Posted by Curt on 9 October, 2015 at 7:30 pm. 2 comments already!


Charles C.W. Cooke:

For a brief and shining moment, it looked this week as if Barack Obama had finally acknowledged that there were limits upon his power. Responding to the news that Hillary Clinton was hoping to achieve federal gun control by fiat, the White House did everything but scoff. Clinton’s idea, a staffer told the Washington Post, had been examined in detail a while back, and then rejected out of hand. Her proposal, he added, was likely to “present new and unforeseen enforcement problems,” to “create untold logistical . . . difficulties,” and, ultimately, to be “subject to legal challenge.” The administration, he concluded, “still has not found a way to make it work.”

Fewer than 48 hours later, the White House conceded that it was aiming to move ahead with the plan.

Politically speaking, this turnabout would be a considerable mistake. Although Americans are happy to tell pollsters that they favor limited gun control, their when-it-comes-to-it enthusiasm remains minimal. “Eye-popping majorities of Democratic, Republican, and independent voters back . . . boilerplate measures,” Noah Rothman recorded yesterday inCommentary. “But when asked if voters prefer stricter gun control measures, only a majority of Democrats agreed. Just one-third of independent voters and less than one-quarter of GOP survey respondents welcomed new gun control measures.” If the polls are to be believed, this reluctance is in part the product of a lack of trust in the federal government; in part the result of a belief that gun laws don’t actually work; and in part the result of harsh demarcation lines that have been draw in the broader culture wars. If the White House wants to overcome the intransigence, it will have to spend some capital.

Is this initiative worth the costs? All told, it is difficult to see how it could be. Even if we presume that the plan is both legal and workable — and, given how tightly both USC18§921 andUSC18§922 are written, I am as skeptical as the president was a few hours ago — the benefits would be microscopic. Were Obama to change the regulations, the Post confirms, he would ensnare only “those dealers who sell at least 50 guns annually” — a tiny fraction of those who sell firearms on the private market. He would not be “closing the gun-show loophole”; he would not be “extending background checks to private sales”; and he would not be elongating the three-day period during which the government is able to search for disqualifying information. Nor, for that matter, would he be banning a single “assault” weapon, limiting even one magazine, or confiscating even a part of a gun. He’d be posturing, and uncomfortably at that.

#share#It is customary for the proponents of “doing something!” to suppose that there is no downside to their experimentation. “If it saves one life,” the cliché holds, “it would be irresponsible not to try.” This is a questionable premise at the best of times; America, if you hadn’t noticed, is an unruly and liberty-focused sort of place. But in this case the argument is devoid of even its utilitarian merit. As he has learned all too painfully, President Obama is at present trapped inside a particularly knotty Catch-22: He believes that there are too many guns in America, and that getting rid of some of them would be helpful; but every time he says so — or hints at anything like it — he provokes a buying spree.

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