Among all the general weeping, gnashing of teeth, safety pins and calls for the Presidency to be determined by popular vote, a number of concerns have been raised about actual issues. These include health care, immigration, foreign relations and whether or not we can afford the promised tax cuts.
But I have been a bit surprised to see almost nothing about the fate of one of Hillary Clinton’s key campaign platforms: gun control.
New gun control measures were on the ballot in four states and passed in three of them. Nevadans approved a very well-written law to expand background checks to most private sales by a 0.09% margin. Voters in California and Washington approved measures to allow judges more discretion in allowing gun seizures in certain cases and California approved a new ban on high-capacity magazines.
The sole loss was in Maine where voters turned down a background check referendum with a 4.05% margin.
Mrs. Clinton’s campaign platform included a federal expansion of background checks, a renewal of the Assault Weapons Ban, use of secret lists to deny firearm purchases (no-fly, no-buy) and the appointment of at least one new Supreme Court justice willing to revisit the Heller v. District of Columbia and McDonald v. Chicago decisions.
Buoyed by the near certainty of a Clinton victory and a new majority in the Senate, gun control advocates were looking forward to progress in Washington.
But something happened: Hillary Clinton lost. She carried 20 states, plus the District of Columbia, while Donald Trump carried 30, assuming nothing changes in Michigan.
A number of people have described the results of the election as a train wreck. If so, the casualties included not only Mrs. Clinton, but former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Chuck Schumer and the executive orders signed by President Obama.
Because the Democrats lost not only the White House, they failed to flip the Senate, picking up just two seats, with a possible third if Foster Campbell can defeat John Kennedy in the Louisiana runoff next month. In the House, the Democrats flipped only six seats. Once again, there is a runoff in Louisiana that could add a seventh, but the results won’t really matter as both candidates are pro-gun rights.
When everyone takes office in January, the outlook is sweet from a gun owner’s perspective:
The new President is a gun owner and has a concealed-carry license. The new Vice President, and President of the Senate, is rated “A” by the NRA. There are 48, and will likely be 49, Senators that are rated “A” by the NRA. A majority of Senators are ranked “B” or better. Conservative GOP Representatives control the House with a 46-vote majority: 47 if the Louisiana runoff goes as expected.
The surprise sweep is like having the keys to the candy shop for the National Rifle Association, Gun Owners of America and other gun-rights groups.
So what is likely to be proposed in the 115th Congress?
1. 50-state reciprocity for concealed handgun licenses – permit holders from out of state would be able to carry their guns in New York (including New York City) and California subject only to the same restrictions the states place on their own licensees. This has been on the GOP wish list for several years and they now have a President that won’t veto it.
2. A reduction in gun-free zones including a modification of school zones to allow parents with permits to have their gun in their vehicle when they are dropping off or picking up their children. It would still be illegal to carry a gun into a school.
3. Passage of the Hearing Protection Act, which removes sound suppressors (silencers) from the National Firearms Act (NFA) and allows sales to any person not prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm. This is actually a good idea as it reduces noise pollution and reduces the risk of hearing damage.
4. Repeal of the Hughes Amendment to the Firearm Owners Protection Act which prohibited adding fully automatic or selective-fire weapons manufactured after May 1986 to the NFA registry. This means modern military-style firearms would be legal to sell to civilians. Note: Repeal would not remove the $200 transfer tax or the requirement to obtain approval of a police chief or sheriff or the extensive background check that is performed. Nor would it relax any of the rules and restrictions that apply to NFA firearms.
5. Removal of short-barreled rifles (barrel less than 16 inches long) and shotguns (barrel less than 18 inches long) from the NFA. Since these were last the subject of a Supreme Court action (the Miller decision in 1939), firearms have changed. Back then, the Court said that shotguns with barrels shorter than 18 inches were not normally used by military units so it was within the boundaries of the Second Amendment to restrict them. Today shotguns with a 14-inch barrel are routinely issued to military and police. The standard-issue military rifle, the M4 Carbine, has a 14.5-inch barrel and barrels as short as 10.5 inches are in use.
What’s not happening?
1. An Assault Weapons Ban or other restrictions on types of firearms and magazine capacity.
2. Repeal of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.
3. Federal expansion of background checks to private sales.
4. Use of the “no-fly” list to prohibit firearms possession. President Obama’s executive order that extended prohibitions to persons that assign their Social Security benefits to another person is likely to be an early casualty in the Trump Administration.
5. Federal requirement for records to be kept of ammunition sales.
6. Anything ever proposed by Senator Charles Schumer or Senator Dianne Feinstein or mentioned by Hillary Clinton during her campaign.
Of course, one of the first orders of business will be to nominate and confirm a new Supreme Court justice to replace Antonin Scalia. This will keep a conservative majority on the bench. Ruth Bader Ginsberg will be 85 before the mid-term elections; Anthony Kennedy will be 82 and Steven Breyer will be 80. In theory, Trump could have as much as a 7-2 conservative majority by the next Presidential election.
Look to see the action shift to the state level. Michael Bloomberg has already done this and has had some success. However, Everytown for Gun Safety, the Violence Police Center, the Brady Campaign and other gun control groups are going to be facing emboldened gun rights groups with backing like they haven’t had in years. The two sides have made this one of the most deeply divisive issues in American politics and now we will reap the whirlwind.