Can Gun Control Really Pass After the Shootings in Newtown?

Politicians are more willing to talk about gun control after the Connecticut massacre of 20 first graders and six of their teachers, but is there any chance legislation could pass the House?

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Joe Scarborough, who had an A rating from the National Rifle Association when he was a congressman, said on MSNBC Monday morning that it's time to take on the gun lobbyists after the Newtown school shooting. Too bad he's not in the House anymore. Unlike after the Aurora theater shooting, in which teenagers and young adults died, politicians are more willing to talk about gun control after the Connecticut massacre of 20 first graders and six of their teachers. Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Sunday that she wants to propose a band on assault weapons and high-ammunition clips, but is there any chance legislation could pass the House?

After the shooting, we've heard from several public figures you could call pro-gun argue for more gun control. "I don't know anyone in the sporting or hunting arena that goes out with an assault rifle," West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin said on MSNBC Monday."I don't know anyone that needs 30 rounds in a clip to go hunting. I mean, these are things that need to be talked about." Manchin is infamous for  a campaign ad in which he shot an actual piece of environmental legislation with what appears to be either a .308 or a .30-06 bolt action rifle. As Manchin knows, if you need something with a 30-round magazine to go hunting — even if hunting a terrifying cap-and-trade bill — you probably suck at hunting. Perhaps he can work on a coalition of skilled bill hunters in the Senate to regulate assault rifles. A Meet the Press producer tweeted this weekend that none of the NRA's 31 A-rated senators would appear on the show Sunday, so perhaps the perceived shift in mood is real. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been opposed to bringing back the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, but would not comment to Roll Call about whether he'd bring to the floor Sen. Feinstein's bill banning assault weapons and magazines holding more than 10 bullets. But New York's Jonathan Chait argues that it's not the Senate, but the House that's the problem. Chait writes:

The House Republican caucus is dominated by ultraconservatives whose members reside in safe districts, and whose only chance of defeat is at the hands of a potential conservative primary challenge. Obama cannot sign any new gun laws unless they are passed by the House, the House will not pass any meaningful gun restrictions as long as it is controlled by Republicans, and Republicans will almost surely maintain control of the House until 2020, when the districts are redrawn.

For an example of that, here's Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert explaining on Fox News Sunday how he thinks the Newtown child massacre could have been prevented:

"I wish to God [principal Dawn Hochsprung] had had an M-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out and she didn’t have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands, but she takes him out, takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids."

The Newtown shooting did not eliminate the instinct of people like Gohmert to make such ridiculous claims. But perhaps the shooting will make everyone else more willing to point out how absurd they are. Here is video evidence that proves Gohmert is living in a Hollywood fantasy. Average people without crisis training cannot protect themselves in a firefight. ABC News conducted an experiment in which it trained average people to shoot a Glock, and then simulated an unexpected crisis. At right is a GIF of Joey, a civilian who'd practiced shooting quite a bit, totally failing to fake stop a fake mass shooter. He can't even get his gun out.

Perhaps by 2020 we'll be closer to having a more rational discussion of gun policy. Is there any other policy area in which our laws are dictated by conspiracy theorists? Certainly not in electronic surveillance — the expansion of monitoring of civilians continues apace, despite the national security state devouring its chief, David Petraeus. Our vaccination policy is not dictated by conspiracy theorists like Jenny McCarthy who wrongly claim childhood vaccines cause autism. We're not on the gold standard despite goldbugs' obsession with "real" currency. And there don't appear to be many areas of public policy that allow highly dangerous activity with minimal regulation because it's cool. "Guns are fun, and some of them are much more cool than others. It’s just like we have television sets that look cool, and others are much more boxy," the Virginia Citizens Defense League's Philip Van Cleave told The Washington Post. Kids: Write your legislator about how Nancy Reagan was a liar, so drugs are cool — legalize all drugs now.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.