Convention Indicates Democrats Appear Ready to Step up Push for Gun-law Reform

by Meteor Blades –

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For three decades the extremist leaders of the modern National Rifle Association have focused on making it tough for politicians, almost all of them Democrats, who dare to argue in favor of perfectly reasonable gun-law reforms.

They have demonized state legislators, governors, congresspersons, senators, and presidents, which has in turn intimidated other such leaders into silence and policy paralysis—or, worse, spurred them into loosening gun-related restrictions on carrying firearms openly or concealed just about anywhere the carriers wish.

They have attacked Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as “gun-grabbers,” and incited racist and sexist rhetoric from some gun-owners about those two and other reform politicians.

For the first two days of the Democratic National Convention, not much was said about gun-related violence. But on Wednesday, you could see from the line-up of speakers that the leadership of the Democratic Party has had its fill of this lethal and lucrative nonsense from the gun lobby.

One of the speakers, Erica Smegielski, said she wished she could be with her mother this year watching the convention. But she couldn’t because her mother was the Connecticut principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School who died in the massacre of first-graders and educators there in 2012. Smegielski told the delegates that “what we need is another mother who’s willing to do what’s right. Whose bravery can live up in equal measure to my mom’s. What we need is to elect Hillary Clinton.”

Clinton has, indeed, been talking frequently about changes in gun laws. And it’s encouraging to see what is apparently the party’s determination to confront the extremists who work, at the state and federal level, to undermine every newly proposed firearms restriction while pushing a relaxation or elimination of existing restrictions.

But it’s a long, long trip from sentiment for action to policy victories. And pitfalls exist every inch of the way. Gun-law reformers know how to lose on this issue—we’ve done it frequently. We need to learn how to win.

The last time around, in 2013, after a disturbed young man murdered those kids and teachers in Connecticut, the call for a renewed assault weapons ban was the first proposal to emerge as proposed legislation, drafted by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein. That was a mistake. It immediately hardened the opposition by giving credence to the gun-grabbing claims, ultimately killing not just the proposed ban, but also universal background checks, a reform that polls show nine out of 10 Americans agree with.

The most important question to ask when drafting any policy is: Will it work? We know that no matter what the subject, no policy is perfect, all have trade-offs. So, the real question is, Will it work to achieve positive results? Universal background checks will.

No, they won’t guarantee that every bad guy will be unable to obtain a firearm. No law will do that just as no law will end murder, rape or bank robberies. Some people outlawed from possessing a gun will still steal theirs or buy them out of the trunk of some other criminal’s automobile. But, as has been proved by the federal law currently requiring retailers to require background checks of would-be gun buyers, thousands of criminals and others prohibited from owning firearms are stopped every year when authorities look into their records.

Eight states—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington Statealready have passed laws requiring background checks for all purchases and transfers of guns. These, too, have stopped proscribed individuals from legally buying firearms. The laws don’t stop everybody just as the laws against breaking and entering hasn’t eliminated burglars.

As noted previously, reformers can undercut the gun lobby’s political influence by building alliances with the big majority of gun owners who support universal background checks.

Simultaneously, state by state, reformers should work with gun owners to stop the gun lobby’s latest crusade to spread “constitutional carry” laws beyond the eight states that now have them. These laws allow gun owners to carry firearms concealed or openly anywhere they want without a license or permit. The extremists hope to get most states to adopt this approach: Six of those eight states have been lobbied into changing their laws in this matter since 2010.

Ultimately, something must also be done to reduce the killing capacity of semi-automatic rifles. But making that reform happen needs a fresh approach.

 

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos