On gay marriage and guns, no turning back

It was predictable that after a pretty good election last fall, Democrats would overreach. Winners usually overestimate the level of support they have and misread the signals voters are sending.

After the election, I thought supporters of gay marriage were crazy when they interpreted the failure of anti-marriage measures around the nation, including Minnesota, as a mandate to legalize.

Now it’s looking like the public is far more ready for marriage equality than I thought. Within a few short months or years we may have court decisions, Congressional action or state legislation that puts the issue to rest for good (and as a supporter of marriage equality, I do mean “for good”).

The problem for gay marriage opponents — including the establishment of the Republican party, the hierarchy of the Catholic church, and most evangelical Christians — is that young people are overwhelmingly supportive. In order for parties or churches to recruit and retain young members, they’re going to have to face that reality, and soon.

Now look at another issue that’s playing out in the opposite direction: gun control.

After Sandy Hook, which occurred just as Obama and the Democrats were heading for victory, it appeared that Congress and many state legislatures would enact significant gun control laws.

Short of expanded background checks, which should have been implemented decades ago, it’s looking like very little will be done.

As someone who would love to live in a nation with stricter gun control laws, I’m neither surprised nor distressed, because most gun control legislation would have little effect and would probably not prevent the next Columbine or Sandy Hook.

As much as I disagree with the NRA leadership (as most NRA members also do), they are correct that banning high-capacity magazines or so-called “assault weapons” wouldn’t do much to prevent a crazy person from committing the next massacre.

That’s not because gun control is a bad idea; it’s because the NRA and gun industry have already won the war. With a gun in circulation for every man, woman and child in America, someone who wants to inflict harm will aways be able to do so.

Short of doing what the NRA disingenuously warns us that Democrats want to do (take away our guns), any gun control laws that pass will be mostly symbolic and ineffective.

Opponents of gun violence would do better to fight for mental health care and economic opportunity than for stricter gun laws. Until our culture stops promoting the notion that violence is an acceptable means of coping with problems, outrageous acts by sick and desperate individuals will continue. Unfortunately, Hollywood and the military-industrial complex are not about to change what’s been a winning formula for them — even if it requires the blood of a few sacrificial lambs.

Most civilized nations have stricter gun laws and far less violent crime than we do. Most in those nations are happy with those laws and credit them with lower rates of crime and incarceration.

Here in America, though, we will argue forever about whether stricter gun laws actually reduce violent crime — thanks to the propaganda machinery of the gun industry and the NRA.

Politics, like life, is unpredictable. A safe bet — like passage of gun control laws — can turn out to be a losing proposition, while a risky play — like fighting for marriage equality — can end up paying off.

Brett Larson is the editor of the Messenger. Follow him at twitter.com/elmerbond.

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