Okay, I took a bit of liberty in re-writing the tagline of Matthew Yglesias’ article today, as it’s more accurate, although his original isn’t bad.
National Democrats’ misguided re-embrace of gun control
It costs votes and doesn’t produce any gun control
But the rewrite is important. Because it costs votes, doesn’t produce any gun control, and even if it did do the latter, it wouldn’t actually solve the problem that gun control purports to solve.
And while it could just be left right there, it’s worth reading the article for a few important nuggets that are often overlooked in the national conversation. Along with some things we’ve been saying all along. Specifically this:
That analysis had a few parts to it:
- Even gun regulation measures that poll well did not seem to really motivate voters while opposition to gun regulations was clearly motivating.
- The kinds of gun control measures that poll well are not the kind of thing that would significantly move the needle in terms of US gun deaths — the high-profile mass shootings that spark these conversations are statistically rare and generally don’t involve shooters who would’ve flunked universal background checks.
- The pro-gun forces are advantaged by the geography of the US Senate, so the outlook for federal action on even popular-but-ineffective measures is bad.
- Related to (1), most progressives themselves did not think this was a particularly important issue compared to universal health care, climate change, immigration reform, and abortion rights. Nor did they consider it as urgent as fiscal stimulus and financial regulation.
On point one, there’s even another factor not being considered as part of it- the 20-35% of left leaning gun owners who may in fact be demotivated to show up to the polls, or defect to the other side if it’s a core tenet of a given campaign, so it not only motivates folks to vote who are ostensibly single issue voters, but it also serves to depress the turnout or at least the enthusiasm of a chunk of voters that you really need.
And it’s almost impossible for me to not scream point number two from the rooftops. We’ve been beating this drum for years here at the Liberal Gun Club- supporting legislation that will not do what it purports to do is not only pointless, it’s actively harmful and those folks that pay attention know that, while it’s an oft trotted out trope, the slippery slope is certainly true in this particular case. Legislation passes, another event happens, more legislation is proposed to solve the issue again, since the first round obviously wasn’t enough. So of course heels are going to dig in about such things.
Yglesias also makes solid points about rural Dems- in this day and age they wouldn’t have to be supportive of the NRA, but if they got behind actually supporting gun rights, maybe even supporting a national organization that also has a core mission of supporting the 2nd, it would certainly help in rural and some suburban areas. They’ll also need to be able to articulate to progressives why they believe what they do, and our positions can certainly help with that.
And this point cannot be emphasized enough:
There’s wisdom in looking at ballot initiatives, and the evidence seems to be that gun regulation runs behind the Democratic Party even in one of the few rural states where Democrats are competitive.
Joe managed a solid popular vote win, and pulled of a very respectable 306 electoral vote win- the race was still closer than it should have been, particularly in the midwest where it should have been a blowout- and gun politics may well have been a factor there and in several other states.
Then there’s this with regard to reducing deaths involving a gun:
But the UK didn’t get there with really rigorous background checks, it got there by making civilian ownership of guns mostly illegal.
What’s more: Gun enthusiasts are aware of this. So when progressives talk about the tragedy of gun deaths in America, it doesn’t matter if their actual proposal is a very mild tweak to background checks. When you define “the problem” as gun deaths, you are pushing toward a drastic solution that gun hobbyists don’t want, and they are highly motivated to vote against you.
This is 100% accurate. And against doesn’t mean for the opposition every time as I noted above. Creating even a minor level of apathy in a significant chunk of your base is a terrible idea, particularly when you’ve motivated the hell out of the opposition and even some of your base to vote against you.
And his final note wraps it up pretty well.
But in terms of moral urgency, alcohol kills more people than guns. If you’re comfortable saying that it’s fine for politicians to be politically pragmatic in their approach to alcohol regulation, but that guns are such a transcendent question of conscience that you can’t stomach it, I think you should examine where that’s coming from.
At the end of the day, there are a LOT of things we can do to reduce suicide and homicide in this country that have zero to do with gun control that would make a HUGE difference. Improving healthcare (and a public option is a step in the right direction from where we’re at), economic stability and opportunity for those most impacted by the pandemic and the rapidly changing world economy, and reinvesting into intervention programs to name a few.
Fixating on something that doesn’t fix much of anything, but will also cost elections? Sheer stupidity. The good news is, Biden worked with Obama during the years that tabling gun control was seen as a third rail like Social Security.
He should stick with that and work to fix the issues that really need fixing instead- broken healthcare in a pandemic, which coincides with environmental catastrophe, and induces an economic crisis, as we try to un-do the abuses of a virulently racist and corrupt administration.