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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Why anything but very modest gun control is out of reach.

Yesterday I talked about Alex Jones and his pro-gun rant on CNN. I mentioned that gun control laws are not likely to be passed.

 I want to explain here why I think that is, despite the continued use of guns in violent crime, the increase of mass shootings, the outrage primarily from the left and the polling data that shows that a great deal of Americans are open to some reform.

USA Today/Gallup Poll. Dec. 19-22, 2012. N=1,038 adults nationwide. Margin of error ± 4.

"Please say whether you favor or oppose each of the following: A law which would require background checks before people -- including gun dealers -- could buy guns at gun shows."
"Please say whether you favor or oppose each of the following: A law which would ban the sale and possession of high-capacity ammunition clips that can contain more than 10 bullets."

We still have a deep partisan divide over the issue of 2nd amendment rights.

Pew Research Center. Dec. 17-19, 2012. N=1,219 adults nationwide. Margin of error ± 3.4.
"What do you think is more important -- to protect the right of Americans to own guns, or to control gun ownership?"
right to
own guns

And there is the fact that the words gun control are always mistakenly linked to the idea of banning all guns, which is NOT what gun control means.

Nonetheless, according to the Pew Research polling data more people feel safe with guns in the home.

"Do you think that gun ownership in this country does more to protect people from becoming victims of crime, or does more to put people's safety at risk?" Options rotated
Put safety
at risk

Despite the data showing otherwise.

"Compared to homes without guns, the presence of guns in the home is associated with a 3-fold increased homicide risk within the home. The risk connected to gun ownership increases to 8-fold when the offender is an intimate partner or relative of the victim and is 20 times higher when previous domestic violence exists."

"Family and intimate assaults with firearms are 12 times more likely to result in death than nonfirearm assaults. This research suggests that limiting access to guns will result in less lethal family and intimate assaults."
-John Hopkins Bloomberg school of public health

And then you also have stories like this one. Also this one.

You also have the NRA now having a negative approval rating because it's stance on arming teachers which is proving to be unpopular. 

The NRA now has a negative favorability rating, with 42% of voters seeing it positively while 45% have an unfavorable view. That represents a 10 point net decline in the NRA’s favorability from the week before the press conference when a national poll we did found it at 48/41. Its image has taken a hit with both Democrats (from 29/59 to 22/67) and Republicans (71/19 to 66/18).
The NRA’s focus on putting more guns in schools is likely what’s driving the decline in the organization’s image. Only 41% of voters support the organization’s proposal to put armed police officers in schools across the country, with 50% opposed. Democrats (35/57) and independents (38/51) both oppose the push and even among Republicans only a narrow majority (52/39) supports it.
On the broader issue of giving teachers guns, only 27% of voters are supportive with 64% opposed. There’s bipartisan opposition to that concept with Republicans (35/50), independents (31/59), and Democrats (19/77) all standing against it. Gun owners (37/52) oppose it as well.
The holidays and the fiscal cliff took a lot of the spotlight off gun control measures, but in general 53% of Americans say they support stricter gun laws with 40% opposed.

So despite all this why do I continue to think that there will be little action on gun control laws? Well for one we have divided government. We could hardly get a deal on the fiscal cliff passed in time, and that had a deadline where all Americans were going to be hit with tax increases. 

Gun control legislation however does not have any imposed deadline, so the congress can continue to push it off until the general public forgets about it. That has essentially been the position of congress every time we have a mass shooting. Remember Columbine? Tuscon? Aurora? Wisconsin? Now Sandy Hook. 

Now President Obama and Joe Biden do promise some action on gun control, but Obama has also promised to close Gitmo, raise taxes on people making over 250k a year, and not put entitlements on the table in order to deal with the deficit. So excuse me if I don't have faith in his ability to do what he says he will do when you look at his track record. 

Another reason, and I'm going all philosophical on you now, is because we have a culture of fear. We have a media that sensationalizes tragedies to get ratings. We also have people like Alex Jones, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Fox news spreading fear. Fear of the government, they often use Hitler and Mao as examples as to why any regulation is bad. Some Americans also fear minorities, Blacks and Latinos. Trayvon Martin is a great example of this, I think if Trayvon had been a white teenager in a hoodie there is a good chance Zimmerman would have let him be. There is sense of needing protection from the government and other Americans, as Alex Jones demonstrates during many of his paranoid rants

So back to government, the gun manufacturers have a vested interest in making money, they are after all corporations, and with money they have the ability to spend that money on elections, influencing candidates. In 94% of congressional elections money determines the outcome. Gun manufacturers give money to the NRA, and the NRA uses it to give money to pro-gun politicians. If you take a stand on any type of gun control, your NRA funding is gone. 

With all of these factors, and the efforts of many conservatives and libertarians alike that do not want to see any restrictions on their right to bear arms and contribute to the NRA, I'm convinced and saddened that right now, we may only only see token reform. 

My advice to fellow progressives, if you want to see any movement on common sense gun regulation, you have to get the money out of politics so the people can decide, if a majority continues to want some tougher gun regulation than that is the only way. 

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