Why I Can’t Support Gun Control

Posted on January 14, 2011 by

Call me a political coward, but I don’t want to get within ten feet of gun control.

The Tucson shootings have, for good reason, revived talk of handgun restrictions.  But most democrats don’t want to fight that battle and I completely understand why.

The political costs are too great.

Many democrats are scared of the National Rifle Association and should be.  They’re masters at intervening in close races.  The 2000 election, for example, would have easily gone to Al Gore if not for the NRA.

But there are other reasons that I don’t beat the drum on this issue.

I regularly encounter working-class people with populist economic political values who don’t want the government messing with their gun rights.

Many of us have been at union meetings where labor leaders had to implore their members to support democrats who, for example, voted to ban assault weapons.

I have no interest in alienating this constituency.

Finally, as a strong advocate of speech and due process protections, I’m willing to concede the constitutional argument on the 2nd amendment.  Frankly, I found myself mostly in support of the Supreme Court’s recent gun control reversals.

I consider it “settled law” that Americans have the right to keep a gun in their homes.  The courts will work through the specifics – no bazookas in the basement or machine guns in the public square – but that debate will take place with me and some other progressive populists watching silently from the sidelines.

Comments (21)


  1. James C says:

    Lou your blog is great and basically agree with your take on gun control. However the “specifics” are completely are completely out of whack. The Assault Weapons Ban law is a sieve of loopholes such as those allowing after-market automatic weapons conversion kits and extended magazines like those used in the Tuscon assassination and murders. Why is everyone on both sides of this issue ignoring the potential for terrible terrorist action enabled by the ease of acquiring automatic weapons?
    The “specifics” matter. The best course of action is at the state and local level where progressives can create progress.
    The backward red places will keep shooting until they eventually pay the sacrifice of more innocents slaughtered and perhaps see the light.

    • Lou says:

      I sincerely appreciate help on this issue from those who have a good grasp of the details.

    • Sam says:

      The assault weapons ban failed largely because “assault weapons” are rarely used in criminal activity. Even if supply side theory worked in the first place, which it doesn’t, regulating guns that are rarely used in the first place isn’t going to make a difference. The Tuscon shooting was a fluke that could have been accomplished with virtually any gun. A bolt action rifle would’ve been more effective to be honest. Regardless, 30rd magazines were used in that instance because they were simply what was most common, not because they provided some great advantage in that situation.

      As for automatic weapons, they are literally a non issue. In the past 80 years, 2 murders have occurred using lawfully owned automatic weapons. Regardless, banning these items won’t stop the demand for violence. People will still commit acts of violence. The substitution effect is a commonly know phenomenon where people find alternative means to accomplish a goal. The phrase, “where there is a will, there is a way” illustrates that the concept is common knowledge. The argument is that if you make it sufficiently difficult to obtain guns, people won’t kill because it’s too difficult. Russia would disagree with that argument as they have gun control that would make Feinstein moist and yet they have 4x the murder rate we do. There are a plethora of ways to kill a person. The information in a college chemistry or ochem book is sufficient to create very deadly weapons that kill more bystanders than guns.

      So, the ineffectiveness of gun control aside, llLou has a point. While if a candidate was good enough, i wouldn’t vote against them solely because of gun control, I know many people who would. Also, supporting gun control makes me question their ability to us rational thought. The same logic supported prohibition, the war on drugs, prostitution laws, and gambling. They all failed miserably. Besides, the Democratic Party is too corrupt to risk voting for anyway.

  2. Jon K. says:

    I don’t own guns. I’ve never fired a gun.

    But what happened in Tuscon seems to be an anomaly. When I last checked congresspeople weren’t being gunned down right and left.

    Violence happens in our society and tragedy will continue to happen. It’s an unfortunate and unavoidable component of life.

  3. Goetz Wolff says:

    Hey… how many of our leaders have been gunned down or shot at? Is this NORMAL behavior for a healthy democratic society that we should simply accept?
    I’m sympathetic to Lou’s pragmatic argument, but I fear the consequences of converting “what is” to “what ought to be.”
    There’s plenty of room for improving our standards… whether it is about slavery, the role of women, child labor, etc.

  4. Tony B says:

    This is basically dopey. It may be ‘settled’ (just like America not having ‘socialised’ medicine or health care) but that doesn’t make it sensible or good policy. There are many attitudes some sections of the working class that are indefensible, for example racism, but that doesn’t mean they should be supported. Gun control might not be the thing to launch a campaign around but to sit silent and acquiesce helps no one. Easy access to guns means easier access to solving ‘problems’ or taking out frustrations that cause death. And most people who die in these sort of acts are innocent bystanders.

  5. bob waggoner says:

    American has more guns per capita than any country on earth. 90 for every 100 people. We are also one of the most violent countries in the world

    • Sam says:

      correlation does not equal causation. Besides, poverty and population density correlated to a much greater change in crime and homicide.

  6. Larry Smoot says:

    You statement Lou gets to the heart of why our problems will not be solved – and I’m not talking just about guns. America’s politicians only work toward winning the next election instead of working on the true needs of “the people”.

    This has been the core of politics and will continue to be the core. It does not matter what side of the isle they sit. If working on an issue will hurt their chances of re-election they hide in the shadows till it passes. Even if we had one person who would hold on to the promise they made to serve the people, they cannot begin to win against the rest of Congress – a Congress filled to overflowing with cowards who only care about the next poll.

  7. Paul C Babin says:

    I don’t think anyone will disagree that every year millions of guns are acquired by people in an attempt to alleviate their symptoms of fear. Enacting laws to keep paranoid psychotics from owning automatic weapons seems like an intelligent choice; it certainly minimizes my fear of being assaulted or killed. But it seems, my fear pales in comparison to that felt by people who succumb to fantasies of “THEM” – the great, dark masses of conspiratorial boogie-men exploited with great success by the NRA, Islamic fundamentalists, third world dictators… all political and religious extremists.

    The shift in Humankind away from the compulsion to kill one another will only take place when fear yields to compassion.
    When inflammatory distortions spewing from the 24 hour “news” stations are seen and rebuked for what they really are: vehicles for selling product.
    When political leaders consistently do what’s right rather than what will inflate their own sense of power.
    When people’s delusion-based behavior gives way to awareness and faith.
    I can hear lots of people saying, “right, when hell freezes over.”
    There is a profoundly optimistic voice within me saying, “better get a coat.”

    • Sam says:

      You do realize that fear is completely your own choice. Your fear of guns does not give you the right to tell people that they can’t own one or any specific type of gun.

      Fun fact: where you are is far more indicative of a risk to your health than whether someone has a gun. You are going to be much more likely to be killed walking through the Austin neighborhood in Chicago than through Lincoln Park, even if every person in Lincoln Park was strapped and no one in Austin even had a knife let alone a gun.

  8. Ernesto says:

    This issue has always been a difficult one for me. I grew up in East LA when kids took guns to school. I knew first hand of friends that were killed in my community and it wasnt always gang related. My father had a shot gun and ocassionally we took it out to fire it but eventually it was sold off.

    My uncle on the other hand loved guns and taught me to fire them and took me to gun shows. Then I was further introduced to weapons in the Marine Corps.

    I have heard both sides but more importantly I have heard working class folks talk about this issue. Many have ran off to register as Republicans because of this issue and then have proceeded to drink the “kool-aid” or perhaps even the “tea”.

    I dont talk about this issue because it doesnt help build power for workers and I rather talk about the issues that are affecting our members on the job as it pertains to legislation.

    But it is clear that though there is a right to bear arms, there has to be regualtory mechanisms that can curtail what happened in Tucson and many other places.

    I guess I will always be torn apart by this issue and will have to remember my friends that have been killed by firearms and wonder what could have prevented it, yet respect those that have the opinion to exercise their right to own a gun.

    As I said this has been a very difficult issue for me and I have tended to avoid it so that I can keep my members eye on the ball of improving their wages, benefits and working conditions.

  9. Rudy Corral says:

    It seems its become the right to kill with a gun then the right to bear arms to protect oneself, Have we chosen to give the right to kill with a gun over the right to live in peace. Are we being whipped up into another frenzy by a capital industry raking in the profits from the hysteria they create into us who then enact the programed violence into our society.

    Record profits for capital and weapons and not just ma and pa pea shooters out back in the wood shed. Record profits for the US war mongers with over $150 billion in war toys to the middle east countries selling war toys to both sides. Maximizing profits bigger guns shooting faster ad faster bullets how many dam bullets do you have to shoot and kill to get the thrill of it all.

    The violence with guns alone is staggering in working class neighborhoods as the people struggle in subjected poverty and lose their morels and values and look to find an answer to their deteriorating conditions using guns.

    So whats new in a country founded on whiskey guns and the bible its has
    transformed itself into the modern era viva violent video games, movies, glorified violent life styles it instills as a right of passage as an All American kid you must have in order to be accepted. What ever happened to the summer of love and peace not war its like the NRA and war mongers are having their way after all.

    OK The compromise I don’t want anyone telling me what i can have or not its when you cross the line and affect other people or kill other people that it becomes a problem. Let the boys have their toys but tighten it up its lives we are talking about. You dam pretty make sure as much as you can that you are giving that gun to a responsible citizen.

    Well i guess this old peace neck whom just turned 50 and has practiced his share of non violent direct disobedience actions in his activism for social justice is joining the hysteria and is forgetting he was a victim of gun violence once in his youth. I think I will get in the gun line like everyone else and buy a pea shooter oh what the heck maybe I’ll go for that 1000 round telescopic rapid fire bazooka from Nevada through the internet

    Or you know better yet on this eve of the 25th anniversary of the holiday honoring Martin Luther King I am going to pull out and play my cd’s of his speeches and imagine with John how we can make it a more peaceful and humane world without guns.

  10. Not all working class people feel this way, nor do low wage or under poverty paid workers all own or want to own guns. If my neighbor has a gun I can’t help being afraid at some level of him (or her though their are socially constructed differences on this score so I would tend to be less afraid.) Then being afraid maybe I buy a gun. And soon it’s like the wild west where by the way “might makes right”. All of us packing. Take a ride through certain neighborhoods in East Oakland to feel the effect, an effect which many grieving parents in those neighborhoods already know too well.

  11. John Connolly says:

    WOW! This may be the biggest discussion ever on LaborLou!
    And so many excellent, thought-provoking contributions too.

    For much of the last week I’ve found myself weeping for the agony of a 9 year old girl born in crushing irony on September 11, 2001; for a trio of 76 year-old citizens cut down before their times; for a dedicated Congressional staffer murdered among his own neighbors; for a Federal Judge known for his justice and faith slain as he said hello…to an exquisitely humane and sweetly reasonable Congresswoman in search of. a smile and a tale, not a bullet to her brain. So too, the dozen more citizen-neighbors bringing their smiles and frown to greet her friendly ear, not that shocking hail of fried lead,

    Through my haze of pain and fury, I have just a couple of notions to contribute to this profound and agonized discussion.

    1. The ONLY reform that has a chance to succeed is placing limits on expanded magazines.
    2. The NRA is one of the brilliant right-wing organizations that learned from the Left the potential power of Single-Issue campaigning.
    3. Unlike MSNBC and many Liberals, the Right and the NRA are correct in their understanding that the Second Amendment provides for the Right to Bear Arms not just for personal/family/property protection, but also to confirm the sovereignty of The People … by force of arms if necessary. It is not a total surprise for a society born in revolution to codify revolutionary measures.
    …And an awful question: was Gabrielle Giffords the first woman political figure assassinated (in the narrow definition) in US history?
    John C

  12. John Bachtell says:

    Interesting post Lou.

    I don’t see any change in our gun laws for the foreseeable future given the political balance of forces and that such a large section of the American people, including working class people, adopt the view of the gun manufacturers and the NRA.

    At the same time I think we have to continually argue the case for regulating guns, as any health menace to society and democracy, and attacking the motives of the gun manufactures.

    If Mayor Daley can do it here in Chicago that experiences an ongoing gun epidemic and death by gun violence, then why can progressives and left thinking people argue it as well.

    If a violence free society is what is desirable, we can’t for a minute give up the ideological ground even if it means it is not a decisive issue at the moment. Making headway on gun regulation will only occur as we build the movements that take on and weaken the forces profiting from weapons manufacturing.

  13. Cathy Deppe says:

    This is an insane discussion – praising democratic party operatives for “realism” in caving in to the NRA to save their jobs (for what?) on the weekend we celebrate Dr. M.L. King. Our economic system is violent, our people are violent, and our goverment is, as King said, the greatest purveyor of violence in the world. It is gun control that is required of any sane society. And as to the second amendment, let’s by all means give every citizen the right to carry a breech-loading one-shot rifle like the colonists had back in the day. I’m sure they would be pretty harmless.

  14. Michael Hersh says:

    My two cents: 1) The fact that particular ideas are unpopular with union members or wage slaves in general needs to be grasped and strategized, but is not a reason to throw in the towel if important issues are at stake. Health and Safety is an important issue to me and most folks. I am not interested in the success of a “labor movement” that strengthens reactionary policies and laws. My labor movement is much cooler than that, even sexy, and I invite you to join. 2) These 2nd Amendment freaks, even if we don’t care about “gun control” as an issue, need to be dealt with because of the paranoia and reactionary racial politics upon which their paranoia sinks its roots. Unions are not weak because of the liberal politics of leaders, but because for 65 years we have been losing a struggle against some of the richest and most dirty fighters in the USA who want to destroy our ability to defend workers. The losing began when we allowed our ranks to be purged of intelligent and committed unionists whose politics threatened powerful people.

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