Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Opinion

Column: We’ll be cheerful if it kills us

Hey, there are a lot of big movies opening up this month. One is a Star Wars installment and another involves Matt Damon becoming 5 inches tall.

I am mentioning this just to prepare you for a short discussion of gun laws. There’s been another big vote in Congress, and attention must be paid. But I promise to break up the story with totally unrelated cheerful information whenever possible.

First, the news: On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would make it impossible for states to do anything about people who carry in guns from other states.

We have seen this idea, known as "concealed carry reciprocity," before. It basically says gun owners only have to follow the laws of the state they hail from. Some states will give a permit to carry a concealed weapon to an 18-year-old. Some don’t care about a record of stalking. Some don’t have any rules at all — you’re okay to pack a pistol if you can breathe.

"The Republicans yell states’ rights all the time, but they’re hypocrites," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. He claimed, in a phone interview, that the last time Congress passed a bill to impose the laws of one state on a different state "it was the Fugitive Slave Act." We can look forward to more of this discussion since Nadler is now the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. It used to be John Conyers, but then there was that sexual harassment matter.

Did you know Top Chef is coming back to TV this week? Perhaps you’re tired of reality cooking contests. But imagine how relaxing it could be to spend an entire hour in a world where the worst possible thing that could happen involves under-seasoning.

The gun bill’s Republican handlers refused to permit an amendment banning bump stocks. Those are the devices that were used by the gunman who killed 58 people in Las Vegas. But you knew that, right? We now live in a country where average people know what’s required if you want to make an assault rifle work like a machine gun.

The concealed-carry bill is also now chained to another measure aimed at making background checks more efficient. This modest, bipartisan plan came up after the Texas church shooting, when it turned out the gunman had a criminal background that should have precluded him from buying firearms.

The Senate, which really likes the background check bill, is going to have to take the two of them up together. "A cynical ploy," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., one of the co-sponsors.

This year a Brussels griffon named Newton won the National Dog Show. His handler said he likes ice cream and is "happy all the time."

Blumenthal thinks the Senate Democrats can separate the two ideas, kill the concealed-carry bill and send the good background check plan back to the House for passage. This sounds promising, except for the part where it depends on the House Republican leadership taking a principled stand.

On Wednesday, those leaders had everything well under control. So there was no suspense whatsoever and the gun debate took place in a near-empty House, with a half-dozen people hanging around waiting for their turn to say something ... inevitable. Democrats decried the fact that the Republicans didn’t want to work together. Republicans said carrying a gun made you safer.

Liz Cheney of Wyoming declared the right to carry a concealed weapon is "God given." We will not pursue the question of What Would Jesus Pack.

American Airlines, which accidentally gave its pilots Christmas vacation, has worked out a deal so there will actually be people available to fly the planes.

Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., who was in charge of getting the gun bill through the House, expressed dismay at the tenor of the debate, such as it was. "Shame on us," he said.

Collins seemed particularly offended when a Democrat called him a "puppet" of the National Rifle Association. Which seems a little impolite, if reasonably accurate. However, Collins did refer to the opposition as "a group who enjoys killing babies."

A family in Florida says a cat saved their kids from a rattlesnake. The cat’s name is Oreo and he is recovering from a nasty bite.

The Democrats complained that there were much better ways for the House to spend its time. Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida — home of Oreo! — suggested that instead of trying to mess with the states’ right to do their own gun regulations, the members should be working on preventing a government shutdown. Which is right around the corner.

Actually, it could come on Saturday. Followed by the deportation of 800,000 Dreamers, who were brought to the country illegally as children.

And did you know the queen of England has invited Prince Harry’s new fiancée to Christmas dinner? This is highly unusual, but that Meghan Markle is so nice.

© 2017 New York Times

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