- I think now would be a good time to reflect on the irony of House Republicans pushing for something called Plan B.
Even more ironic that they couldn’t get it up to vote for it.
“One irony of the pernicious taboo on “politicizing” a tragedy is that in some especially thorny areas of policy—like, for instance, gun control—it is only a tragedy that can summon the political momentum for change. The original Gun Control Act passed in October 1968, following the demoralizing assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. The Brady Act owes its existence to the unsuccessful attempt on the life of Ronald Reagan.
But by 2011, when Gabrielle Giffords narrowly survived a bullet in the head, the dynamic of the debate had changed. “After the Giffords shooting, I thought something would happen with gun control,” a recently retired official from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms told me last summer. But nothing did. “Apparently, a member of Congress doesn’t count,” he said. “So now I’m wondering, what exactly does it take? Another Presidential assassination?”
What does it take? If a congresswoman in a coma isn’t sufficient grounds to reëvaluate the role that firearms play in our national life, is a schoolhouse full of dead children? I desperately want to believe that it is, and yet I’m not sure that I do. By this time next week, most of the people who are, today, signing petitions and demanding gun control will have moved on to other things. If you want to understand why the gun debate can occasionally feel rigged, this is the answer: the issue is characterized by a conspicuous asymmetry of fervor. The N.R.A. has only four million members—a number that is probably dwarfed by the segment of the U.S. population that feels uneasy about the unbridled proliferation of firearms. But the pro-gun constituency is ardent and organized, while the gun control crowd is diffuse and easily distracted. […]
[T]here are a number of important legislative adjustments that could be enacted now, which would likely have a dramatic impact on public safety in this country. One obvious change would be to mandate a criminal background check for all gun purchases. Under the Brady Act, federally licensed gun retailers are required to do a background check before selling a customer a firearm. But an estimated forty per cent of gun sales today are “private” sales not involving a licensed dealer: these transactions take place at gun shows, in parking lots, and increasingly, on the Internet. (One site, gunbroker.com, reported two billion dollars in sales this year.) Private sales do not require a background check, and because there is no mechanism for the A.T.F. to collect or maintain records on these sales, they are virtually untraceable. There are bills pending on Capitol Hill that would force checks for all sales, and there is considerable bipartisan support for this kind of measure. According to some recent polling conducted by Frank Luntz, seventy-four per cent of N.R.A. members and eighty-seven per cent of non-N.R.A. gun owners support requiring criminal background checks for anyone purchasing a gun.
Another fix would be to ban high-capacity magazines. It’s not clear yet whether the Connecticut shooter used a jumbo magazine, but given the body count, and the fact that at least some of the victims were reportedly shot multiple times, it seems quite like likely that he did. High-capacity magazines were a feature in the Giffords shooting, at Virginia Tech, and at Fort Hood. The gunman in Aurora was able to shoot seventy people in under two minutes because his AR-15 had a one-hundred-round drum. An outright ban would provoke significant political opposition, and raise questions about what to do with large magazines already in circulation. But with his extraordinary rhetorical powers, Obama should surely be able to articulate that the only non-military context in which a high-capacity magazine proves decisively useful for the shooter is one in which you are trying to mow down as many civilians as possible before you get killed by a SWAT team.”