Is Biden’s Proposed Assault Weapon Ban a Good Idea?

Joe Biden penned an op-ed for the New York Times (below) in which he offers a simple solution for America’s gun violence epidemic: ban assault weapons. Would this solution violate the Second Amendment? Would it work?

We have a huge problem with guns. Assault weapons — military-style firearms designed to fire rapidly — are a threat to our national security, and we should treat them as such. Anyone who pretends there’s nothing we can do is lying — and holding that view should be disqualifying for anyone seeking to lead our country.

First, a quick bit of history: The U.S. had a ban on “assault weapons” — semiautomatic guns with certain combinations of “tactical” cosmetic features, including pistol grips and folding stocks — from 1994 to 2004… After the ban was allowed to expire, experts were more or less unanimous that it hadn’t had a strong effect on overall homicides.

Good faith is where the debate must begin, and it’s where Biden fails more than anywhere else… It’s hard to tell how Biden gets Republicans on board with his ideas if he says their opposition stems only from their lust over campaign donations. That sort of talk may play well in the primaries, but it won’t do much to persuade Republican lawmakers if the former VP is sitting in the Oval Office in 2021.

What Went Wrong at Russia’s Nuclear Testing Site?

An accidental explosion at a nuclear testing site in northern Russia is drawing comparisons to the Chernobyl meltdown—but what really happened, and will Putin be forthright about the incident?

The Kremlin has been far from forthcoming about the explosion, despite a spike in radiation in nearby areas. The Russian military said radiation levels were normal… All of this fits with Russia’s history of secrecy about weapons development and nuclear technology.

Fortunately, the accident on the White Sea was no Chernobyl, and it will most likely pose no further threat to people’s lives. And the real threat to Mr. Putin is not the failure of a missile test, nor whatever light it shed on Russian nuclear weapons programs that Mr. Putin himself so publicly announced.

It’s unreasonable, however, to expect people to trust a government that keeps its cards so close to the chest, not for the first time. The sight of people snapping up iodine tablets despite calming statements from officials is more of a comment on the Putin regime than a missile test failure. Russians don’t trust their authorities, and no one else should trust Putin’s government, either, even in matters of life and death.

Who Are the Extremists in the Temple Mount Debate?

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem—site of the Al Aqsa Mosque and historic location of the ancient Jewish Temple of Jerusalem—is often a flashpoint for tensions between Jews and Arabs. Jews are allowed on the mount, but Jewish religious activity is prohibited. Arab protestors were enraged when Jews were allowed on the mount in large numbers for Tisha B’Av.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was right to take his initial decision to halt Jewish admission on a day that was coincidentally holy to both Jews and Muslims, and wrong to walk it back as soon as he was criticized by the religious right. For a while, he appeared to be a wise leader who had learned from bloody past events. But it turned out that he was never the hero.

Police pushed off the rioters, then allowed the Jews to go up on the Temple Mount. This was a courageous and important decision. I hope that this decision had “political backing” and that it would have continued even if the Arabs’ attempt to re-energize the turmoil was successful. Again, the rioters were repelled, and more than 1,700 Jews made their way to the Temple Mount.

The Temple movements – despite their prominence in the media and their disproportionate political representation – represent a miniscule sector of Israeli Jews. During the early hours the police operated logically, and prevented the ascent of the Jews. But as time passed – and when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refrained from touching the hot potato – pressure from the right increased.

Are Jews an Ethnic Minority?

A proposed new curriculum for California schools is being called out for antisemitism. The “ethnic studies” curriculum reportedly contains anti-Israel sentiments and fails to acknowledge Jews as an ethnic minority. But do Jews think of themselves as an ethnic minority?

The draft curriculum being considered by the California Department of Education ignores Jews as a minority group. The glossary defines a wide range of terms including Islamophobia, homophobia, xenophobia, dehumanization, microaggression and the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement — and yet, astonishingly, omits anti-Semitism.

Regardless of our origins, we should be united in the constant struggle for global equality and against anti-Semitism. But we must also remember that the Jewish world is centered in the East. It is in the East that the Jewish people began, and where today, in Israel, our peoplehood is maintained and continues to blossom.

The curriculum is dangerous because anti-Semitism is on the rise in the United States… The fight against anti-Semitism has nothing to do with any notion of Jewish exceptionality, and everything to do with good old-fashioned American equality as well as the pursuit of justice and fair play for all people.

Is There Any Place for “Thoughts and Prayers?”

After catastrophes occur in America, it is traditional for politicians to offer “thoughts and prayers.” With time, “thoughts and prayers” has become shorthand on the left for the tendency to pay lip service to a problem without actually taking action to address it. But does this mean that prayer has no place in national mourning?

The truth of the matter is that even if miracles happen and prayer has miraculous (as well as psychological) benefits, it is simply bad theology to suggest that prayer alone can solve the problem of gun control. Petitionary prayers (prayers that ask for things) do not always deliver what a person wants. There are countless people who have faithfully prayed to God and not received the thing that they asked for.

Maybe it’s not thoughts and prayers that are the problem, but rather who claims to offer them up—whose function in society it is to provide them. Only some of us “people” will be activists, doctors, immigration lawyers, politicians. But all of us should be petitioners. This happens on public forums, but also, corny as it sounds, in our hearts. When we lose thoughts and prayers, or dismiss them as impotent, we lose the most direct access to change most of us have. Our role is to cry out; to formulate the soul of a nation; to stir and offer up longing.

Neither have my thoughts and prayers prevented a single insane person from shooting up schools, festivals, big box stores, movie theaters, workplaces, their families, and their own skulls. While “thoughts and prayers” might be kindhearted expressions of grief and solidarity, they are not a substitute for action.

Is Simone Biles the Greatest of All Time?

Simone Biles is the first gymnast ever to land a triple-double dismount at the 2019 US Gymnastics Championships in Kansas City, Missouri. Most Americans may not know what that means. Here are three takes on the significance of this athletic accomplishment.

Yes, it’s been established that she is eons better than all of the women and most of the men in the world of elite gymnastics. But what casual fans may not realize is that her greatness goes beyond her medal count and margins of victory. Biles has pushed the sport to places where it’s never dared go, and even after she retires, there will be no unringing that particular bell.

Notice that the angular momentum is constant—as it should be because there are no torques in the air. But exactly how do you do this? Notice that in the air Simone moves one arm up and one arm down? That changes her mass distribution and starts the twisting. Remember—she does THREE twists. Is that crazy? Yes, it’s a tough move. Simone does it anyway.

The jaw-dropping feat is incredibly impressive on its own, but even more so when you view it in slow motion and can see all of Biles’ dynamic athleticism in its glory, which Twitter handily provided as it celebrated Biles’ victory.

Today’s Hot Issues

Is Biden’s Proposed Assault Weapon Ban a Good Idea? What Went Wrong at Russia’s Nuclear Testing Site? Who Are the Extremists in the Temple Mount Debate? Are Jews an Ethnic Minority? Is There Any Place for “Thoughts and Prayers?” Is Simone Biles the Greatest of All Time?