Gun Grabber

I’ll believe it when I see it, but a WaPo report over the weekend that a White House task force led by the vice president is considering “a far broader and more comprehensive approach to curbing the nation’s gun violence than simply reinstating an expired ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition” has certainly gotten the attention of the gun lobby.

TPM’s Evan McMorris-Santoro this morning quotes “gun rights” advocate Dave Workman as saying:

“They’re talking about banning millions of firearms,” he said. “The writing was on the wall when Joe Biden was put on that thing because he’s a gun grabber.”

Nobody’s actually talking about “banning millions of firearms,” though it’s a nice thought. Here’s what WaPo suggested:

A working group led by Vice President Biden is seriously considering measures backed by key law enforcement leaders that would require universal background checks for firearm buyers, track the movement and sale of weapons through a national database, strengthen mental health checks, and stiffen penalties for carrying guns near schools or giving them to minors, the sources said.

Given the NRA’s powerful hold on Congress (reflected by the immediately negative remarks about the administration’s efforts from newly elected Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota), it’s significant Biden’s group is looking at things that can be done administratively:

In addition to potential legislative proposals, Biden’s group has expanded its focus to include measures that would not need congressional approval and could be quickly implemented by executive action, according to interest-group leaders who have discussed options with Biden and key Cabinet secretaries. Possibilities include changes to federal mental-health programs and modernization of gun-tracking efforts by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

This is all producing the freakout the gun lobby has been anticipating lo these many years. But from the administration’s point of view, perhaps they figure that if Obama is going to be constantly accused, with zero evidence, of plotting a vast conspiracy to confiscate all guns before he imposes Shariah Law or whatever, he might as well advocate reasonable gun safety measures.

The flashpoint for the reaction to this development is likely to be Gun Appreciation Day, an event modeled on the Christian Right’s Chik-Fil-A Appreciation Day and scheduled for the weekend of the president’s inauguration.

Not sure how this is going to work, but the idea is more than a little scary. On Chik-fil-A Appreciation Day, supporters of “traditional marriage” were encouraged to visit one of the stores and stand up to Big Gay by brandishing fists full of sandwiches. I hope that on January 19 we’re not all dealing with every gun nut in America roaming the streets firing their weapons into the air like a scene from a bad western. But then I guess that would show the “gun grabber” Joe Biden who’s boss.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.