The Politics of Gun Control

By Roberst J. Spitzer | Go to book overview

gun issue rather than seeking to ignore the issue or mimic the views of the opposition party.


Conclusion

The NRA provides the prototypical example of single-issue interest politics at work. The lengthy and detailed attention it has received in this chapter reflects both its political importance and the extent to which it typifies the political maelstrom accompanying social regulatory policy. A zealous, highly motivated, and readily mobilizable grassroots base, animated mostly by purposive incentives, has been the NRA's key political force, whether applied in Washington, D.C., or in the town of Brookhaven; the organization's long-standing ties to key public officials have provided key entry points where its political vector has been most effectively inserted. Its influence is maximized when the public's attention is focused elsewhere. Yet in its continuing political battles, NRA leaders have consistently employed a Chicken Little ("the sky is falling") rhetorical style, with constant prophesies of imminent doom. As a consequence, the NRA has often sacrificed both a sense of perspective and the truth, leading to a general erosion of its credibility outside its own core constituency. Unquestionably, this is a tradeoff that most NRA leaders are willing to accept. Whether it is a "right" decision in purely political terms or not, it does place the NRA outside the mainstream interestgroup tradition in American politics and even at the outer edge of group dynamics found in other examples of social regulatory policy.

Because NRA positions are largely at odds with public sentiment, its effectiveness has been reduced, even stymied at times, when national attention becomes aroused and focused on selected gun issues. Yet the window of opportunity for gun control proponents has typically been brief because of the limited duration of the public's focus on gun issues. This pattern began to change with the rise in the 1980s of an effective single-issue counterforce: HCI and its allies. Public support for stronger gun laws rests partly in concerns related to crime, but more strongly in the public's sense that guns pose an inherent danger that ought properly to be subject to greater control by the state. The primary proposals of gun control supporters that constitute the gun policy agenda have found consistently wide support among the public.

The political parties have responded to the gun issue as well. While their stands in particular years have been alternately modest and symbolic, on the one hand, and aggressively specific, on the other hand, they have identifiably split with consistency since 1968, as we would expect

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The Politics of Gun Control
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface to the Second Edition ix
  • Preface to the First Edition x
  • Introduction xii
  • 1 - Policy Definition and Gun Control 1
  • 2 - The Second Amendment: Meaning, Intent, Interpretation, and Consequences 17
  • 3 - The Criminological Consequences of Guns 43
  • Conclusion 64
  • 4 - Political Fury: Gun Politics 67
  • Conclusion 100
  • 5 - Institutions, Policymaking, and Guns 102
  • Conclusion: Furious Politics, Marginal Policy 133
  • 6 - Gun Policy: a New Framework 136
  • Notes 154
  • Index 204
  • About the Author 210
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