Thursday, March 21, 2013

Assault Weapons Ban Banned

No More Mister Nice Guy has a couple of splendid posts about the failure of re-imposition in the Senate of the assault weapons ban.  In one, he demonstrates both sociological insight and a knack for math when, frustrated by Majority Leader Reid, he comments

But he still wouldn't be able to get sixty votes for the assault weapons ban. And sooner or later -- probably sooner -- he'd acknowledge that.

It would take sixty massacres affecting senators' children and grandchildren to get cloture for a vote on an assault weapons ban. Or, well, maybe not sixty -- Harry Reid says the ban has fewer than forty votes. So it would take more than twenty massacres involving senators' families to get the ban through the Senate.

Or, of course (as I said last night), it would take a genuine change in public opinion. The number of one-issue pro-gun-control voters would need to rival the number of pro-gun voters. I still don't know how we get to that point. I don't know how we increase the number of committed gun-control voters. I don't know how we reduce the number of committed NRA voters -- polls say the NRA is out of step even with gun owners on many issues relating to guns, so where are the waves of disgusted gun owners forgoing their membership?

There never will be wave of disgusted gun owners forgoing their membership.   There is a corollary to the concept of high-intensity and low-intensity voters in which a minority of individuals, such as those opposing any gun safety legislation, can wield more influence than a majority of individuals, in this case supporters of gun control.  While gun owners asked about modest legislative proposals (such as universal background checks) view the issue not only as gun owners but also as just plain citizens, the National Rifle Association itself views proposals only in terms of how they affect their members' firearm interests.  Hence, the NRA serves a purpose, no matter how evil.

And gun safety legislation is not, and will not be for the forseeable future, the issue upon which Democrats or liberals, politicians or activists, plant their flag. Elahe Izadi of the National Journal writes

Back in 2004, it was a given that a presidential candidate couldn’t win the Democratic nomination -- let alone the general election -- while supporting gay marriage. Less than decade later, Democrats understand they have no chance at winning without supporting gay marriage.

Hillary Clinton is merely the latest to come out in favor of same-sex marriage, as the Supreme Court readies to hear arguments this month on the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 in California. But her announcement also fuels speculation over her 2016 presidential ambitions and ensures that anyone opposed to gay marriage will have trouble winning over the base.

“This is becoming an early litmus test for potential 2016 candidates,” said Democrat strategist and 2008 Clinton campaign spokesman Mo Elleithee. “You don’t have to be 100 percent for gay marriage but you have to at least be in favor of relationship equality.”

There is little chance a Democratic presidential hopeful- even a (presumably conservative) candidate with no chance to garner the nomination (guys like Republican Gary Bauer or Democrat Mike Gravel) will be able to withstand the pressure to be "100 percent for gay marriage," especially because no one knows what "relationship equality" is.

On one side of the gun controversy, there are a large swath of the GOP popular base, representatives of its business base, a powerful special interest group, and Democratic legislators from rural states.  On the other side, there are the American people... and liberal politicians and activists, whose attention is seemingly focused elsewhere.  Not a fair fight.

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