Since the election, The Times has run several pieces on gun control, always from the anti-gun left, specifically by Bob Herbert and former President Jimmy Carter . I am part of the pro-gun left, and my panties get in a bind when I read their pathos based arguments.
The most recent example of this dynamic is a piece by Dorothy Samuels entitled "The Deadly Myth of Gun Control in Electoral Politics," which postulates that the assault weapons ban of 1994 did not cost the Democratic Party the House in 1994, and therefore, the Democrats should stand up to the NRA. Obviously, Ms. Samuels, living in whatever bubble she does, hadn't taken notice of all those red states going blue via pro-gun Dems the last two cycles. Can anyone say "Jim Webb"? It's only two syllables.
President Obama, his past be damned, has been smart enough till now to moderate on gun control, and say good things about the Heller decision. He is an astute politician, who games out each situation, and is not likely to swing hard one way or another. Considering his votes in the past, this is a smart thing to do, and I am sure it contributes to his overall popularity, notwithstanding the reported panicking among gun owners awaiting the "Obama Ban."
However, the point that Ms. Samuels misses, but which the Dems seemed to have learned, is that they only lose elections over the issue of gun control. There is an excellent reason for this: the people that care most about the issue are the millions of Americans who are gun owners, and gun control laws tend to be badly written by people who have no knowledge of firearms. As was pointed out in President Carter's Times piece, there are 280 million guns in the United States. That's about 20 for every illegal immigrant, and we all know we can't get rid of all those immigrants, so we certainly can't get rid of all those guns. But that also means there is a MASSIVE portion of the electorate who have a vested interest in preventing gun control, especially when widespread bans are written by the same people that brought you the Tax Code.
For instance, a recent bill in the legislature of the great State of New Jersey sought to ban .50 caliber weapons. All .50 cal weapons, whether it be a .50 cal Hawkins or a .50 cal S&W or a .50 BMG. Now, if you, gentle reader, don't know the difference, yet think it might be a good idea, that's my point. And if you do, you can see the idiocy, and can understand why gun owners are a powerful voting block. The apparent idea behind this was that .50 is a large bore, so it must be very powerful, so it must be banned. The problem is that one of the above guns is a black powder weapon from the 18th Century, the second a pistol, and the third an extremely powerful rifle round that has never once been used in a crime. Why would anyone waste paper, much less time in a legislative session trying to ban any of them, except due to ignorance?
Therefore, gun bans tend to be written by people who are unfamiliar, and therefore afraid of guns. Gun owners are legion. The Democrats are successful when they allow people to exercise their rights under the Second Amendment, and not make them into criminals overnight by the stroke of a pen.
Ms. Samuels attempts to make arguments that because President Obama won, that the NRA gun lobby has been defeated. This misses the point. The NRA does not speak for all gun owners, and rather has relegated itself for the time being to the fringe. Perhaps it was Mr. Obama's astute moderation which ameliorated the lobby's screeching of an impending gun ban. But to fall into the trap, and actually put forth a gun ban, would be the stupidest piece of "strategery" since I heard Sarah Palin argue that we don't need to know the causes of global warming, only what we have to do to stop it.
How about this: since 280 million guns are too many to dispose of, instead of making this a for guns/against guns issue, let's make it about being responsible gun owners. Remember those bloody films they showed high school kids about the dangers of driving like an idiot, with titles like Bloody Asphalt and Death on the Highways? Perhaps American should come together, accept like adults there are so many guns, like there are so many cars [which are umpteenth times more deadly than weapons], that we have to all work together for responsible ownership. Such a position would please the people who are reflexively anti-gun, as it increases overall safety, and would please the gun owners, as they are not being treated like proto-criminals.