Following a series of terrible gun tragedies in this country, and let's call it 30 years of urban warfare, America is in the midst of a serous conversation about guns. The NRA's been very clear that it would meet any attempt to put limits on gun ownership with a great deal of resistance, and they're sparing no expense in getting the message out.
NRA AD: Are the President's kids more important than yours? Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools when his kids are protected by armed guards at their school?
And why does he get to veto bills and command an army when we don't? All right, so the conversation has started, and we're off to a deplorable start.
I swear to you, if I didn't know any better, and I'm not a big conspiracy guy, after seeing that ad, I would think the NRA is either an elaborate avant-garde Joaquin Phoenix-style joke, or a false flag operation run by Michael Moore in an attempt to discredit responsible gun owners.
But anyway, your response, Mr. President.
BARACK OBAMA (1/16/2013): I believe the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. ... I also believe most gun owners agree that we can respect the Second Amendment while keeping an irresponsible law-breaking few from inflicting harm on a massive scale.
Huh. All right, interesting open on his part. I thought he was going to go with, "If you bring up my kids again, I will drone strike your shit to Kingdom Come." But I understand.
But anyhow, at that conference today at the White House, the President unveiled legislative proposals and 23 executive actions to begin to address gun violence, including recommendations to limit magazine size, restrict assault weapons — that's going to happen through Congress if it happens at all — expand background checks, and oddly enough, also provide money for increased school security, which had originally been suggested by that really charming ad. Um, so how did his recommendations go down with the pro-gun crowd?
JERRY HENRY, GEORGIA CARRY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR (1/16/2013): All the things that he pointed out will only affect law-abiding citizens who already abide by the law. ... We've got over 20,000 gun laws on the books. We need to enforce those gun laws.
You know, that is... OK, that's true, that thing he said was true. That happens to be entirely accurate. I think we have like 20,000 on the books, we need to enforce those. But lest mayors and governors and local police try and take that enforcement job on themselves, slow down. There's no need. As former Kansas congressman Todd Tiahrt pointed out, in a conversation that he had about why mayors should not be actively trying to trace where illegal guns were coming from.
EX-REP. TODD TIAHRT, R-KS (7/11/2007): And when crimes are committed, or when there's a dealer selling guns illegally, we have an organization that goes after them, 24/7, every day. It's called the ATF, and they have officers completely assigned to do this.
The ATF! The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms! It's an actual government agency, not just a traditional Southern wedding gift.
(audience laughter and applause)
Depends on where you're registered. Although when you get those, they don't have to be registered. That's the beauty.
I'd like the ATF's director to explain to us law-abiding citizens, if you're out there 24/7, why is this country ass-deep in illegal guns?
NEW YORK CITY MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (12/18/2012): We have not had a director of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Fire for six years.
Oh sure! I'm supposed to believe Captain Can't Have Sugary Drinks! I don't trust information from anyone who can't handle more than 16 ounces of high fructose carbonated ambrosia.
PETER JOHNSON, JR. (8/1/2012): We don't have a permanent director.
Oh my God, there really is no ATF director! If I heard it on Fox, it must be true!
BOB CUSACK, THE HILL MANAGING EDITOR (1/16/2013): They haven't had a permanent director of that gun agency in six years.
So there's no director of the ATF. So is the ATF like a Montessori agency, where there's no director, but agents are just encouraged to be curious, and regulate weapons at their own pace?
JOHN AVLON, CNN (12/19/2012): The current acting director commutes from Minnesota. He's the U.S. Attorney from Minnesota as well as Acting Director of the ATF.
You're telling me this dude, the guy who is the Acting Director of the ATF, has another full-time job. That regulating alcohol, and tobacco, and firearms, is his side gig? He's just moonlighting, pickin' up a little extra dough.
Why?? There's 7.8% unemployment in this country, we could find someone to take that job who doesn't already have another job!
RACHEL MADDOW (6/20/2011): The Senate won't confirm anybody to the full-time job.
The Senate won't confirm anybody? Well, who gives a shit? It's the director of the ATF, it's not a Cabinet-level position or a Supreme Court justice. Why is it the Senate's business to even confirm.... (listens to earpiece)
I'm being told the Senate has to confirm the ATF director, because apparently Wisconsin Congressman James Sensenbrenner, for some reason, inserted that provision into the PATRIOT Act in 2006. Sorry, I don't have footage of that, it was apparently done on the Q.T. I do have footage of Sensenbrenner from that very same year accepting the NRA's coveted Defender of Freedom award.
(audience groans in disgust)
Coincidence!! Unrelated action.
But you know, I mean, OK, they don't have a director, they still have ATF agents.
FORMER ATF AGENT JAMES CAVANAUGH (6/14/2011): In 1972, and I went on ATF in the '70s, there was 2,500 agents. And there's still 2,500 agents, 39 years later.
Not the same ones, though, right?
So policing over 100,000 gun dealers in this country, with just a couple of thousand agents, who are also responsible for tobacco and alcohol may seem impossible, but here's the good news. 18 years ago, a professor analyzed ATF tracing data, and found that 57% of guns used in crimes — the illegal guns — could be traced back to just 1% of licensed gun dealers. All the ATF has to do is create some sort of federal registry of these transactions, trace them back to the bad dealers, and those dealers — the dealers ruining it for the law-abiding gun dealer and citizen, flooding cities with illegal guns — they can be stopped!
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL (12/27/2012): According to today's New York Times, the Bureau is prohibited from creating a federal registry of gun transactions.
What the fuck are you doing?? Why?? That makes no sense!! Was it getting too easy to police illegal guns? "Hey, what if we do it with our arms like this?" (motion of arms being tied behind back)
Are there any other somewhat comical limits on federal law enforcement's ability to enforce federal law? (sound of letter arriving via pneumatic tube)
I'm sorry, I normally get that through my ear, but I guess the old pneumatic tube system didn't realize the question was rhetorical. But I'll bite, let's see what we got here. All right, hold on.
(reads message) Oh! Apparently, the ATF isn't allowed to inspect dealers for inventory discrepancies more than once a year. And in reality, get to inspect them once every 17 years. 17 years! I'm assuming that's because the ATF doesn't have enough agents, and not that the ATF agents are cicadas. (audience laughter) Let that insect joke just wash over ya.
Well, I guess self-reported inventories from dealers are better than nothing.
Oh my God! Why, it's Gunther, my messenger pigeon!
(reads message) Oh, I see, we can't rely on self-reported inventories either, because the ATF cannot require dealers to keep track of their own inventory!
You see, about 10 years ago, a Congressman stuck an amendment into a federal spending bill that severely restricted the ATF's ability to do what the NRA says they want them to do, which is enforce existing gun laws! It allowed dealers to ignore police requests for assistance. It denied Congress formerly public crime gun data. It ended the oversight of used firearm sales. It required the destruction of background check records within 24 hours, you know, to make sure no mistakes could be corrected!
Who did this? What Congressman jammed this amendment into an unrelated spending bill, completely castrating the ATF's ability to enforce existing gun laws?
PETER JOHNSON, JR. (7/19/2011): It was the amendment named with your name, Tiahrt.
Holy shit!! Tiahrt!! You're the guy from five minutes ago who was saying, "Slow down, states and municipalities, the ATF's got the enforcement game. Let the ATF handle it." And then you cut their balls! You have broken my... ti-heart.
EX-REP. TODD TIAHRT (7/11/2007): The Tiahrt Amendment is to protect those who protect us.
That amendment couldn't be worse if the NRA wrote it themselves. (sound of letter arriving via pneumatic tube) Oh boy.
Noooo!!! Gunther, why??? Why would you be in the tube?? You're never supposed to cross antiquated message delivery systems like this!
(reads message) The NRA did write that law.
Well, it's not like the ATF has been completely de-balled. Thanks to the First Amendment, they still do have a YouTube channel that they use to warmly encourage gun dealers to act responsibly.
ATF AGENT PATRICK HOOVER: Although conducting a firearms inventory is not required by federal law, ATF suggests that you conduct a complete firearms inventory at least once a year.
(shocked audience laughter)
ATF ATTORNEY ERIKA RITT: If you observe a buyer who appears to be under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, and it appears their judgment may be impaired, you may want to deny the sale. Not because it would be a violation of the Gun Control Act to complete the sale... but because that person's judgment is likely impaired.
"But obviously it's up to you. It's not our job at the ATF to tell you, you can't sell guns to drunk people. I will say this, though, to the gun dealers. You can sell the gun to the drunk people, but if those motherfuckers try and get in a car and drive home, you take them down!"
We'll be right back.
and its perilous passage in the House.
Comments are closed on this story.