Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has already taken a heap of criticism for, as Republican strategist Arthur Schwartz put it, "using Jewish blood to push for a vote in the Senate" in her politicized response to Saturday's synagogue shooting near San Diego.
But the factually challenged substance of her demand was almost as bad as her ghoulish timing.
After a gunman at Chabad of Poway synagogue in California left one dead and three wounded, AOC responded by calling for the Senate to vote on HR 8, a gun control bill passed by the House earlier this year.
She probably should have waited to get the facts of the shooting, because they show that HR 8 wouldn't have done anything to prevent this atrocity from happening.
HR 8 is a "universal" background check bill that merely extends federal background check requirements to private firearms transactions that do not extend across state lines.
While there are still questions about whether or not the features of the modern sporting rifle allegedly used in the shooting were compliant with California regulations, the gun appears to be perfectly legal under federal law.
Even if it wasn't, HR 8 focuses on background check restrictions, not types of guns. And the shooter had reportedly no previous encounters with law enforcement that might have led to something that would have popped up on a NICS check.
And yes, HR 8 is also a back-door, de facto handgun ban for people ages 18-20. But the 19-year-old suspect used a rifle.
It's political moments like this that really highlight the naked reality of the gun debate.
As I've written before, given the current structure of our gun laws at the federal level, there isn't a proposed top-down federal proposal that:
- Is a legitimate policy innovation over what's already on the books (i.e. isn't just better enforcement of already existing law or stiffer penalties for breaking it).
- Passes muster with the Second, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and 14th Amendments.
- Isn't completely ignorant of how guns work in the first place (e.g., defining "assault weapons" by common cosmetic features).
- Would actually deter or reduce mass shootings or gun violence in quantity or severity, rather than just creating more soft targets — by disarming them — for those who were already going to break the law anyway.
We can sit around and theorize about possible piecemeal "gun safety" bills that would make politicians and activists feel good while making things more difficult for law-abiding gun owners. But when things get real, that's all those piecemeal measures are likely to do. Once all those measures have been shamelessly promoted, tried, and found wanting, then what?
At that point, the real choices remaining are to realize that real gun safety involves trained and responsible self-defense, or to try to take law-abiding Americans' guns away in a country that owns 40 percent of the world's firearms and where a repeal of the Second Amendment is little more than an anti-gun politician's fever dream.
Indeed, if a politician is going to exploit atrocity to push for her preferred policies, she probably should pick policies that would actually have prevented the atrocity. But the difficulty of that, when it comes to gun control, is finding policies that work to begin with.