Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones of New York is on the emergency panel to discuss gun reform legislation Thursday. The hearing has predictably gone the way gun safety legislation hearings always go with the bought and paid for Republican Party. Democrats call for a series of modest gun safety protections. The Republican Party attacks this with a devil’s three-pronged pitchfork: calls to wait and see; claims that the Democratic Party is trying to steal your guns and take away your rights; and assertions that gun laws don’t do anything to stop gun violence—which we know because we’ve never had any, and it’s going so great without them. There’s a fourth prong, but it is more of the general blood money mantra of the conservative death cult: We need more guns.
During Thursday’s hearing, Rep. Jones used his time to set the record straight not only on the history of the Second Amendment’s interpretation by the Supreme Court in our country and the radical change to that interpretation that the radical right-wing court made in 2008, but also how perverted the conservative decision in District of Columbia vs. Heller has become. The latter point Rep. Jones makes is one supported by the late right-wing Supreme Court Justice Anton Scalia’s own staff. The reason the Heller decision and the maddening way NRA stoolies like Sen. Ted Cruz and other GOP officials use it is important: by their personal definition, the Supreme Court decision means that Congress cannot do anything to regulate individual rights to firearms. This, of course, makes as much sense as someone saying Congress has no right to make laws in general. Their argument, essentially, is that every American is unto themselves a well-regulated militia.
On Thursday, Rep. Jones took that down and then, after being forced to listen to Republican Rep. Dan Bishop of North Carolina try and fit every right-wing talking point into a couple of almost incomprehensible minutes, got Rep. Bishop to admit that the Republican Party has no answers and no moral will to do anything about gun violence in our country.
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First, here is Rep. Mondaire Jones’ statement:
“It is clear to me that the more my colleagues misinterpret the Second Amendment and the supreme court's decision in D.C. versus Heller, the more they are giving up the fact that they have not actually read those documents. The text is clear. The Amendment protects the collective right of the people as a whole to possess arms solely for the purpose of forming a ‘well-regulated militia.’ Last time I checked, the National Guard doesn't depend on teenage boys owning semi-automatic rifles with high-capacity magazines. Notice that while the Second Amendment is explicit that the government has the authority to regulate the use of arms, the Second Amendment does not include a single word about an individual right to own a gun. In fact, the claim that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to own a gun is so indefensible that even the conservative former Chief Justice Warren Burger, a Nixon appointee no less, had once denounced it as one of the greatest pieces of fraud on the American public he had ever heard.”
In case you need some context for that point of view, here’s former Chief Justice Warren Burger saying exactly that.
Rep. Jones goes on: “No wonder the Supreme Court never recognized an individual right to own a gun, from the ratification of the Constitution in 1789 until 2008 when the Roberts court’s far-right majority issued its 5-4 opinion in Heller. So, let’s talk bout Heller. It did set a constitutional baseline that there is a right to own a handgun in the home. But even in that egregiously mistaken decision, even in that decision, the court made it clear that we can still regulate gun ownership and possession—particularly in sensitive places as well as prohibit an individual from possessing firearms.”
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Jones goes on to quote Justice Scalia’s decision where he says as much, highlighting Scalia’s own words about how Heller should not be used to allow the free carrying of weapons in “sensitive” places like “schools.”
Rep. Jones finished his statement by saying that “the Constitution is no obstacle in protecting our kids today.”
This was followed by Republican Rep. Dan Bishop of North Carolina trying to pack together every gun lobby buzzword and talking points he was able to write down and half-memorize before today’s hearing. While Jones asked two or three times, unsuccessfully, if Bishop would yield for a question, Bishop tried to make this hearing about how the Second Amendment was under attack and how Democrats like Rep. Jones hated the Supreme Court. After a rambling, scatter-shot word salad, at the end of his allotted time, Rep. Bishop made something of a claim that he would love to “work on something we can do” to help lessen the chances of gun violence in our society.
Elie Mystal is on Daily Kos' The Brief podcast today
Finally, he yielded to a question from Rep. Jones. Jones didn’t waste anyone’s time—including Americans watching, asking the North Carolinian Republican “What do you support? What are you willing to do to stop the epidemic of gun violence in this country? I would love for you to articulate the efforts you would be willing to undertake with your democratic colleagues in this chamber today.”
Rep. Bishop began by saying we needed to “look at what’s happening, and then come up with something that will address that.” [This is me doing a slow eye blink meme]
Before we can all answer that nothingness of an answer, Rep. Jones rightly says “So you are not going to answer the question because you don't actually have an approach.” To which Bishop attempts a wild word salad filled with nothing but disinformation, including “not allowing teachers to leave the door open,” a thing that has long since been disproven, as well as a wild claim that police were “discouraged from entering” to save the children from the gunman in Uvalde, Texas. The opposite seems to be true. He ended this non-answer by trying to pull in the Black Lives Matter movement, saying that we shouldn’t tell the police they “shouldn’t exist.”
Here’s a quote from Democratic representatives Jones and Cicilline in the chambers at the end of Bishop’s performance of impotence. “I can translate that for you. He's willing to do nothing.”