Nate Silver explains politics of gun tyranny

Yvonne Abraham describes the tyranny we are living under in moving terms in today’s Globe. Nate Silver helps to explain the politics:

Whether someone owns a gun is a more powerful predictor of a person’s political party than her gender, whether she identifies as gay or lesbian, whether she is Hispanic, whether she lives in the South or a number of other demographic characteristics.

It will come as no surprise to those with a passing interest in American politics that Republicans are more likely to own guns than Democrats. But the differences have become much more stark in recent years, with gun ownership having become one of the clearest examples of the partisan polarization in the country over the last two decades.

 

In other words, one group in the society is becoming more integrated and confident and another, driven in part by fear, is trying to resist change. But you can’t stop progress, or progressives: 2012 was an encouraging election and there is more work to be done along similar lines, from a ban on the military-grade weaponry used to massacre 20 first traders and their teachers last week, to reality-based economic policies, to defeat of the zombie Republican Scott Brown should it be required.

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48 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. The most irritating part of the progressive movement

    is that sometime it appears that the goal is to have all people look the same, think the same, and act the same. That would take away the beauty of our country’s diversity. Before I get slammed for supporting gun rights, I have already said that I support the ban on assault weapons, and I think it’s ridiculous that you can buy weapons on the internet. But do I want to be just like you? No offense, but not really.

    • Just curious....

      Where can you buy guns legally on the internet?

      • Right, the law definitely protects us from

        law abiding citizens.

        • Interesting

          This might explain Manchin’s, Warner, and Yarmuths defections. In the case of Manchin he might realize in six years he will be 70 and toast for re-election since WVa is the last statewide Democratic stronghold in the south and will likely toss out Rockefeller (always susprised he ever won there) in 14′ and him in 18′ as its slowly realigned itself on the state level with the GOP. This would put him in good standing to get a gig after office if he voted more with the caucus and makes him a more amenable VP choice.

          Yarmuths district is more urban and suburban and less dependent on gun ownership, and Warner now enjoys a bluer Virginia and is angling for 16′. Or bless my cynical heart they all had a true change of heart.

          • The gun laws definitely need review

            and there needs to be sane, well thought out legislation that will give us real results. What we don’t need to do is create laws or talking points that marginalize a way of life. This is about criminals, not about gun owners.

            • It's about criminals and gun owners

              Where do criminals get their guns? Some, legally — until they commit the crime, they’re listed in the “gun owners” category. Some criminals get their guns illegally, by stealing them from folks in the “gun owners” category. In that case, were the guns stored with care commiserate with the damage a gun can cause? Was the gun stored in a safe or in a dresser drawer?

              In my view, a gun owner *not* storing his gun in an appropriate manner should be defined as a criminal. With the power to own a gun comes an obligation to help protect society by making a careful, responsible effort to ensure that the gun doesn’t end up in the hands of a criminal.

              • Excellent point

                Responsible gun ownership requires the safe storage of weapons and ammunition. Making it a criminal offense might be going too far, but certainly there is room to legislate some penalty for the recklessness. Adam Lanza mother was reckless, and paid for it with her life.

                Many states, like MA, have a gun lock requirement at sale and for storage. This works fine preventing child related accidents but does nothing about the theft problem.

                I believe the majority of guns (FBI stats, no cite) used in the commission of crime originate in a legal transaction but find their way into criminal hands through private sales.

                If today we can process a credit card transaction on a smart phone with a $10 device, why not something similar for accessing the FBI’s data file at gun shows and for private sales? Legal gun purchases take only a few minutes in a retail setting…not an inconvenience.

                • Pinging your pong

                  Responsible gun ownership requires the safe storage of weapons and ammunition. Making it a criminal offense might be going too far

                  Why? And if not criminal, then what? If I don’t store my firearm appropriately, and somebody steals it and uses it to commit a crime, how else would you punish me short of charging me with a crime?

                  Adam Lanza mother was reckless, and paid for it with her life.

                  I wouldn’t go that far yet. Maybe you’ve seen info I haven’t, but I haven’t seen any evidence that her guns were stored inappropriately. It’s entirely possible that they were safely locked, and her son knew the code / the key location without Mrs. Lanza knowing that her son knew. I’d buy that she was foolish for having the guns at all given what we think we know about the mental health of her son, but it’s not clear that any sensible gun storage law would render her storage illegal.

                  Many states, like MA, have a gun lock requirement at sale and for storage. This works fine preventing child related accidents but does nothing about the theft problem.

                  Why not? What does the law require for storage? I’d think that a *good* gun storage law would include ensuring that the safe itself was bolted to the building — an attached safe, not a simple lock box. P.S. the gun lock box doesn’t prevent child tragedies: one of countless examples.

                  If today we can process a credit card transaction on a smart phone with a $10 device, why not something similar for accessing the FBI’s data file at gun shows and for private sales?

                  I’ll go one step further. Why do we even have private sales, be they at gun shows or otherwise? Why not simply *require* that every firearm transaction (sale or gift) be processed by a licensed firearms dealer, who charges a small fee for (a) checking identification, (b) running the full, standard background check, and (c) inspecting the weapon to determine that it is a legal firearm, and not inappropriately modified. For gun shows, this is pretty easy — you set up a processing booth on-site, staffed by licensed firearm dealers. For private personal sales/gifts, yeah, it means you’ve got to drive your butt to the nearest firearms dealer. Really, it’s not that big a burden — I’d bet that very few private gun owners sell/give their firearms to other private citizens very often.

                • You just pulled the rug out from underneath your own argument..

                  … ouch.

                  I believe the majority of guns (FBI stats, no cite) used in the commission of crime originate in a legal transaction but find their way into criminal hands through private sales.

                  So then ‘responsible gun ownership’ according to the trajectory of ownership you detail here, simply is not possible. End of story.

                  I see no problem, of any kind, either morally or constitutionally, in a complete and total ban on all sales of weaponry by private, unlicensed persons, even between private persons. Once you purchase a gun, it’s yours for life and, once you die, cannot be inherited or sold, except back to a fully licensed dealer.

                  That’s the only way, under your FBI stat upheld ideal of gun ownership, that allows for anything close to ‘responsible gun ownership’.

                  I would go even further and require mandatory training for gun ownership just like we do for cars.

              • Belatedly closed barn doors

                A law requiring safe storage of guns is unenforceable. The only people who might be charged with violating such a law will have had their guns taken to commit a crime. Such a law is only useful if it can be enforced in the absence of gun crimes.

                • it is axiomatic...

                  A law requiring safe storage of guns is unenforceable.

                  … that someone who respects guns, private property and the constitution will take care to store their guns safely and securely. Charlton Heston was the ideal: a man strong enough to use a gun but equally strong enough to resist the allure of power that comes with ownership: at least, that was the myth. The NRA would like you believe that they are all Charlton Heston. They believe their own mythology (which appears to be a particular hazard to sojourning on the Right…)

                  Such a person is, I contend, a small, perhaps infinitesimally small, sliver of the gun owning population: the rest are an unwieldy amalgam of stunted manhood, misplaced paranoia and outright criminality; to them the gun is either symbol of something lost or tool to make gain. In Newtown CT Nancy Lanza stockpiled weaponry and food in an apparent paranoia about imminent collapse of civilization.

                  • Ms Lanza's visitors

                    No doubt too Nancy Lanza would have been a bit put out if stomv troopers arrived to inspect her gun cabinet.

                    • Oh please, there's so many ways to do this

                      1. The easiest way (although not 100% effective):
                      Require the salesman to provide a pamphlet on effective gun storage, and require the person buying the gun to sign a document (under penalty of perjury) that the appropriate gun storage system is in-place. You’ll get more compliance than if you didn’t do it, although certainly not 100%.

                      2. The hard and expensive (though much closer to 100% effective) way:
                      Require that the gun salesman deliver the gun. Yeah, it’s really annoying, and it will add cost. But, the licensed gun dealer can physically inspect the gun storage system before transferring ownership, and by “can” I mean “is required to”.

                      We need to start treating guns as controlled substances. They’re a BFD. Requiring extra care, consideration, and process may be burdensome, but frankly so were the 31,347 firearm deaths in 2009.

                    • Economic incentives

                      The gun seller has exactly what motivation to be honest in #2? If the seller regards such regulation as federal over-reach, then the seller is very unlikely to forego a profitable sale for the sake of an unwanted enforcement. This becomes like the enforcement of speed limits where compliance is regarded as being rudely and obstructively slow.

                      As for #1, people ignore “paperwork” all the time.

                      *

                      I agree that requiring the safe storage of deadly equipment is a very good thing. I just don’t see it happening without a high level of intrusion.

                    • Gun is used in a homicide

                      and 1 and 2 were not complied with? No more license for the gun dealer.

          • Manchin back with the NRA

            Yesterday he was saying how proud he was of them for their bullsh** press conference and how we should look at violence in video games. Video games, he added, made by a company in New York City, aka Sodom & Gomorrah.

            His “change of heart” seems to have lasted a few days.

            • Feckless

              Either he spoke from the heart accidentally or he realized state polling and national polling have vastly different results. Far cry from big daddy Byrd who got more liberal with age. And video games? I won’t even dignify that with a response.

              • Sen. Rockefeller also

                jumping on the video game bandwagon. Man, West Virginia just hates it some video games. They will ban assault weapons and huge clips on little screens long before they will do it in real life.

    • "sometime it appears that the goal is to have all people look the same, think the same, and act the same"

      Would love to know where you get that from…?

      • Maybe it's the way the discussion is always

        framed as the good side and the bad side, when really it is far more complicated than that. In this particular case, it’s this quote:

        one group in the society is becoming more integrated and confident and another, driven in part by fear, is trying to resist change

        . that does it for me. In other cases, it’s been outrage over automobile drivers (bad, bad) or overweight people (bad, bad). It’s not the editors who do it necessarily, but the comments can be really narrow minded. Instead of finding a solution that works for everyone, progressives (certainly not all of them) will just criminalize or over tax those who refuse to live like the progressives think they should.

        • I had the same reaction

          and to the same phrase, because the Silver’s numbers include weapons for hunting that are outside the scope of even the most ambitious ban proposed over the last week. In my view this tends to drive the outdoorsman(person) to the arms of the other side, even though he/they may be inclined to agree with the “progressive” position on this and other issues. It also bugs me that the environmentalist movement goes out of its way to eschew this huge reservoir of potential support, while chasing after the itty bitty meat-is-murder set.

          This is the usual “You’re an elitist! No, you are!” problem that afflicts our political discourse.

          To be fair, a huge portion of the right wing would likewise just prefer to criminalize those who refuse to live like the Christian right thinks they should.

          From this realization springs my distaste for the political parties, and in particular the “wings” thereof– and my professed status as a militant moderate.

          • This is about responsible technology, not telling people how to live

            Military-grade technology — semi-automatic weapons, high-capacity magazines, machine guns, hand grenades, mortars — should not be in civilian hands because lunatics can get it. Much of this equipment is relatively new in terms of functionality and price in the last few decades. New problem: new rules needed. It seems huge majorities agree that the weapons used at Newtown should be banned.

            How people live their lives, whether they want to hunt or own guns, is a separate issue. The change that graph shows is that fewer Americans want to own guns. Republicans are an exception, who have not changed with the times.

            • Sure

              But say that, not that the country is growing divided between those who are right and those who are wrong. You kind of lumped in all gun owners, as shown by the graph, with people who “”resist change,” are “driven by fear,” and by implication, are not integrated with the rest of society.

              • Then gun owners

                who want to hunt, etc., but also think McVeigh/Waco-style paranoia is crazy and nobody needs a clip with more than 10 cartridges, should stand up and reject the NRA’s extremism. I’d love to see “Gun Owners for Reasonable Restrictions” out there.

                But people who think the NRA’s right on this, I have much less hesitation calling them “driven by fear.”

          • Erm... I'm not so sure about the enviro claim

            It also bugs me that the environmentalist movement goes out of its way to eschew this huge reservoir of potential support, while chasing after the itty bitty meat-is-murder set.

            There are loads of conservationist environmental organizations who very closely align with the Field & Stream gun owners and groups. They work together to prevent development in large swaths of land. There get to be bigger gaps when the hunters want big game, or when they want species which are at risk (not quite endangered, but not prolific either). Of course, try to get hunters to quit using lead bullets (to avoid poisoning people through many small doses!) and you’ve got yourself a huge fight.

          • That's why we like having you around

            I disagree with you on this issue and a few others but, while not a progressive, you do have a data based approach to policy questions rather than an ideological one and its appreciated.

            And the question whether gun control is effective as oppose to moral, constitutional, etc. should guide the discussion. To wit I look at the bed practices of the UK and the better data set of Australia and see moderate gun control significantly reducing or eliminating these occurrences. But important to be data driven, nuanced, and mindful of unintended consequences. There was a time when all three were the hallmark of “conservative” statesmanship.

          • Weapons for hunting"

            Let’s talk about “weapons for hunting” for a minute.

            This is the very popular Ruger Ranch Rifle, AKA Mini-14. You can buy one for about $700, and people do hunt with them.

            It’s called a Mini-14 because it was designed to be a scaled-down version of this, the M-14:

            The M-14 was the US main battle rifle until the M-16 was adopted. You can’t buy one, even though thousands of them were made surplus when they were retired. That’s mostly because it’s ridiculously easy to convert an M-14 to fire fully automatically, and because the 7.62 mm bullets it fires go through body armor like it isn’t there (also through concrete-block walls, car engines, and lots of other things usually regarded as bulletproof).

            You might think the Ranch Rifle is not so awful, since it doesn’t fire that big bullet, and you’d be partly correct. However, the bullet it does fire is the same one that this rifle uses:

            Yes, it’s the Bushmaster AR-15, and the Mini-14 Ranch Rifle uses the same 5.56 mm bullet as the AR-15 (and the M-16). Like the AR-15, the Mini-14 fires semi-automatically and accepts 30-round magazines. The name “Ranch Rifle” is camouflage for a weapon that is functionally identical to an AR-15. Oh, and you can buy a version that uses the same bullet as an AK-47.

            If the goal is to reduce carnage, we’d best not apply cosmetic measures like the previous “Assault Weapon” ban. Don’t just address weapons that look like military arms; direct the effort to weapons that function like them. That means at the least, no large-capacity magazines, and we should take a serious look at whether semi-automatic rifles have a place in the civilian world.

        • BS

          You obviously pay little attention to the content of discussions here. Perhaps you lump in everything with you disagree with as being one monolithic opinion.

          And note that the sentence you object to is actually backed up by empirical evidence unlike most of your assertions.

          • The effect of being thin-skinned

            Political differences are almost always moral differences, and will be expressed as such. If one is unprepared for accusations of being morally deficient, one is not going to enjoy political discussion very much and one might feel the Committee of Public Safety lies just around the corner enforcing the Religion of Virtue.

  2. Not sure about that graph

    and whether it says anything meaningful, statistically. How did each party grow over the time series? Perhaps a ton of gun-owning Democrats changed parties thus lowering the gun ownership rate among Dems. It’s hard to tell.

    One thing that IS easy to tell is that you’ve got the Progressive Curse: all motives not belonging to you are evil and full of malice. Only you are on the side of angels, everyone else dances with the devil. Your change is revolutionary, others’, counter-revolutionary!

    Bob, I think you don’t know the first thing about the shooting sports, hunting, guns in general, and gun owners let alone their motivations. But that certainly hasn’t stopped you from vilifying them as fearful and change-resistant.

    Remember that BMG represents only a tiny far-left sliver of the political spectrum. While your opinions do matter, you can forget being part of a larger national dialog if right off the bat you impugn the motives of gun owners.

    Try to be more constructive.

    • Speaking of

      tiny slivers of the political spectrum, we now hear from a Massachusetts conservative Republican.

      Just playing!

    • I am a conservative

      Under traditional conservative Supreme Court jurisprudence there is no private right to gun ownership: we should return to that old fashioned common sense principle of our founders.

      If you are done cursing me (traditionally considered a sign of a weak argument, but never mind) I’ll note that I’ve shot lots of guns and been to shooting ranges many times.

      Returning the the conservative theme, BMG represents a solid majority of opinion in the Commonwealth, which is why our candidates keep crushing their opponents statewide. Thus, by definition conservative. Extremists represent radical fringe opinions, like Fox for example. Nationwide, we are a smaller majority, as evidenced by Obama’s narrow but convincing victory over Romney — but still a majority — and growing. If you look at the sweep of US history over the past 100 years, the direction is unmistakably progressive on issues from equality to choice to personal freedom to reality-based economics.

      • Don't know about that

        Your opposition here is such that “political success” for Democrats here is to avoid having your major party leaders under indictment for corruption, which is a low bar indeed, and yet still missed more often then met these last 25 years.

        • I almost never downrate

          but “political success” is winning over 75% of the seats in the legislature, 9 of the last 10 U.S. Senate elections, the last two governor’s races, and having an all-Democratic U.S. House delegation since 1996.

          Don’t lump all Democrats in with three individuals. Plenty of Massachusetts Democrats can’t stand Tom “WRKO” Finneran, whose politics were far to the right of mine. Hell, I worked on the lawsuit that brought him down.

      • Goes back farther than that

        Burke, Locke, and Hobbes would all argue that its important for the state-the traditional engine of the community and the entity we make our social contract with-should have monopoly of force. Liberal, or I should say, libertine gun policies allow that monopoly to be undercut and tragedies will continue to mount. Then again we can add gun control to the long list of questions Appomattox should’ve answered.

    • I call BS.

      Not sure about that graph(2+ / 0-) View voters

      and whether it says anything meaningful, statistically. How did each party grow over the time series? Perhaps a ton of gun-owning Democrats changed parties thus lowering the gun ownership rate among Dems. It’s hard to tell.

      It’s very simple. In 1973 all three groups were within 10 points of each other. Now there is a greater than 30 point differential. That tells us something extremely important.

      And, since there are only three party affiliations possible, and all three are detailed here, any large switch in the distribution from one party to another would be immediately apparent: there’s no way to hide, obscure, obfuscate, or in any way confuse, that data.

      Bob, I think you don’t know the first thing about the shooting sports, hunting, guns in general, and gun owners let alone their motivations.

      Without speaking for Bob I can attest that there are people who own guns who know nothing about shooting sports, hunting, guns in general and other gun owners. However, my training in physics (ballistics) and chemistry (explosives) as well as my lower class rural upbringing around a lot of hunters (and some gun owning criminals) has not, in any way, mitigated my agreement with Bob… which mitigation you suggest, erroneously, when you make implicit claims that expert knowledge will automagically provide special insight and a change of mind (Which argument, by the way, is directly in contradiction to your above statement about the ‘progressive curse’: apparently, for you, if someone don’t know anything about hunters and guns that someone is automatically locked in a waltz with the devil and only you possess the special knowledge to stop the dance. Huh, guess that curse isn’t so progressive after all… )

  3. So while Democrats and Independents . . .

    . . .were owning fewer and fewer guns as a group, the Democratic Party as an organization was until last week in full retreat from gun control as an issue.
    Silver’s chart says something about the willingness of the Democratic Party to cave into a special interest group like the NRA, when it should be representing the interests of the rank and file.

    • Hmm

      Was there anything that happened in the early 90s that would have caused gun owners to depart the Democratic Party in large numbers?

      I wonder if that departure played any role in the end of the Democratic control of Congress beginning in 1994?

      It seems that Democrats made the decision to back-burner an issue that was a political career ender in any but a small handful of “blue” states. Maybe that dynamic has now changed, but I doubt it.

      The Stockton incident that led to the 90s bill was just as horrific as this one.

    • An excellent point

      But of course, with respect to guns the laws of the country are way out of alignment with majority opinion, which favors much stricter regulation (92-6 for background checks!) for obvious common-sense reasons as recent as last Friday.

      • Interesting link

        But in prior posts you advocate “banning” certain weapons, and you point to Australia and the UK. You need to be clearer — do you mean to ban existing semiautomatic weapons, or just new ones?

        That’s problem with this “national dialog.” Gun owners and gun-rights supporters suspect the progressive anti-gun crowd wants to remove existing AR-15′s from their possession, and they cloak this intent in their call for reinstating the AWB.

        “Common sense gun laws” are code words for “gun grab.”

        • Newtown = AR-15s and other military weapons

          No military weapons in civilian hands, no 20 dead six year olds and their teachers.

          It’s not complicated.

          As a practical matter, I don’t favor posses of enraged parents smashing down the doors of shut-in Fox viewers clinging to their semis and filing the steel into shavings in the street while neighbors hurl abuse at the criminal enablers in their midst. First, a buy-back. Then, heavy taxation. Finally, required annual interviews and re-certification? I don’t know: there are ways to get child-murdering weapons out of private hands without confiscating them.

        • Help me with this

          If society thinks that AR-15s and other specific military grade weapons are so dangerous that they shouldn’t be sold, why wouldn’t the same society also think that AR-15s (etc) already in the hands of private citizens shouldn’t be confiscated?

          If it’s dangerous, it’s dangerous. How could the new-sales vs. pre-existing dichotomy possibly make sense?

          • What?

            Can’t really understand what you are saying here, stomv.

            BUT, if you are arguing that confiscating property raises no additional Constitutional issues compared to banning new sales of that same product, I’m shocked at your professed ignorance.

            You’re aware of the Fifth Amendment? That explicity protects against being “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” That, under the 5th Amednement, “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”?

            Obviously, the new-sales vs. pre-existing dichotomy is very important.

            • connecting dots...

              You’re aware of the Fifth Amendment? That explicity protects against being “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” That, under the 5th Amednement, “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”?

              And cross the t’s and dot the i’s… yadda yadda yadda. What stomv wrote doesn’t preclude either due process or just compensation.

              Importantly, what he’s really saying is that excuses for inaction aren’t valid anymore, if indeed they ever were….

              BUT, if you are arguing that confiscating property raises no additional Constitutional issues compared to banning new sales of that same product, I’m shocked at your professed ignorance.

              If the government found out that a common agricultural fertilizer was a potential ingredient for a bomb it would have no problem banning the substance and confiscating prior bulk amounts of it and licensing the handling and use of it.

              Ammonia Nitrate is no different in this instance than an AR 15. Absolutely no difference whatsoever. In fact, a 4 Kg AR 15 could probably do more damage than 4 Kg of ANFO: only under certain circumstances could 4kg of ANFO kill 30 people. (Timothy McVeigh used 13 barrels of ANFO, each barrel weigh approximately 250Kg, to destroy the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma. The equivalent weight of AR-15′s could arm quite a sizable militia.)

              • Finally someone gets it!

                Ammonia Nitrate is no different in this instance than an AR 15.

                Instead of being sensitive and considerate regarding this issue, like Democrats usually are, we should react to this as a terrorist attack. Call the assailants terrorists and make this vote a ‘with us or with the terrorists’ vote via campaign ads and talking points. I am sick and tired of us pretending the NRA is a national partner or worrying about them. I hope every Washington based pussy footing Democratic consultant listened to LaPierre’s speech and realized we are dealing with irrational extremists who want terrorists to have easy access to our guns. We shouldn’t be afraid to use war language since it is a war-our kids have been attacked and are dead. Time to go after those who have the blood on their hands and go after them hard.

            • "arms" not "guns"

              The 2nd amendment refers to arms, a rather generic term, rather than more specifically to “guns”. The Orin Hatch-inspired reinterpretation of that amendment changed it from being a collective right to an individual one: individuals have the right to own arms. In this modern age, the term “arms” extend to tanks, artillery, bio-chemical weapons, landmines, and nuclear devices. For example, our arms race with the Soviet Union was not a contest over who had the most hand guns.

              We do prohibit individual ownership of banned drugs. I’d hope we’d prohibit the ownership of plutonium, weapons grade uranium, and weaponized anthrax. Why then is it such a leap to say we would prohibit the ownership of other military devices?

            • I'll try again

              If society believes that AR15s are so dangerous that they shouldn’t be sold…
              how can that same society be OK with allowing the ones already in private hands to remain there?

              It’s completely illogical.

              I didn’t argue about what we as a society *should* do in the post — merely pointing out that banning sales but grandfathering ownership makes no rational sense.

    • Agreed

      It would be interesting how many other issues this applies to-off the top of my head the AUMF on Iraq, climate change, gay marriage until recently, single payer healthcare, and this week you can add Social Security to that list. We really need to stop looking for Republican votes to come our way since they never do.

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