Don’t piss off anyone in Tennessee. They’re armed. They’ll shoot. And all bets are off. Anyone who wants a gun can have one, no questions asked, and take it with them anywhere and everywhere. That’s the new law:
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) signed a bill on Thursday that will allow most adults to carry a handgun without a permit.
The Tennessean reports the bill, which will go into effect on July 1, allows people 21 and older to carry handguns open and concealed without a permit. Members of the military aged 18 to 20 will also be permitted to carry handguns without a permit under the new law. The law does not apply to long guns.
The Tennessean notes that the legislation is backed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) but is opposed by Tennessee’s leading law enforcement groups who argue the bill could potentially increase crime and officer vulnerability.
Those law enforcement groups argue that if everyone is unscreened and untrained, and always armed and always angry, the cops could never match that firepower. Crime might skyrocket. And more cops might get killed. And what civilians could match that aggregate firepower? They’d have to match or better the firepower of the now easily-armed bad guys, the criminals. That would have to be countered. Everyone, buy bigger guns. Everyone, buy more guns. Expect an arms race.
But this would make domestic violence calls easier for the police. Both parties will probably have shot each other dead by the time they arrive. That’s their right. That’s what this is about:
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) signed a similar bill last week that will allow people to purchase and carry handguns without a permit. That law will also go into effect on July 1.
Don’t piss off anyone in Iowa either, although the day’s action was in Texas:
A gunman killed one person and injured six others at a Texas warehouse, and then shot a state trooper while leading authorities on a manhunt that lasted nearly two hours, police said Thursday.
The gunman opened fire inside a custom cabinet manufacturer around 2:30 p.m. in Bryan, about 100 miles northwest of Houston, and had fled by the time officers arrived, Bryan Police Chief Eric Buske said. The gunman initially evaded police, and Buske’s department warned that “the suspect is still at large.”
Authorities from several agencies pursued and eventually apprehended him about 4:20 p.m. near the small town of Bedias, said Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Craig Cummings. The state trooper shot in the chase was in “serious but stable condition,” Cummings said.
The state trooper shot in the chase did not say he was, nevertheless, glad anyone who wants a gun can get one. He was busy at the time. But there’s this context:
The Bryan episode is the country’s second high-profile deadly shooting in 24 hours, after police say a former National Football League player killed five people and himself in South Carolina on Wednesday. And they come during a devastating month for gun violence: By one tally, 80 people have been killed and more than 200 injured in shootings of four or more across the United States since March 8, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive.
In Texas alone, Thursday’s shooting was the eighth such shooting during that span.
The details of the South Carolina mass shooting are here – the former NFL player had been rather talented but later limited by a bad ankle break and then woozy from more that few concussions, and he walked in and shot a rather wonderful local doctor, and the doctor’s wife, and the doctor’s two grandchildren. On the way in he shot the guy mowing the lawn. Then he left and shot himself. He’s dead now. It was just another day in America. But the Texas shooting got the news:
It unfolded just hours after President Biden announced a series of executive actions to curb gun violence and pledged to push for changes to the country’s firearms laws. He called gun violence in the United States “an epidemic” and “an international embarrassment.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) criticized Biden’s moves as “a new liberal power grab to take away our guns.”
“It’s time to get legislation making TX a 2nd Amendment Sanctuary State passed and to my desk for signing,” Abbott wrote on Twitter.
His idea is no gun laws of any kind would apply in Texas. People would flock to Texas. There’d be no rules at all, although he himself is not a monster:
Later that day, he issued a statement saying he had been briefed on the Bryan shooting, that the state would assist in prosecuting the suspect and that he and his wife were “praying for the victims and their families and for the law enforcement officer injured while apprehending the suspect.”
And the Bryan Police Chief explained it all:
Buske said the spate of fatal shootings is “indicative of a mental health issue in this country” that has “done nothing but get worse.” It is Bryan’s first large-scale shooting in recent memory, Buske said.
But the problem is not the guns. This shooter was crazy. They all are. But let them have guns, big ones if they want. Fix the crazy. Let everyone, even the crazies, keep their guns. Fix the crazy, not the gun thing. Buske knows better than to contradict the governor.
But what was it that Joe Biden said so upset Governor Abbott? The Washington Post’s Annie Linskey covers that:
President Biden on Thursday announced a series of executive actions to curb gun violence, and he pledged to push for sweeping change to the country’s firearms laws – his first substantive response to a pair of mass shootings last month that left 18 dead.
“Gun violence in this country is an epidemic, and it’s an international embarrassment,” Biden said in the White House Rose Garden. “The idea that we have so many people dying every single day from gun violence in America is a blemish on our character as nation.”
So he’ll do what he can:
The president unveiled new rules on “ghost guns” – firearms that are assembled at home, which lack serial numbers and are harder to track – among other moves designed to make it harder for unqualified people to obtain dangerous weapons.
Biden also announced David Chipman as his pick to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, although it is unclear how the nominee will fare in an evenly divided Senate. Chipman is a former ATF agent and now a senior adviser to a gun-control group founded by former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was severely injured in a mass shooting in 2011.
That was the slap in the face here. That Arizona gunman was incompetent. Giffords lived. His bullet to her brain only took out major motor functions. She could and can still think clearly. And her efforts to regain her motor functions were heroic. Everyone admired that. She can even speak a bit now, and she has become a living rebuke to the arm-everyone crowd. That guy, with his legally-obtained blaster, couldn’t kill her. And she’ll stop this current nonsense if she can. Her man, David Chipman, will stop this nonsense, if he’s confirmed by the Senate. Republicans really do wish the whole Gabby Giffords thing would just go away. They may find a way to block his confirmation and make this all go away.
Biden has something else in mind:
Biden said his moves Thursday do not relieve Congress of the responsibility to act. He urged lawmakers to take up gun-control legislation, including measures already passed by the House that would require more gun buyers to undergo background checks.
“They’ve offered plenty of thoughts and prayers, members of Congress, but they’ve passed not a single new federal law to reduce gun violence,” Biden said. “Enough prayers. Time for some action.”
In short, executive orders can’t fix much. Congress needs to get to work, and this might be the time to do that:
Biden’s moves came amid a growing impatience from gun-control activists that the administration has not acted more quickly. Biden promised during his campaign that he would take action to limit gun violence on the first day of his administration, but that fell by the wayside.
Biden has prioritized other issues in the early going, including coronavirus response and economic aid. He suggested recently that he considers gun control less urgent than those immediate crises, one that can be tackled over the long term.
But the issue of gun violence moved vividly the forefront after the two mass shootings, one in Georgia in which eight people died, and another in Colorado, where 10 were killed.
A lot of people died. Now is the moment:
Biden was joined in the Rose Garden by first lady Jill Biden and a number of longtime gun-control advocates, including Giffords, who became a leading anti-gun activist after she survived a mass shooting outside a supermarket. Her husband, Mark Kelly, is now a senator from Arizona.
After giving his remarks, Biden bounded offstage and offered Giffords an elbow bump. “I wasn’t supposed to do that,” the president said.
No, that had to have been planned – heroic Gabby and her astronaut-turned-senator husband both standing tall and proud. Let the arm-everyone-Republicans whine:
Biden laid out several ways his administration will tackle gun violence. He ordered action on ghost guns, firearms without serial numbers that are sold in kits. He directed the Justice Department to draft a new rule regulating a device that can be placed on a pistol to turn it into a short-barreled rifle.
He also instructed the Justice Department to create a template that states can use to enact “red flag” laws, which allow judges to seize firearms from people who are deemed a threat to themselves or others. And he ordered a repeat of a landmark 2000 gun-trafficking study that was instrumental in helping police determine the source of guns used in crimes.
Gun activists said they were pleased. “The president did a really great job here looking at the many, many forms of gun violence and addressing those,” said Brian Lemek, executive director of Brady PAC, a gun-control group. “We knew he would come through.”
But this has been a long, strange road:
Biden, a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has a record of supporting gun-control initiatives, including the 10-year assault weapons ban that was part of a 1994 crime bill he sponsored.
But the politics of gun control have always been turbulent. Rural voters, who skew sharply Republican, strongly support gun rights, while Democratic-leaning city dwellers often oppose them. The suburbanites coveted by both parties have tended to be more open to gun control recently.
But the Rurals ruled, until now:
Democrats used to shy away from talking about the subject, but a spate of mass shootings in recent years created a new set of young activists, making gun violence a bigger subject on the campaign trail. Both parties are using the issue to motivate their base to vote, a big shift from a decade ago, when Democrats were wary of the issue and believed that it had contributed to some of their election losses.
They’re not wary now:
The country’s largest pro-gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, is mired in multiple legal battles, but it remains influential among Republicans. On Thursday, NRA officials referred to Biden’s Rose Garden event as a “circus” on their official Twitter account and outlined their opposition to his moves.
“These actions could require Americans to surrender lawful property, push states to expand confiscation orders, and put a gun control lobbyist to head ATF,” the officials said. “Biden is dismantling the 2nd Amendment.”
Who cares? Things changed over there:
Wayne LaPierre, who positioned the National Rifle Association as an uncompromising lobbying powerhouse over the past three decades, admitted Wednesday that he did not disclose free trips he took on a luxury yacht and acknowledged that some top NRA officials were not informed in advance of his plan to seek bankruptcy protection for the group.
Under questioning on the third day of a federal bankruptcy hearing, LaPierre defended his leadership of the gun rights group and the benefits he and his family received from NRA contractors.
But his testimony undercut arguments by NRA lawyers this week that LaPierre has effectively cleaned up ethical and governance problems since 2018, when the organization was first alerted by New York state officials of possible fiscal mismanagement.
He cleaned up nothing. New York wants to shut down the NRA. Wayne LaPierre wants to move it to Texas and reincorporate it there, but the Texas courts are wary. This is a mess, but they did manage to squeal a bit about the Second Amendment. Annie Linskey covers that:
Anticipating this argument, Biden insisted that his moves are constitutional. “The idea is just bizarre to suggest that some of the things we’re recommending are contrary to the Constitution,” Biden said.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who attended Thursday’s event, noted that Attorney General Merrick Garland recently served as chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which hears legal challenges to federal regulations.
That leaves Garland well equipped to draft the new Justice Department regulations in a way that would allow them to survive court challenges, Blumenthal said. “If you had to pick someone who knows about the importance of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s when it comes to rulemaking, Merrick Garland would be your first choice,” he added.
They’ve got this covered, but still, this is someone else’s job:
One surprise was that Biden opted not to use his executive authority to erode the liability shield enjoyed by gun manufacturers, a step he had pledged to take as a candidate. Instead he urged Congress to remove the shield.
“Imagine how different it would be had that same exemption been available to tobacco companies, who knew and lied about the danger they were causing, the cancer caused and the like,” Biden said.
He added: “If I get one thing on my list – the Lord came down and said, ‘Joe, you get one of these’ – give me that one.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki, asked why it had taken more than 70 days for the president to address the liability issue, replied, “There’s no holdup. It’s just, legislation needs to be reintroduced.”
Yes, Biden can’t do everything, so don’t expect much:
Biden signaled that he’s not expecting results from Congress anytime soon.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” Biden said. “It seems like we always have a long way to go.”
But that’s how the system works. He can only do so much, but as the New York Times’ Annie Karni reports, that’s not nothing:
While the moves the president announced fall far short of the broad legislative changes long sought by proponents of making it harder to buy guns, especially semiautomatic weapons often used in mass shootings, they addressed narrower issues also of intense concern to many Democrats and supporters of gun regulations.
The most substantive of the steps was directing the Justice Department to curb the spread of ghost guns. Kits for these guns can be bought without background checks and allow a gun to be assembled from pieces with no serial numbers.
Mr. Biden said he wanted the department to issue a regulation within a month to require that the components in the kits have serial numbers that would allow them to be traced and that the weapons be legally classified as firearms, with the buyers subjected to background checks.
“I want to see these kits treated as firearms under the Gun Control Act,” the president said.
And that might be a big deal:
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives estimated that 10,000 ghost guns were recovered by law enforcement in 2019. Cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore and San Diego have seen significant increases in the number of such guns recovered each year since then.
Ghost guns, experts said, have become particularly appealing to criminal organizations and right-wing extremists who want access to untraceable firearms that do not require any background checks. They are often linked to shootings in states like California that have instituted strict gun laws.
The focus on ghost guns also underscored the White House’s intent to address gun violence broadly and not just the mass shootings that get widespread news coverage.
“Ghost guns are disproportionately impacting gun violence in communities of color and undermining states with strong gun laws,” said Christian Heyne, the vice president of policy at Brady: United Against Gun Violence, a prominent proponent of tighter gun laws.
Ghost guns have also been used in some mass shootings, including one in 2013 at Santa Monica College, in California, in which five people were killed; one in 2017 in Northern California, in which a gunman killed his wife and four others; and one in 2019 at a California high school, in which a 16-year-old killed two students and injured three others.
That can be fixed, and so can this:
The president on Thursday outlined several other actions he was taking on his own. He said he would require that when a device known as a stabilizing brace effectively transforms a pistol into a short-barrel rifle, that weapon would be subject to the requirements of the National Firearms Act. That would subject those guns to extra layers of regulation required to own more serious firearms or silencers, including fingerprinting, a background check and a regular renewal of a license.
The gunman in the Boulder, Colo., shooting last month used a pistol with an arm brace, making it more stable and accurate, the president said.
But then there’s what he cannot fix, where he can only suggest a fix:
Mr. Biden said the Justice Department would also publish model “red flag” legislation for states. The measure would allow police officers and family members to petition a court to temporarily remove firearms from people who may present a danger to themselves or others.
While the president cannot pass national red flag legislation without Congress, officials said the goal of the guidance was to make it easier for states that want to adopt it to do so now.
“Red flag laws can stop mass shooters before they can act out their violent plans,” Mr. Biden said, noting he wanted to see a national red flag law.
Currently, 19 states and Washington, D.C., have passed their own red flag laws. And while Alaska and Wisconsin are considering passing their own measures, it is not clear how many other states would be interested in doing so – or would find the model legislation useful.
States that would not be interested worry about taking anyone’s gun because of what that person might do with that gun at the moment. They might not do anything. They may wave the gun around and scream that they’re going down to the local school to kill fifty kids, but that might be just talk and thus free speech. You just don’t take people’s guns from them on a guess.
Biden, however, doesn’t think that way:
The initiatives laid out on Thursday by Mr. Biden show how much more difficult it has become for Democrats to advance their agenda on guns since he served in the Senate. In 1993, Mr. Biden played a key role in the passage of the landmark Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which was named for the onetime White House press secretary James S. Brady, who was shot in an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. A year later, Mr. Biden helped authorize a 10-year ban on assault weapons.
As vice president, he said the worst day in the Obama White House was in 2013, when the Senate rejected the administration’s proposal to expand background checks after the shooting in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Conn., that killed 26 people, including 20 children.
Mr. Biden on Thursday acknowledged there was only so much he could do without Congress.
He may have to wait a long time for that. This is a different sort of Congress:
GOP Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert suggested Thursday that President Biden was a “tyrant” after he argued the Second Amendment was not “absolute” while unveiling executive actions meant to curb gun violence.
The criticism from Boebert, a first-term congresswoman and vocal gun rights advocate, followed Biden’s remarks the same day in the Rose Garden regarding his administration’s gun control measures. During the speech, Biden argued none of his actions “in any way impinges on the Second Amendment” and asserted the Second Amendment was never meant to provide blanket protection for all forms of gun ownership.
“No amendment to the Constitution is absolute,” Biden said. “You can’t yell ‘fire’ in a crowded movie theater and call it freedom of speech. From the very beginning, you couldn’t own any weapon you wanted to own. From the very beginning that the Second Amendment existed, certain people weren’t allowed to have weapons.”
“The Second Amendment is absolute,” Boebert wrote on Twitter. “Anyone who says otherwise is a tyrant.”
And the Second Amendment is the only amendment that’s absolute. She disagrees with what Antonin Scalia wrote in his majority opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008):
Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.
So, was Antonin Scalia a communist liberal tyrant who hates America too? He is now. Things have changed:
Last month, Boebert accused Biden of “politicizing” the Boulder mass shooting to rally support for tighter gun control measures. The congresswoman drew scrutiny earlier this year after she declared her intention to carry a gun on the House floor.
In February, Democratic lawmakers criticized Boebert after she displayed several guns in the background during a virtual House committee hearing.
But she’s the new wave. Joe Biden isn’t going to fix this. There’s no fixing the crazy.