An interesting development
237 sheriffs (so far) have voiced opposition to Obama's gun control push. At least some of those have vowed not to enforce any such laws. Many states are considering legislation that would make attempting to enforce federal gun control laws itself a crime, with actual penalties.
This strikes me as a significant development. Why are we, as a nation, suddenly so divided on the topic of guns that state officials might find themselves arresting federal law enforcement agents at gunpoint?
I think it boils down to this: in 2004, gun owners and gun control advocates had worked out the terms of a ceasefire. The terms were simple: the assault weapons ban would expire, other federal gun laws (background checks, the machine gun registry) would be left in place, and the gun control battles would be fought at the state level. Pro-gun states could have their gun rights, and anti-gun states could impose a broad spectrum of restrictions as they saw fit.
Why did that peace treaty fall apart? Simple: anti-gun forces were losing, badly. The DC v Heller case, decided in 2008, ruled that the 2nd Amendment did in fact protect an individual right. McDonald v Chicago extended that ruling to apply against individual states. Those rulings reset the maximum permitted level of gun control: complete bans on handguns would no longer be acceptable policy. Shall-issue concealed carry laws were advancing across the country, and beginning to encroach traditionally anti-gun states.
But in 2012, Obama was reelected president and kept control of the Senate. Without another election to worry about, Obama was free to push an issue he had personal investment in. He wouldn't have to face the voters again himself; he had a media storm around a horrific school massacre to use for propaganda; any action the voters could take would be delayed by two years until the next election; and the party of gun control had the White House and one house of congress.
Gun control advocates were caught between the Supreme Court on one side, gradually eliminating the extreme gun control policies of their safe havens, and gun rights advocates making steady advocates in state legislatures. They had to take the argument to the national level and hope to change public opinion against gun owners. A massive shift in public opinion was the only thing that could stop the efforts of skilled civil rights lawyers on one front, and the dedicated pro-gun organizations advancing laws in state legislatures on the other.
That's what we're seeing right now: a last-ditch effort, a "battle of the bulge" where the anti-gun forces are throwing everything they've got in the effort to break out and reclaim the initiative.
If they lose here, they are finished. They know this. They will throw everything they have behind this effort.
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