Monday, February 7, 2011

Gun Control According To Harvey Wasserman

Or Harvey Gives Us Hope

I used to believe that the left ought to make a loud and constant racket about banning automatic weapons, banning concealed-carry and limiting gun rights, in general. As a member of the Ann Arbor City Council in the '80s, I even sponsored an ordinance that would ban all hand guns from the city. The ordinance created great consternation statewide and commanded the attention of all manner of gun owners, hunters and self-styled militia-types from around the country. Several statewide organizations mobilized members and supporters to participate in lobbying campaigns against the ordinance and attend Council hearings in Ann Arbor.

I got one (pink) postcard from an anonymous source to the effect of "we have our sights on you, Comrade Epton." Several others left similar messages on my home answering machine or corresponded to the same effect.

I didn't return such phone calls, but in instances where people included their own address, I took the opportunity to disagree in writing. I also spoke to several groups, including opposition ones. Despite frequent and furious hostility, the general tone of the discussion was reasonably civilized and frequent focused on larger questions about violence in America and its causes. Many participants seemed to feel that there were larger philosophical questions about justice at stake. The ordinance lost--the Ann Arbor City Council was not so liberal as people imagined and at least one member of the council voted against the ordinance because it would "disarm" African-Americans.

But the discussion of gun control seems to have moved much further to the right since then, and has made writing about gun violence not worth the agony of an increasingly confrontational political environment. Into the bargain, the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision appears to greatly enhance the lobbying strength of the National Rifle Association and other anti-gun control groups.

Ultimately, the simple assertion that the 2nd Amendment confers broad rights to own and carry guns of all descriptions seems to occupy the middle ground in the current debate about gun control, successfully stifling initiatives to reestablish significant limits on handguns and automatic weapons. But here comes Harvey Wasserman making the argument that the 2nd Amendment demands gun control. If the left wants to reengage the question, Wasserman's simple formulation is the place to start.

No comments:

Post a Comment