Why Gun Control Legislation Is Foundering

The gun control legislation that President Obama put forth in the immediate aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy has foundered in the Senate. Before everyone rushes to blame (or credit, as may be the case) Republicans, keep in mind that the Senate is 55-45 Democratic, and the key component of Obama’s plan—an assault weapons ban—was pulled by no less than Majority Leader Harry Reid himself.

The question of why Congress can’t pass reasonable gun legislation has a multitude of answers—but I would suggest that at least one answer involves looking at the tactics, mindset and notable omissions by the political Left, including the president himself.

Let’s begin with the tactics—while Barack Obama is hardly the first political leader to exploit public emotions after a tragedy, the decision to shove gun legislation down the nation’s throat immediately after Sandy Hook smacks of bullying. A liberal can reasonably counter that it’s no different than George W. Bush jamming the Patriot Act through Congress in the aftermath of 9/11 and they would be correct. It’s worth noting that in Bush’s memoirs Decision Points, he said he regrets not the legislation itself, but allowing it to be termed the “Patriot Act”, because it unfairly maligned the patriotism of legislators who opposed its provisions. In short, Bush regretted a contribution to an atmosphere of political bullying. Is similar repentance in Obama’s future?

Now let’s go to a mindset that goes well beyond the president. The vast majority of Americans—myself included—do not see owning an assault weapon as necessary for hunting or protecting one’s family, nor do we see it is intrinsic to the Second Amendment. But the mindset of the anti-gun crowd is such that their reaction to every firearms-related crime is exactly the same, regardless of whether it’s a handgun or an assault weapon. This unwillingness to distinguish between the two—between one weapon that truly is necessary to protect one’s self and another that is not—makes the NRA’s charge of an ultimate conspiracy aimed at gun confiscation quite realistic.

Finally, let’s come to the omission, one that was touched on by Campbell Brown in The Wall Street Journal. It’s the unwillingness of the Left in general and the president in particular to go anywhere near the issues of violence in video games and in Hollywood. We know for a fact that Newtown killer Adam Lanza fed his mind a steady diet of violent video games. We know that as sure as we know that he used an assault weapon. Would stiffer regulation of what appears on video games, along with our TV screens and in the theatres be able to reduce violence? I don’t know, but there’s equal uncertainty about whether an assault weapons ban will work, and that hasn’t stopped Obama from pushing on that front.

What this smacks of is political opportunism. Democratic presidents get their backing from Hollywood, while Republicans are backed by the gun industry. Standing up to the other party’s heavyweights is hardly an act of political courage. Opening up a real conversation that involved all facets of gun violence, regardless of whose cages were rattled would be. Obama didn’t act any differently than any other politician of any ideological stripe would have in only targeting his adversary, but that’s hardly a compliment.

I’d like to be more enthusiastic in backing some of the gun control measures that are reasonable and common-sense oriented. Cardinal Dolan in New York, hardly an apologist for the Administration, has been supportive. There’s no reason not have a background check in place—while we can’t expect laws to work in keeping guns away from criminals, we can reasonably expect to keep them out of the hands of the mentally ill, and a background check would go a long way towards that. Even in the current political climate, I would like to see the background check pass. It’s the assault weapons ban where the problems of tactics, mindset and omission give me pause. In an ideal world, I’d be for the ban. But until the debate starts getting conducted on fairer ground and all causes of violence explored, I’ll have to pass.

Maybe when gun control advocates lament an “enthusiasm gap” when it comes to public opinion on these issues, they might examine their own role in creating that gap. I just hesitate to get on board with them, even when there should be room for agreement.

  • JackB

    I still don’t understand where the church stands relative to the gun lobby. Is not disgraceful that Democratic presidents get their backing from Hollywood, while Republicans are backed by the gun industry. How does Hollywood subsidize Democrats… Super PAC with no limits and no accounting?

  • Sue in soCal

    There are already background checks in place that check for criminal history and mental health issues. The problem is that mental health issues are either not defined properly or are so vaguely defined as to make it difficult to determine who should not have a gun. The Sandy Hook shooter could not be institutionalized by family or anyone else because he had “rights” that supercede public safety. The background checks being proposed make it harder to sell guns for the average person but do nothing to address the mental health question of why people with obvious problems with rational thought are assumed to be able to make rational decisions about taking medication and where and how they live.


      Background checks are required ONLY if you buy from a FFL dealer. Not so at gun shows where 40% of firearms are purchased. BTW, looking for a reasonably priced 20 gu O/U w/ a 24″ bbl. Anyone have ideas?

  • Tony

    So after a horrendous gun crime is not the right time to talk about reducing gun violence? When exactly is the right time?

    It’s painfully clear you despise the President. Your allegations border on lunacy; you don’t mind an assault weapons ban, but you blame the President for supporting it. You praise George W. Bush for apologizing about politicizing the Patriot Act, and act as if his apology is more important than the substance of the bill itself. Does it really matter if Obama is “arrogant,” as this site has alleged, or the actual merits of the bills he signs?

    • Joe M


      I think that the right time to talk about reducing gun violence is the moment you have an idea about it.

      Why didn’t Obama make it a platform issue before Sandy Hook? After all, Sandy Hook was not the first horrific mass shooting.

      Dan didn’t “blame” the president for supporting an assault weapons ban. He criticized the dishonesty and hypocrisy of the gun-control movement. I can’t speak for Dan. But, the message seems to be that he wanted something meaningful to happen and that it didn’t is arguably due to over-reach.

      In other words, Dan answered your last question already. Yes. It does matter if Obama is arrogant because it impacts what bill will eventually be signed. And in Dan’s opinion, that bill will be less significant due to Obama’s arrogance.



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