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Speak up, Democrats, on gun control

Guest opinion: Democrats incorrectly fear that gun control is a poisonous issue to push. The NRA's clout is less than it seems.


Editors' note: This article was originally published Sept. 26, 2012. We are reposting on our home page in light of the massacre at a Connecticut school today (Dec. 14).

If anyone watched this year’s presidential conventions, you would have been hard pressed to hear even the slightest mention of guns or gun control. Indeed, the only official word on the subject was in the Republican platform, which expressly forbids the party from supporting any legislation that would reduce the maximum number of bullets in a magazine clip.

Of all things to have in a party platform, this may have set a new standard of insensitivity, given that high-capacity magazine clips were a prime reason for the horrifically high body count at the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting this summer.

More surprising is that Democrats, the party of progressive stands on social issues, said nothing about gun control even after the rash of tragedies in Colorado, Wisconsin, and in Washington state. The timid Democratic response was painful to witness after the near-fatal shooting of one of their own congresswomen less than two years ago, along with the fatal shooting of the husband of another congresswoman over a decade ago on a Long Island train.

Gun violence, which costs this country as much as a $100 billion annually and is perhaps along with obesity the number one public health issue of our time, was put on mute again.

The Democrats believe that their effort to ban assault weapons in 1994 resulted in the Republican takeover of Congress that year. They also believe that Al Gore’s public support of reasonable gun control cost him Tennessee and the presidency in 2000. It is a self-serving, accepted-as-gospel argument that the NRA and other gun rights group are only too happy to endorse and perpuate. Except history and the facts suggest the correlation is wrong.

In 1992, Bill Clinton won a three-party race for president with just 43 percent of the vote. Despite being a southerner, the Democratic candidate won only four of 11 Confederate states that year.

In his first two years in office, Clinton spent a lot at time on a variety of progressive issues including the rights of gays in the military, an unsuccessful push for universal health care and a successful push to ban semi-automatic, military-style, assault weapons. During this time, President Clinton was also forced to endure a special investigation into alleged improprieties involving the so-called Whitewater land purchase and rumors surrounding the suicide of Deputy White House Counsel and Clinton family friend Vince Foster.

The 1994 mid-term election was a resounding win for the Republicans who took over both the House and the Senate — the first time since 1953 that the Republicans controlled both legislative branches. The successful campaign was led by future House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who famously promoted a 10-point plan to “take back the country” to its basic founding principles, entitled: The Contract with America. Significantly, nothing in “The Contract” mentioned guns or gun control or a repeal of the recently passed, assault weapons ban.

Al Gore ran for President as a native son of Tennessee. The Vice President may have been an official resident of the state, but he was born and raised and spent most of his life in Washington, D.C. While most Tennesseans identified with the self-made life story of his senator father, the straight-laced and Harvard-educated Al Junior did not hold the same level of affection with the Tennessee citizenry

Tennessee has evolved over the past 36 years into a solid red state for the Republicans. No Democratic candidate for president, even Clinton, has received more than 48 percent of the vote in Tennessee since 1976. Gore got 47 percent of the vote in 2000. That was still six points better than John Kerry received four years later, despite Kerry’s catering to the gun rights crowd, with a well-publicized pheasant shoot during the campaign.


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Comments:

Posted Wed, Sep 26, 7:51 a.m. Inappropriate

Unlike the author of this piece, THIS active Democrat, who lives in the country, understands that gun control is unenforceable, and therefore ineffective public policy.

That's right, unenforceable. Every bit as unenforceable as restrictions on marijuana, on abortions and birth control, and on booze in the 1920s.

People will arm themselves for personal self-defense no matter what the Brady Campaign or Ceasefire say or do or think or feel, and they will do so with whatever weapons they think are necessary, and there is no effective enforcement mechanism to stop them, nor is there likely to be.

That is because personal self-defense is an individual civil right, which has been affirmed in both the Heller and McDonald decisions, and the personal choices that people make are their own business and not the government's. That is true for personal self-defense, just as it is for women's reproductive decisions.

The laws already on the books already specify hard time for armed crime, and I'm all for that. There are no rights without responsibilities, and the greater the right, the greater the responsibility. But attempts to curtail rights, cloaked in the disguise of increasing responsibilities, will fail.

A sizeable majority of clear thinkers in the Democratic Party in Washington state recognize this, to their credit.

ivan

Posted Wed, Sep 26, 9:36 a.m. Inappropriate

I don't understand what all this rambling about the history of elections has to do with gun control. Even if it did prove -- which it didn't -- that the D's "shot themselves in the feet", that doesn't prove that a position on gun control would not have made the defeat worse.

As for gun tragedies in Seattle, no NRA members I know would argue that mentally disturbed, people with a history of drug use or felons should have carry permits. It's just that psychiatry is not an exact science, and depriving people of their rights is a serious matter.

The other major source of shooting events is gang activity by people for whom mere possession of the firearm is already illegal for any number of potential reasons. It should be abundantly obvious that it is not possible to thwart these people's access to firearms, and the real tragedies occur when bystanders are impacted.

It may be inconvenient to have to change clips several times during a shooting escapade, or even resort to multiple weapons, but do you really think that, given only a modicum of practice by the shooter, this would have any serious impact on the amount of carnage produced?

The fact is that the thinking D's are well aware of the difficulty of implementing anything more than symbolic, but ineffective and onerous, restrictions on gun availability to the "law-abiding citizen".

kmeyer

Posted Wed, Sep 26, 9:53 a.m. Inappropriate

2012 Democratic National Platform:

Firearms. We recognize that the individual right to bear arms is an important part of the American tradition, and we will preserve Americans’ Second Amendment right to own and use firearms. We believe that the right to own firearms is subject to reasonable regulation. We understand the terrible consequences of gun violence; it serves as a reminder that life is fragile, and our time here is limited and precious. We believe in an honest, open national conversation about firearms. We can focus on effective enforcement of existing laws, especially strengthening our background check system, and we can work together to enact commonsense improvements – like reinstating the assault weapons ban and closing the gun show loophole – so that guns do not fall into the hands of those irresponsible, law-breaking few.

2012 Washington State Democratic Party Platform:

We believe in the stringent enforcement of laws regulating the purchase and ownership of firearms, while respecting the rights of responsible gun owners.
We call for comprehensive gun-sale background checks, including criminal, mental health, and domestic violence checks, and waiting periods, applicable to gun shows and other transactions; mandatory registration and licensing; required safe gun storage; safety training for all gun owners; a limit on volume buys of firearms by an individual; and a total ban on assault weapons and oversized ammunition magazines.

Posted Wed, Sep 26, 11:03 a.m. Inappropriate

Come on, Dick. You have been around partisan politics long enough to know that party platforms are good only to give the opposition something to shoot at (metaphor intended), and that in the give and take of the legislative process, they are barely even an afterthought.

I know most of the Democratic caucuses in the WA house and the Senate, and you know as well as I do that very few of them would waste their time, effort, or political capital trying to enact this language into law. This is only there to give the platform and resolutions people something to feel good about having written.

ivan

Posted Wed, Sep 26, 10:16 a.m. Inappropriate

The numbers used by this individual are really stupid.

Example: "Gun violence, which costs this country as much as a $100 billion annually..." AND

"Since the year 2000, some 1.2 million families representing almost 3 million voters have been affected by gun violence. These families along with a majority of Americans will support a leader that pushes forward on common-sense gun control measures for the good of their party and the public good."

So there are 100,000 families a year harmed by gun violence and that costs 100 billion or 1 million per incident. What garbage this person spews.

Liberals lie, that is just what they do.

brerfox

Posted Wed, Sep 26, 4:07 p.m. Inappropriate

More gun restrictions will only harm innocent citizens. There are plenty of laws on the books to deal with criminals. You can try to keep legislating away all the dangers in life, but after a while you're left with a police state. Personally, I think we've gone quite far enough in that direction already. If we as a society are sincerely interested in curbing these kinds of attacks, we need to make it easier to institutionalize truly dangerous people, rather than treating all people as potential murderers.

dbreneman

Posted Fri, Sep 28, 9:33 a.m. Inappropriate

No-one cares about gun control. They are concerend about jobs and the economy and don't see how gun control will benefit them in any way, especially with the endless reports of gang violence committed by thugs operating with near impunity outside the law.

Posted Mon, Oct 1, 11:57 p.m. Inappropriate

Of course gun control will restrict the availability of guns. Saying it won't is just stupid. Guns don't manufacture themselves; they don't sell themselves; they don't hop into the hands of criminals. They get SOLD, without registration, at gun shows and through on-line and newspaper ads. Whether we're willing to clamp down on the sales of guns or not, we should stop lying to ourselves and others by saying it wouldn't do any good.

sarah90

Posted Tue, Oct 2, 10:10 p.m. Inappropriate

A good machinist can make a gun. Rattlesnakes exist, guns exist, you cannot completely control either. I think that gun violence, or any violence, would be reduced to almost zero if poverty was eliminated, and citizens could get jobs that payed enough to live a decent life. Until then, guns keep the wealthy and the government, from going even further than they go now.

Take the New York City complete handgun ban. Right, a handgun ban unless you have the money to get a special handgun permit. The New York City handgun ban, really means "if you are not wealthy possession of a handgun will send you to state prison, if you are wealthy here is your special permit for a handgun".

Gun control is fool idea.

jhande

Posted Thu, Oct 4, 6:13 p.m. Inappropriate

First, no matter how you fell about it,,,guns are not violent. People are violent, guns are tools. Just like a hammer, saw, knife, automobile, or a baseball bat...just a tool.

And just like all of the above, any tool can be used for it's intended purpose, or misused. Automobiles are "used" to kill may more people than any firearm. Not really, as an automobile, is just a tool, and as an inanimate object is incapable of killing anyone or anything unless it is improperly used by an operator...you think?

BTW Ralph. If you do not cite the original source of your statistics, then we all just have to ass u me you just pulled them out of your behind. As a very wise old boss of mine said years ago...tis true, figures don't lie, by liars sure can figure....

Senator Kline has a whole lot better grip on reality than you do.

hermannr

Posted Tue, Oct 30, 8:19 p.m. Inappropriate

I can always tell I am about to be "brainwashed" in today's society when I hear someone compare something to something else. The lines "Its as bad as ...." or "Its almost as bad as (dramatic pause).. SMOKING!!" are so played out, most people with even a modicum of common sense now laugh at them.

First, dont dare think that even for one second you will ever get a gun ban passed in this environment. More shooters are buying more guns and more new people are getting into it than ever before in history.

Second, dont try to compare yet another one of your causes (IE the war against so called obesity, or the war against smoking) to one of my hobbies. It sounds trite and childish.

You notice how they use this garbage folks, first they get you all wound up about "the obesity crisis" and then they get you all wound up about those so called evil guns lol. Pay attention to these types, there is no other word to describe what they do, but brainwashing.

Abdul

Posted Fri, Dec 14, 1:57 p.m. Inappropriate

Reruns already? It wasn't very good when it was first ran and it still sucks. I like to think that my vote for I502 was for people like this. Chill out Ralph have some pizza and roll another one.

Djinn

Posted Fri, Dec 14, 7:29 p.m. Inappropriate

It's a mental health issue and a constitutional rights issue. The rights of the mental ill to refuse treatment and the inaccessability of mental health services and facilities is a nation-wide problem. If you want to emplore your Democrat representatives to take a postive step toward preventing this type of violence, tell them to work on easing restrictions on involutary committments and access to mental health services.

Cameron

Posted Fri, Dec 14, 8:03 p.m. Inappropriate

Gun control conversations are among the most frustrating. They tend strongly toward hyperbole, absolutism, unreality, ignorance, and mania. I'll try my hand, but I'm not optimistic here.

1. The Supreme Court has ruled that the 2nd amendment confers the individual right to firearms ownership, subject to reasonable regulation. Legally speaking, no one is going to ban guns. So everyone should just drop that idea.

2. Even if #1 hadn't happened, in practical terms there are too many guns and gun owners for any ban to be practical or comprehensively enforceable. But given #1, I think it's time for the gun lobby to chill out just a little bit with the confiscation paranoia. It's not going to happen.

3. The gun control lobby might think about taking "Guns 101," and learning the difference between a long gun and a handgun; a single-shot, a semi-automatic, and an automatic. They also might want to consider toning it down in their portrayal of gun owners as bloodthirsty freaks.

4. The gun lobby might want to consider that there are some big gaps in the regulations. For instance, those background checks nd waiting periods. They should extend to every transfer of a firearm, no matter what, be it through a dealer, a private sale, or at a gun show.

5. The gun control lobby, which tends to be comprised of liberals, might want to work with the gun lobby to come up with a uniform set of standards for a mental health screen, and information sharing through the background check system, so it can actually be effective.

6. The gun lobby might want to think about the mail-order gun and ammo business. If we're really going to try to be sure that lethal weapons don't fall into the wrong hands, shouldn't this channel be quite closely regulated to try to prevent, for example, the illegal teenaged owner of a handgun from getting high-capacity magazines through the mail?

7. The gun control lobby should drop its silly insistence on the assault rifle ban. An assault rifle is a purely cosmetic distinction. We're talking about a semi-automatic rifle that looks nasty. That's all. Think of it as the equivalent of a mullet. Not de rigeur at the symphony, but there's no need to outlaw mullets.

8. The gun lobby should cooperate on a comprehensive system of registration and matching of guns and owners. This would make it harder, especially over time, for the wrong people to have weapons, and to trace them, while doing nothing to interfere with lawful possession. And look, if 40% of the 210 million adults in this country own guns, do you actually think that the federal government could ever hope to seize 100 million firearms?

9. The gun lobby should accept higher scrutiny of people who own lots of firearms, and a lot of ammunition. And high capacity handgun magazines need to be tightly restricted. Yeah, I know people can make their own ammo. There will always be loopholes, but the perfect should not be allowed to become the enemy of the adequate. Ammo purchases should be subject to background checks, and sales should be permitted only to holders of a permit for a matching weapon. Ammunition transfers beyond trivial quanitities exchanges among hunters or target range shooters should be subject to background checks.

10. The gun control lobby should quit the ridicule of hunters and hunting, and of people who exercise their constitutional right to own firearms for personal defense.

11. The gun lobby should engage in an internal set of discussions about whether handgun ownership, and especially concealed carry, is necessarily a good idea. Not whether it's a right, but whether some people who are buying and/or carrying firearms might not be better off owning something less lethal, like a taser.

Okay, enough for now. I'm sure none of this will do a damned bit of good. So you all know, I am not a gun owner. But that's only because I haven't been burglarized or victimized. The first time it happens to me, a neighbor, or a loved one, I'm not going to hesitate. And if I should have to make modern art out of an intruder, I'm going to take his estate to court for the cleanup costs.

NotFan

Posted Sat, Dec 15, 3:11 a.m. Inappropriate

Gun violence is not a partisan topic. The little kids shot and murdered yesterday were surely not ideologues and probably did not have views on gun control.

They are dead because guns are far too easy to obtain and because there are far too many guns far too freely available in the United States.

More kids will die if our political leaders continue to sit on their hands.

We already ban certain guns. It works. People already go to jail for arming themselves with weapons that are illegal.

People who defend unfettered access to the Glocks and a Bushmasters and all the crazy ammo used to kill those kids yesterday have blood on their hands.

Jan

Posted Sat, Dec 15, 7:56 a.m. Inappropriate

Murderers have blood on their hands.

dbreneman

Posted Sat, Dec 15, 1:16 p.m. Inappropriate

I washed this morning and there wasn't a speck of blood before or after washing. Like so many people who become unhinged over gun violence you offer nothing and probably never will.

I predict there will be a national hue and cry over this for one reason and one reason only, these were white upper class kids, maybe just like you and yours. None of the unhinged cared that black poor kids have been killing and dying from gun violence for decades, and those actions that make it to print are on page 5 next to the Mickey's Large Mouth Beer add. But now the mentally ill among upper white middle class has struck and they're scared shiftless.

Try as we might we can't stop violence from happening to us. Ask all those women who have been murdered by the men they had taken out a restraining order against. Ask all the people whose relatives have been killed over bad drug deals. The list is endless. Ted Bundy didn't need a gun nor did Gary Ridgeway to commit evil.

Our real problem is that we don't have a way to identify and isolate those that would do us harm. I wish we did.

Djinn

Posted Sun, Dec 16, 3:44 p.m. Inappropriate

@ dbrenemann

I agree, murderers have blood on their hands.

I also believe that people who publically advocate for access to guns like those used to kill 20 little kids and seven others at a school are accountable when that gun is used to kill lots of people.

Sounds like you disagree.

@Djinn

I guess I see blood where you don't. So we also disagree.

The killing of 27 innocent people at any school by any body is cause for justifiable outrage.

If the killer didn't have a Bushmaster A-15 and a crazy amount of ammo it wouldn't have happened.

We can regulate guns and ammo. And do. Consideration of more regulation is a reasonable and responsible path in the wake of an outrage.

Jan

Posted Fri, Dec 21, 7:52 a.m. Inappropriate

The ice berg didn't sink the Titanic. Cameras are not responsible for child pornography. A spoon does not make one fat. Guns do not kill people. Deranged people on pysch meds. kill people. The thing the left refuses to admit, and it is a well known FACT--the more law abiding citizens carry guns =fewer murders/less crime. The places w/ the most gun control, such as DC and Chicago have the highest murder rates. Period.It is a fact.

jack64

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