We’ve talked a lot about the bipartisan gun law deal recently signed into law by President Joe Biden. I’ve said it’s not as bad as it could have been, and I stand by that.
However, I’ve never said it was anything but awful. I stand by that, too.
Jacob Sullum, though, has thoughts on it, and they’re pretty interesting. He figures the deal reached was the result of the worst tendencies of both sides.
Until last month, someone with a felony record who obtained a gun was committing a federal crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Now he or she is committing two federal crimes, each punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Contrary to what you may have read or heard, the story of how that happened is not an inspiring example of bipartisan cooperation to protect public safety. It is a dispiriting illustration of how the worst instincts of both major parties combine to produce policies that are neither just nor sensible.
Republicans like to look tough on crime but tend to be leery of gun control. Democrats, by contrast, are enthusiastic about gun control but tend to be leery of draconian criminal penalties that contribute to mass incarceration and have a disproportionate racial impact.
The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which passed the Senate by unanimous consent and passed the House by a vote of 234 to 193, offered something to both sides. Republicans got tougher sentences; Democrats got more gun control; and both got to pretend they were doing something to prevent mass shootings.
I invite you to go and read the whole thing because Sullum hits on some important points.
He mostly focuses on the increased penalties for felons in possession of firearms, and I think there are valid criticisms to be leveled there.
For one thing, as Sullum also seems to imply, not all felonies are created equal. A while back, Maxim put together a list of felonies many people unknowingly commit. That list is far from comprehensive, either. In fact, it’s been estimated that the average American commits three felonies a day.
The thing is, none of these are violent felonies. There’s literally no reason to treat all felons the same, especially considering some of the inane things that constitute felonies.
Yet the bipartisan deal did just that.
And that’s funny because Democrats have been pushing criminal justice reform for quite some time. They’ve been trying to not prosecute a number of crimes in various places–things we all tend to agree are actual crimes, mind you–and yet they’re backing additional punishments for someone who exercises a right the government has decided should be denied to them.
Meanwhile, Republicans backed gun control in and of itself. They signed on to support a gun law that creates roadblocks to the right to keep and bear arms.
Each went against what they typically stand for in order to push for the very things that they tend to get wrong, at least according to some. While I think tough sentencing has its place, it doesn’t here. Gun control has no place anywhere.
And yet, here we are.
A lot of people hear the word “bipartisan” and think that it’s probably a good thing. However, bipartisanship can lead to a lot of horrible things. This gun law, while not as awful as it could be, still is a far cry from anything positive.
What’s more, there’s nothing here that will stop a mass shooting. Nothing at all.
It’s the one thing that I can find common ground with Manuel Oliver on. It’s literally the only thing we’d find common ground on, apparently, but we both know this gun law won’t have the impact it’s supposed to have.
What it will do is increase punishments for some who weren’t likely to commit a mass shooting in the first place.