Rolling Stone‘s Tim Dickinson offers some important advice on how gun violence prevention advocates can defeat the National Rifle Association. First, he says, they must commit to a long battle, and have the patience and foresight to watch for future threats. The NRA has already done so.
“With its long game, the NRA has not only changed our national culture of guns, it has succeeded in fundamentally redefining gun rights. Although the NRA proclaimed it so for generations, it wasn’t until 2008 that the Supreme Court actually re-interpreted the Second Amendment to guarantee an individual right (rather than a collective right, through militias) to bear arms — a wild bit of judicial activism perpetrated by so-called constitutional conservatives and ‘originalists,’” writes Dickinson.
Secondly, Americans combating gun violence must, in addition to thinking federally, act on a local level to defend their gains and make new progress. We cannot rely on Congress, with its pro-gun majority, to do the work for us.
Third: “politicize disaster, unabashedly.”
“This may make some progressives queasy. But if you don’t have the stomach for hardball politics, just accept that you’re going to be steamrolled by the NRA — which shamelessly stokes the emotional power of national tragedies like 9/11, Katrina, and Superstorm Sandy to convince Americans that social collapse is around the corner, and you really should be buying that AR-15 […] It’s not distasteful to act in the name of victims of gun violence. What’s distasteful to squander the burning anger and intense political focus that such senseless bloodshed inspires. There’s nothing dishonorable in taking the swift and necessary action to prevent other children from being massacred by an idiot with a war rifle.”
Fourth: there is no time to waste on inaction. Consider what Andrew Cuomo did in the wake of the Newtown massacre—he “signed tough new laws stiffening New York’s gun-control regime, improving the state ban on assault weapons, limiting guns to seven bullets, and creating a new mental health reporting requirement for doctors whose patients threaten violence.”
Fifth: we need to combine big money with “a disciplined, broad-based army of activists […] comprised of Americans who favor gun control and will work to tip races—both with their small dollars and their votes—when guns are on the ballot.”
Sixth: We must think beyond “moms, mayors, and martyrs” if we’re going to beat the NRA. The groups bearing these names are well-intentioned and well-funded. But their focus-grouped purposes reinforce “right wing scaremongering about gun control being the province nanny-state gun grabbers” and neglect to include allies including “a young person who lost a friend to suicide, or a dad who lost a son to gang violence.”
Lastly, we have to prepare for setbacks, and for political payback. Two state legislators in Colorado who voted to expand gun control in March 2013 were recalled. But, writes Mr. Dickinson, “ any politician committed to public service ought to accept [that] protecting kids from gun violence is one of those rare things that is worth losing your job for. As ousted Colorado senate president John Morse said after the recall: ‘I leave the legislature with no regrets.’”