During President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election bid, his campaign published an online interactive story, “The Life of Julia.” It portrayed Obama’s social welfare initiatives as sustaining and nurturing the faceless, fictitious Julia from cradle to grave. Many were aghast at the all-encompassing vision it portrayed, with every major transition of Julia’s life being met by yet another government program.
That episode came to mind as I reviewed the Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act (HPLA), part of a recent barrage of proposed federal gun control bills. Like Julia, the HPLA is not an organic or independent creation, but the product of a comprehensive apparatus designed to guide and sustain it throughout its lifespan. The HPLA is not an especially novel approach to gun control, but its rollout provides a case study of how enormously wealthy gun banners like Michael Bloomberg seek to “change the national conversation” about firearms. “The HPLA is not an especially novel approach to gun control, but its rollout provides a case study of how enormously wealthy gun banners like Michael Bloomberg seek to “change the national conversation” about firearms.”
Federal firearm licensing bills are nothing new, but the twist with the HPLA is that it would bribe states with your federal tax dollars to require the licensing of handgun acquisition under their own laws. Of course, the minimum standards for these laws—the age cutoff, renewal term, background checks, submission of fingerprints and photographs, etc.—would have to meet federal standards.
Essential to the apparatus are legislators who believe gun control appeals to their constituents and donors. They would gladly ban any or all firearms. Yet the HPLA is meant to persuade uninformed voters that it’s aimed at “reducing gun violence” by keeping guns “out of the wrong hands.” That’s no accident, because the apparatus also involves public relations firms and pollsters that doggedly search for restrictions on your rights that focus groups consider “moderate” or “common sense.”
Gun owners know that handgun licensing is neither moderate nor logical. Criminals don’t get their guns with a license. They get them through theft, straw purchases, family members or other criminals. To them (and the sponsors of the HPLA), licensing is for chumps like you and me, people who bend over backward to follow the rules.
Everybody knows that when you make something more expensive, complicated and time-consuming, fewer people will be willing to do it. That’s why gun control advocates love licensing schemes. On the surface, they might seem reasonable because they don’t literally prohibit all people from owning all guns. Yet, in the war of attrition against the Second Amendment, they reduce gun ownership from one generation to the next.
Elsewhere in this issue, I discuss the grossly distorted “science” that supposedly gives the HPLA its “evidence-based” credibility. Here again, the apparatus is at work. Bloomberg’s bought-and-paid-for “Center for Gun Policy and Research” at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health produced two “studies” that supposedly validate handgun licensing as an effective tool against firearm homicide. The most recent was published in an online journal of public health (a field that considers firearm ownership a disease) on June 11. The HPLA was introduced the next day, its sponsors trumpeting the research on which it was based. “Federal firearm licensing bills are nothing new, but the twist with the HPLA is that it would bribe states with your federal tax dollars to require the licensing of handgun acquisition under their own laws.”
Cue the next phase of the apparatus. Anti-gun media outlets seized on the June 11 study and the HPLA as if Congress were legislating the cure for heart disease. The Washington Post hailed the study as demonstrating “a huge success for public safety,” insisting it was “compelling … evidence that permit-to-purchase laws help save lives. …” The “NRA’s worst nightmare,” blared Salon.
Media reporting on guns is characterized by ignorance, inexperience, and cultural and political bigotry, all nurtured by the elite institutions that train America’s reporters. For egomaniacs like Bloomberg, however, that isn’t enough.
In May, Bloomberg partnered with the Columbia University journalism school on a two-day workshop for journalists covering “guns and gun violence.” In June, he launched an entire media operation—called The Trace—dedicated to promoting his narrative of America’s “epidemic rates” of gun violence, as well as his phony “solutions.” The project’s director said he considers “win[ning] a Pulitzer” part of the job.
Ultimately, Julia retired to volunteer at a community garden, thanks to Medicare and Social Security. Even if Congress grants the HPLA a similar swift and harmless retirement, the apparatus that produced and promoted it will remain at work, relentlessly seeking to undo the Second Amendment. Whether it succeeds depends on you and the officials you choose to represent you.