Limited Gun Bill Won’t Save American Lives
It had to be an extremely limited bill to win the backing of 15 Republican senators, who usually oppose all gun bills.
In the U.S., mass shootings have continued to take lives, young and old, but elected officials have only just begun to act. President Joe Biden on Saturday signed into law the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act which is considered as the most significant gun control bill in three decades.
However, it is a very modest bill.
It had to be an extremely limited bill to win the backing of 15 Republican senators, who usually oppose all gun bills. After the wave of bloodshed, they were feeling the pressure to make it look like they cared, so they were willing to compromise as long as the bill didn’t do much.
The most important thing the bill does is make it slightly harder for violent ex-boyfriends and dating partners to purchase guns, which they might use to threaten the woman they were dating. Before, the law did not do much at all to limit unmarried abusers from purchasing guns, even if they had been convicted of a misdemeanor. Anyone convicted of any kind of felony was banned from owning guns (although the background check system is not strong enough). Still, this bill extends that ban to domestic violence convictions of a lesser degree than a felony.
Senators who support the bill say it “closes the boyfriend loophole,” but the reality is that more than half of all domestic violence cases are not reported to the police. Even worse, when cases are reported, many do not result in convictions. Judges and juries sometimes ignore the evidence. In fact, in the city of Cleveland in 2018, 66% of cases were dismissed without even a trial, according to an analysis of local records by ABC News-Cleveland.
The “boyfriend loophole” in domestic violence cases was narrowed, but it was hardly closed. Many violent boys will never face justice for their crimes and will still be able to purchase lethal firearms.
Next, the bill encourages states to enact “red flag laws” to prevent people who are dangerous to society from purchasing guns. The theory is that if someone with a violent nature makes threats online, a court can deem them unfit to possess a gun. The reality is that some states already have red flag laws on the books, and in many cases, the inconsistent courts are more concerned about the “rights” of the psychopath to own an assault rifle than they are about the rights of the public to live. In Indiana, authorities never even bothered bringing a civil confiscation case against a gun-hoarding man who was reportedly suicidal by his mother; later, that man used the guns he was hoarding to kill eight staff at his workplace.
In 2021, Pew Trusts published an article claiming that red flag laws “are saving lives,” but “they could save more.” The focus should be on the second half of that sentence. The article only cited a few hundred cases in the country of red flag orders stopping people from owning guns. That is a drop in the bucket compared to all the murders in the U.S. that happen yearly.
The new gun bill will not cause red flag laws to expand across the nation. Instead, it just gives states funding to enact such laws if they choose to. But politicians in many radically right-wing states will reflexively oppose those laws.
Finally, the bill also includes enhancements in the background check system for people age 21 and younger who try to buy assault rifles. So as long as a potential killer is over 21, they can buy the assault rifle with less scrutiny.
This modest bill was passed by the Senate on the same day when the Supreme Court struck down a New York state law requiring people to get a permit for concealed handguns. This ruling presumably applies to all 50 states that might have considered such a permit system, which is now deemed invalid. In other words, the court dynamites gun laws while the Senate fills the hole with gravel.