Ban it or not? Gun control opponents want it both ways

(Rob Tornoe/for WHYY)

(Rob Tornoe/for WHYY)

Give Delaware some credit. While just about everyone else has stopped talking about the brave survivors of a high school shooting in Florida, legislators in the First State are still actually working toward passing small but meaningful gun control legislation.

That said, things are moving slowly.

On Wednesday, Gov. John Carney called out politicians in the legislature for the slow movement on the most important pieces of legislation, including a ban on assault weapons he has pushed for.

“I would encourage the members … in each chamber to give each of those pieces of legislation a vote,” Carney said. “And they can vote ‘yes’ or they can vote ‘no.’ ”

According to the News Journal’s Scott Goss, a committee hearing on the proposed assault weapons ban that was supposed to take place Wednesday was postponed. The Senate tabled the final vote on another bill that would increase the legal age for purchasing a rifle, and the House still hasn’t scheduled a final vote on a bill to ban bump stocks and trigger cranks. A bill to ban high-capacity gun magazines was introduced earlier this month, but it seems unlikely to pass anytime soon.

Even Jeff Hague, the head of the local affiliate of the National Rifle Association, doesn’t understand why some parts of the legislation have languished. He complained that the proposed bump stock ban has languished for a month.

“There was a good compromise on that bill in the Senate, and I don’t understand why it hasn’t come up yet in the House,” Hague said.

The fact that someone like Hague is even in favor of parts of the legislation is significant, given that in most cases even the smallest gun control proposals generally face near-universal opposition from Republicans (and their NRA boosters) who declare them an assault on the Second Amendment.

The argument has always been that passing any gun control legislation would affect only law-abiding gun owners, since people who commit crimes with guns have little to no regard for the law in the first place. So the impact, in terms of preventing gun violence or mass shootings, would be minimal. “You can’t regulate evil,” the saying goes.

But that’s not the same argument they make for abortion, where they claim an all-out ban would prevent the “evil” practice entirely. Despite most states outlawing abortions prior to Roe v. Wade in 1973, tens of thousands of women were forced into back alleys and less-than-ideal circumstances, resulting in the death of more than 1,000 women a year.

The same argument is sounding now in Delaware over marijuana. Despite overwhelming support for legalizing recreational marijuana, legislators have been unable to push anything through due to staunch opposition over fears the First State would be overrun with “reefer madness.” And even if they did, Carney has said in the past he opposed it.

“There are a lot of people who are pushing that. I don’t think it’s a good idea to be out ahead of that, [to be] one of the lead states there,” Carney said on WHYY-TV’s “First” back in February.

Again, the argument is, keep it illegal to prevent people from using it, but we know that’s not the case. Instead, it creates a situation where we incarcerate an overwhelming number of young, black men in Wilmington for possession, while the young, white men in Greenville who smoke the same pot miraculously avoid law enforcement.

Bans on abortion and marijuana are ineffective at stopping people from doing both, but there’s actually good evidence that tight gun control regulations would result in fewer gun deaths. You may not be able to “regulate evil,” but you sure can make it tough for evil to obtain a high-powered weapon.


Rob Tornoe is a cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. Follow Rob on Twitter @RobTornoe

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.