This past week in Olympia, the state Senate passed a ban on bump-stock devices that turn some rifles into quasi-machine-guns. The debate offered a grand tour of the most absurd arguments for why we can’t do gun control.
The issue of guns causes America to lose its faculties. Nowhere was that on more vigorous display than during a gun-control debate this past week in our state Legislature.
It was a 20-minute tour of the absurd rhetorical lengths to which the gun-rights crowd will go to try shooting down even the most modest attempts at slowing the country’s mass-shooting carnage.
Remember after Las Vegas, the deadliest shooting in U.S. history, when most everyone seemed to agree we ought to at least get rid of those “bump-stock” devices that effectively convert some rifles into rapid-fire machine guns?
Well, that hasn’t gone anywhere in Congress (it never does). So some local senators put in a bipartisan bill to ban the sale and possession of bump stocks here — if nothing else to try prodding Congress along.
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Right out of the gate came some Trump-level demagoguery.
“Clearly this is the first gun seizure in the state of Washington,” Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, told the Senate.
Nothing in that statement is true except the words “state of Washington.” The bill doesn’t ban any guns (the bump stock is only an accessory). It’s also not the first time authorities could seize guns, as machines guns and short-barreled rifles and their parts have been banned for decades.
Yet the false talking point caught on, to be repeated by other senators and even tweeted out by a reporter for KOMO radio.
But no sooner had the measure been decried as too draconian than other senators stepped up to pronounce it too lame.
Sen. Phil Fortunato, R-Trigger Happy, told the assembled senators how his twitch is so quick that his finger makes the bump stock look like amateur hour.
“I can shoot five rounds a second with my Glock, and faster than that with my Sig. I can do that manually,” he boasted — concluding, I guess, that therefore there’s no point in regulating store-sold devices that can boost semi-automatic rifles up to 800 rounds per minute.
Next came the lowest moment of every gun debate: when someone inevitably says that because the bad guys don’t follow laws, there’s no point in passing any.
“Do you really think the crazy, psycho person who sits in a hotel room with a gun is gonna say, ‘Oh, it’s against the law in Washington state, so now I’m not going to do my crime?’ ” Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, regaled the Senate.
No, nobody thinks that, and it’s also about a mile away from the point. Which is that if you make machine-gun-like devices harder to get, then maybe the crazy psycho person won’t be able to get one. And then maybe he won’t be able to kill 58 and wound 851 people, as he did in Las Vegas.
The ban seems to work with actual machine guns. So why, over time, wouldn’t it work with devices that simulate machine guns? Also, with Ericksen’s logic, why bother having any laws about anything? Damn criminals won’t follow them anyway!
Finally, Sen. Keith Wagoner, of Sedro-Woolley, told the Senate how you can jack up a semi-auto by hooking your finger into your belt loop while simultaneously squeezing the trigger, a vibrational arrangement that causes the gun to spray hails of bullets. He then held up his finger for all the Senate to see.
“I hope that’s not going to be seized,” he said ominously.
Is it any wonder we get nowhere with the gun-violence debate in this country?
Look, everyone, it’s true: Banning bump stocks won’t solve mass shootings. Some psychos may get them anyway, and those who don’t could still just use a Glock and a Sig. Or a belt-looped finger.
All of these critiques could also be made about any gun-control proposal ever. And they always are.
Though the bill did pass the state Senate (it faces an uncertain future in the House), I’m highlighting the arguments made here because this bill is literally the least that could be done about the gun-violence problem. Yet it was portrayed, like every other proposal related to our unique national sickness, as somehow both tyrannical and trivial and, therefore, not worth trying at all.
What I’m saying is these aren’t arguments. They are the sounds of a society giving up.
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