by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Washington, D.C., is aflutter with the news that a bipartisan group of senators has come to a “deal” on a framework for, among other things, increased gun control.
Many of the Republicans who are on board the deal are defending it by insisting that it “could be worse.” And, indeed, it could. But we must ask, “so what?” The material question here is not how bad the laws could theoretically be but whether the alterations under consideration would, on balance, improve the status quo. The answer is “No.”
Subject to the details, we remain open to “red flag” laws. But we remain steadfastly opposed to such measures being imposed — or micromanaged — from the federal level. A lack of funding has never been a key obstacle to the creation of state-level crisis intervention statutes, and it is not now, either. What, then, beyond preempting their designs, can be the purpose of a federal role? The same question obtains for the provisions providing funding for mental health, school safety, and telehealth. Thanks in part to the excesses of the federal government’s Covid-19 mitigation efforts, the states are currently flush with cash — especially in the area of education, where 93 percent of the $122 billion that Washington, D.C., sent to America’s schools remains unspent. There is no good case here for the Treasury to write yet more checks.
The framework’s other two ideas are defensible in outline, but one of them — a crackdown on straw purchasers and unlicensed gun dealers — is already the law and needs to be enforced, not reiterated, while the other (including more information in the background-check system) will depend entirely on the execution and would be better dealt with in a smaller, standalone bill.