“Angry at the NRA? That Won’t Reduce Gun Violence”
No, but the left does like it some scapegoats, and what can be more evil than an organization that stands for the wholesale slaughter of little teeny-tiny childrens? Or, to put it more clinically, since when did we start thinking rationality would trump self-serving self-righteousness, particularly when it comes from the political left?
Prof. Stephen L Carter, writing in Bloomberg:
Support for stricter U.S. gun laws hasn’t jumped as fast or as far in recent weeks as many liberals had hoped and expected. If you’re wondering why, maybe the reason is the shakiness of the public’s trust in government itself.
After the horrific murders three weeks ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, gun-control advocates confidently predicted that a wave of revulsion would sweep the nation. We would, in the popular argot, “hit the reset button,” beginning a fresh debate on new terms.
It hasn’t happened that way. Consider a recent roundup of opinion surveys. In the USA Today-Gallup Poll taken just a week after the shooting, when one would expect the largest emotional effect, support for “more strict” gun control in the abstract was at 58 percent, compared with 43 percent about a year earlier. On specifics, 74 percent opposed a ban on private ownership of handguns, and 51 percent opposed a ban on private ownership of assault weapons. (There’s more support for posting armed guards in schools than for limiting access to assault weapons.)
Sure, advocates can try to twist these polls into policy preferences. In truth, although the data reflect what might prove to be temporary majorities for such measures as banning magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, one searches in vain for a mandate in support of policies many gun-control advocates prefer. The urgency seems to have gone out of the argument. Even the news media seem to have grown bored by the whole thing.
People will tell pollsters that the widespread availability of certain types of weapons makes the nation more dangerous rather than safer, but they don’t support measures to curtail their use. If Newtown hasn’t pushed the numbers much, why not? One plausible explanation is a lack of trust in the people who would be doing the regulating.
Sad to say, the lack of trust has been well earned. Consider the recent negotiations over the “fiscal cliff.” Although the last-minute deal has its defenders, it nevertheless showcases the federal government at its least competent. Reform of entitlements and the tax code is left for later. Increasing the debt limit is kicked down the road. And, as usual, the legislation was too long for members to read before they were required to vote. None of this helps to improve the image of Washington.
We are now approaching four years since the U.S. Senate enacted a budget. The last was in April 2009. And bear in mind that federal law requires an annual budget. Imagine the ire of the senators toward a private firm that treated legal requirements so casually.
Amid such ineptitude, “Trust us, we’ll protect you,” isn’t a very persuasive case to make to the tens of millions of Americans who have guns — often very powerful ones — in their homes. And directing fury at gun owners for their lack of trust isn’t likely to increase their faith in government.
As a general proposition, arguments born of emotion are not likely to be well thought out — or to persuade those not already on board. Yet anger has been very much the style of the case for gun control over the past few weeks.
I have to interject here: arguments born of emotion are more and more likely to persuade those who’ve been baptized in the Oprahfied culture that is contemporary America, a culture that is marked by an entitlement mentality; an official disdain for competition (which then privately sublimates elsewhere); the celebration of relativism that takes its most pernicious (and sub rosa) forms in things like superficial “diversity” movements and egalitarian strategems; educational policy that pushes dogma and government sanctioned narratives over critical thinking skills — all under the ruse of promoting “critical thinking skills”; a redefining of “fairness,” “tolerance,” and “equality” such that each means precisely its opposite when discussed in the context of our founding and framing principles.
And the proof that such emotional arguments are more and more likely to persuade is Obama’s election and then re-election, as well as the Democrats’ having built their numbers in the Senate, which hasn’t produced a budget — or done its job at all, aside from acting as a shield for Obama.
So while I agree with the esteemed professor that arguments born of emotion are not likely to be well thought out, I disagree as to their persuasive power. Ignorant, low-information voters and those who’ve been bathed in the strained pathos of TV reality shows and liberal do-gooderism that has become institutionalized in popular culture, are of course going to be drawn to emotional arguments. Becoming outraged and pointing fingers is easier — and to many, far more gratifying (emotionally!) — than thinking through a position or understanding an argument.
And it doesn’t help that the political right has become itself so politically superficial that it can no longer make strong rational arguments for its principles, but instead tries constantly to soft-peddle apologies for holding those principles.
But I digress.
What the polling data teach is that anger isn’t working. Most people are angry at the shooter and at society. They’re not particularly angry at supporters of gun rights.
Few groups this side of the now-moribund Moral Majority seem to excite as much ire and hatred among liberals as the National Rifle Association. Most Americans feel otherwise. In a Gallup poll released last week, the NRA received a 54 percent favorable rating. By comparison, as of this writing, the Real Clear Politics average of President Barack Obama’s approval rating stands at 53.4 percent. For Congress, the figure is an abysmal 18 percent. In other words: The NRA is as popular as the president, and three times as popular as Congress.
The Democrats, who read polls very well, have no doubt come to see that the firearms issue offers less political advantage than they’d hoped. In a Pew Research Center poll taken two weeks ago, respondents were asked if either party “could do a better job reflecting your views about gun control.” Twenty-seven percent said the Republicans could; 28 percent said the Democrats could. The same poll asked about the influence of the National Rifle Association on policy. Some 36 percent said the NRA had too much influence, and 47 percent said the group had the right amount or too little.
Well, that’s good to know: many Americans still have their heads on straight about guns. Unfortunately, what sticks out to me from that set of numbers is that Barack Obama’s approval rateing stands at 53.4% — even as jobs continue to be lost, taxes climb higher and higher, and this demonstrably Marxist ideologue — who’s all about “fair shares” — takes off on a tax-payer funder 20 day, $4 million Hawaiian vacation.
They must approve of his “I got mine” mentality. Which, too, is part and parcel of the Oprahfication of America.
So. Full circle.
Although, that might could change…