Friday, June 24, 2022


When the framework for a bipartisan bill addressing gun violence was annnounced on June 12, I predicted that the effort would go nowhere. I was wrong. The bill is now on the verge of final passage.

I knew the bill was weak tea and was barely about guns at all. I knew that it could pass the House without Republican votes and that Republicans in the Senate who don't face reelection until 2024 or 2026 -- Mitch McConnell and Joni Ernst, for instance -- could vote for it secure in the knowledge that it will largely be forgotten by the time they're running again. I knew that the bill's efforts to incentivize states to pass red flag laws would be futile -- red states will proudly refuse the money the way they proudly refuse Obamacare's Medicaid expansion. But even after Buffalo and Uvalde, I thought that Republicans would fear a collective judgment on their party from the angry base if even a few of them dared to vote for any bill that restricted gun ownership, even marginally.

Maybe, for once, leaders of the GOP felt the need to respond to the concerns of middle-of-the-road voters after the two recent massacres -- or maybe the massacres weren't the reason, or the only reason, they agreed to the bill. Perhaps the timing seemed right because they knew the decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen was coming.

I'm not saying that the Republicans on the Supreme Court leaked the decision to Republicans in the Senate. They didn't need to. It was obvious when the Court took the case that the goal was to wipe blue-state gun laws off the books and prevent other states from following their example. The Republican senators who agreed to this compromise knew the Court's term was ending and could assume that the decision in Bruen would be radical and out of step with how Americans are feeling about guns. So this toothless bill could serve as a distraction, and a demotivator for Democratic and swing voters who are angry about gun violence.

All of the right's fussing and fretting over the leak of the Court's abortion decision is meant to distract from the extremism of the decision itself. The distraction from the gun decision might be the nothingburger gun bill.

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