The hot takes came almost immediately Sunday morning, as they do like clockwork following mass shootings.
We had barely caught our breath after a radical Islamic terrorist opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando — killing at least 49 and injuring another 53 people — when the usual suspects began calling for tougher gun control on one side and alarm about radical Islam on the other.
That’s to be expected in a political season, especially when we have two of the more polarizing presidential candidates in United States history.
But haven’t we been there, done this — specifically when it comes to calls for more gun control?
Virginia Tech, Newtown, San Bernardino, Aurora, Tucson: After every single one of those tragedies, the time seemed ripe for some kind of so-called common-sense gun law reform. A few weeks pass, nothing happens and the country moves on. This time it won’t be any different, at least on the issue of guns.
As long as there is a Second Amendment in the Constitution guaranteeing Americans the right to bear arms, you’re going to make few, if any, strides in stopping these mass shootings by restricting guns.
Unlike Australia following the Port Arthur massacre, the government will never be able to seize the estimated 300 million guns in America. The executive branch might be able to put onerous restrictions on gun manufacturing and importation of firearms to the U.S., but pre-existing firearms will always remain.
One of the proposals that many expect to get a lot of attention is reinstatement of the 1994 assault weapons ban. It’s difficult to be against banning assault weapons, given their primary purpose isn’t for hunting or self-defense. But opponents of an assault weapons ban argue it would be ineffective because it did not put much of a statistical dent in gun violence and it would just open the door to more restrictions on the Second Amendment.
If you have pure intentions and are a serious politician thinking the availability of guns is the direct cause of these senseless acts, then a push to repeal the Second Amendment altogether is the answer.
If you think one life lost to gun violence is one life too many and that, in theory, the gun is the primary reason for that death, then the intellectually honest logical answer would be to eliminate gun access altogether.
But that will never happen for a couple of reasons. First, you would suddenly become a nonviable candidate for any national public office. And second, you’d be championing a cause that is completely unwinnable.
That’s why in the meantime the other aspects to these shootings must be considered.
Obviously mental health is one facet. But it’s hard to find a groundswell movement within the voting public politically motivated by the need to seek answers on the mental health aspects of gun violence, particularly as compared to the more obvious politically charged aspects.
With the Orlando incident fresh on everyone’s minds, the aspects of Islamic extremism can’t be ignored. In fact, it seems to be where much of the country is pointing the finger. And it is something Democrats seeking or wishing to remain in political office should not take lightly.
Scapegoating the National Rifle Association might work politically if it were an incident that didn’t involve some aspect of Islam. Using the tactic of blaming guns could be the fatal flaw for Democrats reluctant to blame inspiration by a religion.
That is not to say a nationwide ban on Islam is the answer. Just as we have a Second Amendment protecting gun rights, the First Amendment protects the free exercise of religion. So that in itself is a nonstarter, at least for Americans already here who might be inspired by radical Islamic extremism.
Can you place a ban on non-citizen Muslims looking to immigrate or visit the U.S.? In theory you could. Those Muslims are not citizens and don’t have rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, and it’s up to the federal government to decide who can come to the U.S.
That’s why presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump might have an edge over his general election opponent, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, on this issue.
Trump’s controversial proposal to place a temporary ban on Muslims coming to the U.S. is, in some sense, a smaller task than putting additional restrictions on the Second Amendment.
History is on Trump’s side as well. Voters tend to think Republicans are stronger than Democrats on national security. There is some time between now and the fall election, and the Orlando massacre might not be as fresh in people’s minds.
The 2002 midterms were some 14 months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, and under President George W. Bush Republicans were able to build on their leads in Congress — very unusual for a president in his first term.
It is also important to remember the shooting happened in the all-important swing state of Florida, right smack-dab in the heart of the coveted Interstate 4 corridor. That is the part of Florida that will probably determine who gets the state’s 29 electoral votes.
Executing the national security playbook probably won’t involve employing any sort of anti-gun rhetoric on the trail. In fact, gun sales are expected to increase in Florida in the wake of this incident.
If Clinton and the rest of the Democratic Party doesn’t find a way to talk tough about preventing Islamic-inspired terrorism and they continue to make these emotional arguments about guns, they are going to be looking at an early end to their 2016 election night, as Trump really will retake those Rust Belt states that haven’t gone Republican since Bush defeated John Kerry in 2004.
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