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Gun Control A Low Priority Issue Among American Voters

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Today on Morning Joe, former Congressman Joe Scarborough, among on others on the early morning panel, expressed disbelief at the idea that pretty much every Republican, and likely at least a few red state Democrats, will end up voting against the Manchin/Toomey background checks bill despite the fact that poll after poll indicates that the vast majority of the public supports the bill. Indeed, as I noted several weeks ago, at least one poll has support for such measures at 88% nationwide, with similar numbers showing up in other polls and in polling at the statewide level. The logical question, then, and the one that was discussed on the Morning Joe panel, was why Republicans were so reticent to get behind a proposal that is so popular. The standard explanation, of course, is that all of these politicians are beholden to the National Rifle Association and other gun rights organizations.  Certainly, there is an element of truth in that given the fact that the NRA has proven effective in the past in taking on politicians who have voted in manners that they disapprove of an defeating them. Indeed, there are some who still contend that the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress was influenced more by the “Assault Weapons” ban passed that year as it was by the many mis-steps of the Clinton Administration during its first two years in office. So, in some sense, it is true that the political influence of gun owners does play a role in the way in which many politicians approach this issue.

The full story is more complicated than that, I think. After all, if these gun control measures really are as popular as the polls seem to indicate, then it would logically seem to be the case that the political power of groups like the NRA would be far less than it seems to be. The key lies in understanding the difference between what voters think about a particular issue and how important they consider it when making a decision at the ballot box. If there is high public support for a particular issue and a high sense among voters that it is an important issue to them, then that issue is going to play a large role in how they make their voting decisions. Conversely, an issue where there is high public support  that voters place a low lever of importance upon is unlikely to have a significant influence on who they decided to vote for. As it turns out, that’s exactly the situation with gun control:

PRINCETON, NJ — Few Americans mention guns or immigration as the most important problems facing the nation today, despite the current attention lawmakers in Washington are giving to these issues. The economy still dominates as the top concern, followed by jobs and dissatisfaction with the general way in which Congress and the government work.

These data, from an April 4-7 survey, underscore the prominence of economic issues in Americans’ minds, even as the economy continues its recovery from the recessionary depths of 2008.

In terms of specific economic issues, Americans most frequently name the economy in general (24%), jobs/unemployment (18%), and the deficit (11%). The percentage mentioning each of these economic issues is in the same broad range as has been the case each month this year so far, although a higher 20% mentioned the deficit as the nation’s top problem in January.

As it turns out, the Newtown shootings did result in the issue of gun control becoming slightly more important for voters, but not to a very large degree:

Guns Poll

 

Clearly, the post-Newtown focus on this issue did increase its importance in the eyes of voters to some degree, but not by much. Even at the height of the post-Newtown political push, only 6% of Americans considered gun control the most important problem facing the nation. That’s a far cry from the vast majority of voters who say that they support the various gun control measures that have been advocated over the past four months.

This isn’t the first indication that gun control is a low intensity issue among American voters.  Back in January, just one month after Newtown, a similar Gallup poll showed the same results that we see in this month’s release. At that time, I predicted that it would be difficult for gun control advocates to get the most ambitious parts of their agenda through even the Senate, but I thought at the time that at least something would be passed. In part, I thought this because it seemed as though the post-Newtown attention paid to the issue was going to make it inevitable and that a low-priority issue like background checks would be something that Congress could pass to make it appear that they’re doing something, even though in reality the Manchin/Toomey bill would have done little to stop the massacres that have garnered much attention over the years. As it turned out, the politics of the issue were far more complicated, and public intensity on the issue of gun control was far less than many thought it might be after the events of Newtown.

Once you understand where the politics of gun control actually stand, the behavior of Republicans and red state Democrats becomes completely understandable. While voters say that they support things like background checks and magazine restrictions, polling and election results both demonstrate that it’s unlikely that large numbers of voters are going to reject a candidate based solely on their positions on these issues. Conversely, there is a significant risk that a vote in favor of gun restrictions would result  in handing an issue to a political opponent that tends to be very important to gun owners, who vote both at the ballot box and with their wallets. Given the choice between facing a barrage of negative ads and not facing them, most politicians are going to take the politically safe approach. That’s political reality, and it isn’t going to change unless and until gun control becomes a far more important issue to voters than it historically had been. Given history, that seems unlikely for the foreseeable future.

Update: First Read posits another reason why the Manchin/Toomey bill is unlikely to pass the Senate:

But senators are realists, and some of those fence-sitters probably were swayed NOT to take what they believed would be a risky vote because the House was unlikely to pass it. The thinking being: Why cast a vote that will create a potential political problem when the bill’s chances of ACTUALLY becoming law are so remote?

In other words, why take a politically risky vote when the bill is never going to become law anyway? Call it cynical or cowardly if you wish, but it’s likely a smart political move and these Senators are, before all else, politicians.

Also, there’s this from Kevin Drum:

Gun control proposals poll decently all the time. But the plain truth is that there are only a small number of people who feel really strongly about it, and they mostly live in urban blue districts already. Outside of that, pro-gun control opinion is about an inch deep. This is a classic case where poll literalism leads you completely astray. Without measuring intensity of feeling, that 90 percent number is meaningless.

Precisely my point.

Update #2: I’ve written a follow-up to this post.

Related Posts:

About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. john personna says:

    You can do a long piece, about why it is more complicated than “follow the money,” but that doesn’t mean it is really more complicated.

    I think law is generated by two motivations: (1) high profile votes which Congressmen think will shape their future political prospects, and (2) lower profile votes which Congressmen think will please their contributors. Perhaps one of our problems of the last 20 years has been growing strength in “2.” We’ve heard insider reports of a stronger and stronger “need to raise cash” over that time.

    It seems that Congress currently thinks that gun control is more “2” than “1.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  2. @john personna:

    And history indicates that they are right.

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  3. legion says:

    While voters say that they support things like background checks and magazine restrictions, polling and election results both demonstrate that it’s unlikely that large numbers of voters are going to reject a candidate based solely on their positions on these issues.

    Maybe, but there haven’t really been any elections since Newtown… That statement is probably true for Dem voters, but I bet you a dollar it won’t be the same for Republicans…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  4. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Well, this is a huge problem, right?

    If money in politics is leading to non-democratic outcomes, is the best punditry really to say “see, this particular issue is not strong enough to break the money barrier, and therefore is not really supported by the people?”

    No, when something with 88% support goes down, and the only “flip side” support we can find is funding by a special interest, we have a structural problem.

    It was similar with “too big to fail,” right? The public overwhelmingly supported breaking up banks, but banks did not, and banks won.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  5. @john personna:

    No, we don’t have a “structural problem.” We have political reality. As I note above, the fact that large numbers of people support something is not nearly as important as how important they think the issue is when making their voting decisions. The Gallup poll indicates, as other polling has for a long time now, that its the economy and related issues that are most important to voters. Gun control simply isn’t an issue that is likely to decide an election. Therefore, politicians who face the prospect of an intra-party challenge have little incentive to stick their political necks out.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  6. stonetools says:

    @legion:

    Its really up to the voters to hold politicans accountable on this issue. There needs to be a backlash against politicans who vote to block gun reform legislation. Again, the Dems need to build an anti-NRA, complete with lots of lobbying money and a message tuned to scare people to the polls. What’s the emotional anti-argument to the “UN is coming to take our guns?”
    Hell if I know. I’m not used to thinking in Paranoia.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  7. C. Clavin says:

    This is not about voters…Doug…you are not that naive.
    It’s about the Gun Lobby. And it’s about the Gun Lobby’s money. Pure and simple. Little in this world is as black and white as gun control and the gun lobby.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  8. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    That doesn’t make sense. The theory of representative government is that those representatives ALWAYS vote the preference of their constituents. They NEVER kick them to the curb when a sugar daddy wants differently. It is called GRAFT or CORRUPTION when that happens.

    You just can’t see it, because it is important to your political identity that money be an invisible force, dark matter, in your political world.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  9. john personna says:

    Doug to voter: Sorry, you can’t just be “for” this. You have to be “for” it so strong that millions of dollars on the other side don’t matter. Otherwise, you are just posing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  10. grumpy realist says:

    Anyone who has dealt with any of the organizations of the UN would realize that the idea they could organize any sort of mastermind conspiracy provokes nothing but a great belly-laugh.

    I’ve been hearing the saga of one of my friends working for a UN agency and how said agency has totally managed to screw up the forms and payments for taxes this year.

    These people would have difficulty pouring water out of a bottle.

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  11. Caj says:

    That I feel is a disgrace after what happened at Sandy Hook and other places across the country. How many thousands more must we see die? If small children can’t make some see the reason for common sense gun laws it appears nothing will! There again it wasn’t their child or loved one riddled with bullets that fateful day so it appears to be no big deal to some of them! Perhaps had those against any form of gun control been in the shoes of those parents and family members they might be singing a very different tune today!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  12. stonetools says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I think that’s a little simplistic. Most Americans don’t care that much about immigration, but we most likely will get immigration reform. Also too, banking reform. That was watered down, not because that was a non-economic issue, but because a powerful, well-funded financial industry lobby worked to water down reforms, despite the financial industry having caused the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
    The plain and simple fact is that powerful, well-funded lobbies can thwart the public will, even in the face of “bully pulpiteering” by a President on behalf of the public. That is a structural problem, calling for institutional reform.

    Also too, the filibuster. Absent a 60-vote supermajority requirement for significant legislation, this bill passes.

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  13. stonetools says:

    LOLGOP has it right. “Government of the gun manufacturers, by the gun manufacturers, and for thegun manufacturers.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  14. PD Shaw says:

    Doug’s headline is succinctly accurate.

    Illinois closed the gun show loophole, and performs background checks for past felonies and mental health problems. Harry Reid, why hasn’t Nevada done so? Vermont? Washington? Wisconsin? Florida?

    Because all of the people who care intensely about strengthening gun controls have appeared on the Joe Scarborough show this year, and they’ve run out of new faces.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  15. Caj says:

    Wayne Lapierre and his motley crew of followers all belong to the black helicopter brigade!
    Common sense and logic is something that doesn’t resinate with that group. Lapierre is all about whipping up the base into a frenzy that the bad government is coming to take away all their guns! Totally ridiculous but seeing as they all live in a parallel universe to them it’s so true.
    The majority of the American people have far more common sense and do not intend to let these gun obsessed fanatics win the day. The fight will go on and the decent people of this country will prevail.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  16. Rick DeMent says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    No, we don’t have a “structural problem.” We have political reality. As I note above, the fact that large numbers of people support something is not nearly as important as how important they think the issue is when making their voting decisions.

    No it’s still a structural problem. Yes it’s a high consensus \ low importance issue, but it is an odd issue in that there is a significant minority for which it is a super high priority and those people are, almost to a person,on one side of the debate. Then you have the face that the NRA is the prime lobbying group for a very lucrative industry it in some ways mirrors the tobacco fight of days past where there had to be structural changes in the body politic before the government could ever hope to take on the tobacco lobby. Big tobacco was throwing money around at a 100 to 1 ratio.

    I mean here is a clear example of where our populist democracy results in the will of the people being subverted where no such problem would exist if we had a more (small r) republican liberal democracy (parliamentarian). But yet Doug seems to feel this is just fine. It’s not, the senate is broken and it won’t change until the Republicans have to govern with a 60 vote senate and they suddenly discover that it is anti-democratic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  17. @john personna:

    Again. You are misunderstanding because you are assume that high support for something like background checks automatically translates into something that voters consider important. History reveals that there is often a large gap between public support for an issue and public enthusiasm for it. When enthusiasm is low, voters are unlikely to actually care very much if their representatives agree with them or not. They have other issues that they consider more important.

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  18. NickTamere says:

    @Doug Mataconis: But why do you think that the representatives are bucking the will of the electorate? The structural money issues are with the politicians, not the voters.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  19. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    That might reduce to you accepting a poor status quo. Consider:

    What is the theory behind a representative choosing not to do the democratic will, because he just doesn’t think the democratic will is strong enough?

    That should never be an issue. You might oppose a popular movement because you believe it is immoral or unconstitutional, but that is decidedly different than “well, I don’t think you care enough to check up on me later.”

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  20. john personna says:

    Basically if you can see popular will on one side, and money on the other, and you don’t care if money wins … you are OK with government by corruption.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  21. legion says:

    @stonetools:

    What’s the emotional anti-argument

    I think about the only thing that works in situations like that is utter transparency. Make it impossible for voters to avoid the fact that the only people telling them “Obammay’s comin’ fer yer gunz!” are the people who get paid when you buy more guns. Force them to confront the fact that they’re being played by the gun companies.

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  22. PD Shaw says:

    It should also be recognized that the Republican (and presumably Democratic) “defectors” are voting for gun control, in the form of the Republican alternatives. See Murkowski’s statement, for example.

    We all agree that we want to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally unstable, but there’s a number of paths to the same destination. A lot of attention has been paid to the Manchin-Toomey amendment, but an alternative has been presented by Senator Charles Grassley, my Republican colleague from Iowa. I believe his legislation is more in line with the views of Alaskans because it accomplishes our shared goals without adding any new steps or layers of bureaucracy for any law-abiding Alaskan who wants to purchase a firearm for sport or protection.

    Is she wrong that Grassley’s bill more reflects the views of Alaskans? She doesn’t know her state?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  23. @NickTamere:

    Sure, money plays an issue.

    But, if the voters really cared about these issues as much as they claim to, it would be reflected in polling and election results.

    It’s not.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  24. stonetools says:

    Just called my Senators. People must be calling, because the voice mailbox of one of them is full.

    @Rick DeMent:
    Your comparision with the tobacco industry is exactly right.

    Large, powerful industry peddling a deadly product. Check
    Millions of consumers buying product. Check.
    Well funded , entrenched lobby group for industry. Check.
    Mendacious advertising focused around “freedom” and “masculinity”. Check.
    Fake studies by paid “scientists” to support positions. Check.
    Blocking scientific studies by the CDC and NSF. Check, check, and check.

    The good thing is that the tobacco industry WAS eventually defeated. The bad thing is that it took decades, and millions more prevantable cancer deaths, before commonsense restrctions on tobacco use and advertising were put in place. Its going to be a similar, decades long struggle with gun safety reform, unfortunately.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  25. @john personna:

    Where’s the corruption? Interests groups have a right under the Constitution to lobby on behalf of the issues that they are concerned with.

    You seem to be completely discounting the fact that the American people clearly don’t care about gun control as much as they claim to.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  26. stonetools says:

    @legion:

    think about the only thing that works in situations like that is utter transparency. Make it impossible for voters to avoid the fact that the only people telling them “Obammay’s comin’ fer yer gunz!” are the people who get paid when you buy more guns. Force them to confront the fact that they’re being played by the gun companies.

    Sadly, I think that kind of logical, reality-based argument just doesn’t work out there in Real ‘Murica. That’s why we have to look at other type of calls to action.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  27. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Isn’t one of your “priors” that money equals speech?

    Would that shape they way you see an issue like this?

    People with the “prior” that polls matter more, and tell us what people want, are going to break very differently. They’ll stick with those polls, and see the money as a pure distortion.

    Frankly, I think polls should rationally and reasonably trump money, and that this thread is a rationalization. As I’ve said several ways above, you want us to believe that if money wins, that’s what should have happened all along.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  28. john personna says:

    (I think James has stated a “prior” than “money just shows the democracy.” A poll and outcome like this should be a scientific disproof of that. We have the poll. We have the outcome. We have the money trail.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  29. Scott says:

    The other question is why do most voters believe this is not that important. It is because they believe, correctly, that the probability of gun violence affecting them is pretty low. I also think that gun control advocates once again tried to get the big bill rather than focusing on small, incremental, gun safety bills. Going for the all or nothing, big bang type bills seems to usually fail. And this will fail also.

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  30. Mikey says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Sure, money pays an issue.

    Freudian gold…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  31. stonetools says:

    @PD Shaw:
    H’mmm

    Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) will unveil an alternative gun control bill on Wednesday that includes provisions making it easier to purchase and transport firearms across state lines.

    Read more: http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/294447-grassley-cruz-gun-bill-eases-rules-on-transporting-firearms#ixzz2QjXtrbxs
    Follow us: @thehill on Twitter | TheHill on Facebook

    That’s just what we need- a bill making it easier to buy guns out of state, so as to more easily supply guns to criminals in states with tougher gun safety laws!

    If this isn’t a sham gun safety bill, I don’t know what is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  32. @john personna:

    Again, you are completely ignoring the difference between support and intensity just so you can jump on the tired old horse of demonizing money in politics.

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  33. Ben says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    So you see no problem with a well-monied fanatical interest group driving legislative agendas in conflict with the will of 90% of the voters, just because that will may be lukewarm in intensity? That’s perfectly OK? That doesn’t indicate any sort of issue with the system as functioning?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  34. Mikey says:

    @john personna:

    Frankly, I think polls should rationally and reasonably trump money, and that this thread is a rationalization.

    I think the piece you’re missing is this: Polls do trump money when the polls truly indicate the strength of public motivation on an issue. And motivation is not identical to poll percentage a lot of the time.

    What’s happening here is a lot of people are saying they favor X but are not motivated enough to actually push for the accomplishment of X. But there is a group that IS motivated–the group of not-X. They’re calling their representatives, they’re sending e-mails and letters, they’re extending or withholding donations, they’re getting vocal through the NRA.

    The politicians see pretty clearly where the motivation is, and they act accordingly. The money piece is just motivation translated into action.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  35. PD Shaw says:

    @stonetools: Even if it is a sham bill, does it reflect what Alaska wants? Do Alaskans want relatively better background checks, but greater privileges for law-abiding gun owners? Louisianans? Arizonans? Arkansans?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  36. I just posted an update to this post that I recommend checking out before continuing with this comment thread.

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  37. PD Shaw says:

    @Scott: I rather think the gun control advocates should be pursuing a state-by-state approach, and when state level laws reach a certain level of broad acceptance, it would be easy to pass a national law.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  38. PD Shaw says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Arghhh!!! Kevin Drum has been bought the NRA!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  39. C. Clavin says:

    Jesus-God…
    The gun lobby was in the room writing the legislation and you think for a minute it has anything to do with the electorate? And instensity of feeling????
    It’s all the instensity of feeling congress-folks have for their donations from the gun lobby. Period.

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  40. stonetools says:

    @PD Shaw:

    I rather think the gun control advocates should be pursuing a state-by-state approach, and when state level laws reach a certain level of broad acceptance, it would be easy to pass a national law

    Now, if only people couldn’t easily transport guns across state lines….

    Frankly, when people talk about “incremental reform ” and “state by state solutions” what they really mean is “Do nothing that’s effective.” They tend to follow that up by saying “gun safety laws don’t work.”

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  41. john personna says:

    Come on, consider an island nation of 100 people. 88 people want background checks. 12 people(!) don’t. Those 12 people include those who’s livelihood decreases with background checks. They lobby and spend to defeat them.

    You may make some (IMO weird) argument that them winning is a “greater good,” but no way in hell it is a “democratic outcome.”

    Mentally equating money to “strength of belief” doesn’t fix it either. There is nothing in the theory of democracy that says outcomes should be weighted by strength of belief.

    We do not vote with “how do you feel about Hillary Clinton on a scale of 1-10, and how do you feel about Barack Obama on a scale of 1-10, let us tabulate your answers.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  42. @john personna:

    We may not vote that way, but it’s exceedingly clear from both polling and post-election interviews with voters that voting decisions are often based upon a weighting of many, many factors.

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  43. PD Shaw says:

    @stonetools: See, you are one of the people not that serious about gun control. Some people believe that if a law could save just one life, it would be worth it. And mental health checks are most likely to benefit the people in the community because the dangers are from impulses and deteriorating reason.

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  44. Scott says:

    @stonetools

    Frankly, when people talk about “incremental reform ” and “state by state solutions” what they really mean is “Do nothing that’s effective.” They tend to follow that up by saying “gun safety laws don’t work.”

    I disagree. One of the reason the right does so well affecting the laws is that they work the bottom starting with city councils and school boards. It takes hard work and time but if you view it as a long war affecting hearts and minds, then you can get thing accomplished.

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  45. Rob in CT says:

    Yes, Drum has been making this point for some time, IIRC. And it’s a good one.

    The money issue is a fair rejoinder, to a point. But I think it’s clear by now that public opinion can trump the money if the public is motivated.

    I won’t claim this is an ideal state of affairs. Given that it is how things are, however, the appropriate response is for voters to get fired up and apply more pressure (sadly, there’s also the “discouraged into deeper apathy” route).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  46. C. Clavin says:

    @ Scott…
    It’s just far easier for nut cases to get elected at the local and state level.
    So the local school board starts teaching creationism or some other total nonsense.
    Or the local election board restricts voters rights.
    Etc.
    It’s not winning hearts and minds.
    It’s operating out of sight.
    That’s how and why state governments have pursued over 300 instances of limiting a woman’s reporductive rights in the last couple years alone.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  47. stonetools says:

    Kevin Drum and Doug is right on this. Powerful, well funded lobbying groups representing narrow, parachial interests regularly trump the generalized public will.
    Liberals tend to deal with this by bemoaning “moneyed interests” (a la John Persona) and talk about “institutional reform.”
    Maybe us liberals need to take a page out of the conservative playbook and “join’ them to beat ‘em. Build us our own anti-NRA, complete with lots of money to buy vo-er, “access.” Invent our own catchy slogans (” People with guns kill people, only idiots think different”).
    Develop our own versions of ALEC and the Federalist Society to put out ready made gun safety bills at the state and federal level.
    Like I’ve said, liberals build movements and conservatives build institutions. Time for us to build our own “moneyed interests”. We’ll know we are winning when Doug starts to talk about the “evils of liberal money ” in politics, and the need for “common sense reform”.

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  48. danimal says:

    I completely agree with the ‘intensity’ analysis. But, as Greg Sargent points out, the intensity of the gun control issue can change rather quickly. Joe Scar made a similar point this morning about Blue Dog Dems taking a short-term easy vote (don’t rile the NRA unnecessarily) that will be a long-term disaster.

    Having gone through the debate and deliberations of the past few months will probably pave the way for a gun safety bill down the road. Unfortunately, it will also likely take a few more martyrs as well.

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  49. Septimius says:

    I know it’s common knowledge on the left that the NRA spends gobs of money on political candidates in order to buy votes on Capitol Hill. But, as usual, the left is wrong. In 2012, the NRA didn’t even rank in the top 20 PAC’s on candidate contributions. They were #16 in independent expenditures, but the majority of that money was spent on the Presidential election.

    In House races, the NRA contributed to 291 candidates, with each candidate receiving an average of just under $3000. In 2012, the average amount raised by House candidates was $650,000. So, if you were an average fundraising House candidate, and the NRA gave you an average contribution, it amounted to less than one-half of one percent of the money you raised.

    The NRA’s power is in motivating voters, not buying votes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  50. PD Shaw says:

    Mary Landreu will not want for money when she runs for re-election in Louisiana in 2014. She’s from a political family — her dad was a popular mayor of New Orleans, and her brother is now. She can raise money as well as anybody, she outspends her opponents by a 2x to 3x margin. She’s well known as a Blue Dog democrat, having served three terms. Advertising won’t work to frame her as something she’s not. BTW/ I voted for her once myself.

    Her problem is that she’s in a red state and she cannot afford any defections. She’s never won her seat with more than 52% of the electorate. Turnout will be key. She may not be able to afford to lose any blue dog Democrats or galvanize gun rights people. She cannot afford for the bill to have any ambiguous or controversial provisions. The bill needs to be written well, and I’m not convinced it was, but maybe we’ll find out by next year what is in it.

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  51. Scott says:

    @C. Clavin: Agree and disagree. The anti-abortion forces are winning hearts and minds. They are not out of sight. They are in plain sight.

    They are better community organizers.

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  52. PD Shaw says:

    @Septimius: “The NRA’s power is in motivating voters, not buying votes.”

    Yes, that’s the point I was trying to get to re Louisiana. The NRA’s assessment of the legislation will be influential.

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  53. stonetools says:

    @Scott:

    First of all, I agree that we are talking about a “long war” and we should be doing more at the state and local level, But seriously, what could be more incremental than universal background checks?

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  54. C. Clavin says:

    “…The NRA’s power is in motivating voters, not buying votes…”

    The NRA is just a small part of the Gun Lobby…a lobby that represents Gun Manufacturers and Ammunition Manufacturers and the people that make those cool orange hats you idiots wear.

    “…But, as usual, the left is wrong…”

    That…coming from the likes of you…is hilarious.

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  55. Septimius says:

    @C. Clavin:

    You have no idea what you’re talking about, but we already knew that. Political spending by the NRA dwarfs all other gun rights groups combined. Most American gun manufacturers don’t even have Political Action Committees. And, if you look up individual donors by employer, employees of gun manufacturers contribute a miniscule amount on federal candidates.

    Second, if you’d been paying attention to your left-wing talking points, you’d know that the NRA is just a shill for the gun manufacturers.

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  56. C. Clavin says:

    “…You have no idea what you’re talking about…”

    Considering the BS you spew on a fairly constant basis…I’ll take that as a back-handed compliment…as it must mean I’m actually

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  57. C. Clavin says:

    Second, if you’d been paying attention to your left-wing talking points, you’d know that the NRA is just a shill for the gun manufacturers.

    What do you think this sentence means you maroon???

    The NRA is just a small part of the Gun Lobby…a lobby that represents Gun Manufacturers

    The only thing worse than a liar is a stupid liar.

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  58. Mikey says:

    @john personna:

    There is nothing in the theory of democracy that says outcomes should be weighted by strength of belief.

    Is there anything that says they won’t be?

    Democracy is a system, it’s a principle, and it’s a process, all at the same time. You can hold up the theoretical ideal of the system, and assert your position from principle, that’s fine…but you must understand the process is a very different part and the realities of that process will beat the shit out of the theoretical ideal every day and twice on Sunday.

    Outcomes will be influenced by strength of belief, because it is from strength of belief that voters’ decisions are derived.

    Also, to state a very simple principle I learned very early in my military career: The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

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  59. stonetools says:

    @Septimius:

    The NRA’s power is in motivating voters, not buying votes

    Indeed. They motivate voters by playing on baseless fears (” Obama is coming to take away your guns”) , by quoting bad history and bad law (” The Constitution gaurantees you have a right to buy any gun, anytime and carry it anywhere”), and appealing to their sense of manhood (“the Bushmaster assault rifle-it makes you a real man!’). If all else fails, there’s the raw appeal to racism ( “You need your guns to defend your home and your people against those people.”)

    As I’ve said, the liberal problem here is that we try to motivate voters through appeals to reason, common sense, and decency. And it ain’t working.
    Obama clearly was hoping that reason and decency would prevail. What he should have done is rush through a bill, a la the Patriot Act. That stinking pile of crap passed just like that, in the immediate wake of 9/11.
    Instead Obama took the slow, considered approach, which only gave the opposition time to organize and public attention time to fade. Once again liberals fight according to Marquis of Queensbury rules and conservatives fight to win-and we see the result.

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  60. john personna says:

    @danimal:

    One thing that struck me on my morning walk was that we don’t always equate “intensity of feeling” with rationality.

    Indeed, nuts at both ends of the political spectrum are much more intense than the … moderate middle, out for a stroll.

    Should the intense therefore rule?

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  61. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    This is feeling like a political theory invented today, to support an outcome, desired today.

    YMMV.

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  62. john personna says:

    (To be clear, I mean that the whole idea that an active fringe can get a non-democratic outcome is a feature, and not a bug, seems a political theory invented today and etc.)

    It was on the other hand a feature that an active fringe can get themselves heard, and move the majority, creating a new democratic outcome. That’s the way things should work.

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  63. Septimius says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Ok, genius. Regale us with your knowledge of the gun lobby and what they spend on federal candidates. Explain how the NRA is just a small part of the gun lobby, and not, by far, the biggest, most powerful member of the gun lobby. Give us examples of other members of the gun lobbby and explain how much money they spend to buy federal candidates to influence the legislation coming out of Congress.

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  64. SoWhat says:

    Gun grabbing legislation might poll 88% nationwide, but how about in red states with Dem legislators? Do the Dems really want a replay of the backlash to Obamacare where lockstepping Dems lost their jobs in ’10? I don’t think Obama cares—he got his and he’s looking for legacy material—no matter how lame.

    So many on the left seem astounded that Democrats representing Red States would actually vote the way their constituents want, rather than how lame-ducker Obama demands.

    So much easier to blame NRA rather than red state Dems who value their jobs over laws that would have not saved one child at Newtown.

    Amazing, ain’t it?

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  65. Mikey says:

    @john personna: Well, I’m not a PoliSci guy, so I’m not inventing a theory, just trying to express my views and what I’ve gathered in my 30-odd years of political interest and observation. What I wrote is pretty much how I’ve seen things happen during that time.

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  66. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    OK, I unfairly group you with those conservatives who, having found themselves in a minority, have been advancing theories for “minority rule.”

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  67. Mikey says:

    @john personna: I see–just to be clear, my comment was meant as observation, not prescription.

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  68. Boyd says:

    Ah, the sweet, sweet taste of hippie tears. :-)

    Sorry folks, I just couldn’t resist.

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  69. john personna says:

    or the tears of an ethical moderate …

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  70. wr says:

    @Boyd: “Ah, the sweet, sweet taste of hippie tears. :-)”

    Yeah, all those f–king hippies in Newtown, crying just because some upstanding American used his consitutional rights to turn their beautiful children into hamburger meat with his Perfectly Legal Weapon of Freedom. Let’s all make fun of these losers and their tears.

    What a wonderful human being you are.

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  71. Boyd says:

    Mmmm…yummy.

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  72. Anjin-San says:

    I read recently that over a million Americans have died of gunshot wounds since John Lennon’s murder. If we are nor sociopaths, we probably should be in tears.

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