One of my friends who's mid-transition wrote a Facebook post a few days ago about how it was harder for her to get on hormone therapy than it would be to get a gun. It's infuriating and exasperating and mind-boggling, but we seem to have more respect for the Constitution's gun amendment than the whole "promote the general welfare" business in the preamble.
Every time the country suffers through one of these unbearable tragedies, we pin some high hopes on long-shot legislation. And after a dramatic filibuster, Democrats have been able to force a vote on gun control legislation. But the laws they're looking at are pretty weak sauce, and their chances of passing are slim.
The votes are scheduled for Monday, and the bills are as bogged-down in politics and procedure as any bills possibly could be.
We're looking at four proposals, two from Democrats and two from Republicans. One pair of competing laws would restrict sales to possible terrorists; the other pair would reform background checks.
On the Democratic side, Dianne Feinstein's bill would block gun sales if there's a "reasonable suspicion" that the buyer has terrorist ties. Would that have caught the Orlando gunman? Maybe, probably. The San Bernardino shooters? Who knows. The Sandy Hook shooter? Almost definitely not.
But Republicans are pushing back, saying that even this tepid reaction goes too far. There's a risk that some people who are not a threat might not be able to get a gun, they say. This is insanity, of course — they're saying that letting some terrorists get guns is an acceptable price to pay for making sure as many people can get semiautomatic machine guns? Good grief. How is anyone in this country even alive anymore?
The competing Republican bill would only delay the sale of guns to suspected terrorists for 72 hours. During that time, the government could try to permanently block the sale. Maybe they'll be successful, maybe not! That's the fun game of Russian Roulette that America seems to want to play.
Regarding background checks, the Democratic bill would require checks for just about any sale or transfer, with a few exceptions, and also penalize states that don't share gun sale data. The Republican version would simply reauthorize the existing background check system, and also provide incentives for sharing mental health data. Ugh.
Speaking of mental health, it sure would be nice if the GOP would make up their mind on whether gun violence is a medical issue. On one hand, they love to pin shootings on the mentally ill — very classy, nice stigma you're reinforcing there — but then they've also barred the CDC from studying gun violence.
The American Medical Association just voted overwhelmingly to urge lawmakers to allow them to study gun violence. But hey, big surprise: lawmakers sponsored by the gun industry don't think that's a great idea.
“I don’t particularly see the need for it, quite frankly,” said Tom Cole, the Republican in charge of health funding. He got $2,500 from the NRA last year.
“It seems to have worked well. I don’t favor changing it,” said Michael Burgess, a member of the House Doctors Caucus who received $1,500 from the NRA.
I don't know what Michael Burgess thinks is working well right now, but if the death toll is any indication of how he measures success, I wouldn't want him to operate on me.