We know Republicans don't want to entertain the notion of gun control -- and, a The New Yorker's Alex Koppelman writes, Democrats don't either, with some justification:
It is cowardice, too, the way that [White House spokesman Jay] Carney and President Obama and their fellow-Democrats talk about gun control, when they finally decide the time is right. They avoid the issue as much as possible, then mouth platitudes, or promise to pass only the most popular of measures, like the assault-weapons ban. And then they do nothing to follow through.But why is that an issue? People in car-owning households don't universally oppose every restriction on drivers, and threaten political revenge on politicians who support those restrictions. If, as a politician, you support restrictions on cellphone use behind the wheel, or red-light cameras, or sobriety checkpoints, and you're not instantly committing career suicide as a politician, even though practically everyone in America drives. When it comes to cars, drivers don't think every restriction is a fascist attempt to restrain them, and America, and freedom. They can usually be persuaded to identify with the potential victims of the behavior being restricted. They hear about people being killed by texting drivers and agree that texting behind the wheel is bad. Same with speeding and drunk driving. And yet they savor their own freedom to drive.
But it is, from a purely political perspective, understandable. We are, all of us, angry now. Bewildered. And those of us who support gun control are perhaps maddest of all -- right now. When it comes to Election Day, though, it's the pro-gun people whose vote is most likely to be determined by this one issue. Those who want tighter restrictions, well, they typically have higher priorities to consider first. Put simply, supporting gun control is unlikely to help your typical politician much, but it's very likely to hurt them. And Democrats know the numbers: they can't lose any more white voters than they already have, especially not white voters in union families. And a lot of union households are gun-owning households, too.
Why can't gun owners be persuaded to think of the victims of gun violence first when reasonable restrictions (on weaponry, on magazine size, and so on) are being proposed? Why can't they favor some restrictions and continue seeing themselves as free to own guns?
Well, we know why: We can't because the gun lobby tells gun owners that every proposed restriction is the first step on an extremely slippery slope that will lead, almost instantly, to the complete disarming of the population.
The problem is that there's never been a serious effort to try to persuade gun owners not to think this way. There's never been a concerted effort to identify persuadable gun owners and, well, persuade them that new gun laws would stop at a point they can easily live with.
That's what has to happen. That's the groundwork that has to be laid. But who's going to do it?
Protesters at the White House today said, according to Talking Points Memo, that "it was time for President Obama to 'sit down' with congressional leaders to hash out gun control legislation." But the only gun legislation congressional Republicans will accept is legislation that puts more guns in people's hands. Mike Bloomberg says, "the country needs [the president] to send a bill to Congress to fix this problem." But if he does, the bill will die, because no NRA-friendly legislator thinks the ground is shifting in America in terms of public opinion on guns (it isn't).
Somebody needs to start this conversation -- the one that says you can be less hardcore than the NRA and still be pro-gun. Some laws will not put you in chains. Nothing can change until a critical mass of gun owners believes that.