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A future with fewer guns is a future
with more community-oriented values.
Not all Democratic policy priorities are created equal.  Some have the potential to go beyond improving society and making a positive difference in people's lives -- by laying the structural or ideological foundations for a lasting Democratic majority.

Gun control is one of those foundational, dual-benefit policies.

Usually such policies are easy to identify.  The Employee Free Choice Act would have improved middle-class economic prospects while strengthening a specific bloc of Democratic support, organized labor.  Democratic-led immigration reform will not only empower millions of people and lift the economy, but it will also help strengthen support among the key -- and growing -- Democratic demographic of Latinos.

Much has been made by people like Greg Sargent and others of a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll showing that "the 'coalition of the ascendant' that will increasingly comprise the core of the Democratic Party's support as demographic shifts continue -- is made up of nonwhites, young Americans, and white, college educated voters, particularly women.  These latter groups all support a ban" on assault weapons.

But it's not just that gun control is desired by these groups -- it may actually be necessary to preserving Democratic support among these groups in the long run.  And the reason has to do with a subtle impact on values.

Many commentators commit the fallacy of assuming that various demographic blocs are, if not monolithic in their beliefs, then at least stable in their values over time.  But demographics have a way of seeing changes in values over time.  For example, the Democratic Party's coalition for many decades included working class white males quite prominently.  But eventually, Republicans figured out how to drive wedges between that demographic and the Democratic Party -- largely by playing up values like individualistic independence that members of that demographic had in their brains.

Guns famously made up one of those wedges, and because they appeal so strongly to that value. Or maybe that "value" should be characterized as an illusion:

After all, a population of privately armed citizens is one that is increasingly fragmented, and vulnerable as a result. Private gun ownership invites retreat into extreme individualism — I heard numerous calls for homeschooling in the wake of the Newtown shootings — and nourishes the illusion that I can be my own police, or military, as the case may be. The N.R.A. would have each of us steeled for impending government aggression, but it goes without saying that individually armed citizens are no match for government force.
The more guns are allowed to flourish, the more the illusion of false security in individualism is likely to take root in our society.  That's including among many of the demographic groups that are currently hailed as ascendant and as the building blocks of a lasting Democratic majority, since many members of those groups likely also accommodate portions of other varying value systems in their brains.  And the more that value takes hold, the less those groups (and all others) will prize Democratic values of community and interdependence.

So yes, gun control is a worthy cause.  It will make our malls, movie theaters, schools, places of worship, and communities safer.  It is supported by many demographic groups that have been key to electing Democrats, and Democratic officeholders are duty-bound to pursue the priorities of their constituents.  But there's a very real dual benefit to this policy.  Dialing back our gun fetish keeps us from retreating into a fantasy of individual power.  It keeps the path to power in the group arena, and that gives everyone a stake in working together with at least someone.  And fostering those community-oriented values will help keep these and other demographics supporting Democratic policies that come out of community values (e.g. Social Security, infrastructure investment) for years to come.

I'm Will Bunnett. I work with various Democratic campaigns through Trilogy Interactive.

Originally posted to I voted for Kodos on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 07:21 AM PST.

Also republished by Shut Down the NRA.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Inland, Glen The Plumber, DBunn

    Note: I'm at Trilogy Interactive, where I work for various Democratic campaigns.

    by I voted for Kodos on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 07:21:37 AM PST

  •  I take it differently (5+ / 0-)

    I see it as Democratic politicians not trusting the common people and trying to punish us, while wealthy plutocrats get their agenda fully supported.  Bankers got away with bringing our nation to its knees and Obama stood back and threw more of our money at them with .o strings attached.  Now he wants to tell law abiding citizens that we are untrustworthy with firearms, pot, the internet, and all sorts of other things.  I won't support the GOP because they are much worse, but I see our nation run by two political parties that have an open hatred of the American people.  The only difference is which people are considered bad.

    •  The personal and "punishment" take is baffling. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Glen The Plumber, DBunn

      What's so punishing about limiting the size of magazines?  Why are you taking it personally as a critique of you?

      To me, you're just voicing the same old culture war bullshit where politics is working yourself into a snit over imagined slights which don't become less imagined becuase you call it "open hatred".  If it's so open, how come I hear Obama saying the exact opposite in his presser about punishing criminals while protecting the rights of the vast majority?  

      How many times are you going to let the NRA and Sarah Palin push those buttons?  

      That's not even "gun control". It's more like "massacre control".

      by Inland on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 08:09:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  How is banning your possesions not punishment? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        How would you feel about the government making any of your other private goods illegal to possess?

        •  Like my incandescent bulbs? Freon? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          I voted for Kodos

          My high capacity toilet?

          I was okay with it.  Because I didn't take a childish view that the use of them was some sort of personal condemnation.   Because it wasn't.

          Just like a speed limit isn't a critique of my driving habits, like the restriction on alcohol sales isn't about me, just like the rules about watering every other day between 6-10 isn't a personal affront.

          At a certain point, I"m just not validating your hurt feelings over imagined slights.  Not when people are getting killed.  

          But the thing about being left of center is, everyone thinks that I have to doff my cap to someone's imagined slights because everyone thinks that being left means giving a shit about feelings no matter how silly.   But I'm not Oprah.  This isn't the Oprah show.  I don't care that much.

          That's not even "gun control". It's more like "massacre control".

          by Inland on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 09:50:42 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  People get really upset about all three of those. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            In particular, the R-12 ban cost me $500 when I could hardly spare the money (Had to retrofit an old air-conditioning system.)

            •  If you haven't noticed, (0+ / 0-)

              people either get upset or pretend to get upset at the pettiest of stuff.  Because they think that "being upset" is an emotional state that has to be respected.  They think that being in a huff gives them power over other people.  The entire tea party is organized around the idea of being batshit crazy and looking for a target for wrath.

              When it comes to a problem like people being killed....and children having their limbs torn from their bodies....I tend to not care.  There's reasons to feel bad.  "Society doesn't like my guns" isn't one of them.

              That's not even "gun control". It's more like "massacre control".

              by Inland on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 02:10:56 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

      •  Neither party works for us (0+ / 0-)

        The Democrats are better on several issues I care about, which is why I have supported them as opposed to the Republicans who are batshit crazy.  Let's not kid ourselves though, despite the "red meat" of issues like gay marriage and abortion, the parties are exactly the same when it comes to economics and working on an agenda that benefits the wealthy rather than the majority of us.  Obama says a lot of things, and simply either retreats on them or "changes his mind" when the pressure is on.  I seem to remember his campaign promises such as closing Guantanamo and giving civilian trials to suspected terrorists, or making immigration reform a high priority and getting something on it passed in his first year, etc.  He's also escalated drone warfare and done things that I never expected a Democrat to be capable of.  

        That aside, he's been much better than McCain or Romney would have been, but that doesn't mean I have to like him or the rest of the Democratic party even if I vote for them as the lesser of two evils.  Most of the members of the two parties have been compromised by greed and are caught up in a system of corruption.

    •  a simple demonstration (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I am recommending this comment because, whether I agree with it or not, it demonstrates some of the flaws in the diarist's arguments about how people react to laws limiting their rights.  

      •  Limiting rights (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        I voted for Kodos

        The famous phrase is something about your right to swing your fist being limited by my right not to be punched in the face.

        In other words, we're in a situation here where somebody's rights are going to be limited.

        We get to choose which rights will be limited and in what ways, but not whether there will be limits to rights.

    •  I think there's a lot of pretty explicit trust (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      And I would cite as most contradictory to your point Obama's statement that he believes the second amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms.  I personally don't see that as a positive, but I do think it refutes what you're saying.  And contrary to hate, I see it as love that he wants to keep the worst people, or the least stable people, from killing our beloved fellow humans.

      Note: I'm at Trilogy Interactive, where I work for various Democratic campaigns.

      by I voted for Kodos on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 09:35:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I want guns out of the hands of bad guys (0+ / 0-)

        For me, it seems ridiculous to waste political energy on banning specific hardware.  To put it in computer terms, it's like if Obama proposed banning computers with more than 8GB of RAM because they could be used for faster brute force password cracking when most people just need enough RAM to surf the web and check email.  Yes, I know RAM can't be used to kill someone very easily so there is a difference, but my point still stands.

        What I want to see the Democrats do, especially if they are going to have a big fight no matter what, is focus on setting up a licensing scheme for gun users and owners.  If you want to use or buy a gun, you would need to obtain a specific license.  To obtain that license would require some training (it could even be NRA produced training to throw them a bone if necessary), pass a background check, and renew every so often.  Basically, thousands if not millions of gun owners are voluntarily going through this for CHL, so you could do the same thing for making it a requirement to use a gun in the first place.  That way, bad guys like the Aurora shooter would never be able to obtain a gun.  I'd also like to see some regulations concerning how to store guns.  Just like how I am required to wear a seatbelt when in a car (as opposed to banning certain cars), I should be required to store guns safely.

        Personally I don't see the harm if someone who passes a criminal background check, mental health check, and gun safety training owns a 30 round clip and an AR-15 as opposed to someone who has none of those being able to get a 9mm pistol with a magazine that holds less than 10 rounds.

  •  Certainly I agree that the withdrawal from society (4+ / 0-)

    is the end cure and the end desire of the right wing extremists: they've written off the country.  Whether gun control really is part of a communitarian set piece remains to be seen, but you can certainly see the RKBA stalwarts talking about how they live in virtual isolation and have zippo concern about those who can't or won't live the same way.

    That's not even "gun control". It's more like "massacre control".

    by Inland on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 08:12:02 AM PST

  •  I hope it will be another example of the lie (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Glen The Plumber

    that Republicans are "pro-life".  

    Republicans are adamant that every American does have the right to a gun with which he can kill any number of other Americans at will.  

    They are equally adamant that every American does not have a right to health insurance and hence can be killed by the withholding of needed care.

    Republicans are not "pro-life".  They are pro-power.  They are especially pro-power over women and the poor.

    “The future depends entirely on what each of us does every day.” Gloria Steinem

    by ahumbleopinion on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 08:16:32 AM PST

  •  I think eventually we'll end up with fewer guns (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DBunn, Dogs are fuzzy

    but it is the culture that needs to change.  When I was a kid, lots of schools had rifle teams.  There were no mass shootings then.  

    I'm not sure what the answer is, but there are millions of angry people in this country who are convinced that firepower equals freedom.  That's not going to change soon.

    •  Rifle teams (2+ / 0-)

      Perhaps those rifle teams reflected a time when gun culture had not yet shifted so far into the toxic range as it has today. This shift doesn't personally apply to all individual gun owners, of course, or even most, but it does for far too many, with devastating results.

      A rifle or shotgun used for hunting, or as a necessary tool for life on the farm, has a very different psychological meaning and civic significance than automatic weapons, body armor, night-vision scopes and the rest of the gun-porn fantasy gear being peddled today by the NRA's gun industry masters.

      •  Wait, (5+ / 0-)

        who is talking about automatic weapons?  I thought people are currently interested in grabbing my semi-auto?  Didn't they already make it extremely difficult to get a full auto years ago?

        We are discussing the idea that many on this site have about banning semi-auto weapons.  Many of these semi-auto weapons are used on farms and for hunting by the way.  I know that is what I use mine for (mostly coyote hunting).

        If the conversation would just stick to universal background checks and reduced clip sizes (say under 20 round), you could get a lot more Americans on board.

        Full out bans on semi auot rifles simply goes way overboard and will result in a massive pushback from many folks like myself in the hunting community.

        •  You are correct (4+ / 0-)

          Can't get automatic. Many want to ban semi-automatic.

          Pushback? Yes, there already is - but there are those who will take a citizen's personal possessions at all costs.

          We are going to pay a dear price for this if it continues.

        •  20 would probably get little pushback because it (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jung123, KenBee

          covers almost all bone stock handguns where 10 hits that category hard...

          However no matter how many times some deny it there is a huge streak of flat prohibitionism running through the party blogosphere.....

          If it gets too far it will be disaster in 14 and I wont bother to say told you so ....

          Vaya con Dios Don Alejo
          I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men.
          Emiliano Zapata

          by buddabelly on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 10:17:30 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  The high capacity 9mm handguns (0+ / 0-)

            are a problem . . . possibly a threshold problem.  A lot of citizens have/want them, mostly for "emotional" reasons (I don't know why as a practical matter . . . 45ACP is a more effective "defensive" round), but ALL the gang-bangers want/have them.  It wouldn't surprise me if, when the data finally becomes available, we learn that  more than half of the criminal use of handguns involves Glocks . . . chosen by the "bad guys" because of their high magazine capacity.

            I think that we can re-structure the gun control debate strongly in our favor simply by asking "what we going to do about that?".

            Most of the gun owners that I know think that the AR-15/AK-47/TEC-9  crowd are simply nuts . . . but will (reluctantly) defend them because they don't believe that "gun control" advocates intend to stop there . . .

            Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

            by Deward Hastings on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 10:10:05 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Seriously? (6+ / 0-)
    Dialing back our gun fetish keeps us from retreating into a fantasy of individual power.
    Do you seriously believe that simply passing an assault weapon ban will "keep us from retreating into a  fantasy of individual power?".  

    This is me shaking my head in disbelief.   I am living in Texas, of course.   Reporting here, live from the scene of both "fantasies" and "individual power".

    To start with, individual power is not a fantasy.   People do have a sense of their own power, and for many people, that's not a bad thing.   It's also not going away, certainly not by outlawing a few assault weapons.     In fact, each time the government attempts to assert it's power more, many people respond with civil disobedience.   A great example is the great War on Drugs, causing a massive surge in drug mafias (many of whom do use assault weapons even when banned) and cheaper, more plentiful, stronger drugs than ever before.

    Also, guns are not going away.   We may have less assault weapons, but the guns that remain are sufficient to give one quite a sense of power.    

    Yes, fostering community oriented spirit is certainly something that can strengthen our community.   But, fostering community oriented spirit has more to do with what kind of culture we foster in our schools, and how much emphasis we place as a nation on things like family services, health care, intervention, and whether we place an emphasis on rehabilition in our justice systems.  

    Passing a law against assault weapons doesn't change our culture that much.   We'll still have cartoons with assault weapon scenes, and BATMAN showing in our theatres.  We'll still have five year olds being marched away in handcuffs, and teenagers playing Call of Duty.   We'll still have people waiting for months and months to get mental health care appointments, and plenty of drunks and mentally ill persons will still have a loaded pistol tucked under their mattress.    And, we'll still be excluding teachers from the important national conversations on the best welfare of children, and accusing them of being part of the problem, while de-funding and privatizing their schools.

    It takes a cooperative effort, working WITH people, rather than passing laws against them, to foster a more cooperative, inclusive culture.    It requires making people feel valued, and feel like someone actually cares, which means being there when they are in need.   It's complicated, expensive and it requires a commitment, and that's why we love to just pass a new law.   To a politician, it feels good to stand in front of the camera and pass a law against The Bad.   But, really rolling up the sleeves, and spending some time and money and effort is what is going to build a better culture.

    •  Love this part (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      It takes a cooperative effort, working WITH people, rather than passing laws against them, to foster a more cooperative, inclusive culture.    It requires making people feel valued, and feel like someone actually cares, which means being there when they are in need.
      Thank you.

      I see this part differently, though:

      We may have less assault weapons, but the guns that remain are sufficient to give one quite a sense of power.  
      They do give a sense of power, but my contention is that that sense is illusory.  And proceeding under that illusion is counter productive, because (1) anybody harboring it will be cruelly disabused if they ever try to go up against real power, e.g. the power of the United States or even many local police forces and (2) it keeps people from pursuing the exponentially greater power that would come from group action.

      Note: I'm at Trilogy Interactive, where I work for various Democratic campaigns.

      by I voted for Kodos on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 09:42:56 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You can't outlaw The Crazy (0+ / 0-)

        Paranoia and delusions are grandeur are symptoms, not an object.     If you want to eliminate them, you need social support and treatment.   You can't get rid of it simply by outlawing their pet causes, because either you will have made their point for them and increased their ire, or they will simply find a new object for their paranoia.  

  •  Demographics are going the other way. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annecros, buddabelly, theboz
  •  Well if this is true then we are doomed (0+ / 0-)

    because the  changes proposed by Obama are NOT effective gun control. The only truly effective approach (as in what Australia did that actually worked) has been explicitly ruled out. Most if not virtually all mass shootings in recent memory were done with legally acquired guns which will be grandfathered in even if everything passes.

    There are over 270 million guns in circulation in the US right now and not a single one of them will be taken out of circulation by any of this. So the continuous stream of mass gun shootings will continue unabated, and the NRA will crow about how they were right all along. Democrats will lose all credibility on this issue, and if their fate is truly tied to it, then we are lost.

    "crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government" -Thomas Jefferson

    by Phil In Denver on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 11:19:59 AM PST

  •  Still makes sense flipped end-to-end (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DBunn, theboz

    Diarist did not say that promoting community values would reduce gun violence.

    There is reason to think it would.

    There was a recent article about Switzerland that argued that their low rate of shooting despite being awash in guns was due to community support for all citizens.

    Iceland has a lot of guns and a low rate of any form of violence. They also have citizens who, when seeing a demonstration start to turn ugly, will form a human shield to protect the police (read about that in an interview with one of the police who saw it happen).

    Gun purchases follow violence, or more precisely the fear of violence (carefully stoked by gun sellers). Reducing violence, of all sorts, may allow for further reductions in response.

    Building social capital is hard work and doesn't lend itself well to legislation, but it enables all sort of good things. One irony is that before the era of "Let him die!", many of the conservative values promoted social cohesion (not all: we can both think of glaring exceptions in seconds).

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