Will the GOP Really Change on Guns?
On the same day that Obama backed a new ban on assault weapons, the NRA promised to offer "meaningful contributions" after 20 children were gunned down in their elementary school. So, what, you expect a wave of pro-gun control Republicans to suddenly appear?
Sen. Dianne Feinstein has proposed new gun control legislation, and the White House said Tuesday that President Obama supports it. But so what? House Republicans are still not likely to join them. "We're going to take a look at what happened there and what can be done to help avoid it in the future, but gun control is not going to be something that I would support," Rep. Robert Goodlatte told Roll Call's Daniel Newhauser. Next year, Goodlatte will chair the House Judiciary Committee, which is in charge of gun regulations.
This is not surprising, and we shouldn't expect an immediate swing in the political culture: The NRA promised on Tuesday to offer "meaningful contributions" after 20 children were gunned down in their elementary school, so, what, you expect a wave of pro-gun control Republicans to suddenly appear? Indeed, an over-the-top display of gun-loving has long been required of seemingly all politicians with national ambitions, as you can see with John Kerry shooting things in 2003, at left. And this week it's a lot tougher to be a Florida House Republican actually sitting in office than it is to be a come-to-the-senses armchair graduate like Joe Scarborough. Tough, but not impossible: Ohio Republican Steve LaTourette, who is leaving Congress after almost two decades, told the Associated Press, "You are going to have some people who never, never go there... But yes, I think most Republicans are willing to have a very, very serious conversation about what this means and taking a second look at what the Second Amendment... means in the 21st century." Rep. Jack Kingston said, "There may be more support of discussion at this point among the pro-gun Democrats and Republicans."
Elsewhere, Roll Call points out that three Republican senators who voted for the assault weapons ban in 1994 are still in office. And in the laboratories of democracy of the state legislatures, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder even found a way to limit the expansion of his state's conceal and carry laws by pointing to another conservative principle: property rights. On Tuesday, Snyder vetoed a bill that would have allowed people to carry concealed weapons in schools, and which had the unfortunate timing of being passed the night before the Newtown massacre. In a statement, Snyder said:
I believe that it is important that these public institutions have clear legal authority to ban weapons from their premises... Each is entrusted with the care of a vulnerable population and should have the authority to determine whether its mission would be enhanced by the addition of concealed weapons.
Meanwhile, a Tennessee state senator says he still plans to introduce a bill to arm at least one staff member in each of the state's public schools.
Back in the House, Speaker John Boehner's spokesman didn't explicitly rule out new legislation in response to the shooting — but he didn't rule it in, either: "If the president has specific ideas in mind, we will listen. But right now our focus should be on the victims, their families and their friends."
Slate's David Weigel talked to some Republican senators who also didn't explicitly rule out (or in) new gun legislation. But it's clear that right now, they're not jumping on the Feinstein train. Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt said that solutions must be found "within the limits of the Constitution," and talked about better mental health services. Sen. Marco Rubio pointed out that the shooting happened in Connecticut, which has relatively strict gun laws. But all of the weapons Adam Lanza used were purchased legally by his mom, which is what Sen. Lindsey Graham said.
In August the GOP adopted a party platform strengthening its gun-rights positions, a largely symbolic move seen by many advocates as a repudiation of potential restrictions in light of the shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords — the same kinds of restrictions President Obama could still enact, with or with Congress.
Photo via Associated Press of "Spin AK47 for Peace One Day," by British artist Damien Hirst, in the September exhibition 'AKA Peace' at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know an AK is not the same as an AR-15.