Biden Urges Commonsense Gun Reform

Here we go again.

After refusing to speculate on the specifics of the latest mass shooting and issuing the appropriate but far too routine expressions of sadness and condolence, President Biden had this to say:

I want to be very clear — this is the one thing I do know enough to say on it, in terms of what’s happened there: While we’re still waiting for more information regarding the shooter; his motive; the weapons he used — the guns, the magazines, the weapons, and the modifications that apparently have taken place to those weapons that are involved here — I don’t need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take commonsense steps that will save the lives in the future and to urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to act. 

We can ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in this country once again.  I got that done when I was a senator.  It passed.  It was law for the longest time, and it brought down these mass killings.  We should do it again. 

We can close the loopholes in our background check system, including the “Charleston loophole.”  That’s one of the best tools we have right now to prevent gun violence.  The Senate should immediately pass — let me say it again: The United States Senate — I hope some are listening — should immediately pass the two House-passed bills that close loopholes in the background check system.  These are bills that received votes of both Republicans and Democrats in the House.  This is not and should not be a partisan issue; this is an American issue.  It will save lives — American lives — and we have to act.  We should also ban assault weapons in the process.

I’ll have much more to say as we learn more, but I wanted to be clear: Those poor folks who died left behind families — that leaves a big hole in their hearts.  And — and we can save lives increasing the background checks so that they’re supposed to occur, and eliminating assault weapons and the size of magazines.  We don’t know all the detail yet on that.  But I’ll be talking to you more later today or in the next couple of days about what else we know.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki has since added, “We are certainly considering a range of levers, including working through legislation, including executive actions to address, obviously, you know, not just gun safety measures but violence in communities, so that has been under discussion and will continue to be under discussion.”

While I see little point in banning one type of semiautomatic rifle while allowing hundreds of others to be sold, there seems to be some psychological desire on the part of would-be spree killers to adopt the military style. Similarly, while I imagine it’s too late to put the genie back in the bottle on magazine size—there’s an inordinate supply already on the market—putting minor obstacles in the way likely won’t hurt and the infringement on the liberty of sport shooters would be negligible, indeed.

Whether background checks would have prevented any individual spree shooter is debatable. But one would imagine that some of these would be caught. And, overall, it is indeed “common sense” to take reasonable steps to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of crazy people.

These spree killings had become less of a routine occurrence during the pandemic but, alas, this is a part of our “normal” to which we are slowly returning. It’s one part I could do without.

Alas, aside from whatever Biden can do on the margins with Executive Orders—and I suspect it is not much—I hold out very little hope that this particular shooting—which seems to be the umpteenth of these just in Boulder, Colorado—will be the one that changes the culture.

FILED UNDER: Crime
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    We can’t solve this problem. We need to be better people–and we aren’t. Sorry. Now carry on with repetition #75 of this debate. Buh bye.

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  2. flat earth luddite says:

    Yes, we need common sense “gun” reform. No, we’re not going to get it. Magazine capacity? Registration? Licensing? Restrictions? Nope, none of it will happen. The small but vocal mob’s actively against it, and we don’t have leaders with the collective spine to take action.

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  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Similarly, while I imagine it’s too late to put the genie back in the bottle on magazine size—there’s an inordinate supply already on the market

    Never too late. Make possession of a magazine over a certain capacity a federal offense with say 5 years per magazine with an appropriate buyback program and a I guarantee a whole lot will get turned in. Of the ones that aren’t turned in? They will become very rarely seen. Hell, put a bounty on them and they will become as rare as the pileated woodpeckers. Out there, somewhere, maybe, but nobody ever sees them, because if they do and call it in and it’s $100 in the hand (oh hell, as long as we’re dreaming let’s make it $500) and five years for the perp.

    And don’t talk to me about “otherwise law abiding citizens” because that’s just horsehockey for white.

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  4. Jon says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Yeah, none of this is rocket science. The intractable part is the political side of things, not the implementation side.

    ETA: And “otherwise law abiding citizens” is just like “otherwise non-cannibalistic” … Other than that one guy he ate, he is not a cannibal. Oh and that other guy.

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  5. Jay L Gischer says:

    One of the things I know about spree killers is that they take a while to work themselves up to it. They imagine and plan for a while. AND, it seems that an intervention in the form of “Hey, what’s going on, are you ok?” can be very effective in heading them off.

    So some sort of system where we notice that somebody’s buying a lot of guns and we check on them in the manner of a welfare check, rather than a search for criminal behavior, might do a lot.

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  6. Jon says:

    Apparently Boulder had passed a law barring assault weapons back in 2018, which was blocked by a judge 10 days before the Monday shooting.

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  7. Modulo Myself says:

    So some sort of system where we notice that somebody’s buying a lot of guns and we check on them in the manner of a welfare check, rather than a search for criminal behavior, might do a lot. “

    Mental health is not so easy. If this man in Colorado was indeed a paranoid schizophrenic a system popping in and checking up on their welfare may not be the answer. With other shooters, there’s no indication at all what their diagnosis might be. ‘Disgruntled man’ is not a DSM classification. And in fact the man in Atlanta had a support system–they were, most likely, simply terrible at offering real help. Also, most people with mental health issues are more at a risk to their own self.

    The bottom line is that guns in America are deeply connected to psychology. We don’t need them. Hunting is a dying sport. Maybe 12 million Americans hunt. There are around 70 million gun owners in America. Do the math. What are these people buying all of amped-up guns for? When some surgeons buys a Porsche, nobody is like a surgeon needs a Porsche in order to get to work fast. No, a Porsche is fun and it looks cool. That’s why a middle-aged surgeon buys one. But with guns every assault rifle has legions of idiots explaining how necessary the dumb thing is to the fabric of life. No, assault rifles are cool and they’re fun, I’m sure, to shoot, and conservatives can’t admit that they need these things for reasons that have nothing to do with the Constitution or whatever.

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  8. flat earth luddite says:

    @Bill:
    Really, Bill? As I used to hear as a child, “who pissed in your Wheaties today?” I’d love to hear 500 words from you on any topic that didn’t immediately slip into a rant about Demorats. Oh, hell, let’s be honest. I’d settle for 50. Hasn’t happened yet, don’t expect it to ever happen. Go back to your Kool-Aid, please.

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  9. gVOR08 says:

    @Bill:

    Oh, five bucks that the Colorado shooter did it because of his religious beliefs….
    Sheetholes…

    Entirely possible, him and the Atlanta shooter both.

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  10. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Modulo Myself: If your takeaway is that I’m against gun control, that’s probably a mistake. It’s another binary I reject, for sure, but yeah, I’m ok with background checks and assault weapons bans.

    AND, I doubt they would address the primary issue, which you call out. I would call it “gun fetishization”. Owning a gun makes someone feel powerful, and we lean into that as a country. When someone hears “gun control” they think “that guy wants me to be less powerful” with an entirely predictable result.

    Pushing harder just makes harder pushback. “Winning” politically will not likely produce a lot of gains.

    Yeah, I’m well aware that mental illness is hard. But we don’t appear to even be trying. About all the latest spree killing accomplishes is heightened polarization. All heat and no light.

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  11. Northerner says:

    According to a quick Internet search, 65% of American firearm homicides involve handguns. Most countries make it very hard to get a handgun license — it strikes me as far more important (and common sense) to go for that rather than playing around with any kind of rifle. The percentage of killing by say assault type rifles is under 10%, so why not go after the biggest cause? Especially since rifles and shotguns have other uses (hunting), while handguns are only good for killing people? Even those wanting to defend their homes (pretty doubtful in most places) would do better with a rifle or shotgun than a handgun.

    Yeah, I know the NRA won’t go for it. But if you’re going to change things, that’s the most important step. Handgun laws are the main difference between American and Canadian gun laws — look at the relative murder rates to see the effect.

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  12. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    The problem is that any loser with a semiautomatic rifle can kill dozens of people at once. Mental health can be part of the equation, but many of these losers aren’t mentally ill, and it’s too much to expect that losers can have these guns and not kill people.

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  13. Matt says:

    Whether background checks would have prevented any individual spree shooter is debatable. But one would imagine that some of these would be caught. And, overall, it is indeed “common sense” to take reasonable steps to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of crazy people.

    A NICS and relevant paperwork is required for all gun sales except for private sales. If you hear an anti-second amendment person mention “gunshow loophole” they mean private sales. When they say “Charleston Loopehole” they mean the limit that currently exists on the waiting period for a NICS result (3 days). So what the house bill is trying to do is force every private sale through a NICS check while removing the requirement for the NICS to respond in a timely manner. Meaning they could defacto ban guns simply by slow walking NICS checks to take years. Illinois used to do that with FOID cards. It took me almost a year to get my FOID card so I could legally own a bolt action long rifle. Meanwhile the criminals had no problems getting weapons and doing their thing..

    When anti-second amendment people mention “extended magazines” 90% of the time they are referring to standard magazine sizes. True extended magazines come with feed issues and that’s why militaries tend to stay with the standard 20-30 round magazines. Almost all “mass shootings” use standard magazines.

    Giving people in the USA a real affordable healthcare system with single payer or something similar would save far more people a year than a few misguided attempts at gun regulation…. Reminds me of the GOP bitching about abortion because “think of the murdered babies” but they can’t be bothered to provide the healthcare needed to bring those “babies” into the world healthy…

    The house bill if passed will ensure that the Democratic party loses both the senate and house…. I really had hoped they’d do something useful before being this dumb.

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  14. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    @Bill:
    43 words. Well done. Although you didn’t actually reply to my commentary, which I suppose was fair. Your swerve sounded pissy to me, but that’s just my bias.

    Don’t know any civilian applications that require 15-30 rounds without reload. Do you?

    Islamic name, but I’m waiting for information before jumping to blame Muslims…or democrats.

    .

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  15. Michael Reynolds says:

    If Drew just completely gave up, spent all day drinking while living in a trailer on the edge of the Everglades, you’d have Bill.

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  16. Matt says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    I guarantee a whole lot will get turned in.

    Reality says some will be turned in. Not all or even a majority but a decent chunk based on the recent bans that occurred last time we had this conversation as a nation.

    Here’s the thing though. I can print up reliable magazines on a 3d printer that costs less than $200… I know this first hand because some friends have been messing with their “cheap” 3d printers to see what we could do. Hell the US military has been using “plastic” magazines for some time now (PMAGs). Granted they are made of a polymer that is vastly stronger than the 3d printer results. If you want PMAG level of strength you’re going to need to go with a small injection molding machine which will set you back a few grand. Then there’s the 3d printed firearms that are getting better and better at handling 100s of rounds of ammo…..

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  17. Matt says:

    @Jon: If only shooting people were against the law maybe the shooter would of been stopped….

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  18. Matt says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    We don’t need them.

    Sure if you live in a city there’s a case that could be made that we don’t need firearms. Where I grew up though firearms were used weekly to defend our farm and selves from predators… Because animals don’t give a fck about your laws….

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  19. Teve says:

    Possibly unpopular opinion but I pay no attention to spree murders because

    A) it’s emotional pornography
    B) it does only negative things to my mental health
    C) your risk of dying from a spree shooter is approximately the same as being kicked to death by a farm animal
    D) what’s far worse is your chance of getting killed in a robbery gone wrong or a suicide. When I moved into my granddad‘s old place, my family hunted down a pistol he had in a drawer and removed it because they knew I had a history of depression.
    E) and the heinous culture of fear these adolescent Chads create, where especially women feel like they could shoot them at any time.

    It would be fun to see a president take an Originalist interpretation and only appoint justices who would allow citizens to bear arms as arms were understood at the time, a front loading black powder Long Rifle and maybe some cannon. 😀

    (But Teve, aren’t you being inconsistent, you wouldn’t say the press was limited to the movable type smoosh ink machines they used in the 18th century. No of course not, everybody picks and chooses how far they want to go on whatever axis. I didn’t say Jesus was going to notarize my consistency, I said it would be fun.)

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  20. Gustopher says:

    @Bill:

    Find a way to keep guns away from Democrats and you’ll reduce gun violence. Bear in mind they will still find a way to kill each other, but you fools will have to blame someone other than the NRA.

    Are you my brother? Because he has a way of using Democrat when he wants to use a racial slur too.

    Pretty sure the Son Of A Preacher Man who shot up Asian massage parlors last week wasn’t a Democrat, by the way. Democrats mostly want to legalize weed and argue over the correct usage of LatinX, not go on killing sprees.

    —-
    LatinX is the latest entry into the X-Men, they’re a white person with all the powers of a Latino but no identifiable gender.

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  21. Michael Reynolds says:

    It would be fun to see a president take an Originalist interpretation and only appoint justices who would allow citizens to bear arms as arms were understood at the time, a front loading black powder Long Rifle and maybe some cannon.

    You’d still have spree killings but they’d take place at a much more leisurely pace. Potential victims wouldn’t so much flee as stroll away. Also, with modern trauma medicine it’d be hard to kill someone with a slow-moving musket ball, so we’d have to lower our expectations in terms of body count.

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  22. Gustopher says:

    @Teve:

    It would be fun to see a president take an Originalist interpretation and only appoint justices who would allow citizens to bear arms as arms were understood at the time, a front loading black powder Long Rifle and maybe some cannon.

    It’s either that, or we allow your idiot neighbor to have nuclear weapons. Those are really the only constitutionally consistent options.

    Or, we could say that you only have a right to front-loaded muskets, and that everything else is a privilege. I guess that makes sense too.

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  23. Jax says:

    A most wonderful, blessed thing has happened. I literally do not see Bill’s comment! Not like “ignoring it” can’t see, it’s like Facebook where we blocked each other. Hallelujah! I can see from the responses that it was a typical Bill comment, anyways, I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. Hat tip to Reynolds for almost making me spit my drink out with the Drew reference.

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  24. DrDaveT says:

    @Matt:

    Giving people in the USA a real affordable healthcare system with single payer or something similar would save far more people a year than a few misguided attempts at gun regulation….

    Pourquoi pas les deux?

    It’s not like you have to choose between them.

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  25. Modulo Myself says:

    @Matt:

    We don’t live in a world of city slickers vs farmers. There aren’t that many farms–maybe 2 million or so, so a huge majority of people who own guns don’t need them for practical purposes.

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  26. Thomm says:

    @Matt: and meth heads can make meth from sudafed and some common chemicals on a stovetop. Still illegal and carries some nasty consequences. Start treating those that 3d print that stuff like a person making meth and see how enthused they are to do it.

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  27. Matt says:

    @DrDaveT: True but the fact that they refuse to do so makes it clear neither side really cares about “lost lives”..

    @Modulo Myself: The majority of my extended family lives on farms or in rural areas. Police response varies from hours to days…

    @Thomm: The popular method of making meth requires large amounts of sudafed which is in theory an easy thing to spot. That’s why basically everywhere in the country you have to present ID when buying cold products. All purchases are tracked in an attempt to spot smurfs. There’s a whole slew of laws involving meth precursors. Despite all the heavy restrictions meth is still easy to get and cheap.

    3d printing guns or gun components use the same materials as people 3d printing anything else…

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  28. Thomm says:

    @Matt: A person who would 3d print a high cap magazine, if it was against the law to posses one, is no better than a meth head. If a person not in uniform needs more than 8 shots (a 1911 with one in the chamber) either needs practice or needs to make better life choices.

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  29. DrDaveT says:

    @Matt:

    True but the fact that they refuse to do so makes it clear neither side really cares about “lost lives”

    You lost me, bud. Who refuses to do what? One side favors both better healthcare and fewer people shot to death. The other side favors both worse healthcare and more people shot to death. I’m missing this alleged “neither side cares” thing. Can you unpack it for me?

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  30. Scott O says:

    @Jax: Looks like Bill has been cancelled. He’ just gained lots of conservative cred. Maybe he can get a guest spot on Tucker Carlson.

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  31. de stijl says:

    Matt shows up every mass shooting to tell us gun control is bad.

    Myself, I prefer German Lopez.

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  32. de stijl says:

    @Scott O:

    Anyone care to to share the gist of Bill’s cancelled message?

    Knowing what animates people like Bill is worth tracking.

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  33. James Joyner says:

    @de stijl:

    Anyone care to to share the gist of Bill’s cancelled message?

    Actually, three of them in this thread. Two rants about Muslims and one about Democrats. Pretty much the same as all his other rantings since making his return. I’d have banned a new commenter immediately but someone with the same name and email address had posted here for years previously so I gave him more leeway.

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  34. Ken_L says:

    Appoint at least five Supreme Court justices who will interpret the second amendment according to its plain meaning. Until you do that, this thread is as much wasted space as the 892 that preceded it.

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  35. Neil J Hudelson says:

    @Matt:

    Hi. Farm boy here. And not “farm” in the organic hippy sense where you have a couple of acres of tomatoes and cabbage, but a real farm. 3,000 acres of grain. 700 of woods. Coyotes, mountain lions, all the rest.

    Sure if you live in a city there’s a case that could be made that we don’t need firearms. Where I grew up though firearms were used weekly to defend our farm and selves from predators… Because animals don’t give a fck about your laws….

    Bull. Shit.

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  36. Neil J Hudelson says:

    @Neil J Hudelson:

    I don’t understand rural people (my people) need to exaggerate the wilderness of rural life. To hear some of my rightwing friends describe the place they (I) grew up and they still live, you’d think they are pioneers living in untouched forested Edens where every day it’s them against nature. I think to myself “Really? Not 7 years ago your place was 1,000 acres of farm land without a tree in sight, and the worst ‘predator’ you have to deal with is the racoon eating your barn cat’s kibble.” And then I’d visit home and realize the only thing that’s changed is their brain.

    Coyotes and feral hog packs I scare away with my .22. When rattlesnakes became an issue after a DNR release, for about a year my dad and I would carry a revolver when traipsing through woods. That’s no longer needed now. The two (unconfirmed) mountain lions in the few hundred square miles of the county have never bothered a human yet (they tend to run away from predators bigger and noisier than them, although I admit this isn’t quite the case out west).

    You don’t have 30 to 50 feral hogs doing hog drive-by’s. Just stop.

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  37. a country lawyer says:

    I’m an old guy now with bad knees and no longer hunt, but I grew up in the rural south and hunted most of my life. I still have my first rifle that I got when I was 16, a Winchester lever action 30-30 carbine. In all the years I hunted with it I never had to fire the second shot but once. Anyone who claims they need a AR style semi-automatic rifle to hunt isn’t much of a hunter and is probably more a danger to himself than the wildlife.
    I’m also wondering where in this country in the 20th and 21st centuries we have wildlife predators that require us to have firearms for protection..

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  38. Modulo Myself says:

    @Neil J Hudelson:

    Yeah, I figured he was full of it. I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania with a teacher’s college in it. Not exactly a cultural mecca, but also hardly rural if you have been anywhere like Wyoming. There were produce farms around it, along with malls and new housing developments. You were never far from anything. As far as menacing wildlife goes, one of my neighbors defended his garden from skunks with a shotgun. Another neighbor–our dentist–was a huge gun/NRA guy. Also, he trained his German Shepherds in German. But was not some crazy militia guy. When Oklahoma City happened, he was not writing furious all-caps letters to the local paper. He just loved guns and hunting and all of the rules you had to follow with guns.

    But there are enough people who live there now who seem to think that this little town and its surrounding area was always this far-right enclave built on freedom. Everyone was always armed, in public, and ready to defend freedom and their bodies and their minds from the liberal state, just like the Bundys.

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  39. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    This country decided in 2012/2013 that we are not ever going to do anything about gun violence.
    Once you accept the shooting of 20 young school children, the discussion is over.
    It’s a sad statement about this country…but it is a true statement.
    The Gun Lobby won.

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