In another stellar exhibition of understanding nuanced perspectives, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY 19th District) lumped the friends and associates of Dan Crenshaw (R-TX 2nd District) into the category of domestic abusers. Crenshaw suggested that a law requiring universal background checks would prevent him from helping out his friends by lending them his guns, and she suggested that if they couldn’t pass a background check they probably shouldn’t have the gun anyway, as that inability would mean that they “have likely abused their spouse or have a violent criminal record.”
This is quite an assumption—that Crenshaw’s friends are the kind of people who would be domestic abusers. It also provides us with a glimpse into the way the freshman congresswoman’s mind works.
What AOC missed is that this isn’t how a universal background check works. Crenshaw wasn’t saying that his friends couldn’t pass a background check, but that they shouldn’t have to just so he could lend them his gun. A universal background check would mean that all transactions that involve guns would require background checks. This would include not only all gun sales but every time a person shared their gun with another person.
Americans are for sure a little obsessive about their guns, but sometimes that obsession comes in handy. Take for example the story of a young woman who was driving along in her car earlier this week, the story that prompted the controversy. She was approached by five guys trying to rob her. She pulled out her handgun, fired it through the window of her car, hit one of the guys, and successfully defended herself against theft. Five guys are no match for a woman with a gun. She said that when she bought the gun she never thought she’d have to use it.
While the right to bear arms is enshrined in the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, there is a lot of tumult over exactly what that means, whether or not the right is affected by a particularly placed comma, and what the right to own firearms entails in an age of mass shootings and gun violence. There have been calls to place common-sense limits on guns and ammunition, including a call for universal background checks. But this is not yet in law.
Crenshaw came to the defence of his friends:
Guns do have a chilling place with regard to domestic violence in the US, with one in three women reporting that they experience domestic abuse at the hands of a partner within their lifetime. When guns are added to the equation, the effect can be devastating. That doesn’t mean that people who own guns are abusers, but that those who would commit crimes also have access. This is true for all potential criminals. Rights are only taken away upon conviction.
In April 2019, the Violence Against Women Act was reapproved, meaning that those who are convicted of domestic abuse are not able to purchase a firearm. There are additional provisions in law to hold gun owners who willingly provide guns to felons, criminals, or those who go on to commit crimes with those weapons, accountable for crimes committed.
The other thing AOC missed is how to communicate an idea with respect for Americans who would protect their constitutional right. Assuming that Crenshaw would willingly provide a weapon to someone who would then hurt their partner with it speaks to her very low opinion of those who sit across the aisle. It would be hard to imagine that any member of Congress would intentionally share a weapon with someone without knowing them well enough to know if their intention was to cause harm. Her willingness to demonize a large swathe of law-abiding citizens in order to score cheap political points is appalling to say the least. As Crenshaw quite rightly pointed out:
There are other ways to enact gun control than to demonize those who wish to own one. Earlier this week, after two Walmart locations were locations of mass gun violence, the outlet, which had been notorious for selling firearms alongside peaches and puppies, decided not to sell ammunition and asked customers to not bring their guns into the shop. In fact, gun control lobbyists have gotten tired of petitioning congress for changes, and have instead begun to make demands of retail outlets and manufacturers to enact gun control measures in a more organic and less legislative way.
Insulting Americans and a fellow congressman is not the way to win people over to your side. It is not through barbs and insinuations that common-sense reforms will be made, and the more people feel that their rights are threatened, whether through legislation preventing them from acting on those rights, or because they are demonized for wanting them in the first place, the harder it will be for there to be any compromise of leeway on this issue from either side.