After yet another American mass shooting, will any U.S. presidential candidate have the guts to put a handgun ban on the table. Bill Scher from Common Dreams considers.

With yet another mass shooting terrorising the American public, some facts are in order:

If you want to reduce the number of gun deaths in America, the conclusion is inescapable: ban handguns, along with assault rifles.

Politicians generally avoid proposing handgun bans because the position doesn’t fit into the frame of exempting “responsible gun owners” from new regulations. No one needs an assault rifle to hunt or to protect themselves. But plenty of Americans keep handguns thinking that it will protect them from harm. Politicians are loathe to advocate that the government “take their guns away”.

However, the reality is, as physicist David Robert Grimes put it:

“... actually owning and using a firearm hugely increases the risk of being shot.”

Of course, this is a political impossibility for the foreseeable future. The current Republican Congress won’t even pass an expansion of background checks, and a previous Republican Congress allowed the Clinton-era assault weapons ban to expire. A handgun ban also could run afoul of the Supreme Court, as it is currently constituted.

But will any presidential candidate be willing to push the envelope, shake up the debate, and put a handgun ban on the table?

It’s unlikely to be Senator Bernie Sanders. Gun control is pretty much the only area where Sanders, long-time representative of a rural hunting state, could be classified as a moderate.

He opposed background checks in 1993, though supported them in 2013. He once supported a law protecting gun manufacturers from lawsuits, but he also voted for the assault weapons ban and supports closing the so-called gun show loophole. 

Sanders' rhetoric on the subject involves a bit of triangulation:

“I think that urban America has got to respect what rural America is about, where 99% of the people in my state who hunt are law abiding people.”

It’s unlikely to be Hillary Clinton. While she is stressing gun control in her campaign – a rare opportunity for her to get to Bernie’s left – she is a pragmatist at heart. Democrats for years have been careful to avoid sounding like “gun grabbers”, skirting the gun control issue so they can be competitive in states with high gun ownership like Colorado, Iowa and Nevada.

In fact, if Democrats had not pursued this strategy, arguably Barack Obama never would have become president.

For Clinton to push the issue now is to shift left from where Obama was rhetorically in 2008 and 2012. But what’s on the table are provisions like universal background checks, cracking down on illegal gun traffickers and keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and stalkers. A handgun ban is not even on the table.

But what about former Gov. Martin O’Malley?

He too is pushing gun control hard, laying out a multi-pronged strategy to reduce gun violence, including universal background checks and a national gun registry. An O’Malley Super PAC even ran a negative ad against Sanders regarding guns.

Yet he hasn’t gone so far as banning handguns.

O’Malley, languishing near zero per cent in the polls, is a candidate in need of a breakout issue — one that would animate base voters and distinguish himself from the pack.

Merely proposing a handgun ban certainly wouldn’t make it become law anytime soon. But it would refocus the debate on the actual source of most of our senseless gun deaths.

This story was originally published in Common Dreams on 3/10/15 under the title 'Will Any Presidential Candidate Support Banning Handguns?' and has been republished under a Creative Commons licence. You can follow Bill Scher on Twitter @BillScher.

Monthly Donation

$

Single Donation

$

Stop, don't shoot. Subscribe to IA for just $5.

 

Share this article:   

Join the conversation Comments Policy

comments powered by Disqus