The NRA Wins Again

The Newtown shooting led gun-control advocates to try the same failed strategies again. And once again, they didn't work.
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After the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, many in the American media insisted that the tragedy should prompt a "conversation about gun control." These articles were written as if there had never been such a conversation. In fact, the issue had been debated for decades. Given the results, I argued, there was no reason to presume that a new conversation would end in more gun control. 

That conversation has now come and gone. The result?

"Perverse as it may sound, the horrific mass shooting in December 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary produced a burst of state-level gun control bills around the country and then triggered a much stronger pro-gun backlash," Paul M. Barrett reports at Businessweek. "The counter-reaction has now reached its apogee in Georgia. In the past year alone, 21 states have enacted laws expanding gun rights, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Several states added piecemeal provisions allowing firearms on college campuses or in bars or churches. Georgia’s politicians, egged on by the National Rifle Association, have gone for broke."

He goes on to offer advice to gun-control advocates:

The smart response is not scorn or exaggeration.

For better or worse, gun ownership has come to symbolize a range of deeply felt ideas about culture and government authority. Making fun of people who view their firearms as emblems of liberty and traditional values (however they define those values) will neither change minds nor repeal legislation.

In the aftermath of a gun tragedy, there isn't anything wrong with proponents of gun control trying to persuade Americans to change their position in light of what happened. But after Newtown, many gun-control advocates tried to shame rather than persuade, as if the "correct" position was obvious to everyone save retrograde idiots. 

On guns, that strategy has never worked. 

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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