Ban assault weapons.
March 28, 2023
“Democrats were going to turn this tragic event into a political thing.”
So said GOP Rep. Jim Jordan when he canceled a hearing to de-regulate “pistol straps,” devices that enhance the killing efficiency of pistols. The hearing was scheduled for Monday—the day that the latest mass shooting claimed the lives of seven people in Tennessee. As is almost universally true, the killer used assault weapons to kill their victims. The cowardly Jim Jordan did not want Democrats to use the hearing to highlight that Republicans care more about blood money from lobbyists than they care about the lives of schoolchildren.
Yes, Jim Jordan, the truth hurts. Democrats would have condemned the immorality and cruelty of your glorification of weapons and devotion to a cult of death. Democrats would have discussed the brutal wounds inflicted by ammunition designed not merely to penetrate but to mutilate. Democrats planned to rail against perverting a right intended to ensure the common defense into an excuse for insurrectionists and the mentally ill to carry weapons of war into the public square.
Yes, Democrats would have turned the tragedy in Tennessee into a “political thing”—because that is what true leaders do. True political leaders seek to ensure the peace and security of their constituents against preventable threats. If that is “politics”—and it is—we need more of it, not less.
But we need to be louder, bolder, more demanding, and less apologetic about offending voters who will never be convinced no matter what concessions we make. We need to recognize that Americans who want this madness to stop constitute a strong majority capable of forcing their will on those who protect guns over the lives of schoolchildren.
It is long past time to ban assault weapons. If reaching that goal means we must enlarge the Supreme Court, do it. If it requires amending the Constitution, do it. If it requires demanding that every Democrat running for office sign a pledge to support banning assault rifles, do it. Democrats should no longer retreat from this issue in political fear but should set the terms of the debate—and then have it, once and for all.
We should also abandon euphemisms. America does not have a “gun safety” problem. It has a gun problem, and it is time we admit that fact in plain language. No amount of “gun safety” will lessen the killing efficiency of an assault rifle. Yes, we should promote gun safety measures that can reduce gun violence but their is no alternative to banning assault rifles.
The fact that the shameless Jim Jordan was shamed into canceling the hearing on pistol straps shows that Republicans understand they are on the wrong side of this issue—morally and politically. Let’s keep them on the defensive and never let up. We owe that to the 40,000+ Americans who die of gun violence each year—an annual total that rivals the number of US military personnel killed in action in Vietnam over two decades.
Be informed, get involved, and stay focused on the issue. There are many effective organizations. Here is the link to Sandy Hook Promise. I urge readers to list other worthy organizations in the Comments. If possible, include links to websites and include a short description of the mission of the group. Invite others to volunteer and share in the work of saving our children.
Let’s ban assault weapons. Our children are looking to us to protect them from weapons of war. How can we refuse their cry for help?
Democrats let Republicans bully them into overruling the DC Council revisions to its criminal code. Republicans did so by mischaracterizing the revisions as “soft on crime”—and Democrats blinked, afraid to take on the truth.
See the following note from Mark Joseph Stern and ask yourself if Republicans were concerned about the DC criminal code revisions being “soft on crime”—or too tough on guns.
Incidentally, the revised D.C. criminal code would’ve dramatically increased penalties for assault weapons but Congress and Biden decided we weren’t allowed to do that.
Putin, Xi, Ukraine.
The meeting between Presidents Putin and Xi was supposed to usher in a new era of Sino-Russian cooperation. The good feelings lasted about four hours after Xi left Russia—when China announced a “Central Asian” summit that did not include Russia. It is worth noting that Russia’s territory occupies portions of Central and East Asia, so its exclusion from the summit was a pointed reminder of the competition between Russian and Chinese spheres of influence.
It didn’t take long for Russia to fire back. Over the weekend, Putin announced that Belarus had agreed to accept deployment of Russian tactical nuclear weapons. See The Guardian, Russia to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. This development—if it comes to fruition—is bad news. The move would place Russian tactical nuclear weapons closer to both Ukraine and Europe.
How does the announcement between Russia and Belarus relate to China—and why is it viewed as a slap at Xi? Because the announcement came just a few days after Putin signed an agreement with Xi to restrict nuclear weapon deployments outside of the country possessing the weapons. See Business Insider, Putin ‘Humiliated’ China’s Xi Jinping With His Nuclear Announcement.
None of this means that the US should minimize threats from Russia or China. But it does give the lie to the narrative circulating in the right-wing media that Biden “pushed Putin into Xi’s arms” by vigorously opposing China’s military and economic expansion. If Biden did force the leaders into an embrace, it was reluctant and short-lived. Xi and Putin see one another as rivals for power on the Eurasian continent—and their meeting seemed to rekindle that rivalry.
The Manhattan grand jury heard testimony on Monday from David Pecker, the former editor of National Enquirer who implemented a “catch and kill” strategy to protect Trump from harmful disclosures. One story included in that strategy related to the affair between Stormy Daniels and Trump, a story that Michael Cohen and David Pecker helped to kill just weeks before the 2016 election.
Monday’s appearance by Pecker was his second, suggesting that D.A. Alvin Bragg is rebutting testimony from Robert Costello, a Trump attorney who attacked Michael Cohen’s credibility last week. Costello claimed that Michael Cohen paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 hush money out of the goodness of his heart without the expectation of repayment by Trump. See Business Insider, Trump ally and ex-National Enquirer publisher David Pecker testified Monday before the NY hush-money grand jury.
In short, the grand jury may be wavering, or not. Sadly, the seal of confidentiality relating to the grand jury’s work has been broken, with the media obtaining real-time reports regarding witness testimony. Bragg needs to bring his investigation to a conclusion—one way or another. The NY proceeding is undermining confidence in the grand jury system.
Flying under the radar is a development relating to Mark Meadows in special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into the January 6th insurrection (and possibly Georgia election interference). Last week, “D.C. District Judge Beryl Howell rejected [Trump’s] claim of executive privilege to stop his former chief of staff Mark Meadows and other top aides from testifying in special counsel Jack Smith’s Jan. 6 probe.” See Aftergut, Eisen, and Tribe in Slate, Donald Trump Has a Fresh Legal Headache, and It May Be His Worst Yet.
Meadows is at the center of three plots by Trump: the effort to stop the count of electoral votes by inciting a mob, to collect votes by fake electors, and to overturn Georgia’s vote in the 2020 presidential election. Judge Howell’s ruling that Meadows cannot rely on executive privilege leaves him with one last line of defense—the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination.
Meadows will undoubtedly appeal, but the D.C. Circuit has shown its willingness to handle appeals from grand jury witness disputes in record time.
As noted last week, I have given up prognosticating timelines for indictment. But at the very least, the rulings show that Jack Smith is deep into the investigations that matter the most—the insurrection, attempted coup, and the Georgia election interference. As long as Jack Smith is working those investigations hard, it takes some pressure off Alvin Bragg to charge a felony on misdemeanor facts.
Trump’s shrinking base.
The media coverage of Trump’s 2024 presidential bid makes it appear that Trump is gaining momentum and popularity despite strong evidence to the contrary. Although it is way too early to believe polls about the state of the presidential race, we can consider polls that track trends regarding Trump’s popularity over time.
If we step back to gain perspective, it turns out that there is nothing wrong with our television set, our “Spidey sense,” or our antennae: Trump’s “die-hard” base is shrinking. That makes sense, but it is good to know. Aaron Blake has asked the $64,000 question in his op-ed in WaPo, How big is Trump’s true-believer base? The short answer is that over the last eighteen months, Trump’s “strongly favorable” support in the GOP has dropped by 33% while his “unfavorable” rating in his party has doubled (from 10% to 20%).
Blake’s article presents statistics showing Trump’s popularity is waning even among his most ardent supporters—significantly. And when we broaden the lens to include all Americans, only 14% view Trump favorably, a record low.
Ah! But what about Biden’s dismal favorability ratings? You mean the ratings that are higher than those of Trump and Reagan at the same point in their presidencies? Or the ratings that reflect a pandemic recession, attendant inflation, and the hard decision to pull out of Afghanistan? Possibly you are referring to the ratings that reflect the poisonous lies of a major news source serving as a surrogate political arm for Trump.
Considering all that, Joe Biden is doing okay—and a lot better than Trump!
Despite this newsletter's opening lines, the school shooting in Tennessee is not political—at least not in the sense of how it affects our feelings of safety and security. The randomness of the violence is unsettling. If you feel that way, consider how kids in school, teachers, and school staff feel each time they hear about another school shooting. If you have students, teachers, or school staff in your life, make an extra effort to be supportive. If they want to talk about it, listen. If they don’t, be present.
Isolation is at the core of many of our society’s ills, including gun violence. Human kindness and connection are our first line of defense in preventing future violence.
Banning assault weapons is the next.
Talk to you tomorrow!