I'm very pessimistic on guns. I've been largely convinced that the "assault weapons" ban is meaningless, and even toothier measures like banning large ammo clips will have at best a minimal impact on a very small number of high-profile killings. To actually decrease the murder rate, you'd need to have tough-to-enforce and impossible-to-pass measures like heavily restricting the ownership of handguns. Ultimately, you need a cultural shift to a system where few people own guns. Hopefully as more people move into more urban areas it will improve, but the current laws being discussed are useless at best and needlessly antagonize the twitchy gun lobby at worst.
Ultimately, you need a cultural shift to a system where few people own guns. That's already happening; survey data suggests that only about 21% of households own guns now (and I may have that wrong, it may be population, not households), which is down from ownership rates in the past.But those same gun owners own enough for everyone in the country to have a gun.So the cultural shift needed isn't necessarily that fewer people own guns, but that those who do own guns don't own an arsenal of guns.
I'd disagree, actually--I bet someone who owns three guns is slightly more dangerous to himself or others than someone with one, but nowhere near three times as dangerous. So even if the number of guns remains constant, more concentrated ownership is probably a good thing.
The notion that there are fewer gun owners but that those owners have more guns seems to be derived from two other statistics: growing gun sales and surveys suggesting that fewer people own guns. Overall, I imagine the reasoning is pretty sound, but there are two potential problems. They probably aren't big enough to be significant, but I don't know that anyone really knows that for sure. 1) Some gun enthusiasts claim that "sensible" gun owners simply don't admit to poll takers that they have guns in the house because the government will come and take them away if they do. I'd prefer to think there isn't that much paranoia in the land, but there's probably some. 2) Some percentage of the guns being purchased are immediately smuggled out of the country and into Mexico and perhaps other places as well. (The official online magazine of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula points out to its readers how easy it is to get guns in the United States, although they presumably intend them for use within the United States rather than for smuggling.) Again, the smuggling may not be enough to change the overall statistics, but I'm sure that no one really knows the figures for that either. I don't have a conclusion here. Just thinking out loud.
Guardedly optimistic on immigration, although I'm pretty ambivalent/unconcerned about the details of that issue.Somewhat pessimistic on guns, although my goals are more modest than other liberals. I'd be perfectly happy with just universal background checks and no federal assault weapons ban - but I'm not sure we'll even get those.
Completely pessimistic. Unlike budget bills or a debt limit increase, there is no real pressure on GOP members in the House or Senate to vote for gun control or immigration reform but there is a massive incentive to vote against them. If they don't vote them down or filibuster them to death, they face a certain Tea Party primary challenge with a high chance of losing to the challenger.
I agree on gun control, but there may be pressure from leadership (and business!) on immigration, at least to the extent of once again relaxing the "Hastert rule" so that Republicans in the House can for the most part vote against immigration reform yet let it pass.The Republican leadership is not at all concerned about losing the support of gun control advocates, even on popular measures like universal background checks--they know that supporters of such controls are rarely one-issue voters. But they are really concerned about the Hispanic vote.
What liberals have now defined as winning on gun reform is pathetically little: universal background checks, ban on new high capacity magazines, ban on assault rifles. Within 5-10 years, I suspect they will get all of these. And like most liberal victories, it will mean relatively little.What liberals have now defined as winning on immigration reform is similarly pathetic: a decades long path to citizenship. I suspect they will get this in return for huge compromises to the conservatives in terms of more "free" trade agreements that will encourage ever more American jobs to move outside the country.As is probably clear, I don't think that these are important issues. So many more people die because of poverty and lack of healthcare. As a result, I am first and foremost an economic liberal. And I despair for my cause where the "liberal" party is more than happy to exchange core liberal economic causes for largely meaningless advances in areas like gun and immigration law.Look at what we are fighting over in terms of guns: universal background checks. This shouldn't even be an argument. In fact, polling shows that it isn't. But the Republican Party very smartly understands that by being difficult on no brainer legislation the Democratic Party will yield on other (important) issues. So even as I am optimistic about these particular liberal causes, I'm very pessimistic about the Liberal Cause.
I'd question the magnitude of Immigration reform, economically... it may not matter to you, but as a measure of poverty and the economy, immigration reform would be transformative.
Here's Ezra Klein on the issue: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/01/31/worried-about-the-economy-then-pass-immigration-reform/
Don't misunderstand me: I care about those issues. Because they are economic. But most social issues are made harder (even impossible) because of income inequality. I read that article at the time and I agree. But as I recall, Klein's main argument is not that immigration reform would have a huge effect but that it was something that might actually pass that would be good for the economy.Also: I don't question that other issues can have a huge effect on the lives of some people. I may not think that an assault weapons ban is likely to do that much good, but for those (relatively few) who don't die as a result, they do enormous good. My point is that accepting minor improvements to gun or immigration policy does not make up for ever worsening economic policy.
I would describe myself more as indifferent on guns and moderately optimistic on immigration. There is a small part of me that is still clinging to "How can this cause the GOP greater electoral discomfort?" rather than "How can the lives and fortunes of immigrants and prospective immigrants be made better?" when thinking about this issue. As much as I'll welcome the long overdue changes, I do hope the GOP doesn't get off easy for their consistent stubbornness on this issue.
I'm a little bit optomistic about immigration, but I wonder how it'll get passed in the HOR. Gun control? What gun control? There's no gun control bill being considered as far as I'm concerned.
Pessimistic on guns, optimistic in the medium term on immigration.
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At The Washington Post
At The American Prospect