The next time you hear a fellow American bemoaning the lack of Washington bipartisanship, tell him to cheer up. There is one issue on which Congress still resoundingly agrees: gun rights. Bear that in mind, too, the next time you read a story about the "new" political debate over gun control.Well, the White House knows it's not going to get a big agenda passed through Congress. An assault weapons ban won't be held up as the sole measure of success. The repeal of loopholes on background checks and other measures achieved by executive order will be touted as big victories for the gun-grabbing agenda.
An almost cosmic disconnect has been building in the political sphere since the tragedy of Sandy Hook. On the one side is the gun-control community, which sniffed a rare political opening and is determined to use it to the max. Vice President Joe Biden's gun-violence task force has given that community a vehicle for its ambitions, even as it has encouraged it to ramp up its demands.
By this week, the elites were calling for a gun-control agenda unmatched in modern times. The closing of the gun-show "loophole"? Restrictions on large-capacity clips? An "assault weapons" ban? They want all that, plus a national gun database, and a background check for every gun sale, and similar checks for ammunition sales, and regulation of Internet transactions, and Michael Bloomberg crowned emperor. (A position for which Mr. Bloomberg no doubt believes himself suited.) The media have reported all this as rational, reasonable and doable.
On the other side is the reality that any of these proposals must, in the normal course of things, pass Congress. A few quick facts about that body. 1) More than half of its members have an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association. 2) The few members today calling for gun control are the same few who have always called for gun control. 3) The House is run by Republicans.
Despite the press's exuberant efforts to cast congressional gun supporters as having changed their minds, there has been no actual movement. Senate Democrat Joe Manchin caused a media sensation when he declared, immediately after Sandy Hook, that nobody needed "30 rounds in a clip." Less reported was that it took the Democrat about the time necessary for your average West Virginian to drive to a ballot box to clarify that statement and to add that he's "so proud of the NRA." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, even with the press's best efforts to parse his remarks, has committed himself to nothing more than a "thoughtful debate."
Montana's Jon Tester and Max Baucus, Alaska's Mark Begich, Arkansas's Mark Pryor, South Dakota's Tim Johnson, Louisiana's Mary Landrieu—all are quiet on that red-state Democratic front. North Dakota's brand new senator, Heidi Heitkamp, declared proposals mulled by the Biden task force as "way in the extreme" and "not gonna pass." Unlike Mr. Obama, all of these members still face elections.
Over in the House, when asked recently what was more likely—passage of gun control or Speaker John Boehner becoming a pagan—a senior GOP leadership aide told Buzzfeed: "Probably the latter."
RELATED: "Statement From the National Rifle Association of America Regarding Today's White House Task Force Meeting" (via Memeorandum).
And check out this huge post at The Lede, "Updates on the Gun Violence Debate."