The Political Perception and Reality of the Gun Rights Issue

The Political Perception and Reality of the Gun Rights Issue

Sean Gladwell/Getty When Congress passed President Bill Clinton’s 1994 crime bill — with an assault weapons ban as a key provision — the victorious Democrats were in no mood to launch skyrockets. The overall legislation was badly flawed, and the bill only survived a procedural challenge in the Senate after six Republicans broke party ranks to support gun control. The Washington Post in an editorial on the crime bill decried the facile comparisons between legislating and making sausage as “grossly unfair to sausage makers.” But the Post did hail the assault weapons ban as “the first step toward a more rational national policy on the control of guns.” Twenty-six years and hundreds of thousands of shooting deaths later, gun safety advocates are still waiting for that second step toward rationality. In fact, we are sadly back at square one since there were not enough votes in Congress to prevent the assault weapons ban from expiring in 2004. In the immediate aftermath of the 1994 crime bill vote, Democratic strategists expressed cautious optimism that they had finally neutralized the “law and order” issue that Republicans had been flogging since Richard Nixon’s 1968 campaign. As the Los Angeles T i mes wrote in a front-page news analysis, “Clinton can rightly say that … he succeeded in breaking a six-year jam in which gun control opponents on one side and death penalty opponents on the other had been able to block passage of any bill.” That upbeat mood lasted until the 1994 […]

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