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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Dog That Isn’t Barking

As J.P. Green noted yesterday, you’d think that some mild and relevant gun control legislation (e.g., Rep. Carolyn McCarthy’s proposed ban on high-capacity ammunition clips, which is a variation on the Clinton-era assault weapon ban) might get fresh attention in the wake of the Tucson shootings. But no, it’s not much happening. As Justin Elliot of Salon explains:

Republicans have, so far, been united in dismissing the need for any new regulation. As Sen. Rand Paul said Sunday: “The weapons don’t kill people; it’s the individual that kills these people.” It’s unclear at this point whether McCarthy’s bill will even get a vote in the GOP-controlled House.
But it would be wrong to blame congressional Republicans alone for the failure to put in place new gun control measures. In the first two years of the Obama administration, with Democratic majorities in Congress, the only significant piece of gun legislation signed by the president was a measure tacked onto the credit card reform bill that allows concealed carry of firearms in national parks.

The truth is, Democrats decided more or less collectively during the last decade that gun control was a loser for them as a party, and that talk about it made life too difficult for candidates in rural areas of the country where it was literally a “bullet vote” issue. The size and wealth of the gun lobby, moreover, made it possible for opponents of even the most timorous kinds of gun safety measures to constantly frame the issue as an all-or-nothing choice between the Second Amendment and immediate confiscation of all firearms (which millions of Americans seemed to believe was somehow going to happen the minute Barack Obama was elected).
So it’s not surprising that Democrats are gun-shy on this issue. But if we ever intend to ask Americans to reconsider the country’s status as a place where virtually anyone can quickly get armed to the teeth, now would be a good time. After all, the assault weapons ban was enacted during the Clinton administration, and the sky did not fall. It can be done again.

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