The one thing you can do for more sane gun laws

Paul Waldman absolutely nails it:

If we actually want to do something about gun violence, both the dramatic mass shootings and the relentless toll of 30 or so gun homicides we experience each and every day, there is something we can do. It’s simple and straightforward. Are you ready? Here it is:

Don’t vote for Republicans.

I’m sorry if you find that too partisan. And I realize that there are many reasons you might have for voting for candidates of one or the other party that have nothing to do with guns. But the fact is that one of our two parties has in recent years decided that it will stop any and all efforts to address gun violence, no matter how reasonable they are and no matter how much of the public favors them, even something like universal background checks that is supported by more than 90 percent of Americans.

So if you vote for Republicans, you are voting to make sure we do absolutely nothing about this problem, a problem that kills around 30,000 Americans every year. You might say, “That’s not what I’m voting for. I’m voting for low taxes and less regulation and restrictive abortion laws.” Sorry. You may be voting for those other things, too, but if you vote for Republicans, you are most certainly voting to make sure we do nothing about gun violence…

But it is Republicans who have stopped any attempt to address gun violence. Not the city of Washington, not the system, not the institutions — Republicans. The Senate doesn’t filibuster every gun safety bill — Republicans do. The House doesn’t refuse to allow those bills to come to a vote — Republican leaders do. Washington didn’t pass a bill last year making it easier for people with mental illnesses to buy guns — Republicans in Congress did, and Trump signed it.

But isn’t the NRA the real problem? No. The NRA is made up of loathsome ghouls, but it’s also an interest group like any other. Doing its bidding is a choice. Whatever power the NRA has flows through elected officials, nearly all of whom are Republicans who have made a choice to ally themselves with the organization.

Amen.  Alas, as my friend political science professor, Patrick Miller, makes clear in a nice Facebook post, the gun crowd has been winning on the larger messaging war:

1. Yes, the public overwhelmingly supports things like banning bump stocks or assault rifles, or requiring background checks. But liberals have lost the larger messaging war on guns. Pew has asked this question since 1993: “What do you think is more important – to protect the right of Americans to own guns, OR to control gun ownership?” Americans have become about 15 points more conservative over time, and are now about equally split between gun rights and gun control. And every age group has become more conservative. Millennials prefer gun control just 60/40 or 55/45 depending on the survey, for example, with older generations more conservative. So older voters dying is not necessarily going to usher in more liberal gun policies. And while liberals may think specific gun policies will sell, the symbolism of conservatives screaming “you want to take our guns away” resonates. In short, on average Americans like guns, maybe even more than they want them regulated.

But, he still sees the same need to vote for Democrats…

4. Gun attitudes and legislative voting are highly polarized by party. Bluntly, this is a matter of legislative agenda control. If you want something like bump stocks banned, you need to elect Democratic legislative majorities. Then, Democratic legislative leaders can ensure that legislation survives committees and gets floor votes. Republican legislative leaders will prevent the bill from ever getting a vote.

Let’s say that you vote for a “moderate” or liberal Republican for a legislative office. On the one hand, you might get that person as your representative and directly get more political moderation, but that Republican is still going to vote for Republican legislative leaders like a House Speaker who invariably is far more conservative and will likely cater to where the average Republican is–far to the right of the one Republican you voted for.

And since that moderate Republican counts as a Republican for organizational purposes, they count towards giving Republicans more seats on committees. On this point, we know that legislative leaders like to stack critical committees with strong ideologues. Gun legislation is likely to go through a committee stacked with strong conservatives, and that moderate Republican you voted for is probably not on it.

So in short, while we might think about the issue positions of the particular candidate we’re voting for, we should also remember that when we vote for a candidate we are also voting for a party agenda. In part, then, yes, when you vote in your local House race, you are actually voting for Nancy Pelosi or Paul Ryan because you’re voting for who controls agenda, who gets on committees, etc. And it doesn’t matter how many Republicans say they’ll support something like a bump stock ban because their party leadership can effectively keep it from ever seeing a vote.

So, to be blunt about it, if you want less children to be murdered by guns, currently the only way to enact any policies that might affect this is to simply vote for Democrats.

Why is America so deadly for children?

It doesn’t have to be.  It’s the policy choices we make.  David Leonhardt today:

It’s hard to imagine a worse distinction for a country to hold. A recent study in the journal Health Affairs concluded that the United States has become “the most dangerous of wealthy nations for a child to be born into.”

Perhaps most damning, our country didn’t used to hold this status. In the 1960s, the death rate of American children was slightly lower than in other affluent nations. But three factors have changed that:

1. Other countries have had far more success reducing infant mortality. The reasons aren’t fully known, but the uneven American social safety net seems to play a role.

2. Other countries have more sharply reduced vehicle deaths, which are a particular scourge for teenagers. (The United States could easily do the same, as I explained in a recent column.)

3. The United States suffers from an epidemic of shooting deaths, which are nearly nonexistent elsewhere. The gun homicide rate in this country is 49 times higher than in other rich countries, according to the Health Affairs study.

Yep.  This is choices.  And our country is making the wrong ones.  And, to go ahead and politicize this, there’s one political party making it much more difficult for us to bring about the needed changes if we really cared about kids’ lives instead of misconceptions of “freedom!”

Democracy around the world

This interactive map from the Economist is so cool.  Here’s a snapshot:

As you can see, the U.S. falls (just barely) in the “flawed democracy” category.  I haven’t read the methodology, but I’m pretty confident that you can blame gerrymandering and the electoral college for most of the “flawed” part.

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