The Politics of Gun Control

By Roberst J. Spitzer | Go to book overview

If Congress sent one message to America's gun owners in 1993 it was ... "YOU ARE THE ENEMY." Indeed, bearing Congress rant and rave about gun control in recent weeks was enough to make any freedom-loving American sick.

From a letter to NRA members, produced by Institute for Legislative Action, NRA, 1993

WE MUST GET THESE KILLING MACHINES OFF OUR STREETS!

From a flyer depicting six semiautomatic weapons, sent to members of Handgun Control, Inc., 1993


4. Political Fury: Gun Politics
WHITE-HOT rhetoric is no stranger to American political discourse. Yet one would be hard pressed to find an issue that provokes more anger and vitriol across years and even decades than the gun debate. The National Rifle Association's (NRA) Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) summary of Congress's legislative activities for 1993, printed above, and Handgun Control, Inc.'s (HCI) communication to its members are typical of the tone and style of the messages these groups transmit to their members, as well as much of the political discourse on gun control. 1Admittedly, these strident appeals are not unusual in the world of targeted mailings; in fact, the standard wisdom on effective direct mail is that it be both emotional and personal. 2 Needless to say, the NRA and HCI are likely to pull out all the stops when it comes to mobilizing their members. Yet the point is that this kind of rhetoric spills beyond the groups themselves and into the national gun debate, as is true of other examples of social regulatory policy. To state the matter in its simplest terms, rational policymaking recedes from view when the political combatants spend most of their time screaming political obscenities at each other.As I argued in chapter 1, these traits are symptomatic of social regulatory policies, where the primary focus is on social relationships rather than economic transactions. The political traits of social regulatory policy, which are the focus of this chapter, include the following:
1. The prevalence of single-issue groups. The significance of these groups, which have proliferated in recent decades, is that they maintain

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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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