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AMERICAN GUN POLITICS: A GUIDE (PART ONE)

130119

AMERICAN GUN  POLITICS: A GUIDE (PART ONE)

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DIMENSIONS OF POLITICS                         DIMENSIONS OF POSTS

Sector: Security                                           Importance: ****

Level: Subnational                                       Scope: USA only

Period: Shortrun                                          Process: Policy politics

MAIN TOPIC: Violence                                 Treatment: Commentary. Background.

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KEY POINTS  1

Politics   1.1

Policy   1.2

Problem   1.3

BACKGROUND   2

Lax national regulation    2.1

Broad gun distribution    2.2

Divided public opinion    2.3

COMMENTARY  3

Expert commentary    3.1

Obama’s reactions   3.2

NRA response   3.3

READINGS

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This Post provides a first half of a Guide to “gun control” as an issue in current American politics. The problem is complex, so the Guide is long! So long, in fact, that only the first half appears this week, providing key Background and current Commentary. The second half follows next week, covering the most recent developments and introducing some academic Analysis.

The first third of this Post summarizes Key Points about American gun politics, the second third provides more Background. The last third summarizes initial reaction to the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut whose victims included many school-children. The end of the Post notes some recommended Readings. Please read only as far as interests you!

Some of this Guide was written in December soon after the Newtown shootings. The rest was written this week (130112-130119), after vice-president Biden presented recommendations for further gun reform and president Obama formally endorsed them.

KEY POINTS  1

Some basics of American gun politics are as follows. (The section on Background provides more detail and some references.)

Politics   1.1

In American politics, regulation of guns has become extremely controversial, particularly since the beginning of “culture wars” in the 1970s. What could be a merely practical issue has become, to vocal advocates, a highly ideological issue.

By now, extreme advocates of gun rights deny the legitimacy of any regulation wile extreme advocates of gun regulation deny the legitimacy of private ownership of guns. Nevertheless, the USA has a long history of BOTH gun rights AND gun regulation.

Gun owners are mostly responsible ruralites who own guns legally and use them lawfully for hunting, target-shooting, and self protection. A few extremists consider guns necessary to defend themselves against government “tyranny.”

Gun critics are mostly urbanites who suffer from chronic inner-city criminal violence. Or they are suburbanites who suffer from periodic “rampages” (killing sprees by disaffected individuals, often youths).

Advocates of gun RIGHTS are numerous and intensely committed, well organized and well financed. Advocates of gun “CONTROL” are even more numerous, but less committed, poorly organized, and little financed.

As a result, gun advocates have long dominated both electoral and policy politics. They have defeated control advocates and defeated most control proposals – indeed, kept such proposals largely off the American political agenda.

Gun advocates have also crippled any regulations that have actually been adopted, by denying the relevant agencies legal authority and necessary information, adequate budgets and personnel, even agency leadership and academic research.   

Policy  1.2

The USA now has about as many guns as people (over 300 million). About 40% of households (mostly rural) legally own and use at least one gun (often two or more), for recreation or personal protection. About 60% of households (mostly urban) have no gun.

New policy must start from existing reality. Confiscating existing guns from nearly half the population is not feasible either politically (gun ownership is a constitutional right) or technically (many gun transactions occur beyond the reach of government).

Unfortunately, extreme gun advocates regard virtually any government measures on guns as a preliminary to confiscation. The Gun Lobby has even obtained legislation making it illegal for the government to keep serious records on guns or to fund research on guns. 

The existing“gun control” policy paradigm addresses violence by focusing on guns. It attempts to identify “bad” people who should not be allowed to own guns and “bad” guns that ordinary people should not own. This paradigm has proved largely symbolic and ineffective.

Current proposals for more “gun control” mostly remain within the existing paradigm, trying to fix some of its obvious inadequacies. That is worth doing and should help reduce inner-city gun violence by criminals and gangs. However, it will little affect suburban rampages.

The most effective fixes WITHIN the existing paradigm improve information for identifying criminals, something the Gun Lobby accepts. Limiting the firing capacity of guns – something the Gun Lobby opposes – may have little effect anyway.  

Measures OUTSIDE the existing paradigm would improve school security (which could work) and deny the mentally ill access to guns (which probably won’t work, since one can’t predict who might commit gun crimes). The Gun Lobby prefers these options to focus on guns.

Problem  1.3

This policy domain requires asking: Exactly what is the problem to which “gun control” is supposed to be the solution? Evidently to reduce violence that harms people, particularly violence that involves guns. Where does that problem lie and how can it be addressed?

Qualitatively, suburban RAMPAGES in which a deranged young person kills many people are dramatic and affecting. Nevertheless, such events are relatively rare, highly idiosyncratic, and virtually impossible to predict and prevent.

Quantitatively, America’s main problem of fatal violence involving guns is PERSONAL – mostly suicides by individuals, also homicides between family or friends. Accidental death from personal firearms is rare. Policy can do little about any of this.

The main real problem that policy could address is inner-city violence involving guns. Here the costs are both individual (death, injury, incarceration) and social (neighborhoods ruined by insecurity and crime and by falling economic activity and property values). 

Approaches to these problems can be either technological or social. The “public health” paradigm focuses on guns and their technology. The “public safety” paradigm focuses on criminals and their communities.

Public Health regards guns as a “vector” (like mosquitoes) that transmit violence (like malaria). The cure is prevention: reduce guns. In principle, such a “technological fix” is easier than trying to reform human behavior. In practice, reducing guns has proved difficult.

Public Safety focuses on the few people (such as urban gangs) who commit most gun violence. This approach engages with these people, warning them of enforcement but also offering help to reduce violence. It has proven remarkably effective at reducing urban gun violence.  

(On this last point see Matthew D. Makarios and Travis C. Pratt 2012 “The effectiveness of policies and programs that attempt to reduce firearm violence: A meta-analysis” Crime & Delinquency 58,2 (March) 222-244. What is most effective is enforcing laws, particularly through “probation strategies” of increased contact of police, probation officers, and social workers with potential violators. Next most effective are policing strategies and community programs.)

BACKGROUND   2  

In the course of American political history, the issue of how much to regulate guns has gradually become more controversial, particularly during the intensification of “culture war” since the 1970s. The battle has ebbed and flowed as extreme claims from one side have provoked reaction from the other, particularly when the two sides were of different races. Politicians’ use of extreme claims to mobilize partisan “bases” has made it increasingly difficult to compromise on practical policies.

Extreme gun critics have argued that the American Constitution (Second Amendment) precludes ANY purely private ownership of guns. Extreme gun defenders have argued that the same Amendment precludes ANY regulation of guns. In fact America has always had BOTH gun rights and gun control, the need for both was written into both national and state constitutions, and the national Supreme Court still affirms both. (Adam Winkler 2011Gunfight: The battle over the right to bear arms in America. New York NY: Norton, 361 pages. For a briefing, see Jill Lepore 120419 “The lost amendment” at newyorker.com.)

The Second Amendment says –  with what reads today as tantalizing ambiguity –  “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Since the late 1800s, interpretation has polarized between collective and individual rights. During the 1900s, the mainstream favored the collective interpretation. In 2008 the Supreme Court declared for the first time that the Second Amendment endorses the right of individuals to own guns, though noting that legislatures could certainly regulate exactly how that right can be exercised.

This Post cannot survey the numerous contending interpretations of the Second Amendment. Nevertheless, an instructive recent book argues that the Founders viewed gun ownership as a combination of civic right and civic obligation, a classically republican view long since abandoned by both modern liberalism and modern conservatism. Current debates need not return to the original “republican” position, but should articulate SOME constitutional basis for some reasonable policy. (Saul Cornell 2006A well regulated militia: The Founding Fathers and the origins of gun control in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 270 pages.)

Lax national regulation    2.1

In the 1930s, after the Prohibition of alcohol induced dramatic black market violence, a Democratic administration adopted some regulation of “gangster weapons” such as fully automatic “machine guns.” In 1968, after the political assassinations and urban race riots of the 1960s, a Democratic administration marginally strengthened the limited 1930s measures. Elites were horrified by elite murders and alarmed at mass urban unrest. At the mass level, the assertion by some urban blacks of their gun rights provoked some rural whites to intensify their own counter-assertion of gun rights. In 1986, a Republican administration weakened gun control by limiting government record-keeping and loosening regulation of sales at “gun shows.”

In 1993, in a delayed response to gun incidents during the 1980s,  a Democratic administration strengthened gun control by requiring BACKGROUND CHECKS on gun purchasers and, in 1994, banning individual purchase of ASSAULT WEAPONS (that rapidly fire large clips of ammunition). In the late 1990s, attempts by the national government to enforce these additional restrictions may have provoked still further intensification of rural white assertion of gun rights. Then and since, advocates of gun rights have mobilized at the STATE AND LOCAL level to loosen existing state restrictions on gun use, for example on the right to carry weapons in public places. Previous American law had allowed virtually any law-abiding citizen to purchase a gun, but allowed only few people to carry one! (On subnational variation, see Brian Resnick 121218 “How to make sense of America's wildly different, confusing patchwork of gun control laws” at nationaljournal.com/domesticpolicy.)

The pattern since around 2000 has been a cycle of youth rampages, followed by temporary public indignation, followed by persisting inaction by the NATIONAL LEGISLATURE. In these cycles, a main actor has been the NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION (NRA), the main lobbying group protecting and advancing gun rights. In the view of many, the NRA is the single most influential lobbying group in the country on ANY issue, with a devastating ability to defeat politicians who dare to disagree with it. That is what in 2004 induced a Republican administration to allow the 1994 ban on assault weapons to expire.

Similarly, in recent decades, as appointments by Republican presidents have tilted the national Supreme Court to the right, the NATIONAL JUDICIARY has increasingly affirmed the rights of individuals to own guns that are appropriate for legitimate uses, particularly self defense. However, unlike the NRA, the Court still considers it permissible to regulate the ownership and use of guns, particularly very destructive guns not appropriate for legitimate uses.

Broad gun distribution   2.2

The USA has about 300 million guns – 80% of them purchased since 1974 and likely to remain usable for many decades. This is almost as many guns as America has people, and many more guns per person than other industrialized democracies. The rate of deaths from guns is also much higher. In recent decades, a series of RANDOM RAMPAGES by disaffected youth has afflicted schools and other public venues, facilitated by the broad distribution of guns. (Katherine S. Newman 2004. Rampage: The social roots of school shootings. New York NY: Basic Books, 399 pages.) 

However, most gun deaths in America come not from occasional rampages but from the CONSTANT CARNAGE of day-to-day gun violence between individuals, again facilitated by the broad distribution of guns. Opponents of gun control argue that it is now too late to do anything about the broad distribution of guns, which will remain available to wrongdoers regardless of future restrictions. So any new legislation should target wrongdoers, not guns. Proponents of gun control argue for starting to limit the broad distribution of guns and ammunition, particularly the most dangerous kinds. (For a briefing, see Ezra Klein 121215 “Twelve facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States.” Also Brad Plumer 121214 “Why are mass shootings becoming more common?” and Brad Plumer 121217 “Graph of the day: Perhaps mass shootings aren’t becoming more common.” All of these are on the Wonkblog at  washingtonpost.com.)

About 35% of American households have a gun (in December 2012, 50% of ruralites but only 26% of urbanites, 49% of Republicans but only 25% of Democrats.) These rural owners are not barbarous country bumpkins, but mostly respectable law-abiding middle-class citizens who are among the persons least likely to commit gun crimes. Nevertheless, America is distinctive not only for its high number of guns, but also for the high esteem in which many Americans hold guns – for some, a veritable cult. Originally in America guns were for frontier self-protection and rural hunting, then ostensibly for self-protection even in settled society. Recently guns have increasingly figured also either as just “toys” for affluent collectors or as emblems of dissident identities.

In the late twentieth century an increasing reason for passionate support for extreme gun rights became commitment of some groups to extreme individualism and even – in the case of right-wing militias – insurrectionism. These groups now see as much need to defend American “freedom” against the current national government as there was need to fight the British for independence! However, the Revolutionary ideals these groups invoke are the most radical ones, of the backwoodsmen who, as they left the Appalachian mountains to settle the American interior, spread their insurrectionary culture to the South, lower Midwest, and Mountain West.

(For the argument that gun rights “insurrectionism” is incompatible with democracy, see Joshua Horwitz and Casey Anderson 2009Guns, democracy and the insurrectionist idea. Ann Arbor MI: University of Michigan Press, 274 pages.)

Divided public opinion   2.3

As regards public opinion, as late as the 1990s large majorities supported gun control (by percentages in the high 50s to mid 60s). By the 2000s, that had declined to a smaller majority (mid-to-high 50s, temporarily rising to at most 60%  after major gun incidents). Immediately after Obama’s election in both 2008 and 2012, gun lovers rushed to buy guns, fearing that Obama would restrict them (and in some cases perhaps fearing Obama himself).

Since 2009, Americans have been fairly evenly split, at most 49% saying that it was more important to regulate guns than to protect gun rights, often only slightly less saying the reverse. After the Newtown incident, support for gun control increased only slightly, from 47% to 49%.  These contrasting public attitudes toward gun control are not symmetrical, in the sense that support is broad but shallow while opposition is focused and intense. Most supporters of control actually know little about the topic and, because they do not own guns, would not be much affected by control. In contrast, gun owners have always believed strongly that it is important to protect gun rights (in December 2012, 65%). Even after Newtown, they continue to believe strongly that owning a gun improves personal safety (68%). (Pew Research Center 110113 and 121220)

It is worth noting the demographics of these opinions. (Single figures are for January 2011;  “slashed” double figures are for both January 2011 and December 2012 after Newtown.) Within the TOTAL population, support for gun CONTROL was only 45% among registered voters, 42%/42% among whites, 40%/41%  among men, and 26%/27% among registered Republicans. Thus within these categories, support for gun control increased at most only slightly after Newtown.

Between some regions, however, support diverged more sharply. In January 2011, support for control was 60% and 50% on the East and West coasts, only 48% and 44% in the Midwest and South. In a slightly different breakdown after Newtown, support for control was 65% in the Northeast, but only 48% in the West, 45% in the Midwest, and 44 % in the South. (Among WHITES, in January 2011, support for gun RIGHTS was 78% among Tea Party adherents, 67% among men, and 63% in rural areas. Regionally, white support for rights was 40% and 55% on the East and West coasts, 56% and 60% in the Midwest and South.)

As for public attitudes toward possible future policies, even after Newtown, only 37% of the total population said that gun ownership put people’s safety at risk (56% of Democrats, 21% of Republicans). However, on particular restrictions, 65% said that allowing citizens to own assault weapons makes the country more dangerous (Democrats 80%, Republicans 50%). 63% favored banning high-capacity ammunition clips (Democrats 62%, Republicans 46%) and 56% favored banning particularly destructive bullets (Democrats 62%, Republicans 51%). Only 44% favored banning semi-automatic guns (Democrats 51%, Republicans 38%) and only 28% favored banning handguns (Democrats 45%, Republicans 14%).

COMMENTARY   3

The first third of this section reports some expert commentary immediately after the Newtown shootings in December. The middle third then follows  president Obama’s initial reactions to that  incident in December. The last third notes his eventual reaction, the appointment of vice president Biden to review policy options and report them to the president in mid-January.

Expert commentary   3.1

Early on the Saturday morning after the Newtown shootings I happened to hear some astute commentary on the BBC World Service (the 121215 broadcast of Weekend, the first story in both the 0700 GMT and 0800GMT hours). Academic expert on gun politics Robert Spitzer explained that, even after the Newtown incident, if there is any room for controlling guns, it will be very small, because of the dominance that the Gun Lobby has achieved in this policy domain. It MIGHT be possible to further restrict the access to guns of mentally ill people and to restrict the purchase of guns and ammunition over the internet without any checks on the background on the purchaser. But even this will be difficult, because the Gun Lobby has a “lock” on the Republican party, which can block reform in the House. Another American commentator then noted that the Gun Lobby has a “lock”on many Democrats as well: the relatively conservative ones that, in the last several elections, the party promoted in relatively conservative constituencies in order to take seats from Republicans. (That second commentator was American journalist Catherine Mayer, who currently runs the European operations of Time magazine.)

Spitzer continued: Not only has the Gun Lobby intimidated most politicians into being afraid to raise the possibility of controlling guns, it also has succeeded in defining the terms of discourse on the issue, turning attention away from “gun wrongs” (the harm that guns do to people) to “gun rights” (guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the American Constitution). The Gun Lobby has succeeded in denying that gun rights CAUSE gun wrongs and largely succeeded in denying to others the possibility of pointing out that causal connection. The gun lobby has even succeeded in making it “politically incorrect,” in the aftermath of a gun tragedy, to raise the issue of what to do about gun violence: To do so would display lack respect and sympathy for the victims!

All of this might seem excessively pessimistic except that, in its initial reactions to the Newtown incident, the Obama administration stuck almost exactly to that script! Immediately after the tragedy, Obama mostly expressed only sympathy. Departing SLIGHTLY from his response to previous incidents, he DID state briefly that “As a country, we have been through this too many times. .... And we're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.” But he didn’t say WHAT action. And his spokesperson soon added that “now was not the time” to consider that!

As Obama himself noted in his initial reaction to the Newport shootings, this is already the fourth time during his first term that he has had to respond to a local gun tragedy. As most commentators have noted, the first three times, he was extremely effective at expressing the nation’s grief, but he said nothing about what should be done to prevent future incidents, except to call for a “national conversation,” which did not occur. In particular, previously he had said nothing about gun control, presumably out of political prudence. That reticence MAY have contributed to his reelection. Nevertheless, now that he has already been reelected, many observers think he should do something about guns. Reportedly Obama himself already planned to introduce some gun legislation during his second term, for example attempting to restore the ban on assault weapons.

Obama’s reactions   3.2

The evolution of Obama’s comments was an important part of the reaction of American politics to the Newtown incident. He started by expressing sympathy for the victims (not mentioning guns), followed by an impassioned call for action (still not saying what), followed by the announcement of a task force to design an appropriate policy response (including further regulation of guns).

In his initial reaction to the Newtown shootings, Obama was again extremely effective at expressing the nation’s horror, weeping openly at the brutal death of twenty elementary schoolchildren. “I react not as a President” he said “ but as anybody else would -- as a parent.”

This approach disappointed some who DID want him to react as president, indicating what he proposed to do about this longstanding problem. Nevertheless, Obama’s empathetic reaction played a major policy role. A key weakness of elite advocacy of gun control has been a failure to “frame” the issue in terms that mass publics find compelling. Control advocates eventually recognized that failure and began “framing” the issue as one of parents’ concern for the safety of their children, something to which ordinary Americans can readily relate. Intentionally or otherwise, Obama did that  very effectively.

Within a few days, at a memorial service in Connecticut for the victims, Obama’s grief turned into resolve to act. Thus Obama’s second major comment on this incident came on Sunday evening in a brief speech in Newtown at the end of a memorial service for the victims. Obama said that he had “been reflecting on this the last few days” and concluded that “we will have to change.” This time he dwelt much longer on America’s failure to prevent such incidents and pledged that “In the coming weeks, I will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens ... in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this.” This implicitly noted that he might have to act largely on his own, because the legislature might not be able to do much. He may also have been noting that the powers of presidents are actually quite limited – it has been said, to the “power of persuasion,” of which this speech by Obama was a masterly exercise.

Nevertheless, Obama STILL did not explicitly mention guns, or America’s lax control of them. Or how to strengthen control through legislation. Evidently the very word “gun” still remained too controversial to utter! Moreover, Obama specified the “fellow citizens” to whom he referred as ranging “from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators” – but NOT to the congress that could produce new legislation on guns! Most commentators assumed that implicitly Obama WAS referring to gun legislation. Evidently he was trying to “lead from behind”: creating blanks to encourage others to fill them in, and waiting for OTHERS to do that, so that any association of HIM with their formulations would not jeopardize those formulations.

Thus in December Obama’s substantive reactions to the Newtown incident were extremely studied, carefully reflecting his assessment of the prospects for gun control and the best way to go about it. Evidently that assessment was informed by his experience throughout his first term: Basically it is congress not the president who must formulate and pass legislation. With Republicans always poised to mobilize against him, Obama has to be careful about the extent to which he endorses any particular course of action.

(See Reid Wilson 121214 “Stopping gun violence starts with Obama” at nationaljournal.com. On initial reaction from congress see Fawn Johnson 121214 “Much grief, but little action from congress on guns” at nationaljournal.com. And Jonathan Allen 121216 “After Connecticut school shooting, Washington quiet on gun control” at politico.com. Also Chris Cillizza 121216 “The gun debate: Are the Newtown, Conn., killings a tipping point?” at washingtonpost.com. The multi-billionaire mayor of New York –  who in 2012 launched a super PAC to support candidates who advocate gun control and will do the same in 2014 –   immediately called on Obama to lead on this issue: Sean Sullivan 121216 “Bloomberg: Gun control should be Obama’s ‘number one agenda’” at  washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix. For a political science take on media coverage, see Danny Hayes “The media will quickly forget about guns — unless Washington stops them” on Wonblog at washingtonpost.com.)

(For initial comments on what Obama can do about guns, see Reid J. Epstein and Josh Gerstein 121218 “President Obama's options on gun control”at politico.com. Further on possible new gun control measures, see 121217 “What gun control could look like” at npr.org and Sarah Kliff 121215 “What would ‘meaningful action’ on gun control look like?” on Wonkblog at washingtonpost.com. Specifically on the most lethal weapon used at Newtown, see 121220 “Assault-style weapons in the civilian market” at npr.org. Also Brad Plumer 121217 “Everything you need to know about the assault weapons ban, in one post” on Wonkblog at washingtonpost.com.)

The NRA’s response 3.3

The NRA’s initial response to the Newtown shootings was silence. Ostensibly this was to respect the victims but presumably it also reflected the challenge that Newtown potentially posed to NRA opposition to regulation of guns. Since then, the NRA response has been extremely forceful and has contained many true points, such as that virtually no government gun policy can prevent random rampages like Newton. Nevertheless, the NRA’s response has also been remarkably shrill and increasingly offensive – certainly not calculated to win the support of any “moderates” remaining between gun advocates and gun critics. (Anna Palmer 121219 “NRA shifts to crisis mode” at politico.com.)

The NRA’s eventual response has been absolutely uncompromising. Sympathy for the victims of Newtown required directing attention, not to guns, but to criminals. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” announced Wayne LaPierre, the NRA vice president. The NRA’s position was both self-righteous and aggressive. Self-righteous because it asserted an absolute right, under the Second Amendment, to promote Americans’ ownership of any and all kinds and amounts of guns and ammunition. Having thus helped flood the country with dangerous arms, the NRA asserted indignantly that the government had failed in its responsibility to protect citizens from them! The solution was to station armed guards in all schools. Still more guns! (Eric Lichtblau and Motoko Rich 121221 “N.R.A. Envisions ‘a good guy with a gun’ in every school” at nytimes.com. Again later, Rachel Weiner 130116 “NRA: ‘Attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution’” on Post Politics at washingtonpost.com.)

By the middle of January the NRA had advanced to an all-out personal attack on president Obama. An NRA ad accused him of hypocrisy for sending his own daughters to school under armed guard while saying that he was “skeptical” about posting armed guards to schools. Never mind that a president’s children need special protection! Never mind that, actually, Obama included more police protection for schools in his eventual proposals! Even moderate commentators found this NRA ad appalling. (Justin Sink 130116 “Obama initiates fight with NRA” at thehill.com. Also Ron Fournier 130116 “Has the NRA finally gone too far?” at nationaljournal.com. Also Mike Lillis 130119 “NRA stumbles in fight with Obama over gun-control proposals” at thehill.com.)

Regardless, the NRA remains a formidable opponent, not least because of the influence it has established within congress through campaign contributions. Meanwhile, in most states, the NRA continues to succeed at WEAKENING existing regulation of guns! (See Charlie Cook 121217 “Why the NRA is still so strong even after Newtown shootings” at nationaljournal.com. Also Chris Cillizza 130116 “The NRA’s influence — in 6 charts” on The Fix at washingtonpost.com. Also the detailed Peter Wallsten and Tom Hamburger 130116 “NRA’s lobbying bags big legislative wins in states over the past two decades” at washingtonpost.com.)

READINGS

A standard introduction to American gun politics – clearly pro-control – is Robert Spitzer 2012 The politics of gun control, 5th ed. Boulder CO:  Paradigm Publishers, 247 pages. Currently the most important advance in the political science of gun violence is Kristin A. Goss  2006. Disarmed : the missing movement for gun control in America. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 282 pages. An alternative textbook is Harry L. Wilson 2007 Guns, gun control, and elections: The politics and policy of firearms. Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 275 pages (moderately pro-gun). An older but still useful briefing is John M. Bruce and Clyde Wilcox eds. 1998  The changing politics of gun control. New York NY: Rowman & Littlefield, 270 pages.

The most important recent book on realistic alternatives for gun policy is James B. Jacobs 2002 Can gun control work? New York NY: Oxford University Press, 287 pages. (His answer is, not really.) An important earlier skeptical analysis of “gun control” – by an enforcement officer turned political scientist – is William J. Vizzard 2000 Shots in the dark: The policy, politics, and symbolism of gun control. Landham MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 257 pages. A follow-up to the 2002 Jacob volume is Timothy D. Lytton ed. 2005Suing the gun industry: A battle at the crossroads of gun control and mass torts. Ann Arbor MI: University of Michigan Press, 418 pages. It asks to what extent private litigation can substitute for hard-to-achieve public legislation. An impressive collection of articles diverse articles is Bernard E. Harcourt ed. 2003 Guns, crime, and punishment in America. New York NY: New York University Press, 436 pages.

THE SCHEME OF THIS BLOG

DIMENSIONS OF POSTS

Importance of Post: ***** Big development. **** Small development. *** Continuing trend.

Scope of  Post:  USA only. USA-PRC. USA-other.

Type of Process:  Elite power struggle. Elite policy politics. Mass participation.

Type of Treatment:  Current commentary. Comprehensive background. Academic analysis.

DIMENSIONS OF POLITICS

Policy  Sectors:  Security. Economy. Identity

Spatial  Levels:  Supranational. National. Subnational

Temporal  Periods:  Shortrun. Midrun. Longrun

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