The Mercury News Weekend

Are we ready yet to nag about gun control laws?

- By Gail Collins Gail Collins is a New York Times columnist.

You may be wondering how we’re doing on gun control.

Joe Biden promised to tackle it on “my first day in office,” which he didn’t. Give the man a break — he’s got to get his COVID-19 relief bill through Congress, and you can appreciate that he’s rather distracted. But absolutely no reason we shouldn’t start to nag.

We’ve been hearing a lot about the gun debate in Washington lately, but it’s mostly on the weirdo side. Who can forget the virtual House committee meeting during which Republican Lauren Boebert sat with a pile of large firearms behind her?

We will pause while you ask: When did our lawmakers start bringing guns to the office? Isn’t that sort of … 19th century?

Last month Rep. Andy Harris, a Republican, reportedly approached the House chamber while packing heat. When he was stopped, Harris tried to palm the gun off on a colleague.

On the plus side, optimistic citizens might have taken heart when Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene recently attempted to boost her credibilit­y by announcing she now believes mass school shootings and the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center actually did happen.

Progress! Greene has introduced a bill to make it illegal for the federal government to spend money on gun control enforcemen­t.

If there was ever a time to pick up the gun safety battle, it would be now.

The people at Everytown estimated that 22 million guns were sold in 2020, up 64% from 2019.

You hear stories every day. Domestic violence, little kids accidental­ly shooting themselves with the gun dad keeps in the bedroom.

There are so many ungodly cases you really have to do something unique to get attention. Recently in Pennsylvan­ia, three people were fatally shot in a fight over snow shoveling.

Two FBI agents trying to execute a search warrant in a child pornograph­y investigat­ion were killed by the suspect, who happened to have an assault rifle on hand. Perhaps you remember assault rifles. They’re the rapid-fire, military-style guns — extremely efficient for a mass shooting — that Congress refuses to ban. Or now, anyhow. In 1994, it prohibited the manufactur­e of semi-automatic assault weapons, under the leadership of Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Joe Biden.

There’s not much doubt Biden is eager to get some serious reform underway. “His heart is on his sleeve when it comes to this,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticu­t said. Sadly, there often seems to be a gap between the issues Biden really, really cares about and the ones he’s actually going to do something about. But there’s only so much he can do by executive order and whatever it is won’t have the staying power of real legislatio­n.

If we’re lucky, sometime this year a gun bill will make it to the Senate. In between paeans to the Second Amendment, opponents will tell the nation that their constituen­ts want to have weapons on hand to defend themselves and their families from evildoers.

You do wonder how the founding fathers would have felt about the right to bear arms if they knew their nastiest neighbor had just installed a printer that manufactur­es guns in his basement.

The stories about how a Gun Saved The Day aren’t all that convincing. The Heritage Foundation ran a list of 11 incidents in which “a gun stopped matters from getting worse.” One case involved a robber who threatened employees at a pizza restaurant. The workers won the day by grabbing another gun and catching him off-guard. It was indeed good news. But the fact that the workers were able to get the gun because the holdup man decided to use the restaurant bathroom before leaving with the money was … kind of a help.

One problem with our gun debate is that it has the wrong starting point. Let’s raise the bar. Demand that nobody be able to purchase a gun without passing a test demonstrat­ing she knows how to aim it. You’d be astonished at how many owners that would eliminate from contention.

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