The NRA released their much-anticipated statement on the Newton tragedy today, in which the head of the NRA called for arming teachers. The overwhelming response from the anti-gun crowd was of disappointment, shock even, that the NRA’s response to Sandy Hook would be pro-gun.
The president has called for a national discussion on gun control, and I’m sure the NRA would take this call seriously if the president began the discussion by suspending the armed security detail of each Congressman and declaring each building which he resides in a “gun free zone.” Until the secret service is armed with whistles and yellow vests with shiny pockets, I don’t expect the NRA to change their tune either.
Much of the talk surrounding gun control was hopeful that the Newton massacre was a “game changer” in the discussion over gun control, but Pew Research Center released data yesterday outlining why that isn’t likely. Pew states that “recent mass shootings have had little impact on the public’s attitudes toward gun control.”
But as Nate Silver of the New York Times points out, gun ownership has dropped among both parties as well as independents since 1973, though that fall has been slower among Republicans. Gun owners are more likely to be white, male, and protestant, which makes this a salient issue among Republicans. As with elections, however, those demographics which predict gun ownership are changing and if the NRA expects to continue its influence on Congress, it will need to find ways to broaden its appeal to minorities. To put it bluntly, America really isn’t ready to discuss gun control just yet.
The Supreme Court recently handed down several decisions which will make this discussion more difficult for gun-control advocates who want to ban so-called assault rifles. In one decision, the Court reaffirmed that the right to bear arms was separate from the need for a state militia. The court stated that the Second Amendment “does not limit the right to keep and bear arms to militia purposes, but rather limits the type of weapon to which the right applies to those used by the militia…”
The court also declared that trigger-lock requirements violate the Second Amendment and that laws which compelled citizens to maintain firearms which were nonfunctional was also a violation. For those that want to limit the purchase of bullets, it would seem that a firearm without bullets would render firearms nonfunctional.
Still, the Court also declared that the Second Amendment was not without its limits, and the federal government has been regulating certain types of firearms since 1934, through the National Firearms Act.
Expanding that may be possible, such as limiting the number of firearms one might possess. A licensing regime also seems possible, so long as it doesn’t infringe on the right to keep and bear arms.
As many have claimed, the right to keep and bear arms is a civil right, just as voting is a civil right. The gun-control crowd is understandably blinded by the opportunity these shootings present them to advance their agenda, but the biggest problem is that they view gun ownership like Republicans view voting; as a privilege.
Throughout the recent presidential election, Republicans advanced an argument for voter identification laws in order to “protect” our democracy. They argued that voter fraud, even if unsubstantiated, presented a threat to our electoral system. Organizations like True the Vote were erected to monitor elections to root out voter fraud. Latinos should ask Republicans who reject licensing regimes for guns why they so fervently support similar laws for voting.
Rather than getting all lathered up about controlling guns, the gun-control crowd should instead focus on protecting gun ownership, just as the GOP was so concerned about protecting the sanctity of the vote.
The NRA response to Sandy Hook was predictable, but so was the knee-jerk reaction of the anti-gun crowd. There is indeed a reasonable and rational middle to this discussion, but both sides have shown that the time for serious discussion about this issue still has a way to go.
Stephen A. Nuño, Ph.D., NBC Latino contributor and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics and International Affairs at Northern Arizona University. He is currently writing a book on Republican outreach into the Latino Community.