The Changing Face of Gun Control: More Respectful of Gun Rights, But More Successful?

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Molly Ball at the Atlantic chronicles one of the
greatest triumphs of the gun rights movement: making the gun
control movement
ameliorate (or camouflage?) its anti-gun agenda. She notes:
The group now known as the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun
Violence was once known as Handgun Control Inc.; a 2001
book by the executive director of the Violence Policy Center
was entitled Every
Handgun Is Aimed at You: The Case for Banning Handguns.
Contrast that with what you see today: Gun-control
groups don’t
even use the term “gun control,” with its big-government
implications, favoring “preventing gun violence” instead.
Democratic politicians preface every appeal for reform with a paean
to the rights enshrined in the Second Amendment and bend over
backwards to assure “law-abiding gun owners” they mean them no ill
will. Even the president, a Chicago liberal who once derided rural
voters’ tendency to “cling to guns or religion,” seeks to assure
gun enthusiasts he’s one of them by citing a heretofore-unknown
enthusiasm for skeet shooting…
Many Americans’ low opinion of old school gun control advocates
was earned:
If the NRA today seems fixated on the notion that the left is
out to undercut the Second Amendment, confiscate law-abiding
Americans’ legally acquired firearms, and instigate
federal-government monitoring of all gun owners, that’s because 15
years ago, gun-control advocates wanted to do all of those
things.
After chronicling some of the ins and outs of
intra-anti-gun-group squabbles, and noting that one of their
rhetorical tactics is acting all respectful of gun rights, as
long as its for hunting (leaving vulnerable avself-defense, the
most important aspect of gun ownership, and sheer recreational fun
of any sort, the answer to the annoying “Why would any one
need…..?” question about any sort of gun or magazine), Ball
concludes that in trying to make themselves less scary to those who
don’t want all private ownership of guns eliminated or made
terribly inconvenient, they have better chance of succeeding in
regulatory goals that don’t involve prying all guns out of people’s
hands, of whatever temperature or sentience:
The Brady Campaign’s president, Dan Gross, [said] “The message
is now turned outward instead of inward, focused on engaging and
mobilizing the latent majority of the American public that supports
common-sense measures like universal background checks.” Now, a
representative email from
a Colorado progressive group to its supporters is headlined, “No
one is coming to take your gun.”
When I was researching my 2008 book
Gun Control on Trial, right after the Heller
decision came down, enshrining an individual Second Amendment right
to commonly used weapons for self-defense in the home in the
“living Constitution” the Courts would actually respect, Dennis
Henigan of the Brady Center told me he considered the decision
quite a victory for gun controllers.Why, when his side filed an amicus brief arguing the other side
of the case? The gun rights movement, he said, was pretty much
running on the fumes of fear of total weapon confiscation, and with
that off the table thanks to the Court, they could now get down to
fights he was sure the gun controllers could win, about the
specifics of what sort of people could own what sort of weapon,
what they had to tell the government when weapons changed hands,
and the particular characteristics of weapons. I thought he was
just trying to put the best available spin on a bad decision for
his side, but Ball’s article implies that in fact it may be the
case that a gun control movement that recognizes at least the
minimal Heller level version of the Second Amendment
will be a more successful one.But I’m not sure how successful. Shortly before Sandy Hook, an
article by me called “Gun
Control RIP” appeared in American Conservative, and
many correspondents seemed to think I was embarrassed by crummy
timing and clearly wrong.I still think the point the piece made holds, and that American
public resistance to reacting even to tragedies caused by people
with guns with enough political fervor to turn the gears of gun
control forward is still strong. Now it seems even attempts to turn
the hands back a decade to something like the “assault weapon”
statue quo of ten years ago–not exactly an amazing victory of gun
control–are
likely to fizzle. 

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The Changing Face of Gun Control: More Respectful of Gun Rights, But More Successful?


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