‘Don't you ever have anything nice to say about President Obama?' ask my adored but sometimes deluded relatives.
"Of course I do," I reply. "I like his elegant wife and his pleasant daughters, and I love, love, love those fuzzy dogs."
That's how things stood until recently, when I found myself agreeing with the president on not one but two proposals for gun control. My editor, when she discovered this, nearly had an infarct, but not to worry. I always share my nitroglycerin. A gentleman should know how to make a lady's heart flutter, even when circulation has stopped.
The first proposal is an executive order to ban the importation of military weapons sold or donated to allies. In actuality, these exported weapons are not a source of illegal guns used in crime. Most are more than 50 years old. Take it from me that America's badboys don't want rusty antiques. They want the newest, baddest gats they can get, preferably with their mother's name engraved on one side and skulls and pole dancers etched on the other.
Nonetheless, why should foreign governments sell military weapons to American citizens? If our allies don't want the guns, they can sell them elsewhere or toss them into the crusher. This is a no-brainer.
The second proposal is to require that trustees and beneficiaries of gun trusts, which are used to acquire Title II weapons, send photographs and fingerprints to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
This is esoteric, so let me explain. Title II weapons comprise machine guns, silencers, short-barreled rifles, short shotguns, and trick weapons such as pen guns, cell phone guns, walking cane guns, etc. All these require federal, not state, firearms permits. Often these weapons are held by trusts to minimize taxes and fees upon transfer of the weapon to beneficiaries of the trust and to heirs upon the death of the original owner.
Heretofore, the principals could exempt themselves from providing ID and undergoing background checks. Getting rid of this exemption is common sense. Guns are used by people, not by fictitious entities such as trusts and corporations. Anyone who wants to own a Title II firearm should cough up the prints and the pictures and get their rap sheet run by the ATF.
In real life, Title II weapons are rarely used by crooks. Hiring attorneys and filing trust documents with the courts is just not a crook thing. Badboys also don't use these weapons for more practical reasons. Machine guns run through ammo too fast. If you fire a long burst, you'll empty the clip and melt the barrel. As for the sawed-off shotguns, they're difficult to conceal. And silencers? They're for pussies! They make your pistol too long and reduce the power of the bullet.
The people who own Title II firearms are, ironically, absurdly law-abiding. They're gun enthusiasts who don't want to do anything to lose their favorite toys. Generally, these guys fire their guns only at ranges and carry them in hard cases, lovingly cleaned and oiled, in the trunks of their late-model cars and trucks. As you can imagine, these weapons are expensive. A full-auto carbine with custom-floated barrel, attached laser and German glass scope can run $30,000 or more. The only place your average hood rat sees such guns is on TV — and those are fake!
The trust background check requirement might, however, prevent transfer of these weapons to people who are mentally ill. I've had too much experience with families who cannot admit that their children are crazy. Some of these parents are so deluded, they might will a machine gun to their wack-job kids.
The president's actions, alas, are more gestural than serious. The reason is that they will be enacted by executive order and agency rulemaking, both of which can be abrogated in an instant by the next president. Customarily, the first thing a new president does on inauguration day, after taking the oath of office and before working the tables at a joyous luncheon, is to slip into the oval office and sign an executive order that cancels his or her predecessor's executive orders!
This president's measures are minimal in any case. Neither addresses a major problem that is partially within federal government control, which is to block the mentally ill from obtaining guns and to enable society to commit the insane involuntarily.
All the recent spree killers, with the exception of the Boston bombers, were florid, unmedicated schizophrenics. Aaron Alexis, the Navy Yard shooter; James Eagan Holmes, the Aurora theater shooter; Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter; and Jared Lee Loughner, who shot Arizona representative Gabrielle Giffords, had all frightened their families and employers by their bizarre behavior. They look scary now, even from prison. Their eyes wobble; their grins terrify.
Their brothers and sisters in madness are everywhere. Across the street from my bedroom window, a woman howls through the night. At the courthouse, a man chats with a palm tree. Now and then a crew-cut guy with a cigar shuffles by with his head down because his neck has been paralyzed by neuroleptic drugs. Mostly, they ignore everyone. They're talking to gods and demons. We, by comparison, are insignificant.
Until, that is, a divine being requires a sacrifice and, magically, supplies a gun or a knife. Then we all become bullocks and burnt offerings in the mad sacraments
Of Crime City.