Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Who is behind the gun violence stalemate?

Craig Whitney's gun-violence op-ed in today's NYT is probably just a little too even-handed. "Unless gun-control advocates and gun-rights supporters stop screaming at each other and look for common ground on how to deal with gun violence, the next massacre is only a matter of time," he writes, and that sounds right. Let's dig out of our polarized mindsets and find some common ground!

Only there's this:

Liberals have to deprive the National Rifle Association of its core argument, that the real aim of all gun control measures is to strip Americans of their right to have and use firearms. Gun-control supporters must make clear that they accept that Americans have had this individual, common-law right since Jamestown and the Plymouth Colony; that this right was recognized in the Second Amendment to the Constitution in 1791; and that the Supreme Court affirmed its constitutionality in 2008. 
Here's the thing: That's pretty much exactly what liberals—those in positions of actual leadership—have done. It's largely a political thing: Democrats figured out in the mid-1990s or so that opposing guns was a sure way to lose votes, so they pretty much stopped opposing guns.

And it hasn't mattered. President Obama is remembered for his "clinging to their guns and their religion" comment, but almost nobody remembers that he also unequivocally stated: “I believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms." The NRA has refused to take "yes" for an answer, instead asserting without evidence that Obama has a "secret plan" to eviscerate the Second Amendment.

While liberals have moved to the right on the issue, so has the NRA. Which keeps even modest, commonsense restrictions off the table: In Pennsylvania, the legislature has worked to undermine rules in Philadelphia and other cities that require gun owners to report "lost" or "stolen" guns—guns that often end up in the hands of criminals and used in crimes. Even that modest requirement of responsibility is considered too steep an infringement on the right to own guns.

Liberals are already at the table of compromise—as Whitney later concedes in the op-ed, but only after advising them to do what they've already done. They just don't have a negotiating partner.

Meanwhile, a 13-year-old boy and his 17-year-old brother were shot to death in Philadelphia last night.

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