Winning the culture war

Author Paul M. Barrett (Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun and American Islam: The Struggle for the Soul of a Religion) has another article on gun control in Business Week (a Bloomberg publication). The gist is that the gun rights movement is winning big time. Here are some excerpts from Gun Control: A Movement Without Followers:

The inaction, especially President Barack Obama’s passivity on the topic, demonstrates that gun control has expired as a national political issue. If Democrats can’t sell stiffer restrictions after a midday attack on a congresswoman, when can they?

Closing gaps in the background-check system would likely have only a modest effect on crime rates. But for gun control advocates struggling to stay relevant, the push for such changes represents a noteworthy shift—and a concession to reality. Having decisively lost the decades-old political and cultural argument over whether Americans should have the right to pack heat, they need to adapt to meet the demands of a public that wants to reduce the number of crimes—not the number of guns.

Overall the article is pretty good—especially coming out of New York City from a Bloomberg publication. But I vehemently disagree with the first sentence of the last paragraph. The CDC was unable to find compelling evidence that any gun law reduced crime rates at all. An extremely minor change such as proposed cannot possibly have a measurable positive impact.

Another point of contention I have is this sentence:

Some might argue that the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms would not be threatened by an absence of 33-round magazines. The National Rifle Assn. nevertheless opposes the legislation on the debatable theory that it would lead to a slippery slope ending in mass gun confiscation.

Perhaps Barrett has a source for the NRA “slippery slope claim” that I was not able to find (I have his email address and will ask him) but I have never heard of it before. But I did find this opposition from the NRA:

The ban interferes with the ability of people to protect themselves against criminals. Police officers don’t use reduced-capacity ammunition magazines, because it would limit their ability to protect themselves against criminals. Why should private citizens be forced to use them?

I fully agree with this and would also like to add that magazines of greater than 10 rounds are clearly protected by the Second Amendment because they are “in common use”. The phrase “in common use” is straight from the Heller decision and provides a constitutional block to efforts restricting normal capacity magazines.

Update: I received a response from Barrett. The response applicable here is:

Here’s the source:”With H.R. 308, Rep. McCarthy is pursuing the agenda of banning guns and magazines that she brought to Washington 14 years ago.” — NRA ILA
Full cite: http://www.nraila.org/Legislation/Federal/Read.aspx?id=6139

My response was:

Thank you for the cite.

I have read both the page you refer to and the detailed fact sheet it links to. The closest information I can find to support your claim of the “slippery slope” is this paragraph:

With H.R. 308, Rep. McCarthy is pursuing the agenda of banning guns and magazines that she brought to Washington 14 years ago. In 2003, 2005 and 2007, Rep. McCarthy introduced bills that, like H.R. 308, would have banned magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. Those bills would also have banned all firearms that were subject to the federal “assault weapon” ban of 1994-2004 and all firearms made specifically to comply with the 1994 ban. They would also have banned all semi-automatic shotguns, commonly owned semi-automatic rifles that don’t use detachable magazines of any size, and other commonly owned firearms.

This is hardly the basis of their objection to H.R. 308. While it could be characterized as a slippery slope argument I would have said it was to show the character (or lack thereof) of Rep. McCarthy.

The main basis of the NRA objection was clearly spelled out as being a violation of the “in common use” constitutional barrier, it would make self-defense more difficult against multiple and/or determined attackers, and it would not affect those with criminal intent.

Update2: Barrett responded with:

The NRA asserts that a law that would restrict magazine capacity is part of a campaign to ban guns. Classic slippery slope logic. I think “debatable” is a very polite way of expressing my skepticism that restricting mag capacity to 10 leads to a gun ban. In any event, as the piece indicates, the debate about magazine capacity, at this juncture, is a waste of everyone’s time. It’s not happening. There are millions of large cap mags out there, and no one is going to ban them. We should focuse energy on getting criminals off the street. While we’re at it, we could also focus on making sure convicted felons and the mentally ill don’t get guns in the first place. On that, I think, a large majority of us agree.

4 thoughts on “Winning the culture war

  1. I’ll take the slippery slope position even if the NRA won’t. Would Barrett consider a federal limit, enacted at the behest of an organization called “Citizens Committee for Balance in Speech”, to the word count, or the page count, of his books to be an affront to the First Amendment, which could at some point in the future lead to further restrictions?

    You see, Mr. Barrett, it is not the amount or the degree of infringements that the second amendment address. Language like “shall not be infringed” and in some of the states’ constitutions, “shall not be questioned” makes that crystal clear– power is to reside with The People (as opposed to power resiging in the government, which is how it’s been everywhere else and throughout history).

    That is the American ideal. That ideal of power residing with The People, which could be considered the foundation of the very concept of liberty, was never understood by most Europeans (except for many of those who risked everything to get here) and it seems there is a large number of Americans who can’t quite wrap their minds around it now. It needs to be taught, and of course it isn’t being taught for the most part.

    Quite the opposite, as a matter of fact, when it comes to public education. In that sequestered little world it is an anathema.

    Those of us able to throw off the collectivist/statist attitudes and beliefs (and the tribal connections thereto, i.e. the group identity that comes with it, which says “our people are better than people”) drummed into us since our childhoods see it very differently. It really is nothing more than the struggle between liberty and its alternatives. It’s either/or– there isn’t liberty if alternatives to liberty are considered “good” or even acceptable, embraced or entertained.

  2. @SPQR, I’m inclined to agree.

    Face-to-face conversations with him on this issue have been somewhat frustrating too. He either believes or strongly wants to believe restrictions on magazines of greater than 10 rounds “would make a difference.” Pointing out data that refutes such beliefs and expressing concerns about the constitutional issues and/or additional risks when defending against multiple/determined attackers gets deflected. He says “it’s not going to happen” so we don’t need to talk about it. Yet he keeps pushing the idea and in this case presenting, essentially, a straw man argument.

  3. “In common use” is a formula that has been pulled out of thin air, has zero legislative or constitutional basis, and will not stand further Supreme Court review. Either it will be ignored by a liberal majority of justices who decide gun rights are a “collective right” only applicable to government approved individuals (or some other nonsense) or it will be struck down by a conservative majority of justices who recognize that a novel firearm technology cannot be in common use, hence could be banned legislatively upon patent application.

    “In common use” has no legislative impact, as it cannot be defined. Are black powder unrifled muskets in common use? Might the fairly new .357 SIG or the even newer .327 Magnum or any obsolete cartridge like say a wildcat derived from a .308 be banned, as not in common use? If one US citizen ever used something, or even one foreigner, that might be common use enough but who knows?

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