Three easy gun control solutions

parkland protest

One of many gun control rallies takes place in Parkland, Florida. The protests have inspired numerous sympathetic demonstrations across the nation.

In the wake of a Valentine’s Day slaughter at a Florida high school that left 17 people dead, lawmakers, pundits and the American people are debating solutions to gun violence more fervently than they have in years. For perhaps the first time, the NRA is facing real consequences over its drive to militarize every facet of American life, with several major companies severing ties with the powerful lobbying group. But despite the courageous protests of youth across the country, real political action still feels far away.

The Florida legislature recently rejected an assault weapons ban, but approved a bill that allows teachers to carry guns. This is a non-solution born in the furthest-right fringes of the country. It’s what the cult of gun fanatics – and it is a cult – most desire. Their fantasy of dead-eyed, Rambo-like teachers who can put down a mass shooter in time for kids to finish their math quiz is particularly laughable given the cowardice and inaction of professional law enforcement at the scene.

Much of the difficulty in finding real solutions is owed to the gun cult’s hysteria. Any regulation is treated as the first step toward absolute tyranny. Through the NRA and right-wing politicians, the most extreme fanatics enjoy unusual domination over our national gun dialogue. But with the NRA hobbled and student protesters showing no sign of surrender, change may be more likely than it’s been in a generation. There are plenty of real solutions worth discussing, many of which are already extremely popular among the American people.

  • Universal background checks

One of the most popular proposals is universal background checks. Under current law, a customer who wants to purchase a gun from a federally licensed firearms dealer must first be cleared by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. However, the system is notoriously feeble and contains numerous loopholes, and people purchasing guns from a private vendor or at a gun show – often called the “gun show loophole” – are not required to undergo a background check at all.

Far-right sites like Breitbart have argued that because the Florida shooter passed his background check, background checks are pointless. Current laws and loopholes have allowed guns to fall into the hands of killers, but this requires a tightening of the system, not a loosening, as many far-right ideologues argue. According to a recent Quinnipiac poll, a staggering 97 percent of Americans support closing loopholes and requiring universal background checks for every gun purchase.

  • Licensing and registration

In most states, owning a firearm is as easy as being of age, passing a background check, and paying the seller. It’s often easier than obtaining a driver’s license or a voter ID. Laws on gun registration and licensing vary widely from state-to-state, but most states have no such laws at all. Some lawmakers and public interest organizations have argued that a more rigorous and uniform procedure to license firearm holders and register their weapons would lower gun violence.

Licensing would be a more comprehensive way to determine the fitness of a person trying to purchase a firearm, beyond a rudimentary background check. Registration, which was officially banned by The Firearm Owners’ Protection Act of 1986, would provide a way to keep better track of the weapons themselves. These processes could include mental health screenings, a character witness to cosign for the gun, training, a declaration of purpose, and possibly microchipping the gun. Gun cultists will argue that such regulations violate civil rights, but licensing and regulation seems within the spirit of the “well regulated” militias called for by the Second Amendment.

If cars had been around in the 1700s, the Founding Fathers might well have guaranteed a right to personal automotive transportation in the Bill of Rights. Representatives from the auto industry would today decry the big-government tyranny of licensing exams, traffic laws and vehicle registration. But those regulations are in place and almost nobody complains, because society at large understands that they help prevent dangerous or unfit people from endangering the rest of us. The same logic applies easily to guns.

  • Lower the magazine capacity limit

Readily available magazines for an AR-15, the semi-automatic rifle used in the Parkland massacre and a frequent lightning rod for gun control controversies, can hold 30 rounds. This means a shooter can fire the weapon 30 times before needing to reload, with each round fully capable of inflicting a mortal wound. Opponents of gun control often argue that people who want to kill will find a way to do so, but there’s no harm in making mass murder more difficult by limiting magazine capacity. Since the previous ban on high-capacity magazines expired in 2004, larger numbers of them have been recovered at crime scenes, suggesting that the ban did help to keep them out of the hands of criminals.

Plenty of other proposals, including raising the legal age to buy a gun, have also been proposed. They may help, but no solution will be enough on its own. Gun violence is embedded in our national DNA, from Indian genocide and slave patrols to the modern militarized police force. But the NRA pushes us in the wrong direction, with a radical agenda that seeks to flood every nook and cranny of American life with deadly weaponry. The child victims who have taken to the streets deserve to be heard above such deranged hysteria, and Americans must work to ease the uncertainty now lingering in our public spaces.


Childhood’s End: The young have become the moral voice of America

student walkout

Students of Hellgate High School in Missoula, Montana stage a walk-out. One sign reads, “Protect kids not guns.” Dozens of similar protests have erupted across the country in the past week.

For the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, Valentine’s Day will forever memorialize the massacre of 17 of their classmates and teachers at the hands of a disgruntled man with a legally acquired AR-15. While shootings of varying severity are now depressingly common at American schools, this incident stood out from others. This is partly because of its high body count, but it’s been unique in another, more important way: it birthed some courageous student activists.

No longer content for their bodies to be the “price of freedom,” nor to accept the now-familiar deadly cycle of school shooting followed by thoughts and prayers followed by NRA hysteria followed by political inaction followed by school shooting, children are aware that it’s their lives at risk and they are doing something about it. Continue reading

How establishment Republicans learned to stop worrying and love Donald Trump


Hannity’s sources are now telling him that, yeah, maybe the president did want to obstruct justice by firing the special counsel investigating him. So what? Isn’t that his right?

Late last week, The New York Times reported that President Trump ordered the firing of Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating suspected crimes by the Trump campaign, transition, and administration. Mueller was put in place last year after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, the man previously leading the investigation. Trump’s attorney and White House counsel, Donald McGahn, threatened to resign rather than carry out the June 2017 order to fire Mueller, and Trump backed off.

In a sea of massive Trump scandals, this should be one of the biggest. It’s the clearest indication yet of Trump’s desire to obstruct an investigation into he and his inner circle’s financial ties to Russian oligarchs and, potentially, their cooperation with a campaign of cyber warfare against the American people. That investigation, which Trump continually derides as entirely phony, has already ensnared high-level Trump aides and campaign officials like Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, and Carter Page.

Yet Republicans have been mostly mum on the Times report. Senator Lindsey Graham, often a representative for the establishment vanguard against Trump, warned, “if he tried to [fire Mueller], it would be the end of his presidency.” Despite the strong words, no action has been taken. Meanwhile, Trump has enlisted a growing chorus of Republican pundits and politicians to undermine the special counsel and, indeed, just about any institution responsible for holding him accountable. Continue reading

Jeff Sessions re-declares war on pot

sessions maga

One way Sessions and Trump want to #MAGA: trample states’ rights and throw more people in jail over a plant.

On January 4, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo, an Obama-era directive that recommended a hands-off approach to the enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states that legalized it for recreational or medicinal use. Prior to the Cole Memo, federal authorities clashed routinely with legal pot businesses, especially in states like California. The memo substantially slowed the prosecution of state-sanctioned pot growers, sellers, and users. In rescinding the memo, Sessions declared his intent to re-escalate the war on pot. Continue reading

The case for nationalizing the internet


Activists project “Property of Verizon” on the face of the FCC building in Washington, D.C.

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission will vote on whether or not it wants to repeal net neutrality, an Obama-era regulation that requires internet service providers to treat all content on the internet indiscriminately. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a former lawyer for Verizon who joked about being the company’s puppet, argues that repeal of net neutrality is in better keeping with free market principles. Almost everyone else says repealing net neutrality is nothing more than a corporate power grab. Continue reading

America: Democracy in Reverse


Whenever this many rich people celebrate together, be wary.

America is sometimes characterized in its most exultant propaganda as the shining city upon a hill, history’s greatest experiment in self-governance. In the wee hours of December 2, though, it failed to live up to that marvelous hype. What happened in the United States Senate that day was a travesty that can accurately be described as democracy in reverse. An unpopular group of lawmakers passed an extremely unpopular bill, which will eventually be signed into law by an extremely unpopular president for the benefit of a small number of citizens. Continue reading

Republicans abandon all pretense of public service


President Trump appears with two powerful members of his administration, both Goldman Sachs alumni. Gary Cohn is on the left and Steve Mnuchin is in the middle.

If there’s one thing the Republican Party can be counted on to do, it’s lower the tax burden of wealthy Americans. They’re in the midst of an effort to do so right now, and one bill recently passed in the House of Representatives. But the bill is massively unpopular, with only 25 percent of Americans approving of it. Republicans have a remarkably candid response when pressed as to why they are pushing such unpopular and destructive legislation: it’s to please their donors. Continue reading

Why Roy Moore is the biggest political story of the moment


Breitbart executive Steve Bannon, left, shakes the hand of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.

Arguably the most important political story happening right now is the ongoing scandal involving Roy Moore. Once the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Moore was removed for his lawlessness. Despite this, voters in Alabama – following a relentless campaign by the far-right website Breitbart – made Moore the Republican nominee to replace Jeff Sessions in the Senate. Moore’s virulently homophobic, theocratic ideology already made him controversial to his own party, but last week’s allegations that he preyed on teenage girls made Moore look truly vulnerable. Continue reading

Roy Moore and the stunning cognitive dissonance of Breitbart


Christian fascist Roy Moore defended himself by telling family values conservative Sean Hannity he did “not generally” date 16- and 17-year-old girls when he was in his 30s.

Anyone who logged into Breitbart over the last couple days saw the site’s usual sensationalist, large-font headlines, but they may have sounded disjointed if read all together. On one side, a vocal defense of Republican senate candidate Roy Moore, the former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice who has been accused by four girls of pursuing inappropriate, underage relationships with them. On the other side, a string of enthusiastic articles about the takedown of liberal Hollywood by sexual harassment and assault allegations.

One headline, “Judge Roy Moore on Hannity Radio: ‘Allegations Completely False,’” appeared next to the headline, “#OscarSoRapey: Harassers, Enablers Prepare to Celebrate Themselves for Five-Month Awards Season.” Another headline quoted Steve Bannon: “‘Same Bezos-Amazon-Washington Post’ Dropped Trump Tape, Roy Moore Hit Pieces… ‘Purely Part of the Apparatus of the Democratic Party’.” next to that article was one about a man who was allegedly beaten by immigrants in Germany after aiding an underage girl – precisely the type of girl Moore is accused of preying on. Continue reading

A tale of two responses: Trump on attacks in Vegas, Texas and New York

Trump somber

The president adopts a voice of calm after white terror attacks, and a voice of venomous outrage after Muslim ones.

Three high-profile atrocities have occurred on American soil in the span of five weeks. On October 1, a man opened fire from a Las Vegas hotel window and shot more than 600 people, killing 58 of them. On October 31, a man drove a truck into a crowd in New York City and killed eight people. And on November 5, a man shot and killed 26 people at a church in the small town of Sutherland Springs, Texas.

At least since 9/11, the protocol for atrocity in America is militarism and nationalism if the perpetrator is a dark-skinned Muslim, thoughts and prayers for the victims if the perpetrator is white. In these recent events, President Trump’s tweets gave us a healthy sample of each. Continue reading