What Are Congress’ Options on Gun Control?

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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?

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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