This comes as no surprise to anyone who is aware of her virulent attack on gun ownership over the decades.
It’s a recycling of her efforts in the past, listing features that she regards as icky—threaded barrels, magazines that require her to take off her shoes to count the number of rounds held, and on and on—and listing by name the firearms that she wants to be explicitly forbidden and the firearms that she’s gracious enough to let us keep buying and selling for the time being.
Predictably, law enforcement officers are exempted [only ones], including those who have “retired in good standing.” Facilities under the authority of the Atomic Energy Commission would also be allowed to have such weapons. But ordinary Americans would not be able to acquire a new one legally or transfer the ones that they legally own at present to anyone who isn’t licensed to have them.
As I said, all of that is nothing new. She knows that it would be impossible to round up millions of guns by force, so she isn’t going to insist that we turn ours in—though she includes a program funded by Byrne grants to buy these weapons from their owners.
However, there is one line added to the title that is new: “to ensure that the right to keep and bear arms is not unlimited.”
She is, of course, quoting Antonin Scalia’s comments in the Heller decision here, but the attitude displayed is worth critiquing.
I understand that in society, some things cannot be permitted. When the light turns red, I have to stop to allow other to go through the intersection.
I used to believe that I’m not allowed to spill toxic chemicals on the land of others, though I don’t own the Keystone pipeline. The general principle is that we don’t get to bumble around causing harm at will.
But we should always be cautious and never gleeful about restricting the private behavior of citizens. This is especially the case when we’re asking good people to give up their rights because of what bad people have done. Feinstein might have said that the goal is to prevent mass shootings or to reduce violence. What she chose is instead a rare exercise in honesty—she just wants to restrict rights.
Lest anyone think that she is alone in this, the bill has numerous co-sponsors. And regarding the general idea of preventing as many people as possible from legally owning firearms, a state representative in Massachusetts, Marjorie Decker, declared in a Public Safety Committee hearing on the state’s gun laws that “it is a privilege that we allow individuals to hold onto something that causes harm and death. It is a privilege to have a car license; it is a privilege to have a gun license.”
Are we supposed to feel gratitude toward such politicians who will condescend to allow some of us to own a list of approved guns? The gun control freaks would likely say yes. Nothing in what they declare or propose comes as a revelation at this point. The question that I have is where are the Republicans? That party has been in control of Congress and the White House since the start of the year. The Supreme Court in Heller and McDonald—even with Scalia's musings—provided a solid basis for action. And while advocates for gun control tend to be Democrats, there are enough members of that party who are in purple states or districts to make overcoming a filibuster possible.
And yet, suppressors are still heavily restricted. Carry licenses are still burdened by the whims of reciprocity agreements. Importation of guns is again caught in a web of requirements to demonstrate a “sporting purpose.” Add whatever infringement on gun rights is of particular interest to you. But what are our elected representatives waiting for?
The answer is that they’re waiting on their jobs being at stake. Their donors can afford to pay security companies to protect them and can, shall we say, persuade law enforcement to authorize them to possess whatever they want. If the rest of us want our government to be responsive to us, we have to make it clear that our votes depend on our rights being respected.
About Greg Camp
Greg Camp has taught English composition and literature since 1998 and is the author of six books, including a western, The Willing Spirit, and Each One, Teach One, with Ranjit Singh on gun politics in America. His books can be found on Amazon. He tweets @gregcampnc.