It’s the Republicans who have turned guns into a political issue
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore.

The fact that it’s legal for a teenager to buy two assault rifles and 375 rounds of ammunition including at least seven 30-round magazines just after he turns 18, with no waiting period, is not the result of a “failure” to pass gun control legislation. It’s not because legislation is “stalled” in Congress.

It’s the direct result of decades of Republican obstruction.

And it’s not the Democrats who are making this a political issue. The urgent, desperate need to reduce the glut of guns in this country is a matter of basic humanity. It’s the Republicans who have made it political.

Political reporters who write that Congress is gridlocked and there’s nothing to be done about it are glossing over – arguably even covering up  – the inexcusably barbaric bargain the GOP has made to maintain power.

It has become political orthodoxy for Republicans to oppose virtually any kind of gun control whatsoever, not for any logical or defensible reason, but in order to keep the NRA and single-issue voters on their side.

Reporters who ask if Democrats can win on gun control this time – and predict they won’t  – are missing the point. What this country needs is not for Democrats to triumph over Republicans on this issue. It’s for politics to be put aside in the name of the little boys and girls of Uvalde, and Newtown, and whichever town is next.

The need for further restrictions on the sale and possession of guns is the ultimate no-brainer. The U.S. is a shameful and ridiculous outlier here. Any number of commonsensical provisions enjoy the support of a majority or even supermajority of American voters: Requiring background checks for all gun sales (92 percent); enacting a 30-day waiting period for all gun sales (75 percent); requiring all privately-owned guns to be registered with the police (70 percent); raising the legal age for buying firearms from 18 to 21 (68 percent); banning high-capacity magazines (65 percent); banning assault rifles (63 percent).

The problem is the Republican Party. The battle lines are clear as could be to anyone paying attention.

And yet reporters like Ashley Parker, Tyler Pager and Colby Itkowitz write stories with misconceived headlines like this: “From Sandy Hook to Buffalo and Uvalde: Ten years of failure on gun control.”

The subhead and text went on to blame, of all people, President Biden — for trying but failing:

In the nearly decade-long stretch between Sandy Hook and Buffalo and Uvalde, congressional efforts to change gun policies in any significant way have repeatedly failed, despite lawmakers occasionally commencing gun-control discussions anew in the wake of particularly harrowing gun tragedies. And Biden has played a central role in many of those unsuccessful efforts, first as vice president under Barack Obama and now as president.

The authors also derogatorily refer to Biden’s praise for the 1994 assault weapons ban:

Biden frequently touts his role in passing a 1994 assault weapons ban — but that bill included a 10-year “sunset” clause, meaning the law automatically expired in 2004 after Congress did not renew it.

That bill passed in the Senate with a vote of 95-4 in 1993. Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan wrote a letter urging its passage. In 2004, with Republicans in control of both houses, the renewal couldn’t even get out of committee.

In a bitter irony, the Post story was actually published on May 22, one mass shooting earlier, and was updated with a few words here and there.

Finally, in the second half of the 13th paragraph, the actual antagonist was introduced, complete with specious and unrebutted excuses:

Most Republicans remain opposed to any proposed changes, arguing that new restrictions would have little impact on the frequency of mass shootings and would impinge on Americans’ constitutional right to bear arms.

(The story also violates the Post’s rules on anonymous sourcing – “We should not publish ad hominem quotations from unnamed sources. Sources who want to take a shot at someone should do so in their own names” – by quoting “a former Democratic Senate aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity to share a candid opinion” belittling Biden’s work trying to get a meek bill passed when he was vice president.)

Another Post story, by Colby Itkowitz, Marianna Sotomayor and Mike DeBonis, cast the issue in purely partisan terms – “After Uvalde, angry Democrats assail GOP over resistance to gun laws” — although the lead paragraph offered a hint of the real problem:

Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut who once held a 15-hour filibuster on the Senate floor on the need for stricter gun laws in the United States, returned there Tuesday night to plead with his colleagues to find a way to put politics aside and work together to stop the carnage of mass shootings.

To put politics aside. The article continued:

“What are we doing?” Murphy said, his voice raised. “Why are we here if not to try and make sure fewer schools and few communities go through what Sandy Hook has gone through, what Uvalde is going through. … I am here on this floor to beg, to literally get down on my hands and knees and beg my colleagues: Find a path forward here. Work with us to find a way to pass laws that make this less likely.”

Why are reporters here? The Post was hardly alone in missing the point.

The Associated Press ran moving story by Susan Haigh and Lisa Mascaro about “a gutted Sen. Chris Murphy”.  But they wrote that he “demanded that lawmakers accomplish what they failed to do after 20 children, mostly 6 or 7 years old, and six educators in Newtown, Connecticut died on Dec. 14, 2012.”

Whose failure would that be? “Congress has been unable to pass substantial gun violence legislation since the collapse of a bipartisan Senate effort in the aftermath of that massacre,” they wrote. So, Congress.

And they put what should have been in their first paragraph in the eighth instead:

Though the party of Democratic President Joe Biden has slim control of Congress, bills on gun violence have been stymied in the face of Republican opposition in the Senate.

CNN’s news analysis was headlined “Gun legislation is stalled in Congress. Here’s why that won’t change anytime soon.”

Jonathan Weisman, one of the New York Times’s world-class bothsidesers, cast the matter as a purely partisan dispute, in which Democrats are wrongly seeing an opportunity:

Just shy of a decade after the Senate’s failure to respond to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Democrats are once again trying to transform outrage over the gun deaths of children into action to curb gun violence in America.

But with most Republicans opposed and a Senate even more conservative than the one that filibustered bipartisan legislation to strengthen background checks for gun purchasers, the odds appeared long.

He didn’t point out how unfounded and inappropriate the GOP position is. But you know he knows. Consider his tone in this paragraph:

The vast majority of Republicans have steadfastly opposed any substantial measure to limit access to guns or more strictly regulate them, grounding their position in the Second Amendment right to bear arms. There is little indication that the murdered children of Uvalde, Texas, will shake that stance.

The Times’s world-weariness was also in full display in this offering full of amorphous outrage from Thomas Fuller:

The misery mounts, and yet nothing changes, leaving Americans with little more to do than keep lists, mental spreadsheets of death that treat events like Uvalde as just another morbid tally with superlatives like “second-deadliest shooting in an elementary school.”

But the culprit in plain sight was barely mentioned. And Fuller wrote that “states like Texas have forged ahead with some of the least-restrictive gun laws in the United States.” But states don’t pass laws – in Texas, Republicans do.

Nearly lost in the overwhelming torrent of coverage was the utterly unprecedented nature of Biden’s remarks on Tuesday night. Unlike Barack Obama, who never dared blame the opponents of gun control after mass shootings, Biden let loose with not just sorrow but anger:

As a nation, we have to ask: When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?  When in God’s name will we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?

And he asked a particular question that reporters should be asking, and thinking about, too:

Why are we willing to live with this carnage?


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