What the gun debate misses

The Democratic Party and the progressive movement more generally are dominated culturally and financially by college-educated, affluent, white metropolitan professionals, mostly living in those two-thirds of U.S. households in which there is no firearm present. They present themselves as the champions of poor, black, urban communities about which they know almost nothing, and understand themselves as the enemies of lower-income, aging, white, rural communities — the stereotypical NASCAR crowd — about which they also know almost nothing. Never mind that much of the increase in gun ownership in recent years has been driven by women, African Americans, and recreational shooters in urban areas — the eggbound snake-handling hayseeds and would-be militiamen of Georgia and Alabama, whose cultural prominence is almost exclusively a matter of the progressive imagination, simply must be the face of gun ownership, at least for the purposes of culture war. Never mind that most of the violent crime involving guns in this country is carried out in zip codes where the voters elect Democrats almost exclusively, and never mind that the reason we do not act on those “common sense” gun-control measures on which almost all of us notionally agree — such as prosecuting straw-buying and other everyday weapons offenses — is the fact that doing this would irritate important Democratic constituencies in the big cities and among unionized government workers.

Even if we read the data in the way that is most generous to the gun-control cause, fewer than one in five criminals uses a gun acquired from a gun dealer, while more than four out of five murderers have prior arrest records. If we go by the DOJ findings, the share of criminals who use guns from gun dealers is more like 2 percent. And yet almost all of the new proposals from Democrats are new regulations and restrictions on firearms dealers, while almost none is focused on the relatively small body of prior offenders who carry out most murder and other violent crime. The progressives are protesting the NRA in Houston and not in front of city hall in Philadelphia or St. Louis.

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