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Alec MacGillis @AlecMacGillis
, 15 tweets, 4 min read Read on Twitter
Here are a few thoughts on the role that liberal fatalism on gun politics plays in our country's failure to stop the killing.
After every new horror, there’s the easily mocked “thoughts and prayers” response from the right. But there’s an equally predictable refrain on the center-left too: “Once again, nothing will be done.”
This world-weary prediction of inaction is pernicious. It demoralizes those who are actually motivated to fight against gun violence. And it lets off the hook those who are opposed to reform.
By declaring any new effort doomed to fail, defeatist liberals spare their opponents from even having to go on record in their opposition, from having to actually make the arguments for protecting the gun lobby.
Most importantly, liberal fatalism on gun control overstates the strength of the opposition. The NRA’s influence depends heavily on the PERCEPTION of its power. By building up the gun lobby as an indomitable force, pessimistic liberals are playing directly into its hands.
Yes, the gun lobby is influential. Not so much because of campaign $$, but because it can count on an energized, single-issue grass-roots voting base. But that influence has limits, and there are plenty of reasons to believe that it is on the wane.…
For one thing, the proportion of Americans with guns has been declining, to its lowest level in decades (…) and gun ownership is growing more heavily clustered in certain states (…). That limits the voting power of the gun lobby.
For another thing, the great recent failure, to pass background checks following Newtown, was a closer call than realized. Six senators w/ NRA A-ratings voted for it. It came up just 5 short of a filibuster-proof 60. It had a shot in the House, where only a majority was needed.
And look what happened after that vote. Two of the red-state Dems who voted no (Pryor & Begich) got zero NRA back-up in return and lost re-election in 2014, proving to other centrist Dems that there’s no point in currying NRA favor.…
Meanwhile, one of the purple-state Republicans who voted no, NH’s Kelly Ayotte, lost in 2016 in a race in which the pro-reform groups went after her for her vote against background checks. No longer is voting with the NRA the obvious safe tack for a self-interested politician.
Or look at Virginia, the home of the NRA. In recent years, Northam, McAuliffe and Kaine have all won statewide elections despite their NRA F-ratings and outspoken calls for stronger gun laws.…
Meanwhile, the empirical case for tougher gun laws has been growing only stronger, as "even @BretStephensNYT" noted today (Missouri's gun-violence spike since repealing state-level BG checks is especially damning.)…
Of course, with Republicans now in total control of Washington, the odds are stacked against federal legislation. But that’s the case with plenty other issues that Dems still see reason to keep pushing forward on, from health care to climate change to the minimum wage.
Bottom line, the reflexive liberal fatalism on guns is self-perpetuating. It inflates the power of the opposition, undermines activists, and gives off the air of defeat, never a good thing in a country that prizes winners.
But now a new generation may be showing a different way. The burgeoning outrage of so many students post-Parkland is, among other things, a rebuke to liberals who had given up the fight.
It won’t be an easy fight. But the worst odds of all lie in declaring any effort hopeless.
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