The Mahablog

Politics. Society. Group Therapy.

The Mahablog

So What About Those Midterms, Huh?

I’m still digesting the midterm post-mortems. Item one: The polls. I understand the better quality polls were mostly accurate, or respectably close. Yet before the midterms we kept hearing that Democrats were just about facing extinction. Dana Milbank addressed this:

The headlines coming into Tuesday’s elections almost uniformly predicted a Democratic wipeout. … I was baffled. What were they seeing that I and, more important, the Democratic operatives I spoke to weren’t seeing? Back in mid-August, I wrote a column titled “Why that red wave might end up a ripple.” I noted that Democrats had pulled even on the “generic ballot” — which party voters prefer for Congress — at a time in the cycle when the incumbent president’s party is almost always losing ground. Democrats’ standing receded slightly since then, but the contests remained extremely tight. The races were stable, both in public polling and in the private polling I had seen.

So, one, the headline writers and a whole lot of pundits were snookered by the junk GOP polls in the closing weeks of the campaign. And of course they were looking to history and the fact that the President’s party nearly always loses big in the midterms. “They were also swayed by some reputable polling organizations that, burned by past failures to capture MAGA voters, overweighted their polls to account for that in ways that simply didn’t make sense. And reporters fell for Republican feints and misdirection, as Republican operatives successfully created an artificial sense of momentum by talking about how they were spending money in reliably blue areas,” Milbank wrote.

They might also have been thrown off by the betting markets, which were spectacularly wrong. Basically, groupthink and conventional wisdom were just certain that the Republicans would have a roaring success last Tuesday, and few people were thinking out of that box. Instead, we had Catherine Rampell of WaPo, who was far from the worst offender, scolding the Democrats for drowning in denial. I’m still looking forward to her next column.

Item Two: Regarding Donald Trump, today there are oceans of headlines calling Trump the “biggest loser” and blaming him for GOP losses. Jonathan Chait declared that the Republican elite are ready to move against Trump. And I don’t doubt that the Republican elite would really like Trump and his whole misbegotten family and hangers-on to disappear. At this point he’s only going to be in the way. But I agree with Josh Marshall on this one:

Moving away from Trump, though, will be a lot harder than it looks.

To state the obvious, Trump will not go quietly. In recently days he’s become increasingly bold and threatening toward DeSantis. This isn’t a matter of strength. He clearly feels threatened by DeSantis. And he should. He has announced what will likely be a campaign announcement for November 15th. He wants to make it explicitly clear before any more time goes by that any moves DeSantis makes toward the nomination are moves against Trump. Republicans have to choose sides.

I don’t discount the possibility that DeSantis could beat Trump for the 2024 nomination. I don’t think it’s likely. But I do think it’s very possible. But if DeSantis can beat Trump, Trump can also inflict a huge amount of damage on DeSantis and the whole Republican party. Do we really expect Trump to go quietly? To have his last chapter be one of ignominious defeat? I doubt it.

So many times the Republican leadership has made noises about moving on from Trump and then gone running back to him. Having him around is bad for their party, but pushing him away might be even worse. He’ll burn down the whole circus if he doesn’t get to be the headline act. I suspect a lot of them secretly are counting on Trump being wiped out by criminal and civil indictments and suits over the next few months, which would get him out of the way before the 2024 primary campaigns get off the ground. They can talk into microphones that it’s just terrible what those Democrats are doing to Donald Trump, and then walk away.

Item Three: It turns out that crime, inflation, and border security weren’t the sure-fire winning issues Republicans thought they were. Inflation was a primary concern for a lot of voters and inspired them to vote for Republicans, especially in House races. But abortion was still on a lot of voters’ minds.

To the obvious surprise of the on-air talent, abortion came in a close second to inflation: 31% said inflation was their top issue but 27% said abortion was. Despite late pre-election polls showing abortion sinking to third or fourth place or disappearing, there are several reasons why the issue never really went away.

The “several reasons” mostly boil down to women voting in larger numbers than men, and a majority of women voted for Democrats. Abortion criminalizers did badly in a lot of states, although there are exceptions. The GOP elites might want to reconsider staying in bed with the anti-choice crew.

Now there’s somewhere I need to be, so I’ll post what I’ve written so far. There’s a lot to discuss.

Midterm Elections: No Red Wave, No Iceberg

The first headline I saw this morning was about the red wave that wasn’t, so I figured it was safe to check returns. (Congratulations John Fetterman!) As I write this there are four Senate contests that are still too close to call — Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, and Alaska. Dems need win only two of those to keep the 50-vote majority. Of course, a 52-vote majority would be even better. Some of these states still have a lot of votes to count, and the Georgia contest might go to a runoff, so we probably won’t know about the Senate today.

The House is still up for grabs, too. I’m reading that Republicans will likely end up with an 8- to 15-seat majority, a big comedown from what they expected. Which brings me to the gripe that 17 Republican incumbent House members ran unopposed yesterday. What’s up with that? I realize these probably are considered “safe” seats and not worth wasting money contesting, but some of them were in “purple” states, like Pennsylvania. And it’s always possible some “safe” Republican candidate will be caught with his pants down, and the “safe” seat is suddenly not so safe. Every seat matters.

Yesterday Missouri passed a referendum (by 53% of the vote as of this morning) legalizing marijuana for recreational use. This was not a big surprise; the surprise was that there was hardly anything said about this issue either in news media or television advertising over the past several weeks. I bet a lot of voters didn’t know the referendum was on the ballot. I am guessing the Republicans who run the state wanted to keep it quiet, thinking that a person who votes for legal pot might also vote for Democrats. But that doesn’t excuse news media.

Last week we got an absolutely hilarious robo-call from my MAGA U.S. representative, Jason Smith, in which Smith was ranting that legalizing pot would lead to teaching Critical Race Theory in schools. I am not kidding. Smith currently has 76% of the vote, with 56% of votes counted. And this is why we can’t have nice things.

I have no idea when legal pot goes into effect, but I hope it’s before the next election.

Big Loser last night was Donald Trump. His anointed candidates were mostly responsible for dragging down Republican wins.  Aaron Blake writes at WaPo that Trump cost Republicans the Senate in 2020, and it looks like he will cost them the Senate again this year.

Republicans gave Trump a pass after the 2020 Georgia runoffs, seemingly in part because the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by his supporters (which transpired the next day) so abruptly shifted the focus and because they decided the impeachment process that followed demanded a united front. And they no doubt fear what Trump could do to the party if it turns on him, which will temper any true reckoning with what Trump has wrought in the 2022 election.

But in 2020, Trump became the first president since the Great Depression to lose the House, the Senate and the presidency in a single term. And you’d think ushering the party to a potential loss of a very winnable Senate majority and a subpar midterm election might cause certain people to decide maybe this isn’t working for them.

They’ll probably just hope that it blows over — a tack they have almost always taken — and that DeSantis or someone else will come to their rescue in 2024 without forcing them to confront all of this. But they had a chance to attempt a full break with Trump in early 2021, and no doubt many of them are ruing that they didn’t force the issue then.

The bigger question, seems to me, is what will Republican mega-donors do? The deep pocket guys aren’t necessarily Trump supporters or election deniers, but they gave many millions of dollars to Super PACs that funded MAGA election denier candidates. And many if not most of those candidates lost yesterday. At what point (assuming they haven’t already) do they put in the phone calls to tell the RNC to cut ties with Trump, or they’re putting their wallets away?

Today there are reports from credible sources (like Maggie Haberman) that Trump is absolutely enraged and screaming at everyone today about why they advised him to back such loser candidates. And the GOP is pressuring Trump to not announce he is running for POTUS again in 2024, an announcement that is expected next week. I understand they had to practically bribe him to keep him from announcing before the midterms. He wants to declare very early to discourage challengers and also, I assume, to be able to claim that he can’t be prosecuted if he’s a credible presidential candidate. But he was expecting to be able to gloat about how his candidates were big winners, and now he can’t do that. His big party at Mar-a-Lago last night fizzled, and now the estate is under evacuation orders because of Tropical Storm Nicole. I don’t know if the Trumps evacuated.

Today Ron DeSantis is suddenly looking like the front runner for 2024, and other ambitious Republicans are also probably making phone calls today to put their exploratory committees together. After yesterday it should be obvious that Trump would be a big risk and top-of-the-ticket buzzkill for the GOP if he runs in 2024. This makes me suspect that a whole lot of Powers That Be on the Right, like Mitch McConnell, the RNC, Fox News, and the rest of right-wing media, are less likely to go to the wall defending Trump when the indictments begin. It would be better for their party if Trump goes down with criminal charges and is out of contention, and the sooner the better. Surely most of them in the upper echelons of the Republican party realize that now.

Watching for the Iceberg

My plans for today are to go vote and then do things utterly unrelated to politics the rest of the day. Like laundry. And I found a recipe for baked parmesan zucchini I plan to try. I also intend to avoid tonight’s election return extravaganza starring Steve Kornacki on MSNBC, which I would normally be glued to. Many of the most critical races won’t be called until tomorrow, or Thursday, or maybe next week. Georgia could go to a runoff. I’ll peek at news on my laptop from time to time to see if there is any indication which way the wind is blowing, but otherwise I’ll probably be streaming a movie. You’re welcome to leave comments here, of course.

In the past three or four days I’ve seen no end of articles about how the polls could be completely wrong, because for multiple reasons it’s much harder to put together genuine representative samplings than it used to be. So anything is possible. I’ve also seen several articles blaming Democrats for screwing up the midterms and offering advice on how they can do better. That seems a tad premature.

Well, good luck to us.

More Not Midterm News

You’d think everything in the world had stopped and nothing is going on but midterm polling and campaigning. It’s hard to find not-midterm news. Here’s the best I can do:

Justice Jackson has issued her first opinion, a dissent. She and Justice Sotomayor thought a death row inmate deserved a new trial. The rest of the Court disagreed.

This is only sorta kinda midterm news. The feud between Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis is getting hotter. Greg Sargent writes that DeSantis released a television ad that claimed he was chosen to God to save Florida. It’s way over the top. I apologize for reposting from Twitter, but I couldn’t find the ad on YouTube.

Apparently Trump is pissed because only he gets to be Jesus in this town. So Trump is calling DeSantis “DeSanctimonious,” which is clever by Trump standards. Someone else must have thought it up. See Greg Sargent interview Sarah Posner about the whole messianic thing.

The Stewart Rhodes trial is ongoing. The prosecution has rested, and on Friday Rhodes testified on his own behalf. Amanda Marcotte writes that “their argument seems to be that Oath Keepers can’t be guilty because they’re just a bunch of harmless kooks. Also they claim they can’t be racists who rioted to install a fascist leader in the White House because — yep, they went there — they have Black friends.”

So I guess Rhodes was just kidding when he said, “My only regret is they should have brought rifles. We could have fixed it right then and there. I’d hang [f******] Pelosi from the lamppost.” See also A jovial Stewart Rhodes tries to woo jurors at Oath Keepers seditious conspiracy trial.

If anything else happens that’s not about the midterms, please let me know.

Today’s Not Midterm News

Here I am, still avoiding midterm election news and commentary. Here’s what’s left over.

A whole lot of expensive gifts given by foreign powers to the Trumps during the Trump administration are missing. It’s believed the Trumps still have them, even though keeping them violates the emoluments clause. I know you’re shocked.

The eclectic list ranges from golf clubs given to Trump by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to a 2018 World Cup soccer ball gifted by Russian President Vladimir Putin, a gold-plated collar of Horus, the falcon-headed ancient Egyptian god, given by Egypt’s president, a large painting of Trump from the president of El Salvador, and a $6,400 collar of King Abdulaziz al Saud, a ceremonial honor from Saudi Arabia, according to a person familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. …

,,, The sprawling request sent to the Archives also includes an antique framed signed photo of Queen Elizabeth II; a marble slab commemorating the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem; dresses from Oman; a bust of Mahatma Gandhi; an Afghan rug; a crystal ball; and various pieces of jewelry including diamond and gold earrings, according to the person familiar with the request.

I bet the bust of Mahatma Gandhi was just misplaced, or else somebody broke it. Anyway, the rules are that the Trumps could keep the stuff if they paid for it; otherwise all gifts were supposed to have been turned over to the National Archives. Apparently they weren’t. I take it they were also required to report any gifts they received, but that wasn’t done, either. So someone is apparently trying to figure out what gifts the Trumps were given through other sources.

The failure to account for gifts is part of a pattern of the Trump administration’s record keeping practices.

Numerous items identified as “gifts” were seized by the FBI during their search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club and residence in August. It’s unclear whether the seized gifts were given to Trump by foreign governments during his time in office and improperly transferred to Mar-a-Lago. …

… Former White House chief of staff John Kelly said that when he worked for Trump, the president always wanted to keep gifts from foreign leaders. Kelly said that while he instructed staff to follow the process of recording gifts from foreign leaders, when Trump was given the opportunity to buy the gifts, he was adamantly against paying for them.

“He said, ‘They gave me these, these are my gifts,’ ” said Kelly, recounting his conversation with Trump. “But I’d say, ‘No sir, they gave these to the president of the United States. You have to look at that as an official gift from a country.’ He would be totally against that. He was adamant that they were his gifts and he couldn’t understood why he couldn’t keep these gifts.”

“I never remember him buying anything,” Kelly added.

Moving on … Philip Bump writes, The big-stack-of-paper strategy comes to House Judiciary Republicans. The Republican minority on the House Judiciary Committee released a “1,000 Page Report” on alleged politicization of the FBI and the Justice Department. And the Republicans indeed trotted out a 1,000 page stack of paper. But the report itself was less than 50 pages long. The rest was just filler, letters (much duplicated) the committee members had written to people, and pages and pages of signatures on the letters.

They used to pull crap like this whenever Republicans wanted to claim they had a new health care plan. They’d trot around in front of cameras with big stacks of paper while somehow never releasing an actual plan beyond their usual half-baked ideas about tax credits and reinsurance and what not.

So what’s in the 50 pages? Kate Riga tells us at TPM:

The other 50 pages are a who’s who of Fox News-flavored grievances and conspiracy theories, dinging the FBI for everything from the “unprecedented raid” of Mar-a-Lago to going easy on Hunter Biden to supposedly targeting parents for resisting “a far-left educational curriculum” to inflating domestic violent extremism stats. 

Many of their gripes and allegations are old — that Hillary Clinton was given “kid-glove treatment” in comparison to Donald Trump — and animated by perpetual, ongoing right-wing complaints, including that “big tech” is censoring conservative viewpoints. 

So, they got nothin’. But if they hate big tech they should be thrilled that Twitter may not last longer than a lettuce. Elon must enjoy the thrill of burning money.

The Barbarians Are Inside the Gates

The author Thomas Cahill died recently, and I’ve been re-reading his 1995 book  How the Irish Saved Civilization. If you haven’t read it, the book is about how Irish monks were copying and preserving the books of antiquity — Virgil, Plato, etc. — while the rest of Europe was dealing with the end of the Roman Empire and the early Dark Ages.

Cahill’s descriptions of the barbarians sacking the Roman Empire are kind of darkly fascinating. What’s striking is how long the Romans managed to not admit what was happening. I suppose a lot of historians have commented on this, but I haven’t seen it expressed so vividly before. Rome had been hollowing itself out with income inequality — seriously, the whole system was rigged to benefit the wealthy —  and corruption for a very long time. And so it lost the ability to defend its borders against the barbarians. But even as Visigoths were sacking Roman villas, other Romans were using the chaos to snap up titles, or whatever they used for ownership records, to the sacked villas. As if titles were going to mean anything after there was no government any more.

President Biden’s remarks last night made me think of those clueless Romans. I appreciate what the President said. But I doubt most people understand the danger we’re in right now.

People who aren’t seriously plugged in to political news probably are just confused. They’re hearing conflicting stories about everything. They’ll believe whatever it is most of their friends and neighbors believe. But so much of it is lies.

Greg Sargent wrote,

In 2020, Donald Trump’s lies about voter fraud provided a fake pretext to overturn his presidential election loss. Now that has metastasized: Many Republicans in the MAGA vein are employing “big lies” on numerous fronts, but their purpose has taken a dark new turn: It’s as if all the lying is becoming an assertion of power in its own right, a kind of end in itself. 

Then Sargent reviews all the lies being spread about the attack on Paul Pelosi.

Democrats have responded to all this with outrage, shaming and fact-checking. But that’s about as effective as shooting spitballs at a balloon.

This is partly because the falsehoods have spread wildly through a right-wing media ecosystem that has been constructed to be impervious to outside challenge, as Matt Gertz details at Media Matters.

But it’s also because the whole point of all the lying is to assert the power to manufacture an alternate story in the face of easily demonstrable facts and outraged condemnation — and, importantly, to assert that power unabashedly and defiantly.

I think this is exactly right. The political Right in the U.S., the MAGAs and most of the Republican Party, are engaging in one long collective temper tantrum against objective reality. The are demanding that the world shape itself as they want it shaped, so they can hang on to white supremacy and the vision of white American exceptionalism that goes with it. If they need to believe that public school students are using litter boxes if they identify as furries, as ridiculous as that is, then that’s what they’ll believe. Whatever it takes to stop social progress.

The whole Christian nationalism thing is just one layer of that. In the two-part post I wrote for Patheos (Part I and Part II) I argued that “political operatives and interest groups over more than a century have gained support for their right-wing causes by linking them to Christianity. And now we’ve reached a point at which many people associate Christianity with right-wing politics.  The Christian nationalist movement is the fruit of that association. Its members sincerely believe that only right-wing self-identified Christians — who may or may not know the Beatitudes from a toaster — are entitled to govern the United States.”

Seriously, there’s been a striking change from the Reagan-era evangelicals, who at least still had some connection to some school of Christian doctrine or another, and the current crew, most of whom probably couldn’t pass a pop quiz on Jesus’ parables or define dispensationalism to save their lives.

So, yeah, the barbarians are here already.

On that cheerful note — In other news, you’ve probably heard that Kash Patel has been granted immunity so that he can be compelled to give testimony to a DoJ grand jury on the documents case. That’s a pretty good indication, I think, that they really do want to prosecute Trump. See also Ankush Khardori, The Secret Court Battle That Threatens Trump After Election Day: Prosecutors are obtaining potentially crucial testimony about January 6.

Trump, Russia, Ukraine — The Dots Are Connected

You should be able to read this without a paywall — The Untold Story of ‘Russiagate’ and the Road to War in Ukraine.

Invading Ukraine was the plan all along, going back years. According to Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times, this was the plan that Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian agent and Manafort associate, relayed to Paul Manafort in July 2016. Manafort was Trump’s campaign chairman at the time.

Known loosely as the Mariupol plan, after the strategically vital port city, it called for the creation of an autonomous republic in Ukraine’s east, giving Putin effective control of the country’s industrial heartland, where Kremlin-armed, -funded and -directed “separatists” were waging a two-year-old shadow war that had left nearly 10,000 dead. The new republic’s leader would be none other than Yanukovych. The trade-off: “peace” for a broken and subservient Ukraine.

The scheme cut against decades of American policy promoting a free and united Ukraine, and a President Clinton would no doubt maintain, or perhaps even harden, that stance. But Trump was already suggesting that he would upend the diplomatic status quo; if elected, Kilimnik believed, Trump could help make the Mariupol plan a reality. First, though, he would have to win, an unlikely proposition at best. Which brought the men to the second prong of their agenda that evening — internal campaign polling data tracing a path through battleground states to victory….

…But what the plan offered on paper is essentially what Putin — on the dangerous defensive after a raft of strategic miscalculations and mounting battlefield losses — is now trying to seize through sham referendums and illegal annexation. … And the lesson of that meeting is that Putin’s American adventure might be best understood as advance payment for a geopolitical grail closer to home: a vassal Ukrainian state.

 

Really, truly, this needs to be read.

Subpoena Updates

Today the Supreme Court told Lindsey Graham to quit whining and get his ass in front of the Fulton Grand Jury.

The Supreme Court did reiterate what lower courts held: that Graham can maintain limited, but significant secrecy about his actions in 2020.

Questions that he argues deal with issues around “legislative activity” can remain privileged, the court said — protected by the Constitution’s speech or debate clause. Because of that, the court said, halting the subpoena was “not necessary.”

So he’ll claim it was all “legislative activity,” even though a U.S. senator from South Carolina has absolutely no business with how Georgia runs its elections.

Also, yesterday John Roberts decided put the brakes on the House accessing Trump’s tax returns. “Roberts ordered the House to reply to Trump by Nov. 10 — two days after the upcoming midterm elections.”

That’s the first thing I thought when I heard about the delay — Roberts wants to be sure nobody gets Trump’s tax returns until after the midterms. I would be hugely surprised if SCOTUS stops the tax returns from getting to the House entirely, I doubt anyone the Court’s Republicans conservatives feel any loyalty to Donald Trump, just to the GOP.

Better Dead Than Red (Flag Laws)

Following up the last post on the school shooting in St. Louis last week — here is a headline from yesterday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch —

Of course they will. The last post explained that the shooter couldn’t buy his assault weapon from a gun store, because he couldn’t pass the FBI background check. So he legally bought the gun in a private sale. His parents realized he shouldn’t have a firearm and asked the police to take it away from him, but Missouri law doesn’t allow police to do that. So some arrangement was made to give the gun to a third party known to the parents. Who that was hasn’t been made public. The shooter was able to get his assault weapon back, and so he went to his old high school and killed a student and a teacher, and seriously injured several others.

If there was ever a case in which a red flag law might very well have stopped a shooting, this was it. But the Missouri governor and legislature prefer guns to children. And I doubt this will make any difference in the midterm elections. Several state legislature seats aren’t even being contested; no Democrat is running.

This is from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch story:

Republicans who control state government say they see no need to enact public safety laws that might have taken away the gun used by a school shooter in St. Louis last Monday.

From Gov. Mike Parson at the top of state government down to rank-and-file lawmakers in the House and Senate, red flag laws, also known as “extreme risk” laws, are a non-starter for the GOP, despite support for them in Congress and in other states.

Take Republican Rep. Richard West of New Melle as an example.

“I doubt very seriously any red flag laws will come through the House,” said West, who is a former police officer. “I think we have enough gun laws in place and we have a lot of other pressing issues.”

Their position on red flag laws is, bascially, they don’t work because we said so. Right now only 19 states have red flag laws — mostly the more liberal ones, with tighter gun laws — and some states that have them are barely using them.

Chicago is one of the nation’s gun violence hotspots and a seemingly ideal place to employ Illinois’ “red flag” law that allows police to step in and take firearms away from people who threaten to kill. But amid more than 8,500 shootings resulting in 1,800 deaths since 2020, the law was used there just four times.

It’s a pattern that’s played out in New Mexico, with nearly 600 gun homicides during that period and a mere eight uses of its red flag law. And in Massachusetts, with nearly 300 shooting homicides and just 12 uses of its law.

An Associated Press analysis found many U.S. states barely use the red flag laws touted as the most powerful tool to stop gun violence before it happens, a trend blamed on a lack of awareness of the laws and resistance by some authorities to enforce them even as shootings and gun deaths soar.

In other words, the people in charge of enforcing this stuff are not enforcing it, because they prioritize gun rights over public safety. A Pew Research report from last year pretty much says the same thing. However, Pew says that in the few places where red flag laws are taken seriously, they do appear to be having an impact.

St. Louis School Shooting: Nothing Will Change

I am still avoiding any news about election polls and midterm predictions. I don’t want to know. I may not watch returns election night. These races are so close it may be a couple of days before we know anything. I need to catch up on other things, anyway.

First, I want to note the recent passing of Jerry Lee Lewis. Rock on, Killer. It has been truly said of Jerry Lee that even his wrong notes were right.

I want to write about the school shooting in St. Louis last week, which hasn’t gotten much attention. There’s a good account of how it happened at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch — A quiet morning, then screams and bullets: How the St. Louis school shooting unfolded.

The shooter, Orlando Harris, was 19 and shot by police at the scene. He died in a hospital later. His parents had been worried about his moods and behavior, but Missouri has no red flag laws, of course. So police couldn’t take his assault rifle.

The family of the St. Louis high school mass shooter asked police for help removing the AR-15-style assault rifle from him nine days before the rampage — but it somehow ended up back in his hands, police said.

On Oct. 15, police responded to a domestic disturbance call at 19-year-old Orlando Harris’ home, where his mother found the weapon and wanted it removed, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Officers determined Harris was legally permitted to have the gun, but transferred it to a third party so it would not remain on the premises, officials said late Wednesday.

Harris had failed an FBI background check, so he bought the gun from a private seller, which apparently was legal.

The teenager accused of shooting a teacher and a student dead at a school in St. Louis earlier this week had been blocked from buying a gun from a licensed dealer due to an FBI background check, authorities said. Orlando Harris, 19, then purchased the AR-15-style rifle used in the attack from a private seller, according to police, with no law in place which could have prevented such a sale. The revelation comes after it emerged that Harris’ family had asked police to help remove the rifle when it was discovered in the family home before the attack, but Harris was somehow able to get it back after it had been given to a third party known to the family.

Missouri doesn’t require background checks for private sales. I haven’t heard any explanation of how Harris got the gun back. Whoever had it and gave it back to him might be in trouble in a sane place, but probably not in Missouri. The right to possess guns overrides everything else around here.

Harris had a AR-15-style rifle, over 600 rounds of ammunition and more than a dozen high-capacity magazines. Again, he may have acquired all that legally, in spite of his failed background check.

Predictably, when alleged governor Mike Parson finally addressed the incident, he said that these things happen and there’s nothing to be done about it. He originally claimed that state law allows for guns to be removed from people with mental health problems, which Harris had, but that was not true.

“People have mental health issues, you can take their weapons on that,” Parson incorrectly said. “That’s part of the bill that was passed and I think you can go in and read that.”

5 On Your Side has asked Parson’s office to show evidence to support his claims. His spokesperson has not responded to that question.

According to a link Parson’s office sent in a press release, the Second Amendment Preservation Act “declares…laws…,” and “court orders… invalid…including those that…prohibit the possession, ownership, use, or transfer of a firearm, or the confiscation of one.” 

Law enforcement also visited the shooter’s home on three other occasions this year. 

According to police reports obtained by 5 On Your Side’s Christine Byers, a crisis response unit visited the home in June — the shooter attempted suicide on July 6 and made a threat with a violent weapon on July 26 — and officers visited the home for a domestic disturbance on October 15. 

On at least three of those visits, police could have theoretically confiscated any weapons in his possession at the time if state law allowed it.

Police said all the red flags were there. The red flag laws were not. 

“The State of Missouri does not have a red flag law,” Officer Wall said. “That means SLMPD officers did not have clear authority to temporarily seize the rifle when they responded to the suspect’s home when called by the suspect’s mother on 10/15/22.”

Still, Parson claimed gun safety laws adopted in red states like Indiana and Florida wouldn’t have made any difference in Missouri. 

“The red flag laws have never been in place in Missouri,” Parson said. “You got a criminal that committed a criminal act, you know, and all the laws in the world are not going to stop those things.”

The man is absolutely and utterly worthless, I tell you.

Do read Will Bunch’s Philadelphia Inquirer column, Why St. Louis hero teacher Jean Kuczka did what 376 Uvalde cops couldn’t. Jean Kuczka, 61, was a physical education teacher at the school. She was also a mother of five, grandmother of six, and a national championship field-hockey player. She died because she put herself in between the shooter and her students.

The student who died was named Alexzandria Bell. She didn’t quite make it to her 16th birthday. I understand one of the students who will survive is an art student who may lose the use of his hands.

Missouri gun laws are, basically, do what you want. No permit, no restrictions. There is no provision for taking guns from anyone, including domestic abusers and people who are mentally incapacitated.

See also Texas Goes Permitless on Guns, and Police Face an Armed Public.