Three nine-year-olds and three adults were killed in a mass shooting at Nashville’s Covenant School, a private Christian school, on Monday. In response, House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan postponed a committee meeting on a plan to nullify a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives rule redefining pistols with stabilizing braces as short-barreled rifles.
“Democrats were going to turn this tragic event into a political thing,” Jordan told The Hill.
Yes, heaven forbid Democrats point out, in a congressional committee, the relationship of the bill being marked up by the committee to a real-world event that claimed the lives of six people just the day before. That would be so unseemly.
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“This issue we wanted to mark up tomorrow that we’ll mark up here in a couple of weeks as is all about the Constitution,” Jordan said. “You had an agency tell Americans the rule was one thing. Ten years later, they just changed the rule without going through Congress. So, this is a Constitutional concern, but Democrats had already been talking about making everything political, so we just decided to postpone.”
Yeah, Jim, sometimes the evidence on an issue changes, and federal agencies write new rules to protect people, be it from asbestos or handguns modified to function as short-barreled rifles. At that point, they go through an extensive rule-making process.
“This rule enhances public safety and prevents people from circumventing the laws Congress passed almost a century ago. In the days of Al Capone, Congress said back then that short-barreled rifles and sawed-off shotguns should be subjected to greater legal requirements than most other guns. The reason for that is that short-barreled rifles have the greater capability of long guns, yet are easier to conceal, like a pistol,” Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Director Steven Dettelbach said in a January statement announcing the final rule. “But certain so-called stabilizing braces are designed to just attach to pistols, essentially converting them into short-barreled rifles to be fired from the shoulder. Therefore, they must be treated in the same way under the statute.”
That’s all. You have something that is effectively a short-barreled rifle, you follow the rules for short-barreled rifles. It is applying an existing law to cases where something sold as one type of gun is being transformed into the other type of gun to which the existing law applies.
Republicans are screaming about this. Unsurprisingly, some of the screaming is flatly dishonest. Introducing their Congressional Review Act bill to repeal the rule, for instance, Reps. Richard Hudson and Andrew Clyde make a big fuss about how disabled veterans use braces to be able to use their guns at all. In fact, the ATF rule specifies:
This rule does not affect “stabilizing braces” that are objectively designed and intended as a “stabilizing brace” for use by individuals with disabilities, and not for shouldering the weapon as a rifle. Such stabilizing braces are designed to conform to the arm and not as a buttstock.
If Republicans want to take this newfound concern with disability rights to other issues, though, they are welcome to do so.
It’s interesting that Jordan was afraid to just go ahead with the committee markup of the repeal of the stabilizing brace rule because Democrats might bring up the Nashville school shooting. It looks like a sign of weakness from him, an acknowledgment that the public is not with Republicans on this issue as much as they would like to pretend.
Dead children should not be a political issue. Whether it’s shootings or hunger or lack of medical care, we should always be able to look at something that is killing children in significant numbers and say, “This has to be fixed,” and do so regardless of the politics. Somehow, though, Republicans are always right there on the spot to say it would be political to fix the problem because those children’s right to live is trumped by someone else’s right to own guns without restriction or to pay lower taxes or simply not be oppressed by the knowledge that they live in a society that cares for children.
But Republicans will pray for those dead children, and that’s just as good as protecting their lives, right?