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aileron
07-30-2007, 5:38 AM
At the bottom of this article is a comment that the proportion of gun owners in the US is shrinking. I hope not for the long haul. Interesting read though.

http://nrd.nationalreview.com/article/?q=MzMzYmQzNzFhYmE5YzgxMWY4ZGIzZGEyNjllYmI5MGY=&b=322824


The Second Amendment people are winning

RAMESH PONNURU

In March, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg issued a challenge to Nancy Pelosi. “The Democrats have said repeatedly that they blame the Republicans for no gun legislation,” he said on his radio show. “Well, now they’re in charge. Okay, stand up. And if not, I’m going to tell everybody.”

Bloomberg, together with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and allied groups, wants Congress to repeal the “Tiahrt amendment.” They say that the amendment keeps local law enforcement from having access to gun-trace data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE). Gun-rights groups say that they favor letting local law enforcement have that data when it is relevant to a specific investigation, but don’t want mayors to be able to use the data in their litigation against gunmakers. Newspaper editorials have generally brushed past their arguments.

But Bloomberg, the media, and the gun-control groups have lost the fight. In July, the House appropriations committee voted 40–26 to keep the Tiahrt amendment — rejecting both a proposal to eliminate it and a compromise. Thirteen Democrats voted for the amendment. The Senate appropriations committee voted to keep it, too, with five Democratic senators on the winning side.

Bloomberg is wrong: The Democrats are not “in charge” of Congress, at least when it comes to guns — the National Rifle Association is.

A bill to repeal D.C.’s strict gun control has 210 co-sponsors in the House (a number that is still rising). That includes 57 Democrats. Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican who voted against the bill before, is now co-sponsoring it, too. Davis is preparing to run for the Senate, and his state is more culturally conservative than his district. But his switch also shows how political support for gun rights is growing.

You can see the evidence in state legislatures, too. Thirty-eight states issue concealed-carry permits to anyone who meets some minimal requirements; an additional two states let people carry them without having to get permits. In 2005, the NRA launched a project to change the law on self-defense. In 25 states, statutes or precedents imposed a duty to retreat on crime victims; if instead of fleeing they used guns to defend themselves, they could be held liable. The NRA wants them to have the legal option to defend themselves as soon as they are threatened. So far, 16 states have made the change.

Gun-control groups thought that the Virginia Tech massacre strengthened their case. But it did not improve their political fortunes at all. Congress is tightening up the law on background checks, but the bill is not the stuff of their dreams: The NRA actually supports it, and it is being co-sponsored by longtime NRA ally Rep. John Dingell. State legislatures have continued to move ahead with concealed-carry and self-defense bills.

What accounts for the extraordinary strength of the gun-rights movement? Four factors come to mind.

First: While the polls show that the public supports some gun-control measures, that support has slipped over the last decade. In 1999, after the Columbine massacre, ABC found that 67 percent of the public wanted “stricter gun control.” Now 61 percent do. In 1999, the public was evenly split on whether people should be allowed to carry concealed handguns. Now they think it should be legal, by a 55 to 42 percent margin. Other polling organizations, and other questions, show similar results: The public has moved to the right. That movement may reflect the fact that concealed-carry laws have spread across the country without its becoming the O.K. Corral writ large.

Second: Support for gun control is a mile wide but half an inch deep. A lot of people who support particular gun-control measures — mandatory trigger locks, say — do so because those regulations sound reasonable to them. Many of them don’t believe that such regulations will do much to reduce crime. It is not an issue that moves their votes.

Opponents of gun control, on the other hand, tend to be gun owners, for whom gun issues are much less abstract. The intensity is all on their side. Many of them will vote against a politician based on gun issues alone.

Third: Democrats are gun-shy after seeing this issue backfire on them too many times. Many Democrats, including Bill Clinton, blamed their loss of Congress in 1994 on their support for the “assault weapons” ban. Many Democrats blamed Al Gore’s loss in 2000 on gun control, too, which contributed to his losing Arkansas, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

By 2006, the Democrats had backed off on guns. In some places, they ran pro-gun candidates. More often, they ran anti-gun candidates who campaigned on other issues. Guns were a major issue in only one competitive race last year: the contest to replace Henry Hyde, a moderate Republican on gun control, in the Sixth Congressional District of Illinois. Peter Roskam, a proponent of gun rights, beat back a strong Democratic challenge, partly by using the gun issue.

Fourth: The NRA is a highly effective organization. It has 4 million members — a little below its 2000 peak, but enough to be formidable. It keeps a wary eye on everything going on in Congress. And it understands that political muscle is built by being exercised.

The NRA worked that muscle twice in recent weeks. Rep. Jay Inslee, a Democrat from Washington State, proposed an amendment banning the importation of polar-bear trophies. The NRA opposed it as a regulation on hunting, and beat it in late June.

In mid-July, congressmen working with the NRA forced the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to withdraw a proposed regulation on explosives. The NRA feared the regulation was too broadly written, and would inadvertently make it hard for gun shops to store ammunition. OSHA is redrafting the rule.

Some other pro-gun organizations, notably the Gun Owners of America, criticize the NRA for insufficient devotion to Second Amendment principle. But such groups are nipping at its heels. They attacked the NRA for supporting the Dingell bill on background checks for the mentally ill, for example. But the bill nonetheless passed the House on a voice vote. The opposition, that is, did not even have the strength to force a roll-call vote. Nor have the anti-NRA groups played a significant role in any of the recent pro-gun victories.

Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the NRA, allows that “we’ve had to work very hard” given the Democrats’ new control of Congress. But the NRA has an ambitious agenda nonetheless. It wants Congress to pass a bill establishing that one state’s concealed-carry licenses are valid in other states that have them. It wants to reform the BATFE. And it wants the Bush administration to rescind a regulatory agreement that the Clinton administration made with Smith & Wesson in its closing days. (The administration isn’t enforcing that agreement, but the NRA worries that the next administration could.)

The biggest prize for the gun-rights movement could come next year: The Supreme Court may agree to take a case involving D.C.’s gun ban. Much recent scholarship, by liberals as well as conservatives and libertarians, argues that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own guns. If the Court recognizes an individual right, even a qualified one, it will be a long-sought victory for gun rights.

How deeply the NRA will get involved in the presidential race is not clear. Of all the top-tier candidates, Fred Thompson has the most consistent pro-gun record. When he was mayor, Rudy Giuliani sued gunmakers and called for registering all gun owners. Since announcing his presidential run, however, he has said that his approach in New York City might not be right for all places, and he has urged courts to protect individuals’ Second Amendment rights. Mitt Romney has done a more modest flip-flop. In the past he supported the ban on “assault weapons” and pointedly distanced himself from the NRA, but last year became a member of it.

The three leading Democratic candidates for president all get Fs from the NRA. But they seem to have learned from recent political history not to raise gun issues on the campaign trail.

The constituency for gun rights is changing. The movement’s emphasis has shifted from hunting to self-defense, and is consequently becoming more female. The proportion of the population that owns guns is shrinking, which could weaken the NRA in the future. Guns remain far more regulated than they were before the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy (which led to the first modern gun control). Supporters of gun rights have been better at blocking new controls than repealing old ones.

At the moment, however, the NRA is probably the most successful element of the Right. Michael Bloomberg is going to be disappointed for a while to come.

762cavalier
07-30-2007, 6:43 AM
proportion of gun owners in the US is shrinking

It would be nice if the author would actually cite where he got that statistic from .:rolleyes: I find it hard to believe since the population of the US has been growing and as well as the number of guns.

Prc329
07-30-2007, 7:35 AM
Here is an important passage to remember

Some other pro-gun organizations, notably the Gun Owners of America, criticize the NRA for insufficient devotion to Second Amendment principle. But such groups are nipping at its heels. They attacked the NRA for supporting the Dingell bill on background checks for the mentally ill, for example. But the bill nonetheless passed the House on a voice vote. The opposition, that is, did not even have the strength to force a roll-call vote. Nor have the anti-NRA groups played a significant role in any of the recent pro-gun victories.