A Great Way to Explain How Gun Control Lost

Megan McArdle explains it succinctly here:

If you want to actually understand why gun control failed, let’s try a simple exercise.  Raise your hand if you had a strong opinion about the background check bill that was in front of Congress.

Keep your hand raised if you know how your own Senator voted on it.  Otherwise put your hand down.

Keep your hand raised if you actually live in a state that might plausibly elect a Republican to congress.

Okay, now keep your hand raised if that bill was in the top one or two issues that you’ll be voting on in 2014 or 2016.  By which I mean, if your Senator votes the wrong way on that bill, you will vote for anyone who opposes them.  Anyone–even someone with the wrong opinions on gay marriage, social security reform, transportation subsidies, the Keystone XL pipeline, carbon taxes, marginal tax rates on people who make more than $250k per annum, the deficit, and student loan repayment programs.

Now look around.  Aside from those three guys in the back from Handgun Control Inc., do you know who still has their hand raised?  NRA members.

Support for new gun control laws was high in the immediate post-Newtown period.  But that support was evanescent; it’s already back below 50%, and probably still falling.  Gun owners care year in and year out.  And they vote on the issue.

RTWT, because it’s certainly true. We even write blogs that focus exclusively on the topic. In truth I’m not a completely single issue voter, but it’s certainly one of my top issues, given that it’s such a handy proxy for what a candidate thinks about the citizen’s place in our country. Megan has also made some very good points about negotiation. It was a horrible mistake for the other side to come at us with everything and the kitchen sink, because it helped us mobilize our people in a way I haven’t seen since I’ve been involved in this issue in a meaningful way (about 10 years now). It’s now becoming apparent that gun bans are no longer politically viable, and some minor regulatory changes are the best the gun control supporters can hope for.

16 Responses to “A Great Way to Explain How Gun Control Lost”

  1. NotClauswitz says:

    Except here in looney-tunes California…

  2. ExurbanKevin says:

    And why do NRA voters vote so fervently? As I said awhile ago, If a politician, ANY politician, isn’t comfortable with you taking charge of defending your life, they’re not comfortable with you taking charge of your health care or your retirement or children’s education. If politicians want to be in charge of deciding when and how you can keep yourself alive, they’ll want to be in charge of everything else in your life as well.

    That’s why gun politics matter.

  3. Patrick says:

    I like her final point:

    Today, if progressives want gun control, a large number of them need to make it their top issue, and then move to states where they might plausibly change the makeup of Congress. Until then, they’ll keep losing.

    Problem is California is exporting their lunacy to Montana. And Texas. And Colorado. Each of the expats claim they left CA because it was “too crazy” and not their style. The first things they do after the realize they are no longer in California is do everything they can to…make their new home just like California.

    Substitute New York and Sun Belt states, etc.

    But all in all, the real progressives won’t go into the exoburbs and rural areas unless they can blog about it. So as long as we can keep the pressure on “real America” we might do OK.

  4. I have been seriously involved in this issue for over 40 years.

    I agree that I have not seen people mobilized against gun control as they did against this, ever.

    The reason that this is so is that the “progressive” effective monopoly on the dissemination of information has been broken. The opposition is still young and small, compared to the old media, but it is gaining strength while the old media is losing market share and credibility.

    Even in 1994, where a tremendous effort was made to stop the AWB and the Brady bill, the effort was not half of what happened to defeat these measures.

    I only hope that we will see an even bigger victory in the 2014 elections than we did in 1994.

    • TS says:

      I have two concerns about 2014 falling short of 1994. One is that it is over a year and a half away (instead of a few months). The other is that we won the legislative process. Payback for trying wont be as strong as payback for actually enacting gun control. I think we are stronger than in 1994, so maybe that will overcome the difference. It will be important to flip Colorado and make Machin and Toomey pay for selling us out when their time comes. Hopefully they see real consequences so that we can expect another 20 years before their next push.

  5. Andy B. says:

    “I have not seen people mobilized against gun control as they did against this, ever.”

    The only time I remember that I think was comparable was when the PA Republicans in the state House passed an AWB in the closing hours of the 1993 session, and the reaction to it over the holidays was so severe that when they returned to session in 1994 they made an embarrassing (to them) procedural maneuver to un-pass it, rather than just killing it in the senate. They essentially had to commit themselves to a “we had no idea what we were doing” position.

    Nonetheless, at that point they figured out how to work us, and even though “assault weapons” were off the table, they got a super-comprehensive gun control bill passed in 1995.

    Moral: Don’t cry “Victory!” until, metaphorically speaking, your enemies’ are dead, their bones burned and ground to dust, and their cities burned. Because they are always coming back, and we’re seldom as smart as we like to think we are.

  6. Old NFO says:

    Excellent points, and we DO need to keep up the pressure. As others have said, California is ‘exporting’ their loonyness to Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington and other states!

    • Brad says:

      Perhaps. Perhaps not.

      It is purely anecdotal, but I know of at least a few gun-owning Californians who had finally had enough, and voted with their feet by moving away to a Free State such as Arizona.

      And I believe there is some statistical evidence (sorry don’t have it handy) demonstrating that people with similar political views are more and more grouping together, so that individual States truly are becoming more and more Red or Blue.

      • Whetherman says:

        I’m just wondering where those of us who look on “red” (in modern American parlance) as being mostly fascist, and “blue” as mostly communist, are going to go if that plays out. Overseas?

        • Alpheus says:

          I don’t have much faith in the “blue” states (having lived in New York at the time), but I also live in Utah. While we’re not perfectly anti-regulation, we have a much stronger libertarian streak here than New York has…and I suspect that this is generally true of most “red” states, as well as many “purple” and even a few “blue” ones.

          Heck, there’s even a good dose (too small to be “healthy”, sadly) of libertarianism in New York! And I suspect in California as well.

          This isn’t to say that a split-up is going to be great…but there *is* hope for us.

  7. Robert says:

    Can I put my hand down now? I’m getting tired….

  8. mikee says:

    You underestimate the “Ratchet” effect that occurred in the states during the recent kerfuffle over gun bills in the US Senate. And the Senate bill isn’t dead, it can be brought up again when Harry Reid thinks he has the votes to pass it and any amendments he can hang on it.

    New York and Colorado passed two very unpleasantly restrictive laws that set precedents for (effectively confiscatory) gun bans.

    Other states like NJ jumped on the bandwagon and more states are still in the process of enacting laws proposed during the crisis.

    The expectation of anti-gun forces apparently is that even if those laws are eventually whittled down in court years from now, the effects will be , first, to prepare the public for confiscatory laws, perhaps targeting handguns, and second to prepare the public for more draconian laws at the next emotional period after an atrocity.

    Here is how I see it playing out: an atrocity will occur, and the dancing in the blood of the victims will contain some line like, “Last time they stopped the bill and NOW THIS HAPPENED. Don’t let it happen again!”

    Then the whole grab-bag of anti-gun laws will again appear, in a pre-arranged package more nicely coordinated than this time in state and federal legislatures, and some will again pass.

    So right now we get to expend effort fighting against the new laws, while the anti-gun crowd prepares to shovel more crap on the heap we are trying to clean up.

    Work fast, work hard, and perhaps be ready when the next atrocity occurs to scream louder than the antis that “THIS IS THEIR FAULT FOR STOPPING SELF DEFENSE.”

    • Andy B. says:

      I have to repeat a frequent theme of mine, and say this is why endless defensive and rear-guard battles are not victories. We need to regain territory, and we’ve been doing little or none of that.

      That is our fault, for settling for “enforce existing laws” positions as being “pro-gun.” They are not. They just keep gun owners on the line, providing votes for people who do nothing for us, as they fight the battles of the agendas that are actually important to them.

      • Sebastian says:

        We have regained territory. This is not something that’s going to be won in a short amount of time. When all this started in the 70s and 80s, there were few states where you had any means to legally carry, and only Vermont allowed carry without a license. Now e have three more states where that is the case, and probing to get more states. The Second Amendment is now legally, at long last, an individual right (though, how far this goes is still up in the air), but it’s a start. We’ve gone from all right thinking people supporting bans on certain guns to that being a serious uphill climb for the opposition.

        We haven’t moved faster, or used ideologically purer methods because, with only a few million single or near single issue voters at our disposal, our options are more limited than if we had tens of millions of those voters. That leaves you with having to do a lot of bluffing, maneuvering, and manipulation of legislators, some of which, ideologically, aren’t very satisfying. I’m not a fan of “enforcing existing laws,” especially on NICS failures, given how badly the system works. But if it offers lawmakers a talking point that let’s them feel better about voting no on expanding the system, it might be the best we can do given the resources we have right now.

        I completely agree with you if we had a vote on a big issue, like Constitutional Carry, we’d lose most of our well-rated suburban legislators. But who are we going to replace them with? And in the mean time, if we yank our support, what reason does any legislator have to vote with us on anything? I think we can get to a vote on Constitutional Carry at some point, but it’s going to take a while to build a consensus around it, without blowing up the current support we have right now in the legislature. Unfortunately, we do not have the voters to be in a position to demand. If we had 50,000 organized, single-issue voters for Constitutional Carry in Bucks County, we’d probably have every legislator here voting yes for it tomorrow. But that’s not what we have.

  9. Andy B. says:

    I confess that my perceptions of non-progress are biased too much by Pennsylvania’s situation. Off the top of my head, the most progress I have seen here is that Open Carry became a recognized movement; and at that, it was not progress in actual legislation, but in the acknowledgement of long-existing legislation. I remember DECADES when, depending on where you were in the state, open carrying would have resulted in a “disturbing the peace” conviction. Sure, you might have beat it if you spent several thousand in court (as I did with a couple issues) but de facto it was not a right available to the average individual to access with confidence. OK in this town, face a big fine in the next town.

    One of my ways of looking at things is, did I wake up on any given morning, recently, able to do something gun-rights-wise that I couldn’t do yesterday? And for all of my life (now well into my seventh decade) the answer has trended to the opposite, with most of that negative progress being very jarring losses of rights along the way. I actually can remember no important gains. While I of course consider things like the breakthroughs on Constitutional Carry in several states as important for “us,” as a movement, I also reflect that they are in states where I have spent a grand total of less than two weeks in my entire life. While I am extraordinarily happy for them, I’m not feeling the progress for you and me, and that may warp my perceptions. (How did blacks feel about civil rights, when in perhaps one-third of the states, they de facto had none? Were they satisfied?)

    With regard to “enforce existing laws,” in most cases when those are referenced, the “existing laws” are ones we fought bitterly, once upon a time. But when I refer to them, it is with regard to their use as an easy, throwaway line used by people who get a totally free ride from gun owners in return for only, hopefully, not actually attacking us. Quite simply, I’d like gun owners to start thinking about that, and questioning the people who use it as a throwaway campaign line more closely. I don’t expect people to attack them bitterly, but I’d also like them to get the sense we’re upping that ante. To date it hasn’t been happening. Maybe some, but not enough.

  10. RP says:

    It’s now becoming apparent that gun bans are no longer politically viable, and some minor regulatory changes are the best the gun control supporters can hope for.

    I think its more accurate to say gun bans aren’t currently viable. Who knows what the future holds. The widespread desire for a “do something” nanny state scares me.


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