This is another little story about our failed politics because of meanness, mindlessness and the dominance of inane extremes.
Dan Crenshaw is more Tom Cotton-ish than Tom Cotton. He's a 35-year-old Navy SEAL who did five stints of duty and lost an eye in an explosion in Afghanistan. He got elected to the U.S. House of Representatives last year from Houston's outlying areas.
He is a belligerent and bellicose right-wing Republican given to fiery rhetoric. He put on Twitter last week that a law extending background checks from licensed dealers only to include gun shows and Internet and private sales would mean he couldn't even lend a gun to a friend.
What he meant, quite plainly, was that background checks take time and sometimes a friend might confront an immediate need for firearm protection.
Let's say there was a home-invasion murder near your home. Let's say a friend called and said he'd like to lend you a firearm for protection for a couple of weeks. That's the kind of thing Crenshaw was talking about. He also mentioned lending a gun to a friend who was traveling.
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the lightning rod and democratic socialist, tweeted in reply to express her outrage that Crenshaw wanted the right to lend weapons to his friends who couldn't pass background checks and probably included domestic batterers.
Crenshaw shot back that he merely was educating his New York City colleague on the helpful things people do for each other out in real America. He said that, next, he would try to explain to AOC that, out here in real America, people don't just lend each other guns but they ... wait for it ... read the Bible.
All of it amounted to demagogic nonsense, every word, both in the gun-hugging Bible-thumping of the young man from Texas and the mad rush to overheated judgment from the young woman from the Bronx.
Let's burden their fun with a fact: The bill for expansion of background checks passed by the Democratic House and buried to date by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell contains exceptions. The bill exempts from those expanded checks any selling or lending of firearms to family members up to cousins, lending for sporting use, and lending for self-defense.
The authorized self-defense exception states that it applies to "a temporary transfer that is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm."
Perhaps you think the exception is not sufficiently defined to cover whatever level of short-term gun-sharing Crenshaw might have in mind or to protect against the concerns of Ocasio-Cortez.
If so, a healthy governing body and responsible members thereof would seek to clarify by amendment. A serious legislator would work on a policy solution rather than a tweet storm.
But, anymore, policy details are easy excuses for polarized positions rather than challenges for problem-solving.
Crenshaw and Ocasio-Cortez were merely playing a fun game of "culture war," with Texas taking on New York, on the American Twitter playground.
How about allowing a 60-day loan of a firearm absent a background check to a person well-known to you who has received a threat of death or harm or who lives within a mile of a recent home invasion and shooting incident or is traveling through high-crime areas by established statistics? Maybe the lender could face liability if his trust was misplaced and the gun was used criminally.
I'm not saying that's even practical. I'm saying solutions aren't easy. I am saying only that I seek to start a constructive dialogue, which is more than Crenshaw and Ocasio-Cortez ever consider.
I favor a solution for this simple reason: If we could require background checks on all gun transactions while permitting a few logical and defensible exceptions, then why wouldn't we do that?
But Crenshaw wanted only to concoct a complication for expanded background checks because his base and the gun lobby don't want expanded background checks.
And Ocasio-Cortez wanted only to demonize. She accused the young war veteran of wanting to arm bad people.
It is true that expanding background checks would not have stopped any of these recent mass shootings, except maybe the recent one in the very state from which Crenshaw hails.
That shooter had a semi-assault weapon that he bought from an individual. He'd tried to make a gun purchase from a licensed dealer in 2014 and had been denied for failing a background check.
Either way, it is simple sane policy--not a panacea--to require a uniform background check not only for one form of gun transaction, but for all forms, with practical exceptions, including short-term lending to friends for self-defense.
If members of Congress intend only to tweet hatefully or snidely to and about each other rather than work on solving problems, then we can raze the U.S. Capitol and save money with a virtual Congress operated remotely from the safe sniper perches of keypads.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.
Editorial on 09/10/2019
Print Headline: JOHN BRUMMETT: Sane policy in crossfire