The Politics of Gun Control Legislation
The recent violent phenomenon of tragic shootings such as the incident at Columbine high school in which 13 students and one teacher were killed and 23 other people were wounded has captured the attention of both the public and politicians alike and has stirred a need to take action. With shootings in Littleton, Colorado followed by Conyers, Georgia and yet another in Gibson, Oklahoma, gun control has become a pressing issue in congress. However while politicians use these incidents to maneuver their anti-gun legislation, public opinion and partisan support remains highly polarized. In addition, the fierce debate over gun restrictions are confronted with nearly 8o million gun owners in America and a federal guarantee by the Constitution to bear arms.
Gun Control as a partisan issue is complex. While anti-gunners typically are liberal and democratic, Democrats in Congress do not always support new gun legislation and instead vote against it quietly. It is also a notable fact that Congressmen’s’ opinions on gun control vary according to their electorate. For example, Jolene Unsoeled, a liberal Democrat from Olympia narrowly won her district by championing the NRA. Aside from the contributions the NRA provided to her election, she was able to entice enough ‘swing voters’ away from her highly conservative challenger. Due to the recent school shooting a new group of swing voters who may change the prospective support for pro-gunners has emerged and they are the ‘soccer moms’, professional middle class women who have also significantly influenced the gender gap.
Senator Charles Chumar (D-New York), considered to be one of the Senates leading gun control advocates, states that “’Democrats are secretly as eager as the other side to delay action on gun control legislation . . . ‘” (Birnbuam, 7). It is also the case that the Republican Congress successfully stalls much of the gun control legislation with the help of a suppressing number of Democratic gun control opponents. Currently, three quarters of the House Republicans vote the NRA way and another 50 or so Democratic NRA loyalists have the ability to kill a gun control bill. Democrats like Bart Stupak (D-MI) believe in the American tradition of owning guns. Similarly, constituencies to the south and mid-west seem to be more supportive of gun ownership and sportsmanship, regardless of their opinions on other issues. Representative David Obey from Wisconsin’s dear country demonstrates this contradiction in beliefs by being both a card holding NRA member and a Democrat. Many democrats acknowledge that they may very well lose their seat entirely if they were to support gun control but vote right down the democratic line on everything else.
There are also many interest groups lobbying Congress on the issue of gun control. Hand Gun Control Inc. has nearly 430,000 members nationwide and is the largest gun...