Email #303: “our constitutional freedoms”?

The death toll in Las Vegas was so high because the killer used a bump stock conversion kit to make his assault rifle function like a machinegun. Republican Rep. Flores said Wednesday: “I think they should be banned. There’s no reason for a typical gun owner to own anything that converts a semiautomatic to something that behaves like an automatic.”

Republican Rep. Curbelo is already introducing a bipartisan bill that would ban the conversion kits.  Republican Rep. Meadows, who heads the highly partisan Freedom Caucus, said he is considering supporting it. Republican Senators Graham, Hatch, Rubio, and Cornyn are too. Cornyn said Wednesday: “I own a lot of guns, and as a hunter and sportsman, I think that’s our right as Americans, but I don’t understand the use of this bump stock. It seems like it’s an obvious area we ought to explore and see if it’s something Congress needs to act on.”

Cornyn has also called on Senator Grassley, Republican chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to hold a hearing on the kits and other legislative concerns stemming from the Las Vegas mass shooting. You of course are chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Will you be holding a hearing too? Or is this a matter you will use your position to block?

You said the day after your reelection that protecting “our constitutional freedoms” was one of your top six priorities. Based on your high NRA rating, I presume you were referring to the Second Amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

You have interpreted that statement so broadly that you opposed limiting the size of ammunition magazines after the mass shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007 and the expansion of background checks after the mass shooting of school children in Newton, CT in 2012. And after the mass killing in Orlando last year, you even opposed preventing the sale of guns to individuals on terrorism watch lists.

Now that we are once again at a massacre-triggered moment of bipartisan compromise, will you oppose even this mild regulation banning machinegun kits? Fortunately for you, the NRA has already endorsed a change. They said yesterday: “devices designed to allow semiautomatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.”

But you have said nothing on the topic. No press releases, no newsletter columns, no interview statements. You have expressed no opinions since last weekend’s mass killing while instead waiting to see how the issue plays out nationally before committing yourself to any principles. As a result, you have shown yourself to be an even less capable leader for common-sense gun regulation than the national organization most opposed to it.

Will you now hold a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Las Vegas shooting? Or do you need permission from the NRA for that too?


Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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