Late last week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said
publicly what many Republicans prefer to say privately: when it comes to Sen. Marco Rubio's (R) candidacy, "There's not a lot of depth there."
Helping prove Christie right, Rubio told
NBC News on Friday that gun control wouldn't have prevented the murders in San Bernardino, which is why his focus is elsewhere: "We need bomb control because these people were building bombs."
It wasn't a throwaway line for Rubio, who also told
Fox News a few hours earlier, "I don't hear anybody talking about bomb control. They put bombs, they left bombs behind on the scene of attack, intending to kill even more people than they did with the guns."
Daily Kos' Hunter patiently explained
the facts that Rubio doesn't seem to understand, including the simple truth that we already have "bomb control."
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.
This is well said and entirely accurate, but we can go a little further.
As politicians interested in "bomb control" should probably know, in 1996 -- the year after right-wing extremists bombed a federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people -- then-President Clinton urged Congress
"to make it easier to trace explosives by adding chemical markers known as taggants to black powder and gunpowder during their manufacture."
It seemed like an innocuous counter-terrorism measure, but the NRA objected to the idea and congressional Republicans rejected it. Indeed, 20 years later, the policy still hasn't been adopted
, even after investigators noted how useful taggants could have been
after the Boston Marathon bombing.
If Rubio is serious about expanded "bomb control," he could buck the NRA and endorse the Clinton-era proposal, but to date, that hasn't happened.
As for the Florida senator's concern for a shift in the debate, let's again quote the terrific piece
from Daily Kos' Hunter, who noted the San Bernardino terrorists' bombs did not work -- because "actual, tightly regulated bombs are strictly controlled," which makes them difficult to make -- while their guns worked just fine.
So I think we would all be very, very happy to talk about gun control as an adjunct of bomb control. If bomb control has been so successful, that would seem to indicate a fine path for reducing mass murder via guns as well. All we have to do is regulate guns like we regulate bombs. You can't buy them without a license. You can't get a license without a background check. And training. And even if you have a license and training you can't buy them except through tightly controlled dealers and a federal system for tracking every last pound of approved, registered, regulated material, because only a lunatic would argue that people be allowed to wander around random American neighborhoods with implements of mass murder dangling from their shoulder.
If Rubio wants to debate the matter in earnest, I suspect there are plenty of policymakers who would take up him on the matter, though ultimately, the senator would probably be better off avoiding the argument. When it comes to Rubio's platform and the strength of his ideas, "there's not a lot of depth there."