A man wears his handgun in a holster as he pushes his baby in a stroller at the National Rifle Association convention in Louisville, Ky., in May. Attendees were permitted to carry firearms under Kentucky’s open-carry law. (Mark Humphrey / AP)

It is a measure of how subservient our political system is to the gun lobby that when the Supreme Court affirmed a federal gun ownership ban for domestic abuse convicts this week, it was hailed as a huge victory. In a 6-2 decision, the court deemed that the two plaintiffs from Maine, Stephen Voisine and William Armstrong, would have to abide by a 1996 law banning those convicted of domestic violence from buying guns, even though their convictions were apparently based on actions considered “reckless” rather than intentional. The Lautenberg Amendment strengthened the 1968 Gun Control Act by making it a felony for those convicted of domestic violence-related misdemeanors to “ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms.” While the law is good on paper, and is one of the few federal gun restrictions we have, the trouble is that enforcement is difficult. Only when Voisine was caught killing a bald eagle did law enforcement officials realize that he possessed a gun in violation of the Lautenberg Amendment. Voisine had been convicted of assault and domestic violence-related charges over a dozen times before. Maine and several other states fail to submit conviction records to the federal government, making background checks an unreliable filter. Still, at a time when gun violence in the United States occurs daily, the Supreme Court affirmation feels like a victory. But it shouldn’t. Neither should the recent Democratic show of force in the House chamber over (among other gun-related issues) a bill that would ban people on the federal terrorist watch list from purchasing guns. The dramatic sit-in, led by civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., was good political theater, reflecting public frustration over congressional intransigence on an issue so obvious that all other industrialized nations have managed to effectively address it. But even Donald Trump thinks banning people on the watch list is a no-brainer, underscoring just how skewed our politics on guns have become. The watch list is a red herring. The Orlando nightclub shooter, Omar Mateen, was twice in the FBI’s crosshairs and cleared both times. The very premise of the watch list is flawed, based on the assumption that you can racially and politically profile radicalism and predict its outcome. It is an unconstitutional tool that denies people due process and considers them guilty before being proved so. And, given that there is no trend of watch-list members purchasing weapons and wreaking violence to begin with, such action will not stop gun violence. It will simply help lawmakers score political points. A watch list ban would not have stopped Christy Sheats, for example. Sheats, a Texas woman and proud owner of multiple guns, once proclaimed on her Facebook page, “It would be horribly tragic if my ability to protect myself or my family were to be taken away, but that’s exactly what Democrats are determined to do by banning semi-automatic handguns.” Months later, Sheats called a family meeting and fatally shot her two daughters, even stopping to reload her gun before chasing one of the girls out into the street and gunning her down. (The Facebook post has since been removed, but Google has cached the original.) Already there are speculations about Sheats’ “history of mental illness,” a favored means of casting gun violence incidents as anomalies that no amount of regulations could prevent. If preempting gun violence was truly the goal of the watch-list bill that lawmakers support, then perhaps public proclamations of gun-loving people like Sheats might be a better indicator of coming violence. A man like former police officer and Trump supporter Jim Stachowiak, who publicly called for the shooting of black protesters at the Republican National Convention, might fit the bill too. There are plenty of Americans openly touting guns, hoarding them, carrying them, proudly announcing they will use them if need be. The state of Hawaii has extrapolated that idea to its natural limit by simply putting all gun owners within the state on an FBI watch list. This is sensible. If you have a gun, perhaps you should be suspected of wanting to commit some sort of violence someday, particularly if you own military-style assault rifles. After all, those who procure other types of weapons, such as grenades and bombs, that are also capable of killing human beings with ease and have few other conceivable uses, are legitimately considered suspected criminals. The double standard of the legality of gun ownership is well illustrated by Cleveland, the site of the upcoming Republican National Convention. In anticipation of masses of people coming together in a politically polarized and highly charged atmosphere, the city has banned the carrying of most types of weaponry, including knives, axes and even fake guns around the area of the convention. But the city is in a state with some of the least restrictive gun laws in the nation. Ohio, which gets a “D” grade from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, allows practically anyone over the age of 18 to buy as many guns as he or she wants. It is also an open-carry state, which means gun owners can openly sport their weapons. So Cleveland, in anticipation of potential violence, is sensibly banning all weapons near the convention, except one of the most dangerous, compact and portable weapons—guns—because of the state’s insane gun laws. By the logic of gun rights activists, the more weapons floating around in society, the safer we all are. Why then should any weapon be banned? Won’t we all be safer walking around with all manner of deadly weapons? In fact, if troublemakers wanted to hurt someone outside the convention, they might be better off carrying a gun—a legal weapon—rather than a knife.
Your support matters…

Independent journalism is under threat and overshadowed by heavily funded mainstream media.

You can help level the playing field. Become a member.

Your tax-deductible contribution keeps us digging beneath the headlines to give you thought-provoking, investigative reporting and analysis that unearths what's really happening- without compromise.

Give today to support our courageous, independent journalists.