What Are Congress’ Options on Gun Control?


Wayne LaPierre, the head of the NRA, said last year that Barack Obama’s apparent indifference to gun control was just a ruse:

Obama himself is no fool. So when he got elected, they concocted a scheme to stay away from the gun issue, lull gun owners to sleep, and play us for fools in 2012. Well, gun owners are not fools and we are not fooled.

Sotomayor, Kagan, Fast & Furious, the United Nations, executive orders. Those are the facts we face today…President Obama and his cohorts, yeah, they’re going to deny their conspiracy to fool gun owners. Some in the liberal media, they are already probably blogging about it. But we don’t care because the lying, conniving Obama crowd can kiss our Constitution!

I guess LaPierre was right. Obama has apparently been waiting his entire term for a series of horrific massacres that would give him an excuse to make a speech suggesting vaguely that he might be willing to do something. Maybe.

But what? Quite aside from the political resistance of the NRA, the Supreme Court’s Heller decision in 2008 ruled that the Second Amendment did indeed protect a personal right to bear arms. This puts a significant limit on what Congress could do even if it wanted to. So here’s roughly where we stand:

  • Automatic weapons, the kind you see on TV spraying a hail of bullets as the bad guy sweeps a crowd, have been tightly regulated since the ’30s.
  • Semi-automatic weapons, which require you to squeeze the trigger for each shot, can’t be banned. Virtually every handgun on the market is semi-automatic, and the Supreme Court wouldn’t allow a broad class of guns like this to be banned or even strongly regulated.
  • “Assault weapons” are a tricky category to define, but they’ve been banned in the past and could probably be banned again. (Though a new ban would almost certainly be litigated in light of Heller.)

So what’s left? Possibly a limit on magazine size, which could probably pass constitutional muster. What else? I’m curious to know what my readers think of this. Given the political and constitutional limitations, as well as considerations of what kinds of policies might actually be effective, what would you like to see Congress do?

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.