We Lost (This Round)
(Editorial cartoon by Kevin Siers / The Charlotte Observer (July 27, 2012) and featured at McClatchy DC. Click on image to enlarge and then please come back.)
I don't always agree with Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times; in fact, I suspect I disagree with him about 60% of the time. I'll tell you what, though: I may disagree with him but I always read what he has to say because I respect him. He doesn't pull theories out of his netherparts to make a point. He presents his evidence fairly and sends me back to examine my own position. In other words, he keeps me honest.
I don't completely agree with his latest column, but he raises some important points. His thesis is that the NRA has effectively squelched any meaningful discussion of gun control after the Aurora tragedy and has done so with patient and effective work over decades. We differ only in the assignment of reasons as to why this happened.
McManus begins his column by pointing out that the NRA didn't always rule the roost. After the assassinations of President Kennedy and Rev. Martin Luther King, Congress had no problem is passing gun control legislation. But that was then. Things have changed since then, and he traces what those changes involve.
This week, days after a gunman with an assault rifle killed 12 moviegoers in a Colorado theater, neither Romney nor President Obama raised the now-radical notion of reviving the federal assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004. Even the ban's principal author, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), admitted that it was a lost cause for now.
Feinstein blamed the National Rifle Assn. and other gun rights groups for blocking new laws. "They pour a lot of money [into election campaigns], and some people lost office after they voted for the legislation before," she said.
OK, that's the first reason, and I agree with that. The NRA has been assiduously pouring money into their drive to buy Congress and has been quite successful (as Kevin Siers points out).
McManus goes further, however, and suggests that the mood of the public (the electorate) has changed since the 1970s for other reasons as well.
The public doesn't agree with the NRA that gun laws should be eased further — only 11% hold that view, according to Gallup. But on the core issue — the right to gun ownership with only minimal government oversight — the NRA has won the debate.
Social scientists have differing opinions about why public opinion has shifted so remarkably, but one likely explanation is that crime is down. ...
Another probable reason for the shift is a precipitous drop in citizens' confidence in the federal government. In 2011, Gallup found that only 43% of Americans said they trusted the federal government to handle domestic problems, the lowest ever recorded; 49% said they considered the federal government "an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens," the highest ever recorded. When people are that suspicious of federal power, they're wary of federal gun laws too.
Political polarization is also a factor. Gone are the days when the two parties could find middle ground on gun control. ... [Emphasis added]
Polls seem to indicate that Americans recognize that there really is no reason for private citizens to have an assault weapon. It's not really a hunting weapon (unless one is a really crazed deer-hunter), and it's ineffectiveness for self-defense was demonstrated in the Aurora shooting: the damned thing jammed, which is the principal complaint by troops stuck with the military version of the rifle. It is unlikely that the drop in violent crimes was caused by the presence of those weapons in the general population.
Still, it's hard to dismiss the suspicions of the general public when it comes "self-defense." Since 9/11 I've been harping on the government usurpation of my civil liberties via the Patriot Acts (in its various iterations) and the executive orders bypassing Congress completely when it comes to "Homeland Security." That said, however, I also know that my 9 mm Sigsauer wouldn't be any match for the firepower of the Los Angeles Country Sheriff's Department or the FBI or the local National Guard if the feds decided I was nuisance enough to nail.
However, I still say that allowing those of us who for various reasons have lost a grip on rationality to stockpile those weapons is more dangerous than the government under even the most Orwellian of scenarios. We have other, and in many respects better weapons, to use. We can simply refuse to cooperate. Enough of us doing so could leave a mark.
In the meantime, McManus' conclusion does in fact ring true:
That absence of debate is the best evidence that the NRA has won the argument, at least for now. Obama represents a party whose voters are, on this issue, dissenters from the American majority. Most Democrats, especially urban Democrats, say they still want tougher gun laws, such as a renewed assault weapons ban that would outlaw the 100-round magazine that James Holmes allegedly used to kill the moviegoers in Colorado. But Obama wants to carry independent voters too, and he can read the polls.
For that President Obama should be ashamed. And so should we all.