|But be real careful not to piss anybody off|
Most of the President's executive agenda (other than "Nominate someone to head ATF" - Wow - how'd they come up with something that radical?) centers on improving the background check process. This is fine - there's no reason NOT to do this, and it might actually do some good. But here's the problem - amidst all this talk about 'strengthening' background checks, you haven't heard any details, have you? Do you know what they mean when they talk about "strengthening" background checks? Anyone? They're talking about including individual's mental health records. And nobody wants that information made available to any idiot with access to the DoJ database. There are even laws protecting individual privacy by preventing public disclosure of this information. It's a dogwhistle, similar to terms like "entitlement reform", and it means making public some of the most private medical information we have. Whether you think it's a good idea or not, as these proposals wind their way through the regulatory process, they are going to run into resistance from just about everyone in the mental health and privacy community, and may very well find that the whole idea is a non-starter.
Now, there are two problems with background checks. One is the lack of comprehensive mental health information discussed above, and the other is the so-called "Gun Show Loophole" that actually has very little to do with gun shows at all. If you buy a firearm from a licensed dealer, he is required to run a background check on you to determine that you are legally entitled to own a gun. But if you buy a gun from an individual, there is no such requirement. Now, we can argue quite logically that there SHOULD be universal background checks, but there's a very simple reason why there are not. An individual can sell his car, his stereo, his dog - anything that he owns - without intervention from anyone. If someone owns a gun and wants to sell it to their neighbor, essentially the same dynamic applies. Getting a piece of legislation written and passed in such a manner that could pass muster with the courts has been difficult, and enforcement would be a nightmare. If we had a national registry of firearms we could easily make it the buyers obligation to provide an update to the ownership record, just as we do with automobiles, but as I have mentioned before, our firearms laws are insane.
So the point is that in a year, we'll have slightly modified our background check regulations and the entire issue will have disappeared from the radar for most Americans who will assume that somebody must have done something after Sandy Hook. But it's hard to make profound changes to a premise that is so fundamentally flawed at it's root that you're essentially slapping a coat of paint on a burning building. And even worse, we'll see even these virtually worthless "feel good" laws fail in Congress. Some say "well, you have to start somewhere", and that's perfectly valid, but if we can't even start here, and must wait for more horrific bloodshed to try again, we're complicit in perpetuating an insane system.
The legislative proposals are for a renewed federal assault weapons ban and federal limits on magazine capacity. I've gone on at length about the pointlessness of such legislation, but the bottom line facts remain that "assault weapons" bans don't ban guns that do precisely the same thing but don't meet the strict legal definition of an assault weapon, whatever you decide it should be, and that limiting magazine capacity MAY on some occasions reduce the number of people killed in certain mass shooting events (and may not), but will do nothing to reduce the overall gun violence problem in America. As long as we place no real limitations on manufacturers, importers and dealers, guns will continue to be broadly legal, widely available and ridiculously cheap. That's the insanity we can't seem to find the will and courage to address.
If you had an elephant in your living room, that would be a problem. You'd have trouble moving around, he'd get in the way of the TeeVee, he'd often break your stuff, and OH LORD, the piles of poop. Now, you could try to address this problem by putting him on a leash, spraying him with Febreeze and training him to always poop in the same corner, but what you really need to do is GET THE ELEPHANT OUT OF YOUR LIVING ROOM. As long as we are doing nothing and yet can find a way to convince ourselves we are doing something that matters, we'll continue to see the same results. And that's the definition of insanity.