The NRA has become kind of a catchall boogeyman for a lot of people—there is this assumption that the gun rights lobby is pulling all sorts of dastardly strings behind the scenes of Congress, like a cabal of well-armed Illuminati—and Senator Tim Kaine, the vice presidential nominee who this season has more or less abandoned every last shred of personal credibility, recently took to the pages of Time Magazine to reinforce this paranoia:
When I arrived in the U.S. Senate in January 2013, our country was again reeling from another devastating tragedy: on December 14, 2012, twenty children and six adults were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. A group of Democrats and Republicans came together after this tragedy to draft compromise legislation that would have closed the gun show loophole and encouraged states to help strengthen the existing background check system. After months of debating, I was sure that this time would be different, that this time my colleagues would have the courage to stand up to the NRA and pass meaningful gun control reform to make our entire country safer. But the same special interests that prevented us from closing the gun show loophole in Virginia in the wake of Virginia Tech were at it again. Ultimately, a minority in the Senate prevented a majority from passing this meaningful, commonsense gun safety legislation.
More recently, in December 2015, the Senate failed to stand up to the NRA and rejected another commonsense bipartisan measure that would have made it illegal for people on the no-fly list to be prohibited from purchasing weapons. If someone has been deemed too dangerous to be allowed on an airplane, why should they be permitted to purchase a firearm?
Actually, contra the senator, Diane Feinstein’s “commonsense bipartisan measure” did not concern the “no-fly list;” it concerned the terror watch list, a much broader index that has seen countless innocent people labeled threats to national security. Is it too much to ask the vice presidential candidate to understand the legislation about which he writes? And while it might be a little much to expect a Democrat to grasp this—especially one who has yoked his harness to Hillary Clinton’s political machine— the fact of the matter is, it’s a good thing that the Senate voted down a bill that would have shredded the rights and protections found in both the Second and Fourth Amendments. Normal people are happy when such a constitutional crisis is roundly averted.
Yet maybe Tim Kaine is not in fact “normal.” In any event, his own political intuitions—along with those of his partisan colleagues—do seem to be rather stunted. The failure of the post-Newtown “compromise legislation” didn’t have anything to do with “special interests” (which is what progressives call American citizens with which they disagree); it had everything to do with the fact that the legislation was self-evidently irrelevant to the problem it was trying to solve. Adam Lanza did not acquire his weapons using a “gun show loophole;” he didn’t even have to pass a background check. He got his hands on the guns by stealing them from his mother, whom he then shot and killed. Consequently, the proposed legislation wouldn’t have done anything at all to stop another Newtown—or another Virginia Tech, or Aurora, or Orlando. The solution doesn’t address the problem in the slightest. Every time there is a mass shooting, politicians try to pass laws that have nothing to do with the shootings themselves—and when the laws fail to pass, the politicians are, like Tim Kaine, baffled and scandalized: all they can do is scream “SPECIAL INTERESTS.”
The purpose of these laws is not to advance “gun safety;” it’s to steadily chip away at the foundations of American gun ownership, piecemeal, one piece of legislation at a time. You can see this phenomenon playing out in, say, California: a state that already has some of the most intolerant gun control laws in the country is now proposing background checks for ammunition. It never stops with one law; the end-game is never simply “gun safety,” but something much more consequential and far-reaching. Tim Kaine understands this; he’s just hoping you’re dumb enough not to.