This happens to be the question which at the moment appears to be driving the 2020 campaign. Even the noisemakers who are promoting Trump seem to think that he can only help himself renew the lease at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue if he comes out with a legislative package that will at least appear to contain some kind of gun-control ideas.
Now it comes as no surprise that The [failing] New York Times is urging passage of a gun-control bill. Big frickin’ deal (to quote Trump’s use of a time-honored expletive right out of any barroom in Queens.) But when The New York Post runs a lead editorial which tells Trump to make gun control Priority Number One, that’s not just a horse of a different color, it’s a different animal altogether and shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.
The last time I looked, the two ideas which appear to have the best chance of winding up on the President’s desk are a ‘red flag’ law, which just about everyone seems to feel will make some bit of difference to controlling the carnage even though no doubt there will be the usual whining about giving the courts the ability to ‘steamroll’ the Bill of Rights.
The other band-aid to be put on the gun problem will probably be what is referred to as ‘universal background checks,’ which means more work for the FBI-NICS examiners in West Virginia, more complaining by the ATF about how they don’t have the resources to go after everyone who fails a background check now, never mind the many millions of people who will fail the check when every gun transfer has to first be approved.
Both of these bills, however, will help satisfy what has always been the guiding narrative of the gun-control movement, namely, keeping guns out of the ‘wrong hands.’ Now many of these ‘wrong hands’ belong to individuals who couldn’t pass a background check if their lives depended on it. Other ‘wrong hands’ are connected to the arms of people who wake up one morning and go wandering around town with an AR-15, telling everyone they bump into that last night the Martians really did land at Area 51. The latter bunch will be hauled into some courtroom and learn that in the interests of both public and personal safety, a red flag is waving and they can go home without their gun.
With all due respect to my friends in both the Gun-nut and Gun-control Nations who are considering whether to support these ideas, I just want to point out a little problem with this approach. According to the FBI, somewhere around 40% of all gun homicides are committed by individuals who can’t have legal access to a handgun of any kind for the simple reason that they have not yet attained the age of 21. Buy an AR? Yep. Buy a Glock? Federal law says no siree.
When Marvin Wolfgang studied homicides in Philadelphia committed in Philadelphia between 1948 and 1952, it turned out that roughly 20% of nearly 600 murders were committed by individuals under age 25. And only one-third of them ended someone else’s life by using a gun. Now we have a younger population doing more of the murders each year and two-thirds commit these fatal assaults by using a gun.
I’m not against either comprehensive background checks or red flags, not one bit. I just hope everyone realizes that the problems that may be solved by these laws are jjust the beginning of ending gun violence, not the end.