Third Way Perspectives
Posts Tagged ‘Gun Safety’
May 28th, 2014
Until last weekend, I thought I understood better than most that so long as gun laws remain weak and rife with loopholes and our mental health system continues to let people fall through the cracks, gun violence can happen anywhere. After all, I’ve been to Newtown and met with the Sandy Hook parents in a neighborhood that looks just like the one where I grew up. And the Navy Yard shooting last fall that claimed 12 innocent lives took place only blocks from my Washington, D.C. apartment. But it didn’t really sink in until I woke up Saturday morning to discover that overnight six students at my alma mater were gunned down or stabbed to death in Isla Vista, California, with another 13 injured. It happened in the neighborhood where I lived for years as a college student at the University of California, Santa Barbara; in the neighborhood where my brother lives now as a post-doctoral researcher at that same university. Victims who were targeted for being young college women, just like my little sister—who only decided at the last minute to attend UCLA rather than UCSB.
In two weeks I am flying back to California to watch her graduate—but now six families just like mine will be attending funerals, not graduations. I don’t know what cracks the shooter fell through in our imperfect system that allowed him to pass a background check and purchase guns. But I do know now that current gun laws are not sufficient to keep me and family and friends safe.
Yet many Americans don’t have that knowledge. I envy them, in a way, because it means that senseless and preventable gun violence has never infringed so personally on their lives. But it is precisely that knowledge divide that makes common sense gun laws so hard to pass, despite strong public support in national polls.
Take Third Way’s latest poll, for instance—released less than two weeks before the mass murder at UCSB. On one hand, 84% of moderates—who make up more than a third of the American electorate—and 81% of all Americans supported expanding criminal background checks for gun purchases. But at the same time, 58% of moderates and 60% of all Americans also said that they already think current gun laws are sufficient to protect to them and their communities. Gun violence doesn’t happen in neighborhoods like theirs, they feel, so these laws don’t really affect them.
This tension between generally supporting background checks but believing that they are unnecessary for their families’ protection led to moderates dividing right down the middle when we asked whether the country needs more government ground rules on guns, or whether it should put more trust in individuals. Unlike liberals, who by an overwhelming 58 points said that we need more government ground rules, or conservatives who preferred trusting individuals by more than 40 points, only nine points separated the 53% of moderates who chose more ground rules over the 44% who said to trust individuals. Guns safety advocates and their champions in elected office too often overlook these conflicted moderates. Instead of talking past them, we need to talk to them—recognize that they are torn on this issue and that the half of American homes that own guns want safe neighborhoods just as much as the half that don’t.
This weekend, yet another community was forced to come to the terrible realization that without stronger guns laws and a better mental health system, nowhere is truly safe—even a beach town full of college students on a holiday weekend. I was lucky. It’s been five years since I graduated, or I might have been out with friends getting fro-yo at 9:30 on a Friday. My brother was out of town, ironically enough visiting my sister at her college campus for the weekend. But six kids weren’t, and now they aren’t coming home. Passing gun laws isn’t easy, especially given the disconnect many Americans feel exists between gun laws and their own lives. But it’s so much less painful than the alternative, as we saw again last weekend.
July 15th, 2013
by Matt Bennett
Just weeks after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary that killed 20 first-graders and six adults, the parents and families of some of the victims came to Washington. They were here to meet with the Vice President, cabinet members and Senators. But they didn’t come just to receive high-level condolences—they were here to wade into some of the roughest waters in American politics: the gun debate.
Third Way was called upon to help the families navigate those waters and master the policy and politics of guns. We have been working closely with them ever since.
Now, I’ve written about that experience in a new essay published by the Brookings Institution.
“The Promise”—the second installment in the new “Brookings Essay” series—is a multi-media, multi-platform, long-form product that explores the politics of guns in the context of Sandy Hook. It tracks the transformation of Sandy Hook Promise, the group that organized the families, from a deeply sympathetic victim-advocacy organization into a force to be reckoned with in the modern gun debate.
It’s quite a story, and Brookings has done a great job of making it come alive with illustrations, video, photos and other resources. I hope you’ll take a look.
Read “The Promise” by visiting www.brookings.edu/ThePromise.
April 28th, 2010
This piece was originally published on The Huffington Post.
In the ongoing effort to de-maverick himself, yesterday’s news that he is a lead sponsor of a bill to eliminate DC’s gun laws must go down as the most spectacular and blatant reversal in Senator McCain’s political career: