Universal background checks
(Joe Fournier/For the Chicago Tribune)

In case you’ve been living beyond reach of newspapers, television, computers, cellphones or, let’s face it, human contact, it’s been another tough week for President Donald Trump. In the midst of an impeachment inquiry and continued revelations of his international sellout of U.S. foreign policy, Mr. Trump has responded by lashing out in all directions. House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff gets a regular blasting on the presidential Twitter account (“lowlife” and “lying disaster” were just the latest Thursday morning installments), but nobody seems to trigger the 45th Oval Office occupant quite like Joe Biden. His fixation with the former vice president, along with a certain whistleblower’s concerns about Mr. Trump’s mob boss approach to how the Biden family should be treated by Ukraine, is what launched the inquiry in the first place

Even so, one of the president’s latest anti-Biden attacks should have come with a trigger warning — as in the president seems to have been triggered by triggers. In this case, he went after Mr. Biden on gun safety policy retweeting an Oct. 2 National Review article that claims the vice president’s latest proposal to reduce gun violence would “destroy the gun industry.” That a right-leaning publication might offer an alarmist take on gun laws is hardly surprising. But last we heard, Mr. Trump was supposedly contemplating gun safety legislation of his own including universal background checks for all commercial sales.

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Of all the alternative facts Mr. Trump and his toadies (a term now inapplicable to Rudolph W. Giuliani who has fallen from toady to treasonous lick-spittle) have rustled up to change the topic from the presidential corruption, abuse of power and subsequent cover-up, this attack on Mr. Biden’s gun plan might be the most shameless. And that’s saying something considering the ongoing effort to portray Hunter Biden as Public Enemy No. 1 instead of just another political insider beneficiary of nepotism. Among the Democrats running for president, Mr. Biden’s gun plan is unexceptional. Opponents like Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Beto O’Rourke have gone further with provisions like mandatory gun buybacks and federal licensing.

Rudolph W. Giuliani,
Rudolph W. Giuliani, (Drew Sheneman)

The Biden plan has merits, of course. It includes universal background checks, an assault weapons ban, red flag laws at the state level, and repealing a law that makes it harder to sue gun manufacturers (which appears to be what really burned the National Review). But wiping out the gun industry? With what, his voluntary gun buy back? The U.S. gun trade is a $28 billion concern, a depraved and pitiless one at that. The nation is already saturated with guns. Suggesting modest reforms like background checks or limiting sales of military-style AR-15 assault weapons with flash suppressors isn’t going to put gun makers, gun distributors or even the local sporting goods store out of business. Even the notion that victims might successfully sue in cases were manufacturers and sellers knowingly allowed their firearms to be diverted for criminal use isn’t a jobs-killer so much as a potential life-saver.

For all the usual Trump flimflam, it’s not that tough to see what’s really going on. The president has cold feet about background checks. He’s looking for any excuse to back out of his commitment to push enabling legislation through Congress. The impeachment push serves that purpose. So does yet another attack on Mr. Biden who seems to put the fear of God into this White House. President Trump is happy to run back into the NRA fold. And he’s doesn’t even have to admit he is working against universal background checks that polls show are endorsed by close to 90 percent of Americans.

Such blatant hypocrisy has particular resonance in these quarters as authorities edge closer to a trial for 39-year-old Jarrod Ramos, the gunman who turned the offices of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis into a war zone on June 28, 2018 killing five of our colleagues. Mr. Trump may be unsympathetic but most people actually care about mass shootings and other gun crimes. That’s why, for example, legislation was recently pre-filed for upcoming Maryland General Assembly session in Annapolis to require background checks for rifles and shotguns, not just handguns. Most people want to stop the next Ramos from a killing spree, it appears Mr. Trump is interested only in stopping Joe Biden from taking his job.

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