Don’t be fooled by the latest maneuvers by Congress on Friday to tighten gun control because it failed to address the real problems.
Fortunately, there’s grassroots action taking place: Colorado municipalities have quickly proven that they will take gun-control matters into their own hands.
They’re tired of waiting for that august body to legislate meaningful, comprehensive gun control measures. The present version of Congress’ gun-control efforts is too weak.
Fed up with observing dreadful stories about mass shootings — including the heartbreaking coverage of the murders at one of Boulder’s King Soopers stores — they want comprehensive action.
They also have seen that gun-rights groups, led by the National Rifle Association, really run the show in Washington and no longer will accept that.
In 2021 alone, gun rights lobbyists spent more than $15 million to sway senators and representatives. Gun manufacturers spent more than $2 million. The gun-control lobbyists spent more than $2.9 million to try to influence legislators to do the right thing, to end the carnage.
Three days after the shootings in Buffalo, New York, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives revealed that annual domestic gun production in the U.S. increased from 3.9 million in 2000 to 11.3 million in 2020.
Now, there are more than 400 million guns in the United States, which is hard to believe in a nation with 363 million people.
Thankfully, the Colorado Legislature in 2021 passed SB 21-256, which gave permission for towns, cities and counties to create their own gun regulations. The ordinances and laws may be stricter but may not be more lenient than state laws.
Besides Boulder, Colorado cities and counties recently enacted or are considering similar legislation. They’ve moved particularly fast because of the tragic murders at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and in Buffalo.
The list includes Fort Collins, Lafayette, Lyons, Louisville, Superior, Broomfield, Boulder County, Edgewater, Denver, Westminster, Lakewood, Arvada, Wheat Ridge and Larimer County.
The Boulder City Council is leading the way, recently passing a package of gun-control laws. Certain councilmembers have said they respect the guarantees made in the Second Amendment, but incidents such as the King Soopers mass murders in Boulder have pushed them to act.
The Council passed Ordinance 8494, which bans assault weapons and large-capacity magazines; bans untraceable ghost guns, those made by private manufacturers, like those made on 3D printers; raises the minimum purchasing age from 18 to 21 and requires a 10-day waiting period; requires gun dealers to display a health warning, similar to those for tobacco products; requires guns in public places to be carried in cases or holsters; and limits guns in vulnerable gathering places, such as parks, playgrounds, schools, movie theaters, hospitals and places of worship, among other things.
But comprehensive gun control remains elusive, despite the horrific images from Buffalo and Uvalde. Campaign finance reform is the key to ending the NRA’s grip on Congress. More on that later.
These shootings pushed the U.S. House of Representatives recently to pass H.R. 7910, the Protecting Our Kids Act, to prevent gun violence. But Congress weakened the bill in order to please a breakaway group of 15 Republican senators.
If the original bill had passed and not been greatly revised, it would have raised the legal age to buy certain automatic weapons from 18 years to 21, establish new federal offenses for gun trafficking and the selling of large-capacity magazines, allow local governments to compensate individuals who surrender large-capacity magazines through a buyback program, create a tax incentive for retail sales of safe storage devices and strengthen existing federal regulations on bump stock and ghost guns.
Unfortunately, these provisions were not included.
I correctly predicted this: The final version of the bill, while it looks pretty on the surface, won’t be enough to mandate effective gun-reform guidelines for all. The way that some members of Congress have handled 7910 is just posturing for the 2022 election campaign and special-interest groups.
At a time when the Pew Research Center said that 81% of citizens — even the Republicans who were polled — favor stronger gun laws, the U.S. Senate is proposing a weaker version of 7910.
The revised bill left out at least three of the most important provisions: an assault weapons ban, substantial background checks for all and raising the minimum age to purchase a gun from 18 to 21.
On the plus side, it will give funding so states can create their own red flag laws; 19 states and Washington, D.C. already have such laws.
It also supports making investments in mental health and telehealth programs as well as expanding access to crisis and trauma intervention and recovery.
The NRA and campaign finance practices are the biggest barriers to ending gun violence.
Contributions funnel through the NRA and lobbyists, winding up in Congress members’ election funds.
Some member of Congress who have accepted campaign contributions from the NRA between 1989 and 2022: Marco Rubio, R-Fla., $1.8 million; Ron Johnson, R-Wis., $1.044 million; Roy Blunt, R-Mo., $1.410 million; and Richard Burr, R-N.C., $1.405 million.
Though I should be happy that some form of weaker legislation has moved forward, the bar has been set so low, it’s still going to take local municipalities and the states to show federal authorities how it should be done.
America still has no comprehensive federal gun control legislation.
Jim Martin can be reached at email@example.com.