I haven’t watched all 15 hours of the pro-gun control filibuster led by Senator Chris Murphy and squired by his fellow Connecticut lawmaker Dick Blumenthal last night. Having grown up in the Land of Steady Habits, I’ve had quite enough of seeing Blumenthal’s face plastered across my television screen 14 seconds after a crisis. I actually first heard the crack “the most dangerous place to be is between ____ and a camera” in relation to Blumenthal when I was a boy. Apparently little has changed.
The purpose of Murphy’s and Blumenthal’s filibuster was to demand more gun control laws in the wake of the Orlando shooting. There’s nothing wrong with that per se: Murphy is a liberal Democrat from a liberal state, and a filibuster is a perfectly valid method of drawing attention to a cause that a senator worries is being neglected, as Rand Paul has repeatedly demonstrated. But what exactly does Murphy hope to achieve with his grueling talk-a-thon? USA Today reports:
Murphy listed off mass shootings and talked about expanding background checks for gun buyers and banning gun sales to people on terror watch lists. He said the failure of Congress to pass such measures has been particularly disappointing to him and other residents of Connecticut, where a shooter gunned down 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012.
Not to play the cliché dissenting Republican, but none of the proposals Murphy suggests would have stopped either the Orlando mass shooting or the Newtown massacre. Omar Mateen passed a background check, as did Nancy Lanza, mother of Newtown shooter Adam Lanza—neither Mateen nor Lanza had any criminal history or official record of mental illness. Adam Lanza, on the other hand, was turned away from a gun shop when he refused to comply with a background check. In other words, the system Murphy demands is already in place, it works (albeit imperfectly), and perverse things still happen.
As for the terror watch list, suburban New England mothers like Nancy Lanza generally aren’t on it, unless the government sees fit to deprive them of due process because they happen to share the surname of an IRA thug who passed away 20 years ago. And while Mateen was on the watch list for a couple years while he was being questioned by the FBI, he was later removed after being exculpated, and only then did he purchase his guns. The only way Murphy’s scheme would have prevented Orlando from happening was if the government kept suspects on the list even after they’d been cleared. Is that what the good senator wants? Can I offer him a copy of the Constitution and a pair of scissors for his next filibuster?
Other mass shooters who passed background checks and weren’t on the watch list include Aaron Alexis who gunned down the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.; James Holmes of Aurora movie theater infamy; and Jared Loughner who wounded former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords during a massacre in Arizona. A stronger and better-funded database might have barred Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho, who had a history of mental illness, but the others would have completed their demented missions just the same. Perhaps the most haunting reality that settles in after a mass shooting is how frustratingly, aggravatingly, damnably difficult they are to predict.
If Murphy is going to demand more gun control in the wake of every mass shooting, then he should concede that minor tweaks won’t work, damn to hell the Second Amendment, and demand the only thing that will prove effective: the mass confiscation of firearms. That would require the seizure of tens of millions of guns, police kicking down doors, likely social unrest, possible civil war—all to make our society less violent, of course. Murphy could do that, or he could stop capitalizing on our raw emotions and be honest about the limits of his policies. That’s always an option, too.