Many in Alabama are fretting that the federal government is about to take their guns.
The state Legislature is of course taking advantage of the fears. One senator filed the “Second Amendment Preservation Act.” Another senator went even further, filing a bill that purports to make it a state felony for a law enforcement officer or gun seller to enforce federal restrictions on firearms.
Elected representatives are holding town hall meetings on the issue, complete with ominous presentations by the National Rifle Association.
And as the panic grows, so do the lines at gun stores. President Barack Obama is trying to get our guns, so it’s time to stock up.
A few basics.
First, Obama has essentially no authority to do anything on gun control. He last month did what he could, and it boiled down to instructing his staff members to release a bunch of memos.
Congress likewise is limited — not by the increasingly bizarre legislation proposed in Montgomery — but by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
More than that, there are two houses in Congress. Both must approve any legislation changing gun laws. Even those who accept the proposition that Democrats want to take away guns can feel secure. The Republican-controlled House has no interest in doing so.
Moreover, even the Democrat-controlled Senate has little appetite to reform gun laws. Democratic voters own guns, too.
A proposed reauthorization of the Assault Weapons Ban shows little chance of passing the Senate and none of passing the House.
The only proposal that has any traction in Congress would require universal background checks.
Background checks already are required in Alabama for purchases of guns from dealers. The only significance of the change would be to also require them in private sales at gun shows. The background checks merely involve a cursory review of a database to make sure the buyer has not been institutionalized for mental illness or committed a felony.
Alabama politicians, we suspect, know all this. Whether or not significant gun reform should happen, it won’t. The only likely result from the intense political debates is a law requiring universal background checks.
It’s hard to believe even the most enthusiastic gun owners want guns in the hands of those with a serious mental illness or of felons.
Like so many issues in Montgomery, politicians are pumping this one to distract voters. State officials would prefer that voter outrage be directed externally.
They are glad to proclaim their willingness to protect Alabama residents from the Washington threat, and they are happy to fabricate a threat if one is not available.
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