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(From The Progressive Populist)

Some Democratic members of Congress aren’t ready to sign off just yet on the gun control package supported by President Obama and Democratic leaders. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has drafted an ambitious bill that would re-enact much of the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, outlawing more than 150 types of semi-automatic weapons with military-style features, as well as high-capacity magazines capable of carrying more than 10 rounds.

As sensible as Feinstein’s bill may appear to many of us, it has no Republican co-sponsors and it is highly unlikely to get the 60 votes it will need to clear the Senate, much less get a favorable hearing in the Republican-controlled House.

So the only reason for Democrats to bring up such a bill this year is to get members of Congress on the record on gun control so they can use that stance in the next election. The last time that happened, in 1994, President Bill Clinton convinced Democratic leaders in Congress to push through a ban on military-style semi-automatic assault rifles and high-capacity magazines holding more than 10 bullets. House Speaker Tom Foley, Majority Leader Dick Gephardt and Judiciary Chairman Jack Brooks (D-Texas) warned Clinton that the assault weapons ban would cost many Democrats their seats. “Jack [Brooks] was convinced that if we didn’t drop the ban, the NRA would beat a lot of Democrats by terrifying gun owners,” Clinton remembered in his memoir, My Life.

Clinton noted, “Foley, Gephardt, and Brooks were right and I was wrong.” In that year’s election, Democrats lost eight Senate seats and 54 House seats, including Foley’s and Brooks’s, as Republicans took control in both chambers.

That was the same election in which George W. Bush defeated Texas Gov. Ann Richards, who had angered gun enthusiasts with her veto of a bill to let private individuals carry concealed weapons. The Democratic penchant for gun control has proven a potent wedge to drive the formerly Democratic rural vote into the Republican column ever since.

Democrats already have lost many of those marginal rural districts, in Texas and elsewhere, but the survivors shouldn’t be expected to embrace a bill that is anathema to their constituents, particularly when it has no chance of passing.

Democrats might be able to pass a bill requiring universal background checks for gun buyers, but probably not much else. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), who sports an “A” rating from the NRA, surprised some gun control advocates when he came out in favor of universal background checks for gun buyers, including those at gun shows. That’s not so much of a stretch, as a nationwide poll by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research showed 89% of respondents (and 74% of NRA members) support universal background checks. The survey also showed 70% of respondents supported bans on semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

But neither that poll, nor other recent polls showing wide margins in favor of assault weapons bans, break down respondents into urban, suburban and rural areas. The National Gun Policy Survey in 2001 found that 65.2% of rural residents had a gun in the household, compared with 35.3% in towns, 29.5% in suburbs and 21.7% in cities, and that same survey found that 57% of urban residents supported gun controls over the right to own guns while 63% of rural residents supported gun rights over controls. Our own anecdotal data suggests that residents of rural areas and small towns are still more protective of those gun rights than their urban cousins.

[Editor's Note: After this was written, we discovered a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. Poll conducted Dec. 17-18, 2012, that sampled 620 people nationwide and found the same level of 13% support for "no restrictions on guns" among urban, surburban and rural respondents, and 66% support for some restrictions in cities, 71% in suburbs and 79% in rural areas, but the sample was so small, the margin of error (from +- 5% in the suburbs to +- 8.5% among rural respondents) and the results are at such a wide variance from past polls that we discount it.]

If you want to pass more restrictive gun controls, start working on Republicans in suburban districts, which appear to be the prime targets for disaffected youths who turn up in public places with semiautomatic weapons. And work for common sense in state laws.

Supreme Court decisions in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago (2010) that affirmed the individual right to a gun for home defense sent mixed signals on whether the state may restrict the carrying of arms outside the homes. The wording of the Second Amendment may be ambiguous, but the phrase “well-regulated militia” has long been recognized to give the states and federal government authority to regulate the public use of firearms and the ownership of high-powered weapons.

We think the states have become too lax in the issuance of licenses to allow concealed handguns. Most states require little or no training to carry a concealed weapon. For example, Texas requires applicants to take a 10-hour class and pass a written exam as well as a shooting exam to show basic proficiency, and clear a background check. And the shooting exam only requires the applicant to hit the fixed target on 70% of shots, which hardly qualifies the licensee for a shootout with an armed “bad guy.” And gun rights activists are pushing hard for a federal reciprocity law, which passed the House in 2011, which would require states to recognize each others’ concealed handgun licenses.

The rise in concealed weapons licenses as well as “Stand Your Ground” laws, which provide tacit encouragement for gun carriers to brandish their weapon rather than retreat and call the police, have led to tragic results, most prominently in the case of Trayvon Martin, the teenager who was shot to death Feb. 26, 2012 in Sanford, Fla., by a vigilante who assumed Martin was a potential prowler and confronted him about it.

States should require gun owners seeking a concealed-weapon permit not only to get more weapons training, but they also should be required to show proof of liability insurance in case their stray shots hit innocent bystanders. Car owners are required to show proof of insurance to get their car registered and we should expect no less from people who insist on their right to carry guns. After all, good intentions won’t make up for poor marksmanship or reckless reaction when it comes to paying hospital bills of the wounded.

See the Editorial from The Progressive Populist. Reprinted with permission.


How should Democrats handle gun control?

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| 33 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  What polling doesn't show but politicians do know (6+ / 0-)

    is depth of feeling.

    For a certain percentage of the population any effort might cause them to either not vote (Dems) or go out and vote, (Repubs) during a mid term election. For most people one issue isn't that important, for some it is.

    If guns through the percentages a few points in favor of the Republicans the affects could be devastating. More losses in the House wouldn't be great, especially for a measure which most agree won't pass.

    It's not a case of will doing something be better than nothing, it's will doing nothing but pissing people off be better than doing nothing.

    How big is your personal carbon footprint?

    by ban nock on Sun Feb 03, 2013 at 02:55:52 PM PST

  •  As sensible as DiFi's AWB is to you, (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annecros, ban nock, ancblu, oldpunk

    there's no way it would pass the house (if even brought up for an vote). And from the articles I've read, there are 7 democrats in the Senate that have stated they oppose it as well, which means that even with one of Mitch's "up or down vote" scenarios, it wouldn't pass the Senate.

    Regardlessly, supposedly Reid has promised DiFi that her bill will get a chance to be voted on. With no chance for passage, why even put any of our Senators in such an no-win situation?

  •  It's a loser (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ban nock, KVoimakas, ancblu, oldpunk

    with huge ramifications for both 2014 and 2016.

    I phone banked and worked on elections 2008, 2010, and 2012.

    This could really cost us big. We don't have Obama at the top of the ticket anymore. I've seen it with him, and I've seen it without him. Don't want to relive 2010 again.

  •  When is the next mega slaughter going to come (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DefendOurConstitution, a2nite

    along? You might call that "the wild card" but for the fact that it's a guarantee.

    Which, naturally, leads to the question of can Dems afford to be seen as doing nothing? And since the right will be seen both as "being against" and as stopping progress there is far more to be gained from this effort than is being acknowledged here.

    The population of pro gun folks is shrinking, and the poppulation of gun control aupporters is growing. Period.

    There can be no protection locally if we're content to ignore the fact that there are no controls globally.

    by oldpotsmuggler on Sun Feb 03, 2013 at 05:12:56 PM PST

    •  When a person gets shot every 5 minutes and nothin (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      g is done, it clearly shows that Congress is owner/horrified of the NRA and will not do anything until we all rise and demand that Congress pass laws for the people, not the NRA lobbyists.  I am not too hopeful and it will probably take more people getting shot/killed every year before we rise and take back our Congress, but how many more must be sacrificed at the altar of the gun Cult before we rise?

      Then they came for me - and by that time there was nobody left to speak up.

      by DefendOurConstitution on Sun Feb 03, 2013 at 07:44:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This will make a 2010 re run and we do not want (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    that.  We know it won't pass and honestly if the fury I see in many, many people in social media is valid...this will only become more and more of an issue as the mid terms come closer.

    Even in the poll above, among us, it's is 50% in favor of keeping laws as they are.  Think how it must be out there...we have so much we could do that is positive and yet still honors the 2A and the rights of those who value it.  

    We can strengthen laws for gun crimes, stiff mandatory prison sentences for those who are banned from having guns and yet get caught with them, up the time in prison for any crime committed with a firearm, generate funding for mental health, use the laws we have on the books already and actually enforce them and prosecute those who break them....all of these things will have great support and will not cause a huge backlash.  You will have bipartisan support for each thing I listed and they will actually target the criminals and not law abiding gun owners.

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