Pal’-li-a-tive. (Of a medicine or medical care) relieving pain without dealing with the cause of the condition.
- Oxford Languages
As all are aware, there were multiple incidents involving firearms across our nation this past weekend that met the Gun Violence Archive’s definition of a “mass shooting”: four or more people shot (injured or killed) in a single incident, at the same general time and location, not including the shooter. I was out of town, visiting with friends. On several occasions, we visited public venues. I don’t know how many of them glanced around, considered — and then, out of necessity, dismissed – the thought I had: that if a shooter entered the premises while we were there, we had few avenues of escape.
It’s being reported that given the recent mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, a bipartisan Senate Committee led by Democratic U.S. CT Sen. Chris Murphy and Republican U.S. TX Sen. John Cornyn is considering so-called “gun legislation.” Sen. Murphy, an ardent advocate of gun control, has apparently indicated that any product of the bipartisan negotiation will NOT ban assault weaponry, expand background checks, or raise the age at which firearms can be purchased. Republicans, reportedly, instead wish to emphasize school security and mental health measures. One Wall Street Journal account has noted, “Many Democrats, worn down after repeated failures to advance new laws, have said they are willing to settle for even a small bipartisan deal.”
As all who care are aware, Sandy Hook Elementary School, the scene of the deadliest elementary school mass shooting – including 20 children between the ages 6 and 7 — is located in Mr. Murphy’s state of Connecticut. He took his seat in the Senate in 2013, less than a month after the Sandy Hook massacre. Throughout his time in the Senate, he has worked tirelessly – and tragically, fruitlessly — for effective American gun control measures. No one can have anything but complete admiration for his efforts.
At the same time, even the most pressing issues with the most obvious solutions – a pandemic, or in this case, the unspeakable slaughter of innocents – now somehow become political. I didn’t want to sully the recent posts relating to the Buffalo and Uvalde mass shootings with any reference to their political ramifications. I would now submit that for Democrats, what the Republicans are apparently willing to enact – in the Journal’s words, “a small bipartisan deal” – is a sucker’s bet. They seem likely to take it. They shouldn’t.
As those that follow these pages are aware, I generally maintain an incrementalist philosophy toward legislation: if you see that you don’t have the votes to get the whole loaf, take what you can get. While I can’t dismiss the possibility that President Joe Biden acquiesced to a sweeping Democratic domestic legislative agenda in areas such as voting rights, immigration reform, and the “Build Back Better” initiative because such was necessary to maintain the support of his party’s avid progressive wing, if the so-called “Go Big” strategy was his choice – if he saw himself as either a Franklin Roosevelt or Lyndon Johnson – he may have squandered an opportunity during his first year in office to get small but popular measures passed, such as childcare relief and a path to legal status for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.
Even so, in the area of gun control, I think that Democrats should refuse to settle for a measure that fails to address any of the currently unaddressed evident root causes of many of these massacres. Such a measure will enable Republicans in swing areas to soften swing voters’ outrage at the GOP’s intransigence by allowing them to loudly proclaim that they “did something” while simultaneously maintaining the support of gun rights advocates. Democrats should want the issue, in its rawest form, if all they can get is a palliative. They should want certain voter segments, such as those suburban Republicans who in 2020, because they could no longer stomach former President Donald Trump, either voted for Mr. Biden, or didn’t vote at all, to remain acutely uncomfortable. (Making a negotiation breakdown appear to be the Republicans’ doing should be simple; all it would take would be the introduction into the talks of a generally-popular provision, such as institution of universal background checks.) If Democrats think that after a modest measure is passed, bringing more aggressive bills – to ban assault weapons, to impose universal background checks, etc., etc. — to the floors of the Houses of Congress and making Republicans vote against them will have any political value whatsoever, I fear that they’re kidding themselves.
A close friend recently called my attention to a Politico article (linked below) in which a number of professional politicians opine that gun control is not the type of campaign issue that will sway a determinative number of voters. While this assessment is certainly true in deep- (perhaps better described as, “dead-”) red areas – and arguably gained credence when the Republican U.S. Congressman representing suburban Buffalo, Chris Jacobs, announced on June 3 that he would not seek re-election after facing backlash for indicating that he would support an assault weapons ban — I did note that the piece reports that a Global Strategy Group poll has found that 58% of registered suburban voters in swing states, including Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, support more restrictive gun laws. If I was the Wisconsin Democratic U.S. Senate nominee running against Ron Johnson in a close election – and not expecting to garner any votes from ardent Republicans, as Mr. Jacobs needed to keep his seat – I’d rather have Mr. Johnson on the record as opposing all gun reform than enabling him to assuage the uneasiness of conservative independents and moderate Republican suburban women by asserting that he did indeed vote for a “gun law” — which, on a relative scale to what needs to be done, did precious little to protect our children, our grandchildren, or ourselves.