Here in America, when one of our regular mass-shooting events occurs on a sufficiently large or horrifying scale, we often spend a few days debating small-scale reforms that might reduce the frequency of similar atrocities — before Republicans vote them down.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise objects to this ritual — not the failing, but the trying. He grasped for a comparison to demonstrate the absurdity of being stampeded into enacting safety regulations merely because a ghastly tragedy occurred. He settled, strangely, on 9/11.
After that tragedy, he explained, nobody limited access to the weapon that was used, airplanes:
Airplanes were used that day as the weapon to kill thousands of people and to inflict terror on our country. There wasn’t a conversation about banning airplanes. There was a conversation about connecting the dots. How we can try to figure out if there are signs we can see to stop the next attack from happening.
Scalise may have borrowed this comparison from his colleague, Lauren Boebert, who recently asserted, “When 9/11 happened, we didn’t ban planes. We secured the cockpits.” But relying on Boebert as a source of well-grounded, factual analysis is generally not a good idea.
In fact, after 9/11, Congress enacted sweeping restrictions on air travel. Before 9/11, you only had to pass through a metal detector to get onto a flight. You didn’t need a photo ID, you didn’t need to remove your shoes, you didn’t need to pass through a body scanner, you could bring liquids on board, and your family could come meet you at the gate. The “no-fly list” didn’t even exist.
After Congress passed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, and then beefed up security with a series of subsequent measures, none of that is true. Now, law-abiding citizens are subject to a great deal of hassle. A couple years ago, my wife, who is not a terrorist, was pulled aside and subjected to a pat-down search because she mistakenly included some soup in the meal she packed for her flight.
Whether or not one agrees with all these measures, it’s very clear why they exist: to deny a tiny number of dangerous maniacs access to a dangerous weapon. That is the precise inconvenience Scalise refuses to impose on gun owners.
As ridiculous as Scalise’s assumption that 9/11 did not lead to federal restrictions on access to airplanes is, don’t sleep on the next part of his answer. (“There was a conversation about connecting the dots. How we can try to figure out if there are signs we can see to stop the next attack from happening.”) In fact, the Bush administration connected the dots from the 9/11 attacks to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, which had absolutely no connection to the attacks at all. Not a very smart comparison!