News

Democrats unlikely to revisit gun-control legislation

William Douglas
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

WASHINGTON - Cries for stricter gun-control laws by some Democratic lawmakers following the Virginia Tech mass murders have been met with caution from their party leaders.

Other Democrats recommend steering clear of the issue, because it could jeopardize their party's recent gains in pro-gun Southern and Western states.

Bottom line: Don't expect gun-control legislation to result from this latest mass shooting.

To begin with, most Republicans don't support it, and those who once did have amended their positions. Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, for example - who leads the 2008 GOP presidential field - was a strong gun-control advocate when he ran City Hall. Now he says states should decide their own gun laws.

And many Democrats, too, are now persuaded that too much of the country favors gun rights to make gun control a winning issue for them.

"I don't think (House Majority Whip) Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) is someone who wants to see that going onto the agenda, I don't think (Sen.) Jim Webb (D-Va.) is someone who wants to see that going onto the agenda," said Dick Harpootlian, former chairman of South Carolina's Democratic Party. "We don't need to be distracted by gun control, abortion and gay marriage. We just need to leave those issues alone and focus on the incompetence of the Bush administration."

That's a switch for most traditional Democrats. They've long been identified as the party of gun control, from their reaction to the assassinations of the 1960s through the ban on semi-automatic weapons they passed as part of President Clinton's 1994 crime legislation.

So it was natural that veteran gun-control advocates like Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., viewed the Virginia Tech tragedy as a catalyst to revive a debate that's been dormant since 1999, when the mass killings at Colorado's Columbine High School failed to result in gun-control legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., responded coolly to their pleas. Reid told reporters Tuesday, "I hope there's no rush to do anything. We need to take a deep breath."

Gun control hasn't been a front-burner issue recently with voters. A Gallup poll in January found that 50 percent of Americans were more satisfied than dissatisfied with the current state of gun control laws in this country, vs. 43 percent who felt the opposite. Seven percent had no opinion.

And few Americans, if any, spontaneously mention guns or gun control or consider it an urgent national priority, according to the survey. Mention of gun control as a top priority national was highest after the Columbine killings - and then was only 10 percent, according to Gallup.

Democrats began de-emphasizing gun control after losing control of Congress in 1994. And many Democrats believe that gun control sank former Vice President Al Gore in several key states in his 2000 loss to George W. Bush.

In their successful bid to regain control of Congress last year, Democratic officials recruited several pro-gun candidates like Webb - whose aide was recently charged with bringing a loaded handgun into a Senate office building - and Montana Sen. Jon Tester, who made gun-owner rights a key point of his campaign.

The results were Democratic gains in both the House and Senate from Republican-leaning states including Virginia, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and North Carolina.

Those gains could be eroded if Democrats try to push gun legislation through, according to Richard Stallings, chairman of the Idaho Democratic Party.

"Leave it alone," he said. "All of a sudden the old tie between the Democratic Party and gun control would be re-tied. It would set us back significantly. They would hand our heads to us out here."

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

The Kinks and Their Bad-Mannered English Decency

Mark Doyles biography of the Kinks might complement a seminar in British culture. Its tone and research prove its intent to articulate social critique through music for the masses.

Music

ONO Confronts American Racial Oppression with the Incendiary 'Red Summer'

Decades after their initial formation, legendary experimentalists ONO have made an album that's topical, vital, uncomfortable, and cathartic. Red Summer is an essential documentation of the ugliness and oppression of the United States.

Film

Silent Women Filmmakers No Longer So Silent: Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers

The works of silent filmmakers Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers were at risk of being forever lost. Kino Lorber offers their works on Blu-Ray. Three cheers for film historians and film restoration.

Music

Rush's 'Permanent Waves' Endures with Faultless Commercial Complexity

Forty years later, Rush's ability to strike a nearly perfect balance between mainstream invitingness and exclusory complexity is even more evident and remarkable. The progressive rock classic, Permanent Waves, is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

Music

Drum Machines? Samples? Brendan Benson Gets Contemporary with 'Dear Life'

Powerpop overlord and part-time Raconteur, Brendan Benson, grafts hip-hop beats to guitar pop on his seventh solo album, Dear Life.

Music

'Sell You Everything' Brings to Light Buzzcocks '1991 Demo LP' That Passed Under-the-Radar

Cherry Red Records' new box-set issued in memory of Pete Shelley gathers together the entire post-reunion output of the legendary Buzzcocks. Across the next week, PopMatters explores the set album-by-album. First up is The 1991 Demo LP.

Music

10 Key Tracks From the British Synthpop Boom of 1980

It's 40 years since the first explosion of electronic songs revitalized the UK charts with futuristic subject matter, DIY aesthetics, and occasionally pompous lyrics. To celebrate, here's a chronological list of those Moog-infused tracks of 1980 that had the biggest impact.

Reading Pandemics

Poe, Pandemic, and Underlying Conditions

To read Edgar Allan Poe in the time of pandemic, we need to appreciate a very different aspect of his perspective—not that of a mimetic artist but of the political economist.

Books

'Yours, Jean' Is a Perfect Mixture of Tragedy, Repressed Desire, and Poor Impulse Control

Lee Martin's Yours, Jean is a perfectly balanced and heartbreaking mix of true crime narrative and literary fiction.

Music

The 60 Best Albums of 2007

From tech house to Radiohead and Americana to indie and everything in between, the 60 best albums of 2007 included many of the 2000s' best albums.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Solitude Stands in the Window: Thoreau's 'Walden'

Henry David Thoreau's Walden as a 19th century model for 21st century COVID-19 quarantine.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Will COVID-19 Kill Movie Theaters?

Streaming services and large TV screens have really hurt movie theaters and now the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered multiplexes and arthouses. The author of The Perils of Moviegoing in America, however, is optimistic.

Gary D. Rhodes, Ph.D
Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.