You’ve gotta hand it to the National Rifle Association: it is a master of the legislative chess game. Yesterday morning, we published a post about how some GOP legislators had made tepid statements in the wake of Sunday’s Las Vegas massacre appearing to at least consider the possibility of supporting regulation of so called “bump stocks,” a readily available and cheap add-on that modifies commonly available semi-automatic assault rifles so that they will fire much faster, nearly at true machine gun speed. We had to update it yesterday afternoon after the NRA announced it was in favor of steps to curtail sales of the dastardly little death-makers. We were surprised at how reasonable the NRA seemed to be.
After a little reflection it appears to us that the whole “we at the NRA are being reasonable about gun control” thing was a ploy, and a masterly one at that, to derail actual congressional debate over actual measures to limit access to dangerous crowd-killing weapons. Here is the statement (via CNN):
“The NRA believes that devices intended to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations,” Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox, the group’s top two leaders, said in the statement. “In an increasingly dangerous world, the NRA remains focused on our mission: strengthening Americans’ Second Amendment freedom to defend themselves, their families and their communities.”
As a lawyer, your editor noticed two things about this statement. First, the statement shows these guys are very aware that the manufacture for private sale of actual fully-automatic machine guns is already illegal, and of course the NRA knows that all federal gun laws are administered by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (an agency that is heavily lobbied and influenced by the NRA). Second, the NRA statement did not say “Congress ought to enact additional laws to deal with this subject.” The NRA very carefully said that these devices “should be subject to additional regulations.”
Statutes are the laws passed by Congress. “Regulations,” on the other hand, are the creation of agencies tasked with administering laws passed by Congress. What the NRA is advocating is this: “There is already a law against machine guns. This device ought to fall under that law, and our buddies at the ATF can craft regulations that seemingly deal with the issue without making rules that will piss us and the other gun-humpers off.”
It’s brilliant. With one well-thought-out statement, the NRA has given GOP members of Congress the perfect out. They can just punt the whole mess to the NRA ass-kissers at the ATF and be done with it. Problem solved.
The benefit is two-fold. It gives an escape hatch to cowardly legislators (and Donald Trump) who don’t want to buck their NRA puppet-masters, and (more important to the NRA) it prevents the spectacle of opening Pandora’s box and starting an actual congressional discussion of the reasonable measures the U.S. could take to curtail gun violence, like all other civilized countries on the entire fucking planet have succeeded in doing.
The legislative strategists at the NRA are evil geniuses.
Emphasis on evil.