It didn’t come as a surprise yesterday when Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) rejected the idea of gun reforms in the wake of Orlando’s mass shooting. What was surprising, however, was the comparison he made to prove his point.
As Politico reported, Johnson told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that fully automatic weapons are already banned, so policymakers should go no further.
A puzzled Blitzer pressed Johnson, seeking clarity on the Republican senator’s distinction between banned fully-automatic weapons and the legally purchased semi-automatic rifle used by shooter Omar Mateen.“The AR-15 that was used in this terror attack, killing 49 people, you wouldn’t describe that as an assault weapon?” Blitzer asked. “You’re differentiating between that and a fully automatic assault weapon? Because that weapon certainly did kill a lot of people.”“So do bombs,” Johnson replied. “So there are other ways that terrorists can slaughter people.”
Um, OK, but does Johnson – who somehow was made chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee – realize that bombs are already heavily regulated, tightly controlled, and legally restricted for personal ownership?
I’m reminded of this terrific piece from Daily Kos’ Hunter published late last year.
You are not allowed to own a bomb, or carry a bomb on your back while visiting your neighborhood Chipotle. Not even if you claim you need a bomb for self-protection, or because you’re afraid there are other people out there with other bombs who might try to bomb you first. We’re not stupid, after all. You cannot buy ready-made bombs at Walmart, because Walmart is not allowed to sell ready-made mass murder devices. Even those Americans that are permitted to own and operate bombs (for example, for excavation purposes) face very, very tight state and federal regulations and restrictions; as for the rest of us, outside of military service we are allowed to be in personal possession of a mass-murder-sized bomb approximately never.Perhaps because America has bomb control, our nation faces no epidemic of bomb-related mass murders. There are some – most in recent decades perpetrated by radical far-right groups against government targets or as part of anti-abortion extremism – but we do not have bombs going off on a daily basis in cities around the nation, the bodies piling up in our trauma centers and in our morgues while our politicians wonder what, if anything, should be done. That would seem to offer at least some evidence that our “bomb controls” are, despite the continued ability of some very small band of lunatics to create bombs despite the obstacles we have thrust in their way, working.
All of this, by the way, came in response to Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R) surprisingly ignorant call after the mass murders in San Bernardino for increased “bomb control,” not “gun control.”
Six months later, Ron Johnson’s rhetoric appears slightly worse because his point is more incoherent. To hear the far-right senator tell it, policymakers shouldn’t approve restrictions on assault weapons, despite the carnage they produce, because bombs are also weapons of mass murder.
And Johnson’s point is … what, exactly? If the Wisconsinite wants to have a debate about whether to treat assault weapons and bombs similarly, that would certainly be an interesting conversation, but that would require a variety of new laws – which Johnson and the NRA would strongly oppose.