May 19, 2024


IMMEDIATE RELEASE 26 March 2021WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUNDToday’s Events in Historical PerspectiveAmerica’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932Legislative insanityBy Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift          WASHINGTON — In America, one person, the majority leader of the Senate, can stop legislation from coming to the Senate floor for a vote, and 41 out of 100 senators can defeat legislation through the filibuster. For these reasons, assault weapons still proliferate among the civilian population. For these reasons, assault weapons remain the weapons of choice for mass murderers. This is legislative insanity.          But there is no legitimate reason for anyone outside of the military or law enforcement to have an AR-15-type weapon. It is a combat weapon that became the basis for the M16 carried by U.S. troops in Vietnam. Its sole purpose is to kill many people quickly.          After a 21-year-old shooter, described by his brother as mentally ill entered a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado, and killed 10 people with an AR-15, including the patrolman who was first on the scene, there should be no debate about these weapons. They should be banned, President Biden said in his address to the nation.          Biden called on the Senate to act, but it’s unlikely that 10 Republicans would join all 50 Democrats to reach the required 60 votes to break the expected filibuster. And not all Democrats are certain to support a ban. In 2013, after the Sandy Hook massacre took the lives of 20 first-graders and 6 teachers, !5 Democrats and 1 Independent joined all but one Republican to oppose an assault weapons ban.          Democrats also helped kill a bipartisan bill to expand background checks authored by Democrat Joe Manchin, W.Va., and Republican Pat Toomey, Pa. Four Democrats from red states voted against the bill presumably with their reelection in mind. Three of the four were defeated the next time they faced the voters, and one resigned, mindful of likely defeat. If they had voted for the bill, they might have lost anyway, but they would have been on the courageous side of history.          Unfortunately, when it comes to guns, it doesn’t matter what politicians know or what they might earnestly believe, it’s what they think they need to do for reelection.          Toomey says the bill he co-sponsored with Manchin is not a panacea, but it would make it harder for people who are mentally ill or have criminal intent to get a gun. The public favors universal background checks by a wide margin and pollsters refer to it as “low-hanging fruit,” ready for eager politicians to seize the opportunity.          An assault weapons ban is more perilous. First enacted in 1994, President Clinton blamed the loss for Democrats of the House and Senate on the Brady Bill, which banned handguns, and on the assault weapons ban. After ten years, when the ban expired in 2004, President George W. Bush let it lapse. He did say if Congress passed an extension, he would sign it. Congress did nothing.          We are in a different place in 2021. There’s a Democrat in the White House and Democrats control the House and the Senate. Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, who pleaded for action after Sandy Hook, which took place in his state, says there are enough Republicans who don’t want to be stuck with their pro-gun stance for the next decade that if legislation were narrowly written, there could be 60 votes for common-sense restrictions.          For the last five years, Republican leader Mitch McConnell, Ky, has refused to bring gun legislation to the Senate floor for a vote. He didn’t want to put Republicans on the spot voting against gun restrictions broadly favored by voters. Now Democrats are in charge and they can force votes to make Republicans uncomfortable, maybe even shame them into reporting what in their heart of hearts they must know should be done to protect more families from going through the horror of mass gun violence.          The days are over when one man – McConnell – could stymie votes on legislation the public is demanding, and that Democrats were elected to produce. Some states are adopting the Madisonian concept that if enough lawmakers demand a vote, partisan leaders cannot stand in their way.          If the federal government won’t act, states and localities will. Three years ago, after the shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, the city of Boulder enacted bans on assault-style weapons and large-capacity magazines. Tragically, just days before the shooting at the grocery store, a state district court judge ruled that the city could not enforce the bans.                    Douglas Cohn’s latest books are World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers) and The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency.          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn          © 2021 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.          END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND


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