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Friday, December 13, 2013

Busting the Myth of the Victorious Gun Lobby

You're familiar with the narrative by now. One year after the Sandy Hook Massacre, where gunman Adam Lanza took the lives of twenty young children and six adults, Americans are no safer from gun violence than they were before. Worse, because conservatives are reactionaries and their first impulse is to respond to liberal arguments with contrarian dickishness, legislation has been passed in more Republican areas that actually loosen gun laws. The narrative is, as one Washington Post blogger put it, that "gun control is losing, badly."

But the chart above is from that very blogger's post. A Gallup poll shows that the appetite for stricter gun control is still there. It is, in fact, quite easily the most popular opinion, beating the "no change" crowd by more than 10 points and soaring over those who want to weaken gun laws by 36 points. Further, gun ownership is down from an all-time high of 51% of respondents to an anemic 37% -- with a particularly steep decline since Sandy Hook. If we could have a national referendum on gun safety right now, strengthening gun laws would win in a landslide.

Mitt Romney wishes he could've been "losing" like this. He would've been losing all the way to the White House.


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Further pouring cold water on the media's victory celebration for the gun lobby is Mother Jones' Mark Follman, who finds that the push for stricter gun restrictions has largely been a success, despite the media narrative portraying the opposite.

[N]o, the gun lobby did not "win." The real action after Newtown was not in the nation's capital—it was in most statehouses around the country, where no fewer than 114 bills were signed into law, aiming in both political directions. America has warred over its deep-rooted gun culture on and off for decades, and Newtown set off a major mobilization on both sides.

Determining how that battle changed the terrain in 2013 isn't just a matter of the total number of laws passed (some of which contain multiple measures), but also the types of activity and swaths of population they affect. Unsurprisingly, the redder states mostly continued to deregulate firearms, while bluer coastal states—and a more politically split Colorado—moved aggressively to tighten restrictions.
America did pass more laws loosening gun laws than tightening them, but those laws were passed where fewer people actually live. The fact of the matter is that, in terms of actual populations covered by laws, gun safety advocates have quietly been winning big. Comparing the gun lobby's 75 wins to gun safety advocates' 56 is extremely misleading. Passing legislation is like running a business -- you try to compete where it's easiest win. And where it's easiest to win is most places other than Washington.

Right now, that means state by state. If it comes down to it, it can go county by county, city by city, town by town. The failure of congress to toughen background checks was not the final fight -- and it wasn't the final fight because it didn't change anyone's mind.

"If you’re a suburban mom outside of Philadelphia who’s angry about this issue, just because it wasn’t on the floor of the Senate doesn’t mean you woke up and stopped caring about it," Jon Carson, executive director of Organizing for Action, a group formed from Pres. Obama's reelection campaign, told the Washington Post.

Right now, the gun lobby and conservatives seem to believe they've won and put the gun control issue behind them. They are wrong.

-Wisco


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