Shooting Blanks

In many ways, this presidential election features a reversal of a pattern we've gotten used to in recent campaigns. More often than not, it's the Republican who is self-assured and ideologically forthright, while the Democrat apologizes for what he believes, panders awkwardly, and generally acts terrified that the voting public might not like what he has to say. This time around, Barack Obama is the confident candidate, and Mitt Romney is the worried one (which says far more about these two men than it does about this particular historical moment). But there is one major exception to this pattern, on an issue that has re-emerged after being dormant for a decade and a half: guns. It isn't that Romney isn't pandering unpersuasively on the issue. What's different is that Barack Obama's campaign seems frightened of its own shadow and is trying hard to convince Americans that Obama is actually some kind of pro-gun president. Which, for all intents and purposes, he is.

A week and a half ago, Romney told the National Rifle Association (NRA) that if he makes it to the White House, he'll be in their corner. "We need a president who will enforce current laws, not create new ones that only serve to burden lawful gun owners," he said. "President Obama has not; I will." Romney got no more specific than that, for an obvious reason: the truth is that President Obama hasn't created any new laws on guns. Actually, that's not entirely true–Obama has signed two laws expanding gun rights, one allowing people to take guns on Amtrak trains, and another allowing guns to be taken into national parks. He hasn't tried to renew the assault-weapons ban, or proposed a national system of gun licensing, or adopted any of the other changes advocated by those who oppose gun proliferation.

After a long absence from the center of public discussion, the issue of guns has returned, thanks to the tragic death of Trayvon Martin and the "Stand Your Ground" law in Florida that may shield the man who killed him from a criminal conviction. While the NRA and its allies have been passing law after law on the state level designed to put guns in as many hands in as many places as possible, it has been nearly two decades since any federal legislation containing the proliferation of guns has been debated as though it had a chance of becoming law. It isn't difficult to discern the reason: Congressional Democrats are afraid. They may be horrified when Republican state legislatures pass laws like "Stand Your Ground," and aghast at each new mass shooting, but they think they're powerless to do much about it.

This fear is based on a series of myths about the gun issue in general and about the NRA in particular, as I've detailed elsewhere (see here, here, here, and here). No doubt the myth of Al Gore's 2000 loss looms large for Obama's advisers; as Politico's Roger Simon recently wrote, "If [Gore] had won Florida, he would have become president, but if he had won West Virginia, Tennessee or Arkansas—any of which was possible—he wouldn't have needed Florida. And West Virginia, Tennessee and Arkansas were where the gun lobby ran big ad campaigns against Al Gore." This is the standard story of 2000, one told hundreds of times. Despite the repetition, it is a story with no evidence to support it. Yes, Al Gore lost those three states, as did the Democratic nominees who followed him; those states are now firmly in the Republican column no matter what issues dominate the campaign. But there is precisely zero empirical evidence demonstrating that the gun issue was the reason Gore lost them. He also won swing states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, and Iowa—all of which have plenty of gun owners—largely on his strength among urban and suburban voters, who are more supportive of gun restrictions.

The idea that the gun issue could actually help a Democratic presidential candidate is something few people seem to contemplate. But polls point to a broad consensus among the American public on this issue, one that says that the Constitution provides for an individual right to own a gun, but that right can reasonably be limited in any number of ways. Just as few Americans think the freedom of religion allows you to conduct human sacrifice, the NRA's position that gun rights are almost without limit is held by only a tiny minority. Specific measures like a renewal of the assault-weapons ban, mandatory licensing for gun owners, waiting periods before gun purchases, and closing the gun-show loophole enjoy huge majority support—even, in many cases, among gun owners themselves. After the Gabrielle Giffords shooting last year, no less a gun enthusiast than Dick Cheney said it was probably time to ban the kind of high-capacity magazine that allowed Jared Loughner to kill and wound 20 people and have figured in so many other mass shootings. Yet the NRA would have politicians believe that if they support even the most modest and thoughtful limits on guns, they will inevitably be defeated at the polls. And of course, the group tries to convince people that whenever Republicans win, it is because of guns. When Republicans lose, they don't have much to say.

Obama is not going to win West Virginia, Tennessee, or Arkansas no matter what kind of campaign he runs or what issues he raises. And no matter what he does or doesn't do as president on guns, the NRA will fight him tooth and nail. It isn't as though his lack of action on the issue or his frequent statements of respect for the Second Amendment have lessened the NRA's determination to unseat him, or its laughably apocalyptic rhetoric. "All that first term, lip service to gun owners is just part of a massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and hide his true intentions to destroy the Second Amendment during his second term," said NRA leader Wayne LaPierre at the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this year. "All of what we know is good and right about America, all of it could be lost if Barack Obama is re-elected."

If anyone was expecting the Obama campaign to take the opportunity of the Trayvon Martin shooting to initiate a debate on the wisdom of laws like "Stand Your Ground," they would have been sorely disappointed. On the day of Mitt Romney's NRA speech, former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, a co-chair of the Obama re-election campaign, wrote an op-ed lambasting Romney on guns—not for embracing the NRA's extreme positions but for flip-flopping from his previous support of restrictions when he was governor of Massachusetts. "Romney is hardly a consistent Second Amendment defender, or a lifelong sportsman, or a longtime gun owner," Strickland wrote. "But that's not the worst part. The worst part is that he pretends to be all these things—pandering shamelessly to voters just as he does on every issue under the sun." In other words, Strickland wasn't criticizing Romney for his recent turn toward gun-rights extremism; he was doing just the opposite, telling gun owners they can't trust Romney to be extremist enough. Strickland's comments were echoed by an Obama campaign spokesman. "The president's record makes clear that he supports and respects the Second Amendment, and we'll fight back against any attempts to mislead voters," he said. "Mitt Romney is going to have difficulty explaining why he quadrupled fees on gun owners in Massachusetts, then lied about being a lifelong hunter in an act of shameless pandering."

None of us can read minds, so we have no idea what either Romney or Obama really believes about guns deep in their hearts. But their secret beliefs, whatever they might be, don't matter. What matters is what they say, and more important, what they do. Mitt Romney is playing to his base (no surprise there). And Barack Obama is playing to Mitt Romney's base too, probably in the vain hope of avoiding the displeasure of the kind of extreme gun owners who believe the fairy tales the NRA tells them. Meanwhile, more than 10,000 Americans are murdered with guns every year.


Any gun legislation would be filibustered by both Republican and Western State Senators regardless of party affiliation.

I think they need to all stop forcing new gun laws every time there is an attack and go to the core reasons we have such violence such as poverty, mental illness etc. It seems the liberal side just wants to ban all the weapons and everything will be peaceful. As a liberal I also support the right to bear arms and think the logic on this issue is not a smart one.

If they are all made illegal, guess who will have them.

Did you know that there is something between all and nothing? That a lot of people aren't looking to ban guns entirely but simply to put a few sensible restraints on them? For example, do Virginians really need to be able to buy more than one gun a month? In a rare rational period the Virginia legislature passed a law limiting purchases to one a month since straw purchasers were selling so many guns that ended up being used to kill people in New York. But the legislature just repealed the law, so you can soon expect the murder rate in New York City to go up. What was wrong with the old restraint? It did not seriously impede anyone's exercise of second amendment rights. The repeal means that guns are going to wreak more havoc in some people's lives. I am not trying to take away anyone's lawfully possessed guns, but the gun fetishism that has taken hold in this society is pure insanity.

Yet here you are, placing a plea to the 80 million law abiding, when you should be talking to the two groups responsible for more than 92% of the deaths from illegal use of firearms. The career criminals/gang members and the crazies who commit suicide.

The government acknowledges in USDOJ National Gang Threat Assessment 2009 that 80% of all violent crimes committed in the US each year are committed by career criminals/gang members.

Suicidal people kinda speak for themselves. (SUICIDE IS STILL A FELONY)

Shall we review police studies in Chicago and NYC where between 76-80% of those involved in shootings, both shooter and injured were both involved in criminal activity at the time of the incident.,,

So when are you going to address those two groups responsible for over 92% of all deaths using a firearm as frankly it is rather stupid not to address the largest reason for a problem, then again, we are talking about progressives here.

Lets us know when you have removed the 5th amendment and rescinded Haynes vs US 390, 85, 1968.

You know, the US Supreme court ruling that clearly states for over 43 years that no person must obey a law requiring them to violate their 5th amendment right of NO SELF INCRIMINATION. Yeah, really sucks that over 85% of the existing gun control laws require a person to identify themselves in some fashion (self incrimination thingy) meaning they dont apply to felons.

Oh wait, what about the background check?

Of course we see from the USDOJ Background Check & Firearm transfer report 2008 Brady Check report that of the 99 million checks for purchases from licensed sources only, since 1994.

We see a total of 1.67 million valid rejections, a 68% decrease in felons attempting to buy from a licensed source, and 58% of those rejected being felons.

We see that between 2000-2008 only 13,024 were prosecuted, or less than 1%.

We of course see how the anti gun lobby claims such effectiveness of this pathetically useless law with the hard data they can present that the 1.66 million plus who weren’t prosecuted then didn’t go and buy from an unlicensed source?

We also see how the USDOJ survey in 1997 where felons identified purchasing their weapons from 80% street buys, 12% retail stores, 2% gun shows. Then that 68% reduction of attempted buys from licensed sources puts the street buys/theft at 95.52%, 3.64% retail stores, .64% gun shows in today’s numbers. Firearm Use by Offenders, Bureau of Justice Statistics, November 2001

Amazing how ineffective that poster child of futility is and this trend is similar with ALL gun control laws.

Yet more laws will prevent criminals and terrorists from getting a firearm, ROTFLMFAO, uh yeah, and the moon is made of cheese and the sun rises in the west and sets in the east, right!

In 2001, Undercover congressional investigators report where they used fake IDs, were able to skirt mandatory background checks and purchase guns in all of the five states where they tried.

The General Accounting Office study concluded that the national background check system for purchasing guns "cannot ensure that the prospective purchaser is not a felon."

The system checks only whether the gun buyer had a criminal history but does not require any check to see whether the name or identification being used by the buyer is real.

Funny how that is such a recurring trend, the government /BATF failing to do their job.

Why is it, that the police, whose best response times are 4 minutes, avg 15-20 minutes can only solve 8.75% of all violent crimes committed on a yearly basis?
FBI UCR 2008 1.38 mil VCR (Violent Crime Reported) 45.1% solved to prosecution, 80% success rate.

But oh wait, we have to remember those 4.8 million violent crimes the government recognizes that were not reported USDOJ National Victimization report 2008.

So based on that (1.38 mil x 45.1%) x 80%) / 1.38 mil + 4.8 mil = 8.06% of the violent crimes committed are solved each year.

But since the courts have ruled the police have no duty to protect individuals dozens of times....:

Bowers v. DeVito, 686 F.2d 616 (7th Cir. 1982) (no federal constitutional requirement that police provide protection)
Calogrides v. Mobile, 475 So. 2d 560 (Ala. 1985); Cal Govt. Code 845 (no liability for failure to provide police protection)
Calogrides v. Mobile, 846 (no liability for failure to arrest or to retain arrested person in custody)
Davidson v. Westminster, 32 Cal.3d 197, 185, Cal. Rep. 252; 649 P.2d 894 (1982) (no liability for failure to provide police protection)
Stone v. State 106 Cal.App.3d 924, 165 Cal Rep. 339 (1980) (no liability for failure to provide police protection)
Morgan v. District of Columbia, 468 A.2d 1306 (D.C.App. 1983) (no liability for failure to provide police protection)
Warren v. District of Columbia, 444 A.2d 1 (D.C.App 1981) (no liability for failure to provide police protection)

etc, etc, etc, etc.....

We see from US Census, and an average of NSSF & PEW surveys, that in 2009 40% of households have a firearm. That is an increase since 1997 of 9 million households to 80 million law abiding gun owners as recognized by the BATF.

We see that since 1997 per FBI UCR, that violent crime has gone from 611 VCR (Violent Crime Reported) per 100k people to 429 VCR per 100k people in 2009.

That is a 30% reduction in violent crime. Did we forget to mention that the same data shows a 20% reduction in murders?

All while at the same time we see 13-16 more states reinstating concealed carry to 49 states total, and 35 states reinstating concealed carry in eateries that serve alcohol. 4 states and 72 universities reinstating concealed carry.

All without the predicted and much cried about blood baths predicted by such pundits as you suggest for oh what, something like the millionth time, yep. Those anti gun soothsayers really suck at predicting violence and mayhem from the law-abiding citizen, every single time. Hope they aren’t trying to make a living as a soothsayer they are starving if they do.

So much for more guns equals more crimes by law abiding citizens BS people like you portray but can never substantiate.

Wow, lets review how safe people are who carry concealed.

BATF Max 8 million CPL's US, approximately 186 million age 21 or older or 4.3% of the people licensed for CPL.

Possible deaths from CPL holders in 3 year time span from Violence Policy Center report 2009, 137 or 45 per year equals .00000562 per concealed license holder. You can also review Florida's data on CCW at it says the same thing.

Now lets compare these law abiding citizens against someone supposedly safe, like a doctor.

JAMA 700,000 doctors in US kill 44,000 to 98,000 by medical malpractice every year .065 to .14 per physician.

Physician is .065 or .14 /.00000562 = 12,000 to 25,000 times more likely to harm you than a CPL holder.

So where is the risk from concealed carry holders and why aren't you antis crying to ban doctors?

This fetishism of fear of the law abiding you have, inferring that existing laws actually affect felons or work to prevent violence, they dont, uh 8.06% of violent crimes solved each year doesnt indicate much is working, and the fact the government doesnt care or try to proecute those they actually catch shows the old system dont work.

Insanity is often describe as proposing or upporting something that has repeatedly failed, and gun control has consistently failed.

So prove that those bloodbaths have occurred from law abiding gun owners, you have 49 states and 30 years plus worth of data, yet we see NOTHING!

We suggest you see a psychiatrist instead.

Well said, jarhead1982. As I stated I am a liberal but do believe in the right to carry arms. I have lived in some very dangerous neighborhoods and heard shooting at all times in the night. I never had to use my gun, but at least felt safe knowing I had it if I ever needed to defend myself.

Passing all these laws still ignores the reasons for crime: Poverty, mental illness, gangs etc.

Winstanley, is it our business to ask why someone would want to buy more than one handgun a month? I am one who does not like the government in my business period.

It is also not the guns that are causing the violent crimes on the streets. We have people pulling the triggers and need to address that issue. I know of many people who carry firearms for personal protection and they are the ones who would get in trouble over these gun laws.

As I have stated I am liberal in most of my beliefs but I do think we have to address the true issues and not just go after handgun buyers or sellers. Crime, poverty and mental illness are the issues and they seemed to be dropped like a hat by both sides to gain traction with their bases.

I once bought 3 guns in a month. It was christmas and they were for my kids.

I think they need to all stop forcing new gun laws every time there is an attack and go to the core reasons we have such violence such as poverty, mental illness etc. It seems the liberal side just wants to ban all the weapons and everything will be peaceful. As a liberal I also support the right to bear arms and think the logic on this issue is not a smart one.

How can the government limit the frequency that a constitutionally protected right is exercised? If its Ok to limit firearm purchases to one per month why would it not be Ok to limit freedom of speech to once per month?

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