The Democratic National Convention this evening presented a string of speakers, the vast majority connected personally to tragic gun murders, to sell Hillary Clinton as the only presidential candidate who will, as was often repeated, stand up to the gun lobby and help keep American families safe.
The only real hint of a policy by which the president of the United States is supposed to do this was "keeping guns out of the wrong hands." The presentations featured most of the checklist of ways that "more gun laws" advocates obfuscate the good that more gun laws are supposed to do, beginning with director Lee Daniels conflating the much larger problem of gun suicides with the far smaller one of gun murders as "gun violence" by mentioning the 33,000 American yearly victims of "gun violence."
He calls for "action" and "action now" but doesn't say much about what sort of action.
Daniels was followed by Christine Leinonen, whose son Christopher was murdered by Omar Mateen at the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando in June, using a gun obtained after passing a background check.
She told touching tales about her dead son, including the detail that he was a big Clinton supporter. She mentions that she was a former Michigan state trooper and that when she gave birth, her service weapon was put away in a safe, a "common sense gun policy" that, I guess, might have made someone safer, if we presume someone lurking in the hospital would have stolen it and harmed someone with it.
She analogizes that incident with imagined "common sense gun policies" that might have saved her son's life. But since the closest thing to a specific meaningful policy anyone mentioned all night was background checks to keep guns out of the wrong hands, and Mateen passed one, the relevance of politics or Clinton or the DNC to Leinonen's painful story aren't clear.
Leinonen also allude to a possible policy of banning classes of semi-automatic rifles, the so-called "assault weapon" ban, by mentioning the speed with which a semi-automatic gun can fire bullets. That's a quality of pretty much all semi-automatic weapons, so it could be she's implicitly calling for the ban and removal from society of something peacefully owned by many millions of Americans and connected to no more than 2 percent of America's gun homicide problem.
That is, she might be calling for what will often have to be violent police state action aimed at the ownership of almost universally harmless contraband, something America has had some bad experience with in regards to alcohol and guns, and which no experience indicates will do much to actually get the guns.
Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, hero of the 15 hour stand in Congress to encourage them to pass gun laws, talked of the tragedy of the Newtown school shooting and the unimaginable pain of the parents' loss. He is outraged that Congress has since then done "absolutely nothing to prevent the next massacre." Given that Newtown's killer Adam Lanza stole a weapon from a legal owner, it is unclear what law Congress might pass that would supposedly have prevented the crime in question.
Murphy alludes to something that bothers many folk about the Omar Mateen situation: that he was suspected of possible terror connections by the FBI and still able to legally buy a gun, and calls for the revocation of a constitutional right associated with the right to defend your own life, on the basis of unadjudicated suspicion.
Murphy repeats a belief that one of the main laws that Clinton advocates, a national imposition of universal background checks on all gun purchases, would "make the country safer" though they would have had no effect on nearly all the major American gun tragedies.
Such laws would also do far more to keep people in prohibited categories from defending themselves than they would make any American safer. (Except perhaps ones trying to harm or rob the innocent Americans who may have been in jail, in an institution, or known to use illegal drugs, or if Murphy has his way suspected of skulduggery for any reason by the Feds, and thus robbed of the right to own a gun.)
Erica Smegielski, whose mother died at Sandy Hook, repeats the unsupported belief that electing Clinton will somehow make sure no other daughter has to feel her pain. Former Philly police commissioner Charles Ramsey tries to reel in more traditional law and order types raising the specter of police officers killed by criminals, and openly states an often unstated premise of Clinton-style attitudes toward guns: that the police ought to by right have weapons that you are not allowed to have. Might not be the best message in an American awash in images of cops killing citizens in traffic stops.
Felicia Sanders and Polly Sheppard, survivors of Dylann Roof's murders in a Charleston church, alluded to the first incident mentioned tonight in which it is likely that an existing background check system that actually worked as it was supposed to might have prevented Roof from legally getting his gun, which should remind us that even having existing laws against something by no means makes sure that thing won't happen.
Mark Kelly, the husband of Rep. Gabby Giffords, wounded by a shooter years ago, alluded to his high-tech background in the military and with NASA to suggest that a nation with such technical achievements should have no problem curbing gun violence with the proper will, an argument that misses the particular kind of problem gun violence is, not one amenable to technical solutions.
Kelly suggests that Hillary will do what's right for our country and our communities to lessen gun violence, yet of course does not allude to the war on drugs that helps motivate so much gun violence. The drug war provides a grip on the problem of gun violence far more direct than Hillary's vague and old proposals, yet of course aiming at that is not something Clinton will do; it limits state power and management of our lives, and doesn't expand it.
It was a predictable show when it comes to gun violence tonight at the DNC: a whole lot of tugging on emotions, leaning on real world tragedies to implicitly support policies that would have done nothing to prevent those tragedies, and would if instituted waste a lot of time and money, create a pointless new class of contraband in a country already riven by too much cop-citizen conflict, and rob many innocents of the innocent use of means of self-defense.
All of that aimed at a problem that is, far from a growing crisis, one that has shrunk nearly by half in the past 23 or so years.