Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Dynamic on Guns Is Changing

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Dynamic on Guns Is Changing

Article excerpt

It's a truism of modern politics: A fervent, organized minority will beat a disorganized majority almost every time. It aptly describes gun politics in the United States and, most recently, helps explain the defeat of legislation to extend background checks to all gun show and Internet (and otherwise advertised) sales of firearms.

And yet, less than two months after the gun lobby's victory on that matter, there are signs that the dynamic on guns is changing. That legislation was defeated by two well-organized minorities. Most immediately, it was done in by a minority in the U.S. Senate, where the legislation perished not for lack of a majority, but rather the lack of a supermajority. Although it received 54 votes, that was six short of the 60 it takes to overcome a filibuster.

The second minority, of course, is the one mobilized by the gun lobby. Since its takeover by hardliners in the 1970s, the National Rifle Association's strategy has been a brook-no-compromise stand on any attempt to strengthen gun laws. In keeping with that strategy, the NRA has portrayed the eminently reasonable push for broader background checks as the first step toward the eventual confiscation of all firearms. That's part and parcel of the NRA's long history of ridiculous slippery slope-ism, where even small moves toward more sensible gun laws are portrayed as dangerous steps toward tyranny.

People with a sense of perspective may shake their heads at the absurdity of that kind of rhetoric, which has been rendered even more preposterous by the U.S. Supreme Court's 2008 and 2010 decisions clearly recognizing the right of private individuals to possess firearms under the Second Amendment.

And yet, the gun lobby's hysterical charges find fertile ground among a certain perfervid faction. As someone who writes about the issue occasionally, I'm dumbfounded at the e-mails from people who write to warn that the first thing aspiring dictators have done throughout history is disarm the populations they are intent on oppressing. …

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