Shooting Blanks

May 2003
New Republic;5/19/2003, Vol. 228 Issue 19, p7
The author criticizes the United States Democratic Party's stance on gun control legislation. The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a measure that would shield gun manufacturers and dealers from legal liability--even when their guns end up in the hands of people legally barred from purchasing them. A companion bill in the Senate has 52 co-sponsors, many of them Democrats. So complete has been the Democrats' about-face on gun control that many in Congress now expect an extremely tough fight to renew the federal assault-weapons ban, which expires in 2004--this despite the fact that even President George W. Bush is on record supporting it. Shortly after the 2000 election, Democrats concluded that, "of all the issues, [gun control] had the greatest net effect" on limiting the party's appeal" to voters. The only problem with this analysis is that it's completely wrong. In state after state where gun control was an important issue--Washington, Michigan, Missouri--Democratic challengers defeated National Rifle Association (NRA)-backed incumbents. Cross over to the Senate side and the gun-control issue actually paid impressive dividends for Democrats in 2000. Safety locks, child-proofing, background checks, waiting periods, assault-weapons bans--all of these measures routinely win sizeable majorities in public opinion surveys.


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