OK, the headline is somewhat misleading — Craig Whitney used to write for The New York Times and he has an op-ed in the Times today titled “A Way Out of the Gun Stalemate.” But despite the fact that Whitney has an in at the Times, his piece is instructive, because it’s custom-made in a way that would get it accepted at any mainstream paper in the country.
His secret? His hook is: both sides do it.
THE national conversation about guns, since James E. Holmes shot 12 people to death and wounded 58 others at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., has been a dialogue of the deaf. Unless gun-control advocates and gun-rights supporters stop screaming at each other and look for common ground on how to deal with gun violence, the next massacre is only a matter of time.
Liberals have to deprive the National Rifle Association of its core argument, that the real aim of all gun control measures is to strip Americans of their right to have and use firearms. Gun-control supporters must make clear that they accept that Americans have had this individual, common-law right…. Liberals should accept that the only realistic way to control gun violence is not by keeping guns out of the hands of as many Americans as possible, but by keeping guns out of the hands of people we all agree should not have them.
Gun owners and their advocates must, in turn, stop insisting that gun ownership is an absolute right. The Second Amendment is not a law unto itself. Before and after 1791, the right to keep and bear arms has been inseparable from civic responsibility….
Do you think “the only realistic way to control gun violence is not by keeping guns out of the hands of as many Americans as possible”? Is that your goal? Is that your non-negotiable demand?
It isn’t mine. It probably isn’t yours. So there’s the first problem — Whitney has replaced you with a figure made of straw.
A bigger problem is that, a few paragraphs later, Whitney tells us this:
Even after President Obama tried to start a dialogue on gun violence last year, stating, “I believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms,” the N.R.A. flatly rebuked his overture and urged its members to vote against Mr. Obama so that he couldn’t try to deprive them of gun rights through Supreme Court appointments in a second term.
So Whitney just finished telling us that the logjam will break once gun control advocates accept that the Second Amendment confers an individual right — but then he acknowledges that the president of the United States has already made this concession, and it hasn’t softened the gunners’ stance one tiny bit. (Whitney also notes that the Brady Campaign has made this concession. Still no conciliatory movement from the gunners.)
Whitney lectures liberals on what must not be discussed:
Shooting sports are important recreation for many Americans. So an outright ban on bulk ammunition purchases, or on “assault” weapons like the AR-15, would be a nonstarter…. The 1994 ban on purchases of new assault rifles and extended magazines, which was allowed to lapse in 2004, was similarly overbroad.
Why? Just ‘cuz. Gun fans see AR-15s or high-capacity magazines and, like kids looking at sugary cereals in the supermarket, say “WANT! WANT!” That’s reason enough not to bring any of this up again, hippie.
What might be acceptable to the gunners?
Gun-control supporters need higher-precision instruments than the federal assault weapons ban in their arsenal if they want legislators to discuss and debate their proposals instead of dismissing them. A law requiring membership in a shooting range or a gun club for bulk purchases of ammunition or extended magazines would be a reasonable start. Vigorous enforcement of existing federal laws that criminalize buying guns, under a false pretext, for somebody else who can’t pass the federal background check — a favorite ruse of criminals — would be a good next step. (Here we should take the N.R.A. at its word; it keeps saying laws on the books should be enforced.)
Maybe someday we could even require people who buy guns from private owners, online or at gun shows to pass that same federal background check. But we’ll never know until we begin seriously talking to each other about our gun violence problem.
Oh, right — a ban on assault weapons or high-capacity magazines is de trop, but the gunners might actually go for (to take Whitney’s last example) closing the gun show loophole … if we ask them really, really nicely!
Let’s check out some blog post titles from the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action:
Will Gun Shows Become Extinct?
Michael Bloomberg’s and MAIG’s Deceptive “Gun Show Loophole” Ad Campaign
The War On Gun Shows
The Truth About Gun Shows
S. 843: Lautenberg Trying Again To Regulate Gun Shows
The Gun Show Myth
Oh yeah, these guys seem really ready to compromise — on this and (presumably) Whitney’s other “acceptable” proposals.
You know what, Craig? Sometimes both sides aren’t to blame. Sometimes blame for a societal stalemate absolutely can be assigned to one side more than the other.
(X-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.)
I really appreciate people on BJ reading articles like this for me after I’ve read the first paragraph and thrown the newspaper across the room and am too lazy to go pick it up. GOD I AM SO SICK OF THIS kind of analysis!
What can sane people do about this? What can we do? I send contributions to the Brady Campaign, but they seem completely powerless. I really can’t believe that the majority of people in America think this is an acceptable situation. What about my freedom to go to a movie or teach a class without worrying about being shot down? We’ve already had a near-miss on our campus; if the shooter hadn’t committed his first murder in a store next door to the police station (apparently unbeknownst to him, since he came here from — gasp — Colorado), we would have had a mass shooting at an outdoor student party. He was apprehended immediately, but that was just a lucky break for us.
As someone who is planning on being a gun owner in the near future, I’d have no problem with the gun club rule. Or the death of gun shows (though I plan on using them to get good deals).
But then again, I’m not giving any money to the NRA for a reason outside of taking safety/creditation classes from them.
It seems everybody is skeert to death of the NRA. I’d ask, “How many divisions does Wayne LaPierre have?” but I’m a-skeert somebody might be able to tell me.
They’ve moved the Overton Window to somewhere in the Pacific by now.
Villago Delenda Est
American “Journalism” needs to be burned to the fucking ground, the ground salted, and start all over again, with anyone who dares to use the “both sides do it” copout skullfucked with a fistful of Parker fountain pens.
Commenting at Balloon Juice Since 1937
The NRA exists to sell as many guns as possible. Every policy they have encourages more gun sales. That is there only reason for existence. They don’t care about you, your loved ones, or your neighbors. Until the gun owners admit this, everything else is a non starter.
The NRA leadership is about as open to any compromise on gun control regulations as they are to a compromise whereby they’ll get to keep just a stub of their penis in return to agreeing to allow the other half to be surgically lopped off. You’re proposing negotiations with people who are psychopathic obsessives about guns; you might as well try to negotiate what is real vs delusional with a schizophrenic who’s gone severely off their meds.
Take the NRA at its word? Srsly? He wrote that?
I don’t have to time to read the whole thing carefully, but did not see anything about institutional supporters of the NRA just might have an interest in goosing arms and ammo sales.
Did a search for money, revenue, profit, sell, sales, front group, but didn’t see any hits.
Oh, right this is a post about how TO get an opinion piece published. Sorry. My bad.
Villago Delenda Est
@Commenting at Balloon Juice Since 1937:
The NRA is an organ of the small arms manufacturing industry.
It exists to generate demand for small arms.
BTW, I, DFH liberal do NOT think effective gun control means keeping guns out of the hands of as many people as possible. Call me crazy…
Commenting at Balloon Juice Since 1937
@DecidedFenceSitter: Wait until you go the gun show and find out you have to join the NRA to purchase a gun.
Who is he kidding? This is all academic until someone figures out a way to make money by not selling guns.
In which case, I’ll pay more through a gun dealer. I live in Virginia, we’ve got them every 20 feet it feels like.
EDIT: Though it appears I don’t need to be for the local one. Sure they’ll fix it one of these years.
@gogol’s wife: One thing you can do is point out what was said by @Commenting at Balloon Juice Since 1937: – the NRA is in reality the small arms manufacturing lobby, not a grassroots group of concerned citizens.
@Villago Delenda Est:
How long before the medium and large arms makers join the fun? In my book, a 50-cal anything doesn’t fall under any definition of “small.”
The 13 English North American colonies and Canada plus all the English colonies around the world had that right to bear arms as per the English Bill of Rights ACT 1689. This Bill of rights migrated to all the English colonies! I wonder why Americans make it as if these amendments to your constitution were written by ‘God’!
Why exactly is it controversial to ban assault weapons or high-capacity magazines? I’m not understanding why every American wouldn’t support such a ban since hunters and those using guns for self-defense do not need these items.
Why do I have the funny feeling that the party line on this issue over at the NYT has something to do with how few mainstream journalists, editors, publishers or other members of their social class have themselves been the victims of random shootings? If some heavily armed sociopath were to bust a cap in David Brooks during a shootout at the Applebee’s salad bar you can bet your bottom dollar the op-eds would have a different slant to them.
Villago Delenda Est
There you go, Patricia, not thinking like a gun nut.
We must not only let them alone, but we must somehow, convince them that we do let them alone.
Ummmm, I would like to get as many guns as possible out of the hands of as many Americans as possible. Fewer guns means less gun violence and fewer gun deaths. I believe the research is pretty clear, but I appreciate others disagree. But no one cares about what I think.
Mostly, I’m a pragmatist. I don’t have non-negotiable demands, I just want a less insane country. If you asked what I want, I want guns severely limited, particularly guns and ammo that serve no practical function except to kill humans.
But I would gladly back any common-sense gun regulation that improves tracking of guns or bullets, registers users or limits sales. Anything that helps promote the original intent of a “well-regulated militia” is a net plus to me.
ETA: Blockquote fail, second paragraph is part of the blockquote. FYWP.
After the Giffords shooting I read a spirited defence of the killer’s big magazine (30+ rounds) that said, basically, if you’re in a shootout inside your home you wouldn’t have time to reload.
Feel free to imagine spraying the inside of your home with 30 bullets and jonsing for even more.
@Patricia Kayden: Honestly? They are a lot of fun to shoot. Same reason we have cars that can do 100+ MPH when the fastest US speed limit is what 75? (I know Montana flirted with something huge.)
So why have a car that can do above 75 MPH?
Because it is fun.
From what I can tell there are about 11K or so in 2010. There were 30k vehicular deaths in 2010. Admittedly, this is probably due to the fact that far more people have cars versus guns.
@Commenting at Balloon Juice Since 1937:
Bullshit. They don’t give a shit about guns. The NRA exists to elect Republicans. Why else would they support Romney, a person who has actually signed legislation making it harder to get guns?
@danimal: I’m with you there. Less guns is better just like less smoking is better. I wouldn’t ban either, but they should be treated like the vices they are.
Since the NRA always supports the Republican over the Democrat even though this time Romney is the only one of the two candidates for president that has passed a gun control law, I assume that the NRA is just another Republican front group that manipulates gun nuts to vote for tax cuts for millionaires against their own self-interest. Increased gun sales is just a nice little side benefit to the rent-seeking.
James E. Powell
Gun owners and their advocates must, in turn, stop insisting that gun ownership is an absolute right.
The writer evidently does not understand that this is not a negotiating position or a rhetorical stance. This is the policy, the only policy, that is acceptable to the NRA and its advocates. Hell, just ask them.
Commenting at Balloon Juice Since 1937
@MikeJ: That’s a good point especially since Obama as President has supposedly increased gun sales. I’m sure they always endorse the R but hope the D wins. Then they can make up shit about guns being taken away so you better get them while you can.
You sure about that?
@MikeJ: Why would you think that anything Romney has done in the past would have anything at all to do with what he’ll do in the future?
Romney will sign the bills Republicans put in front of him, and nominate the most conservative appointees who can possibly be approved by the senate. What Romney really believes is unimportant, and almost certainly undiscernable.
This is wrong. The NRA exists to sell guns. That is their whole reason for existing. That is why they drum up fake controversies and use the paranoia of their members to drive up gun sales.
Cynically? Because supporting Romney is win-win for them. They know that there is no way that Romney will get any kind of gun control legislation to his desk – the Democrats are a coalition party and enough of that coalition is afraid of even a hint that they might put restrictions on hunters that no gun control legislation will be getting to a President’s desk in the next decade. So even if they were worried about Romney signing something he’s not going to be in the position to sign anything.
And if Obama wins they can continue the very lucrative narrative of OBAMA IS GOING TO TAKE AWAY YER GUNS! for another 4 years. Hell I wouldn’t be surprised if the gun manufacturers weren’t laundering campaign contributions to Obama through front corporations – they haven’t had this kind of sales for their products in YEARS. By backing Romney they make the narrative that OBAMA IS GOING TO TAKE AWAY YER GUNS! more believable – if they refused to endorse Romney, then their people would reasonably believe that Obama probably wasn’t going to take away their guns. Which would be a net loss in ammo and gun sales.
The Democratic Presidential Boogeyman is really, really, really lucrative for the gun industry. Make him a Blackity-black-black-black Democratic Presidential Boogeyman, and their sales have been through the roof. They’re going to want to milk this for as long as possible, and sitting out an endorsement because Romney was insufficiently pure can only hurt their sales, not help them.
@NonyNony: LaPierre has been barking like a rabid poodle Obama’s just been biding his time through term #1 and will come down on gunz(pbut) in term #2 like Thor’s hammer (if Thor, you know, had been black and all). So send money, today.
Everything the media does wrong is just front and center on the gun issue. Caught the CNN talking heads briefly while at the gym last night and they said the reason we couldn’t make any progress on guns was that Obama refused to lead and that the Dems were too afraid to tackle gun control. No mention of the Republican position on the issue. None. Not even once. No need. Republicans don’t believe in gun control so its not their responsibility to do anything about it. No discussion of the fact that the Dems might be afraid because of the relentless propaganda by the NRA or Repubs. It’s the Dems job to be on one side and the Repubs job to be on the other, and the media can’t say which side is better because that would be biased, but the media can criticize the Dems for losing all the time. Boy the next shooting rampage really needs to involve a news room.
Army vet, gun owner, not an NRA member. Just to lay out where I am coming from.
The same reason many other logical sounding legislation titles sound good. The title has nothing to do with reality. Define assault weapons. The old ban covered weapons in such a poor way that as long as you bought the wood grain version a functionally identical weapon was legal.
I am for registration, fine with waiting periods, fine with requiring training for ID’s. I am not fine with people writing the laws that don’t have a clue about the weapons they are trying to legislate. This isn’t some holier than thou thing, it’s common sense. I don’t want people who have no clue about the internet writing laws about the internet. You end up with poor laws that don’t actually help.
Being a centrist today requires criticizing the actually-existing policies of the Republican Party, while smearing the Democratic Party with proposals that are either unpopular within the party, or wholly imaginary.
Pretty much every issue we’re facing can be boiled down to the two essential facts about our political moment:
#1: The Republican Party has abandoned policy beliefs for resentment. (Among the rank and file; in Bruce Bartlett’s terms, GOP elites want power “so they can reward their lobbyist friends with more give-aways from the public purse.”)
#2: The media is terrible at reporting the news, blaming “both sides” regardless of the merits or context.
There’s also Dem weakness/capitulation/acquiescence to the centrist consensus, but that about captures it, doesn’t it?
The NRA will never be happy until liberals stop loooking hard at them after one of these mass shootings.
And on the other hand, sometimes these weapons are used to murder large groups of innocent people. Obviously these are both serious concerns that should be weighed equally. I am stroking my chin thoughtfully while pondering the conundrum.
My solution is this: allow basic handguns (no fancy magazines, etc) for protection and allow basic hunting rifles (no semi-automatics or cop killer bullets). And step up gun license laws to keep out the mentally unstable.
For the folks that love to shoot fancy guns, we create shooting ranges where they’re allowed to have the AR-15s and such. The gun fan goes to the range and rents a gun, goes out and shoots his wad, then gives the gun back before he leaves. The guns are the property of the shooting range and are responsible for them. Their inventory is checked frequently by law enforcement.
Heck, as an even greater concession, I’d be willing to consider allowing those ranges to have AK-47s and other fully automatic rifles for the gun fans to shoot off. I think I’d start off slow, but after ~5 years, if things seem to be going well, we could talk about allowing them bigger pow-pows to go bang-bang with. In that scenario, the gun fans get to play with MORE toys than they currently can.
So you could still have a gun for protection, you could still hunt with a rifle, and you could still play amateur commando at shooting ranges. This plan allows for EVERYTHING the NRA claims to care about.
Now, take that plan and put it in front of the NRA and see what they say. Yeah, right. They’d scream that I’m a totalitarian Marxist trying to rip apart the constitution.
I wish you were the king of America.
Is there some reason that the NRA members can’t make substantial changes to their own agenda? Anybody can join. It just seems like it would be easier to effect reasonable gun control through a change in the composition of the membership (and their board) rather than waiting for hell to freeze over. Only $35 for an annual membership plus accidental death and dismembership benefits.
Where they pour Coca-Cola just like vintage wine?
I actually worked on a proposal with the biggest gun nut I know – similar to @TG Chicago‘s plan, it allowed for amateur shooters to have MORE toys than they do now.
Strangely, he was fine with treating it like a driver’s license, and we figured that since driver’s licenses have different qualifications (mine has a no-longer-correct “uses corrective eyewear”) you could have gun licenses reflect the type of training each user has, and have them come in to renew it every once in a while (perhaps when they own a new firearm). I thought this plan had the extra benefit that you could have states work together on common standards for gun licensing, allowing you to border carry across states.
Of course, we both doubted any actual NRA members would go for it. I once took a class in basic concealed carry safety taught by a guy was a former sheriff’s deputy and a senior NRA instructor. There were two gun nuts in the audience who seemed to think they should get to carry everywhere, no matter what, and he spent a good deal of his presentation informing them that he’d spent a while enforcing the laws, including gun laws, and while he didn’t always agree with them the system was what it was.
Jesus, to be precise.
The only way? The most likely way, by definition, but not the only way by far
Realistically, we could just kill them instead, and then it wouldn’t matter if there were guns in their hands
Or, we could chop their hands off
DING DING DING DING
Someone was spouting off the other day about some UN treaty on the gun trade standard stuff about black helicopters and “UN and Obama plottin’ to take mah guns.”
I pointed out to them that even if the President really did want to do that, and there is zero evidence that is the case, that they have the entire Congress on their side and a SCOTUS decision affirming a constitutional right to bear arms that trumps most gun control laws, so their fantasies would never come true.
Didn’t help. Got called a Nazi of all things (because I’m a liberal and I obviously want to take their guns away and you know who else wanted to take people’s guns away?)
You can’t reason with willful stupidity, folks.
John of Indiana
“Gun owners and their advocates must, in turn, stop insisting that gun ownership is an absolute right.”
OK, I’ll grant you that convicted felons, Schizophrenics, spouse and substance abusers and puppy torturers be prohibited from firearm ownership. I don’t want these people with their hands on guns any more than you do. Wayne LaPierre might disagree, but I think he comes under the heading of Schizophrenic.
Oops… Oh, sorry, I seem to have knocked some straw out of this straw person here…
@Comrade Dread: I work with that guy too.
Nice post stevem. You shredded his stupid piece and ate it.
The NRA is as criminal as the tobacco companies. Not only are they not reasonable, they are not sane. They’re just lobbying for the gun manufacturers; they have no interest in sanely balancing competing constitutional rights. And I say that as a concealed-carry advocate. The NRA makes all gun owners look nuts. That’s profitable short-term; long-term, it’s bad for gun owners and bad for constitutional rights.
I swear the West Wing has dealt with every freaking election topic we have going…
“The Portland Trip” S02E07 11/15/2000
Rep Matt Skinner: You know I never understood why you gun control people don’t all join the NRA. They’ve got two million members, you bring three million to the next meeting, call a vote; ‘All those in favor of tossing guns?’ (snaps fingers) Bam. Move on.
Jay in Oregon
I’ve started wondering this myself, especially given the article linked to the other day which said that more than half of NRA members would support certain types of gun control legislation (60-75% depending on the specific proposal).
It boils down to “how is the leadership of the NRA selected?” If the spokesperson and senior people are chosen by the membership at large, then it would make perfect sense to pack the NRA and vote for sensible leadership. If they’re not selected by the membership at large, then all you’re doing is giving the pro-gun lobbyists even more money to work with.