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Washington Wrap: Gun Control — Who’s Calling the Shots?

Omri Nahmias

If just last week, the establishment’s response to the horrific massacre in Parkland, Florida, was limited to “thoughts and prayers,” recent days have shown a certain change of direction

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

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hings seem to be moving. If just last week, the establishment’s response to the horrific massacre in Parkland, Florida, was limited to “thoughts and prayers,” recent days have shown a certain change of direction. 

But first things first. What are the parents and children of Parkland insisting on?

As of this writing, they’re focused on three main demands. The first is to institute a system for making a background check before anyone can purchase a gun. There’s across-the-board agreement on this, including from the National Rifle Association (NRA). Chances for bipartisan support for a bill in this direction are good, the goal being to make it difficult for people suffering from mental illness or violent tendencies to gain access to a weapon.

The second demand is to limit the sale of weapons to those aged 21 and over. Last Friday, Florida governor Rick Scott said he’d support such a limitation — a dramatic turnaround on the part of one of the most vocal supporters of the Second Amendment. Such a change would have a far-reaching impact on the ground, with regard to school shootings. With Scott’s support, there’s a good chance such a bill would pass at the state level, in Florida at least. But what has to happen for such a law to be passed federally that would obligate all 50 states? It seems that there’s still a long way to go.

The third demand is to ban assault rifles, which are essentially weapons for war and don’t quite answer the definition of “a weapon for self-defense.” And while logic dictates that it would be impossible to buy in a supermarket a gun that’s similar to what US Army soldiers take to battle, it seems that politically — mainly due to the powerful NRA lobby — the chances of such a bill being ratified are still slim.

The NRA is meanwhile in the eye of the storm. After NRA head Wayne LaPierre accused gun control advocates of exploiting the tragedy to push their agenda, a number of large companies, including Delta, United Airlines, Hertz car rental, and MetLife Insurance, have decided to cut ties with the organization. It’s still early to say if enough has been done to make a fundamental change in America’s gun laws. But if an 18-year-old, who is still not of legal age to drink, can be prevented from buying a gun, it’s a start.

New US Peace Plan

Meanwhile, there have been some other interesting developments in the Israel-Palestinian-US triangle. During an address at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics on Thursday night, Nikki Haley said Trump’s peace plan was almost ready. “It won’t be loved be either side and it won’t be hated by either side,” she said.

In answer to a question from the audience whether the peace proposal would be built around the basis of a Palestinian state, Haley said, “It’s for them to decide. It’s hard for me to see how they would want [a single state]… they are pushing toward a two-state outcome.”

Haley’s speech came just hours before a State Department announcement regarding the formal transfer of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on May 14, the 70th anniversary of Israel’s statehood. The embassy will be housed in the Arnona neighborhood, where the current consulate is located.

This is a tremendous achievement for Israel, perhaps the most dramatic in recent decades — but we know that with Trump, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. No less significant than the content of the announcement is its timing. He chose to unveil the embassy move prior to Netanyahu’s arrival in Washington at the beginning of March — not during the course of the visit, nor during the AIPAC Policy Conference.

Senior Israeli sources speculate that Trump wants to leverage Netanyahu’s visit to push the American peace proposal, maybe even to reveal some of its details.

For his part, Netanyahu will want to focus attention on Iran’s presence in Syria and its strategy for fomenting trouble in the region with its Hezbollah proxy. He’ll also want to mention the unceasing provocation from Gaza by Hamas, which has been permitting the launching of a rocket a week, on average, into Israel. It will be interesting to see if Trump makes a show of affection for Bibi with a bear hug and pats on the shoulder, as he’s always done, or if this time, he’ll demand something in return. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 700)

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