Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Elmer Fudd Gets His Dolchstoß

An interesting article out of something called S.W.A.T. Magazine today shows that gun owners are not very enthused about the Bush Administration's legal defense on the Washington D.C. gun ban. It seems they would've much preferred they use D.C. vs Heller to set precedent that would overturn most if not all legal restrictions on gun ownership, but when the opportunity came, the Republicans punted:
So much for the old saw that Republican leaders, if only they could, would get rid of all those unconstitutional federal gun laws, but we just need to be patient until they are in a position to do so. Now that they had their chance, they did the exact opposite. You need to dispense with the notion that your rights are somehow safe just because the men in power have an "R" after their names.
What makes this interesting is how this plays out over all the other wedge issues Republicans have been running on to remain politically viable with an increasingly progressive American electorate: abortion, gay rights, affirmative action, even illegal immigration, all lead to same result: Republicans win using them as wedge issues, but immediately face defeat once they are in a national position of power to actually change them at the federal level. They are left damned if they do (pissing off the moderate swing voters that put them into office for which ever part of the wedge issue pie - usually economic reform - they voted them in on) or damned if they don't (pissing off their extremist base that demand action once action is possible). And that lack of action will eventually erode even that extremist base: I know anti-abortion Christian conservatives and libertarian laissez-faire capitalists that are voting Obama this election not because they expect him to cede to their values, but because, as long as the other guy is never going to do anything, might as well set these particular issues aside to vote on those that will get attention (Iraq, health care, basic mental competence, etc).

The solution for the Republicans is to stop giving lip-service to their libertarian roots, squash all calls for activism on these wedge issues (both for and against) at the federal level, and drop it to the state and local level as part of their "state rights" propaganda. This would mean ignoring the wedge issues where they are unlikely to gain play (i.e. urban areas) and driving regional legislation in those areas where the electorate are still willing to get behind them (i.e. rural Bittersville). Of course, this is only putting a finger in the leaking dike (that sounds so dirty), as even the most gun-loving, gay-hating, life-pro'ing region full o' bitter is being opened to progressive values due to netroots and the growing penetration of popular culture through new media channels. The Republican Party will have to change or die, and while I once thought (and feared) that McCain would be leading that change, his McBush third-term campaign makes it obvious that they have chosen to die, albeit in such an incompetent manner that they'll maintain just enough weak allegiance to these wedge issues to piss off their base while also alienating moderates.

As for this particular issue, I'm modestly for gun rights without being a gun owner myself (my finances can only support so many hobbies, and I'll always want to drop more dough on fantasy miniatures than on a new reloading press). I don't believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms, but I've done enough research to know that gun restrictions do little to alleviate violent crime (and paper over the true underlying causes, poverty - which legislation can help solve - and culture - which society must take responsibility for itself). Whether or not Elmer can have a bayonet lug on his shotgun will do nothing to end inner-city gang violence or domestic abuse that leads to murder-suicide. Unlike gay rights and reproductive privacy, gun legislation does not involve basic civil rights and should entirely be a "states rights" matter, as anyone that's spent time in either knows that that gun laws that make sense in an urban center have little relevance to a rural community. That's why gun owners need to start working hard at the local rather than federal level, electing regional candidates who support their values, and phase out the massive lobbying efforts of the NRA, who are facing obsolence as the netroots-style fundraising of the Obama campaign becomes the norm.

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