All eyes are on President Barack Obama and the first family today as he begins the first full day of his second term as the 44th president of the United States. But once the inaugural balls are over and attention turns once again to policies instead of festivities, the fight over firearms legislation will remain a center-stage issue.
Former President Bill Clinton, the last president to sign major gun control legislation with the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994, had some advice for gun control supporters over the weekend. Clinton spoke for 40 minutes Saturday before a group of Democratic donors a joint meeting of the Obama National Finance Committee at the Newseum in Washington.
Clinton warned those in attendance not to look down on people who don’t agree with them on the need for stricter firearms legislation.
“Do not be self-congratulatory about how brave you for being for this” effort to pass gun control measures, Clinton said, according to Politico. “The only brave people are the people who are going to lose their jobs if they vote with you.”
Clinton was referring to US representatives who would become very vulnerable in their districts if they voted in favor of some of Obama’s gun control proposals.
Clinton told those in attendance that “their hunting and their fishing” is all that a lot of people in rural America have and that it is counterproductive for gun control supporters to dismiss them. “Do not patronize the passionate supporters of your opponents by looking down your nose at them,” Clinton said.
Clinton worked hard to help Obama get re-elected, by some accounts even overshadowing the president at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC, in September.
Now the former president is doing his best to get Obama and other Democrats who support gun control to respect the opinions of those on the other side of the issue. Clinton is absolutely right on this front. The vast majority of gun owners are responsible, law-abiding citizens. For many of them, hunting and gun culture are a way of life.
“A lot of these people live in a world very different from the world lived in by the people proposing these things,” Clinton said in the Politico article. “I know because I come from this world."
Those who would implement stricter gun laws would be wise to first listen to the concerns of those who oppose such measures. Unfortunately, certain high-profile groups like the National Rifle Association are mistakenly considered to be speaking for all gun owners and Second Amendment supporters, which is not the case at all. In a spirit of mutual respect, legislators should seek out a genuine dialogue with law-abiding citizens who oppose gun control, and those citizens should step forward to do so without hyperbole or NRA-prepared talking points at the ready.
The gun-related violence of 2012 was some of the saddest and most devastating in American history, and although we would like solutions to be as simple as passing new laws, the realists among us know that laws alone rarely work. Clinton knows that good people from all walks of life manage to keep and use firearms regularly and responsibly without hurting anything other than game they clean, cook and eat. They may not own or want automatic weaponry, but they resent the idea of people who have never even fired a gun, much less owned one, passing laws about what kinds of guns others can own.
Obama and the Democratic Party would be wise to reflect on Clinton’s words as they move forward with gun control legislation. Otherwise, all this talk about stricter gun laws may end up being full of sound and fury, ultimately signifying nothing.
Sources and Resources: