Democrats on Capitol Hill are sprinting to give President Obama a quick victory in his gun-control crusade. Sloth won’t cut it. Energized senators have sped from bad idea to full committee vote in less than two months. That sounds like sloth in the world where the rest of us live, but in the Senate, that’s warp speed.
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, plans to bring four gun-control bills to a markup on Thursday. One of the bills, mandating a background check for private gun sales, was proposed by Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, and it’s on the schedule even though it hasn’t been written yet.
Republicans on the committee may try to delay for a week to read the proposals, but it won’t make much difference. The bills will satisfy the committee, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will bring them to a floor vote.
David Keene, president of the National Rifle Association, says the Senate isn’t acting like the world’s greatest deliberative body (that it imagines itself to be).
“The apparent willingness of some in the Senate to push forward with constitutionally questionable legislation without a real debate is astounding, but perhaps understandable when you realize that neither they nor their president have much regard for the Constitution as a whole,” he tells The Washington Times.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California held the first and only public hearing Wednesday on her “assault weapons” ban, which is part of the group of bills headed to a vote. Her proposal would bar the manufacture, import or sale of 157 specifically named firearms, along with semiautomatic guns with cosmetic features like a pistol grip or a barrel shroud.
She says these cosmetics, which might look scary to the easily frightened, make the guns “more efficient for killing people.” Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the Judiciary’s top Republican, says banning guns based on appearance is irrational, and results in outlawing guns that are “less powerful, [less] dangerous, and that inflict less severe wounds than other [more powerful guns] it exempts.”
“This is an important issue of public policy,” Mrs. Feinstein told the hearing. Since her last assault weapon ban expired in 2004, she says, more than 350 people have been killed by rifles with scary cosmetic features. According to the most recent FBI data, rifles were used in 2.5 percent of all murders, which means a person is twice as likely to be beaten to death by a killer’s hands or feet.
The House, where Republicans rule, is preparing to work at a more deliberate, thoughtful pace. Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, says he’ll look at whatever the Senate sends over, but he’s working on improving the FBI background check to further prevent criminals and those with serious mental illness from obtaining guns. He rules out accommodating Mr. Obama’s insistence on background checks on private gun sales.
The House is right to take its time. Emotionalism shouldn’t infringe the Second Amendment, particularly with no benefit to public safety.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.