have the center to himself assuming Democrats do what they seem eager to do and nominate someone hard left like Bernie Sanders or Kamala Harris. He could still make his anti-Trump case as an independent while trying to draw off centrist Democrats. He wouldn’t win any states — except, again, possibly Ohio, which could have a momentous impact on the national result — but if he overperforms it might convince members of Congress that there’s more of a demand for centrism than the loudest voices in either party admit. If Kasich’s serious about promoting a “common sense” middle ground in American politics, that would do it.
Cultural hot buttons like guns are an easy way for him to make a splash. Abortion is similar: The left has embraced fanaticism in wanting “choice” to extend to the moment of birth while Republicans in Congress nominally want to outlaw the practice altogether. Polls, though, show voters prefer a compromise in which abortion is legal in the first trimester but very illegal in the third. Kasich could adopt that as his own stance in a presidential run. On guns, he’d oppose left-wing fever dreams about mass confiscation while rejecting right-wing aficionados’ refusal to give an inch on regulation for fear that Democrats will take a mile. Most of the measures he names here — expanded background checks, banning bump stocks — are of that middle-ground variety, uncontroversial outside the activist Republican base. The notable exception is his apparent willingness to ban AR-15s, which puts him squarely on the left’s side of the issue, although maybe that’s strategic. Kasich will need to build some credibility with Democrats if he’s going indie in 2020 after spending decades as a Republican. Telling them that they’re correct in wanting to ban “assault weapons” is a quick way to do it. Just as long as they ignore his actual record.
And maybe an AWB isn’t as divisive anymore as it has been in the past. I’m curious to see the next round of polling after the triple horror of Vegas, Sutherland Springs, and now Parkland. There may not be a majority of Republicans in favor but the minority could be larger than we think. In my very non-scientific observation, there are more conservative pols and commentators chattering about government action to prevent mass shootings in the past few days than there have been in the past, possibly because the victims this time were so young or possibly because the drumbeat of mass murder in the past six months keeps increasing the pressure to try something, anything, to make it stop. Trump himself has reportedly told aides that something must be done. Marco Rubio was on Florida TV yesterday calling the background check system “broken” because it didn’t include information on Nikolas Cruz’s troubled past. David French made a similar point in a piece for NRO in which he endorsed “Gun Violence Restraining Orders,” which a few states have legislated, to give families of potentially dangerous people a way to keep guns out of their hands:
The concept of the GVRO is simple, not substantially different from the restraining orders that are common in family law, and far easier to explain to the public than our nation’s mental-health adjudications. Moreover, the requirement that the order come from people close to the respondent and that they come forward with real evidence (e.g. sworn statements, screenshots of social-media posts, copies of journal entries) minimizes the chance of bad-faith claims.
The great benefit of the GVRO is that it provides citizens with options other than relying on, say, the FBI. As the bureau admitted today, it did not respond appropriately to a timely warning from a “person close to Nikolas Cruz.” According the FBI, that person provided “information about Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.”
A GVRO would work like a TRO. A family member could come to court, show evidence that the defendant is a threat to himself or others, and the defendant would have the right to answer. If the standard of proof is met, that person would be blocked from buying a gun — temporarily. French likes the idea because there’s due process and it empowers family, not the state, to initiate the process to suspend the defendant’s Second Amendment right. I wonder, though, how long that would remain true if the GVRO idea caught on nationwide. Would Nikolas Cruz’s mother have gone to court to stop him from buying a gun? Maybe not. It’s hard to take legal action against a family member, especially one you live with, even if it’s for their own good. Would the local DA have gone to court to stop Cruz from buying a gun, though, after he was expelled, after deputies visited his home nearly 40 times in seven years, and after seeing his various freaky social media posts? Most definitely. The state will want this power. And, since it would involve a judicial proceeding with due process, the public might be willing to give it to them. No guns for you, temporarily, until you can show the local prosecutor that you’re not a sinister weirdo.
Here’s Kasich. Exit question via Ross Douthat: What about age restrictions for purchasing guns? “Let 18-year-olds own hunting rifles. Make revolvers available at 21. Semiautomatic pistols, at 25. And semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 could be sold to 30-year-olds but no one younger.” Mass killers are drawn to the AR-15, it seems, because it resembles a military weapon; they’re on a power trip and a larger gun that lets them roleplay as some twisted idea of a soldier appears to heighten the fantasy. Restrict that weapon to the 30-and-over group and you take it out of the hands of younger, more volatile men who feel less secure about their power than older ones typically do. The problem, of course, is that once you have a law imposing *some* age limit to certain weapons, it becomes very easy for legislators to raise the limit. And when an older man uses an AR-15 to commit mass murder, the argument inevitably will be that the weapon can’t be trusted to adults at all. The deadliest mass shooting in American history, you may recall, was committed by a 64-year-old.