The POLITICS of guns as an issue

Not debating what should be and why … just the political impact of it.

On first blush I read the Clinton and Obama elevating gun control as a political issue right now as a silly thing to do from the election perspective. Sure it plays well in a primary but it fires up a core of the GOP base. Overall even the most mild of measures are losing items for the general election. Yes?

OTOH we are dealing with a GOP increasingly split between the rural less educated gun ownership high group, and the more urban, more educated, less likely to own guns, group. The ascendency of Trump and Cruz rest on the former without losing too much of the other.

Does the Dem side believe that they can further triangulate paint the GOP into the rural White mostly male undereducated corner? If so is that a better tactic than trying to reach out and win over some of the rural voters?

I think the latter. Thoughts?

I think the fear of terrorism gives Democrats a bit of cover here. Not allowing someone on the no-fly list to buy guns seems like a no-brainer to most people, and I dare say most gun owners would support such a measure. I can’t imagine Trump getting traction with the voters by saying “Can you BELIEVE that Hillary supports taking guns out of the hands of people on the no-fly list?” Tightening the gun show loophole isn’t going to bother the vast majority of responsible gun owners, either. And who can be opposed to improving the mental health system? In my opinion, much of what Obama did isn’t going to upset that many people and supporting it isn’t going to be political plutonium.

To be fair, a lot of the 2nd Half Of The 2nd Amendment zealots are going to go apeshit about Obama’s actions. But let’s be honest- how many of these voters were ever in Hillary’s grasp? I doubt many. If you’re the type who runs out and buys ammo every time Diane Feinstein farts, chances are you’ve never voted for a Democrat for any office in your life.

Bottom line is I think the Democrats could lose a few voters over this, perhaps gain a few, but on the whole I see little impact up and down the ballot.

Without arguing whether it is good or bad, it seems to me that there’s been an uneasy acceptance of gun rights from a number of Democrats who probably would have preferred stronger gun legislation but realized the political impossibility since it was last really attempted about 20 years ago. I think now the Democrats are sensing some blood in the water as far as believing they have a strong position going into the 2016 election, rightfully so, and so they’re able to be more aggressive with some of their stances. By putting guns back into the mix, they may lose some of the rural vote, but they weren’t really going to get a whole lot of that anyway.

So, it seems to me that it’s more the former. That the Democrats probably believe they can win without actively expanding their demographic and rather by energizing their base. After all, the pro-gun crowd generally sees Democrats as the enemy, rightly or wrongly, so maybe the idea is that a little lip service isn’t doing them much or any good in that regard, but it might be getting some people who want stronger gun laws irritated and just staying home on election day.

Once you have lost the war, you focus on re-framing the debate around battles you can win (politically speaking, here).

A comparison for me is abortion rights. The anti-abortion movement lost the war politically - there is no viable movement for a complete ban on abortions, and no national GOP candidate has shown the ability to win with such a stance. So instead you re-frame the debate around things that have higher approval - waiting periods, licensing requirements, late-term abortions.

You won’t get a strong pro-choice voter to support a pro-life candidate on anything, but maybe you can get a neutral voter to think “hmmm… hospital admitting privileges seem like a reasonable thing to require”. Or better yet, you get the pro-choice candidate to have to support something that, on first blush, “feels” wrong - things like not requiring parental notification for a minor.

On guns, I think Democrats have two goals: reframe the debate as one about background checks, safety, and licensing, and get GOP politicians on the record supporting policy that is very unpopular (no-fly list or mentally ill people getting guns).

Or rather, pro-gun people focus not on opposing the “no guns for no-fly banned people” in itself, but claiming that it is potentially unconstitutional, has no mechanism for appeal, etc. IOW, attack the implementation rather than the intended outcome.

Right, that is the obvious political jujitsu to this type of maneuver.

Not unlike the pro-choice response to abortion clinic licensing requirements of claiming they are unconstitutional and will end up closing all clinics withing X miles of Y.

Plus liberals have criticized the no-fly list’s accuracy in the past. Hard to claim with a straight face that they care about gun ownership is a 2nd amendment right when they are willing to take it away using criteria they’ve said before is arbitrary.

As for the politics, it’s been ugly for Democrats, but apparently this really means something to the President. But it’s still early in the year and the regulations are a big nothingburger. I think Republicans and the NRA are raising hell because they want gun rights to be in the headlines all year.

From the polling I’ve seen on TV, these latest executive actions are a big political win for the President.

Considering most gun control legislation actually possible (such as an assault weapons ban) won’t change anything, its stupid of the Democrats to waste political capital on it especially as it functions as a cultural wedge issue that alienates white working-class Democrats. I think the Democrats can pass universal background checks but it needs to be framed in terms of being within the Second Amendment and protection of individual gun ownership.

A big political win with whom? People who already generally supported him? Also, political wins must be more than some people clapping to really be wins. He isn’t running for re-election, so there is no boost in the polls to point at as victory. Has he gained some political capital from this that he can use to further some goal?

Presumably, if the numbers I saw on TV (~70%) for support are correct, then that means it’s an issue the Democratic candidates in the next election could use to paint a contrast and gain support.

Sure, among people who consider guns the 12th most important issue they vote on. That’s always how the gun issue has been in politics.

People who have guns as their #1 issue have had their minds made up for years. I doubt this action has much political effect at all, but if it does, it would only be at the margins with people for whom guns are a lesser (but still significant) issue.

I shouldn’t have said “big political win”, since any political benefit would probably be small.

Over Christmas, two of the fathers-in-law at the house I was at were having a conversation. Both are very conservative, white Christian classic Reagan Republicans. Neither have ever owned a gun, nor would they have ever dreamed of owning a gun while their kids were in the house; their wives wouldn’t have stood for, it would have been too dangerous, and they had no use for them. Neither have ever really hunted, had any interest in target shooting, or seem to have a desire to collect (although they’re both war buffs).

They have, however, been slurping up conservative news for the last 15-20 years, and are coming to the conclusion that not only are gun rights of paramount importance, but it’s almost their patriotic duty to own a gun, because they’re the good guys. They’re taxpayers, voters, good, solid American citizens, see, so when the shit starts going down, they’re the ones that Real America ™ is going to need to stand up for what’s right. Can’t trust those shifty liberals on the coasts with guns, so it’s a good thing they don’t want them anyway.

I stood in a hallway listening to this entire conversation just shaking my head. It seems inevitable that both of them will become gun owners at some point, even though neither of them really seemed to want to. The fact that they expressed their reluctance but at the same time felt compelled to get in on the action just left me flabbergasted.

That’s what Democrats are dealing with. There’s no hope of painting conservatives into a corner on this issue.


For very mild changes (strengthening background checks)? Why not? Democrats have been pushing this stuff for years, citing broad support.

Virtually no one actually opposes strengthening background checks and closing loopholes.

What Obama’s done with his executive actions are very mild and reasonable. The challenge will be to explain that to people. Realistically, without legislative action, there’s little he can do, but closing these loopholes and making things like mental health information available in background checks is something most Americans support. I think no matter what, those with unmovable pro-gun opinions are not going to slide to the GOP on this, they are already voting for them no matter what. The political impact of this will be minimal, coming 11 months before the election. I don’t expect the voters to remember much of what happens at this time come November

The problem is that however tiny these changes are, they may not be legal. If the courts overturn these measures, then the story is that once again the President was lawless.

Purely from a political standpoint?

It might help Hillary by giving her the option to oppose/reverse it. We all know the executive order accomplishes very little. If her polling experts tell her that she needs to either 1) better differentiate herself as not-Obama or 2) win some key votes in pro-gun mostly-blue states, then she can play that card without a big cost among her usual base.

Other than that, it plays off the recent shooting, the public will have totally forgotten about this ten months from now, and it’s early enough for Obama to ensure it’s put into practice before he leaves.

I believe that the fear of precedent keeps pro gun owners not wanting background checks. “If we can make everyone who buys a gun have a background check, we can require guns owners to have a license for each gun.” for example.