Democrats eager to make gun control a cornerstone of their 2016 campaigns should remember that it was Democrats as well as Republicans who killed the 2013 legislation to expand background checks on gun sales. Four Democrats from rural states voted against the legislation: Max Baucus from Montana, Mark Begich from Alaska, Mark Pryor from Arkansas, and Heidi Heitkamp from North Dakota. It’s instructive to note that Baucus, Begich, and Pryor no longer represent their states in Congress, and have been replaced by Republicans Steve Daines (Montana), Dan Sullivan (Alaska) and Tom Cotton (Arkansas) far less likely to vote for any kind of gun control legislation.
Four Republicans did cross the aisle to support the legislation: McCain (Az), Collins (ME), Kirk (IL), and the sponsor. Toomey of PA. The Democratic co-sponsor was Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Gun Bill Hits Brick Wall in the Senate (Politico.com).
The ban on assault weapons, supported by a Democratic Congress in 1994, was one of the reasons Republicans took control of Congress for the first time since 1946. The ban was allowed to sunset in 2004.
So, there’s no chance that gun control legislation will pass Congress anytime soon. In the long run, demographic changes might make legislation possible in a decade or more.
Demographic changes will eventually defeat the NRA and gun nuts who oppose all regulation of guns. The rural white majority of voters, who support unregulated gun markets, will soon be a minority, replaced by Hispanics, African Americans, Asian Americans and other minorities who believe that public safety is more important than absolute gun rights. The country is becoming less rural and more urban, which also tends to change views on gun control. “Urban residents strongly prefer gun control to gun rights (60 percent to 38 percent).”
Gun rights are most important to the less educated, but that demographic is also declining. “Between 2002 and 2012, enrollment in degree-granting institutions increased by 24 percent.”
Gun nuts focus on the necessity of guns for self-defense. But crime rates have been declining for decades. “Today the crime rate is half of what it was in 1980.”
Meanwhile, Amber Phillips of the Post publishes a piece on how to argue about gun control, based on five essential questions:
Argument 1: Would more guns prevent gun deaths?
Argument 2: Do more gun laws prevent gun deaths?
Argument 3: Should schools arm teachers and guards?
Argument 4: Is prohibiting gun ownership compatible with the Second Amendment?
Argument 5: Do Americans even want more gun control?
Hillary Clinton has proposed, according to The Washington Post:
- shoring up the background check system to cover gun transfers that now occur off the books,
- extending the time limits placed on background check investigations and
- barring domestic abusers from owning guns
- an executive action: Make clear that private gun sellers who peddle a “significant number of guns” must obtain federal firearms licenses, which would require them to run background checks on buyers and keep records that federal authorities could audit.
“In a more rational Washington,” The Post says, “these proposals would be on Congress’s agenda. So would requiring gunmakers to install “smart” technology that would allow only authorized users to shoot. If your iPhone can require your thumbprint, so could your pistol. Reality hasn’t changed, however: A GOP Congress isn’t likely to approve any gun control bill any time soon.”