It’s still to early to make a definitive judgement about how much the election results reflected concerns about gun violence, but it certainly can be said that how America voted on November 6th put to bed the idea that gun control is a toxic issue for the blue team. If anything, regulating gun ownership may have been in the forefront of several contests which flipped from red to blue, nor can it be said that the GOP’s long-time romance with the NRA helped them to any great extent.
Let’s assume that various gun-control bills are re-introduced in the 116th Congress after January 3rd, 2019, and if the Senate goes blue in 2020, all of a sudden, some serious gun-control legislation has a chance of getting passed. I don’t think this is such a way out assumption, by the way, because we can also assume that mass shooting rampages and day-to-day gun violence will continue to increase. It’s not as if ‘thoughts and prayers’ stops anyone from picking up a gun, right?
The question then becomes: what should Gun-control Nation set as their Numero Uno legislative priority? The usual suspects: universal background checks, assault weapons ban, raising minimum purchase age, safe storage, required safety course, etc. This is all fine and well except these solutions only bite around the edges of the gun-violence problem. They don’t get to the core of the issue for one, simple reason; namely, that gun violence is overwhelmingly a function of free access to handguns. And because we are the only advanced country which permits its citizens to own handguns with only minimal, legal restrictions, we are the only advanced country that suffers alarmingly-high levels of gun violence.
I recently published a detailed analysis of the 850,000 crime guns collected by more than 1,000 police organizations between 2010 and 2018. At some point I set up the entire database in Excel and then conducted a word search using the names of manufacturers who have introduced tens of millions of hunting and sporting guns into civilian hands – Remington, Winchester, Browning, Marlin, Savage, et. al. he products from these gun makers accounted for less than 3% of all guns picked up by the police. On the other hand, when I searched under names like Glock, Sig, Springfield and Smith & Wesson, the percentage jumped to half. And most of the remaining guns were various ‘Saturday night’ specials, many of which are no longer being made. But when you load those guns with ammunition and pull the trigger, they still go bang!
Incidentally, at least one-third of the handguns collected by the cops were manufactured prior to 1968. Which means that you can trace these guns from here to high heaven and never figure out how they ended up in the ‘wrong’ hands. This isn’t meant to be a criticism of universal background checks, it’s simply a necessary corrective for the narrative about the value of universal checks.
Two years ago, nobody imagined the gun issue might play a potent role in the electoral outcomes in 2018. Two years ago nobody imagined that support for stricter gun laws would consistently run above 60%, a level not seen for the last twenty-five years. Which means that when Gun-control Nation tries to figure out their priorities, this isn’t just an exercise in talk.
I have been told again and again by gun-control activists that pushing a strategy to severely limit handgun ownership is a dead end. I am told that it not only can’t succeed but it will turn off many people, including gun owners, who would otherwise support ‘sensible’ gun laws. I think it’s a stale argument and like the alleged electoral ‘power’ of the NRA, needs to be put to rest.
If the goal is to end gun violence, why start off by pushing laws that simply won’t get you to where you want to go? If the gun issue played any role in last week’s results, it seems that people are simply fed up. That’s what should guide the gun-control strategy, nothing more, nothing less.