I think we should revisit the Liberal platform on gun control/gun rights. While the overall platform of stricter gun laws is a politically viable stance in many US regions, in others, such as deep-red communities, or any communities with a deep affinity for gun ownership, this stance potentially leaves Democratic candidates particularly vulnerable. I think for these candidates, they should adjust their policy to simply advocate for further funding of gun violence and injuries research.
Few other issues offer Republicans an easy target on which to attack Democrats. Their main weapon, Obamacare, is losing viability by the day, and other than character assassinations and swiftboating, they will be looking for other means by which to attack Democrats. Rather than leaving guns, or any issue, a vulnerability, we should have a way to make sure those issues are ineffective, and ideally, become a strength.
Personally, I am of the camp that would like to see guns banned in my lifetime. However, from a political standpoint, not only is this not feasible, but also, in a lot of regions in the US, stances that favor increasing gun control in any way is a liability for Democrats. Ideally, Liberals should be able to put forth a position that moves policy more towards the left no matter what, but can also be a political strength. However, in a lot of these cases, we end up with Democratic candidates who choose between staying silent on the whole issue, or pandering to the gun lobby. Do we really want to leave those Democrats unable to put forth a viable agenda on this issue, or worse, being attacked on this issue? At the same time, even if the goal of stricter gun controls is not attainable, isn't there an option somewhere in the middle that nevertheless stands in contrast to the status quo?
Of course, I'm not necessarily advocating that the Liberal position is automatically for stricter gun laws. But if anything, the Liberal position should stand distinctively above all others, in that we try to find the best balance of regulation that leads to safe gun ownership. In these areas where guns are a major issue, "regulation" is not a political winner, but I still think "balance" can be.
While candidates in safely blue areas can run on stricter gun laws, candidates in the other areas need a plan on guns that does not automatically equal gun control but is still a way to put the Republican position in a tight spot. For example, focusing on policies, such as reducing suicides, or encouraging gun owners to follow safe practices, that do not carry with them the animosity that other more direct forms of gun control unfortunately suffer from. To use football analogy, the Seahawks do not go out every week and play against every team with the same strategy and tactics, but they always approach it with a focus on their defense; they're not going to change their strategy so drastically that they rely more on their offense. Democrats need to be the same if we want to move forward, take back the House, and many more state legislatures and governors mansions. It is possible to remain Liberal, while also modifying the message to provide the best chance at success.
As an analogy, I would like to point to the Affordable Care Act. By many measures, Liberals would like a more progressive health plan, such as single-payer; however, would they be willing to sacrifice the success of the millions of Americans who now have health insurance thanks to the ACA, over an ideologically more pure policy? The way I see it, the ACA has been a great step towards more Progressive healthcare, and yes we did have to sacrifice some Progressive goals along the way. But now that the ACA is here and helping millions, those Progressive goals that used to be off the table, I would say they are closer to becoming reality than they were with the system we had a few short years ago.
If we have to choose between a Democrat who wins a red seat by pandering to the gun lobby, and a Democrat who takes a liberal stance on guns but loses the election, I would rather take the third option: a Democrat who wins while still taking a liberal stance. The question then is, what is that stance?
Simple: Fund the research.
No calling for stricter gun control. No howls of claiming that they're coming to take away their guns.
Simply, hey, maybe the gun control we have now is enough, or may it is too much, but either way, we won't know until we do some serious research and studies.
First, let's figure out what guns are costing us, and what more gun control measures will cost us, and then go from there.
But look at my Republican opponent. He or she does not have all the facts, because nobody does, because he has stood in the way of this important research. If guns are safe enough, why not conduct the research to prove it?
So now, if the Republican candidate wants to bring up guns against the Democratic candidate, they can just simply say, all I'm trying to do is get research on the issue. Why would you want a candidate who makes his policy without the relevant information?
Perhaps you are cynical about the constituents in these red areas, and wonder how much they can be convinced by this line of thinking. Regardless of how partisan they might be, I think for most of us, simply saying, "Shouldn't we look into it first?", does still speak volumes.
I think this is a simple policy to neutralize the gun issue for Democratic candidates. Further developed, it could even become a winning message, or a message that leaves Republicans struggling to come up with an answer, such as with Obamacare.
To be sure, the majority of this treatment is about the politics, because politics is how we get things done in this country. Having candidates who will assuredly improve gun control is great, but only insofar as they can get elected.
No matter what, getting Democrats elected in red seats is difficult. But that is exactly where we want to attack Republicans: not in the safe blue seats, and not in the swing districts, but deep in their home territory. And if we're going to play in their territory, we might as well make sure we attack as strongly as possible. Having the issue of guns on our side, rather than against, should be a no-brainer.
That is why we need a Progressive answer that works, not just in blue areas, and not just in red areas, but an answer that is just as fluid as the citizens of the United States. And given Republicans' recent compunction for adhering to their less flexible Tea Party constituency, that leaves open many more possibilities than you might think.