Let's face it, gun control is dead

Unfortunately, Romney’s pretty close to where the public now is—and the Congress too—and even many Democrats. And many others who in their hearts may favor gun control now treat it as the issue that dares not speak its name. They’re not cynical, they’re practical. They believe, correctly, that they can’t bend the arc of public opinion—and if they try, they will jeopardize not only the winning of elections, but the prospects for winning other great purposes such as economic justice and equal rights.

This is more than a rationalization. It is an inescapable fact of politics today. Thus the essential silence of Barack Obama on gun control. Aboard Air Force One, on a journey to console the victims and their families in Colorado, Obama’s press secretary said the president’s focus was on enforcing “existing law.” And you can’t expect him to launch a futile demand for tougher gun laws that would never pass the House or Senate. Nor should he pursue a course of faux courage that would represent a heedless disregard for everything else at stake in 2012—and that would sacrifice his chances in swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, thereby shattering the hope for a progressive presidency empowering the forces of reaction to impose their will across the board.

The psychic satisfaction of being pure on gun control is not worth losing the election—and letting Romney further pack a Supreme Court that has already ruled five to four that the Constitution confers an individual right to own firearms despite state and local gun laws. If this happened, things would only get worse.