Home / Dave Brockington / All Tragedies Great and Small

All Tragedies Great and Small


Don’t seem to be making much of a difference. In the year since Newton, CT, the states have been busy with gun legislation. On balance, they’ve relaxed restrictions, rather than making more sensible legislation that balances the rights and responsibilities of owning a firearm. 109 bills have become law in the states, of which 39 tighten regulation, while 70 go in the opposite direction.

The trend seems to be to embrace the notion that what we really need are more “good guys with guns” protecting us from the bad guys.

To break this down a little, permits are easier to obtain (28 laws loosen restrictions, while only one, Colorado, passed a law tightening regulation, and that was to prohibit on-line training for a concealed weapon permit), public carry is a lot easier (22/0), it’s easier to carry weapons in schools (nine bills passed to precisely zero! making it more difficult to carry a gun in a school), and four states have attempted to nullify federal law on the subject. There were some minor victories: Mental health is taken marginally more seriously (15 restrictive laws, versus one explicitly making it easier to restore gun rights to the formerly mentally ill), background checks (12 more rigorous, two laws easing background checks), and assault weapons are more tightly regulated in CA, CO, CT, MD, NY), while Louisiana has repealed legislation regulating “machine guns”. I’ll be spending something like seven nights in Louisiana later this month, so I’ll be sure to check this out on the ground.

It appears that we have reached something of a consensus in response to tragedy: more guns will save more lives. Except for, you know, all the empirical evidence to the contrary, which is, pretty much, all of it.

And where was the good guy with a gun to save this three year old boy in Indiana on Saturday? Presumably that good guy was his father or mother who left the loaded firearm on the countertop within easy reach. But I bet at least that they had their outlets protected.

This is one of those (many) issues where I am growing to believe that the prospects for progressive reform are bleak indeed. We can win battles in some states on marginal issues, but that appears to be it. If Newton foments change in the direction opposite to good policy, I’m not sure what can be done. There is a partisan dynamic to it of course; of the 70 bills that passed relaxing regulation, 49 were in states with unified Republican control, and 18 mixed (with only three in Democratic states). Solid Democratic states are responsible for 25 of the laws tightening regulation, while five of those bills passed in mixed control states, and nine in unified Republican states. I’m a proponent at focusing on the state level for progressive change (indeed, precinct level) in order to build from below, and this is yet another reason why we should spend more time hoping for Democratic state legislatures and governors rather than worrying about the fate of the national tea party.

Or maybe we get three million people to join the NRA and take that over from within.

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