Political Animal


January 09, 2013 4:22 PM Return of the Town Hall Wars

By Ed Kilgore

TPM’s Evan McMorris-Santoro files a report on a town hall meeting on gun violence held by California’s centrist Democratic congressman Mike Thompson:

On Tuesday night, Thompson hosted the first of three gun violence town halls in his northern California district. As they vowed to do, gun control opponents showed up in force to make their case against new regulations. But, according to local reports of the meeting, they were met with equally impassioned gun control proponents. It’s a preview of what might happen after the White House and Thompson reveal their post-Newtown legislative proposals: opposition to gun control is likely to be met by vocal support for new gun regulations that is just as loud.

McMorris-Santoro notes this brings back memories of the equally impassioned by largely one-sided participation in town hall meetings during congressional consideration of the Affordable Care Act.

I’m not sure if it’s safe to assume citizens favoring gun regulations will be as well-represented in town halls in North Georgia as opposed to Northern California. But there’s a difference in context that should make progressives welcome rather than fear such events.

The ACA, after all, was a new and complex piece of legislation that was easier to demagogue against than to explain. All the shouting may have influenced some well-intentioned people it needed more scrutiny or even a fresh congressional start.

In the case of gun regulations, pretty much everybody in the country has heard the arguments on both sides for years and seen the same sad news stories of various massacres. If Second Amendment absolutists want to flood town hall meetings and shriek about conspiracies to take away their hunting rifles or their right to stockpile military weapons in case they decide it’s time to start shooting cops and members of the armed forces to stop shut acts of tyranny as Obamacare—well, let ‘em have at it. I do not think the case for gun-nuttery gets any stronger from discussion, at whatever volume.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on January 09, 2013 4:37 PM:

    The Conservatives, who have been on the wrong side of EVERY Civil Right's issue since Og, the Liberal Caveman, decided to bring Mrs. Og on the hunt, and Zook, the Conservatice Caveman, decided he had to kill them both, because Og and his Mrs. had tainted his manly hunting experience with her icky lady parts, have now decided that THEY are the TRUE fighters for Civil Rights - because zygotes and gun-owners are the most put-upon victims in ALL of feckin' human history!

    A woman's right to choose, and a person's (mostly males) right to kill, are exactly like "Blah" people's rights, women's rights, and gay rights.

    Welcome, one and all, to the new, Conservative Civil Rights Error!

    "Cold Civil War," indeed...

  • boatboy_srq on January 09, 2013 5:17 PM:

    [T]he case for gun-nuttery [does not] get any stronger from discussion

    That's a delightful sentiment. Unfortunately, gun-nuttery has a real appeal to a non-inconsequential percentage of the citizenry, regardless of the volume of the discussion. As long as they're shouting and not shooting, though, there's still a good chance that they won't decide they've done enough of the first option.

    I for one would have a lot more sympathy for the 2nd Amendment shouters if they also demanded universal service and reintroduction of the Draft. If, as they insist, guns are necessary for Patriotic Ahmurrcan Citizens™ to defend their country, then all Patriotic Ahmurrcan Citizens™ ought to be trained in their proper use - which means learning how the country can and should be defended, which in turn means military service. Granted, a substantial number would be washed out in boot camp for fitness (physical and mental), but there are plenty of other venues for public service that could be used in place of donning a uniform - and would be a useful metric in weighing the value of the statements of those who couldn't serve in their preferred capacity (as opposed to those who just wouldn't). And if we start demanding universal service, we'll learn very quickly which of these dingbats really wants to protect the US of A - and which ones just want license to shoot up anyone they don't particularly like.

  • Mitch on January 09, 2013 5:57 PM:

    As a resident of Thompson's district, I can say that there are WAY more wannabe rednecks here in NorCal than I would have imagined before moving here a decade ago. They are as obnoxious, angry and full of it as anyone from, say, Kentucky, my State of origin. They might be even angrier here in California, since they are in the "heart of darkness" from their point of view.

    So I am not surprised at all that gun nuts had a strong showing. I don't, however, agree that "opposition to gun control is likely to be met by vocal support for new gun regulations that is just as loud" when it comes to the rest of the nation. Let's be real here: The South, the Plains and the Southwest will be 3000% in support of gun ownership (not an exaggeration).

    I hate senseless violence and think that widespread gun ownership is stupid and dangerous, but I seriously doubt that increased regulations are a good idea right now. Why's that? Gun control won't take many weapons off of the street, and will be used by the GOP to help secure their victory in the midterms.

    I would prefer it if the Dems fought for Progressive economic policies with half of the passion that some feel regarding gun control. Because—while gun violence is horrible—the economy is more important for the stability of our nation and world. And this kind of stuff is ALWAYS used against the Democratic Party ... one need to look no further than the advertisement on this very blog, already saying that Obama want to "ban guns" (remember, always click on Conservative links; that way they help pay for this site!).

    I'm all for stricter gun laws, don't misunderstand me. I am just exhausted by the way that the GOP wins most economic policy battles, and how we're told that (to quote Ed from the other day) "an attitude of permanent belligerency is no cure-all" when it comes to the economy or whatever. Oh, yeah, and we're supposed to ignore Obama keeping Bush's enhanced executive powers to spy on American citizens, or letting the CIA drone-bomb random folks in the War on Terror. But, hey, let's fight for gun control tooth and nail, regardless of if any of that actually helps get guns off of the street and out of the hands of unstable or violent people.

    If Dems could fight for the middle class the way they can fight for social issues, then my opinion would be other than it is. Maybe my priorities are just different than many Dems, or maybe there is no Party that represents left-of-center economics in America anymore. But I think that we would have much more success when it comes to social issues if we had more success with economic ones, and would have more moral weight behind our words, if our actions did not often mirror those of the GOP (when it comes to National Security).

  • Al on January 09, 2013 6:39 PM:

    Real simple solution: never mind gun control, place AMMO control.

    Background checks for anyone buying more than 50 bullets at a time or something.

    All them guns and rifles stockpiled by gun nuts and teatards won't mean squat without bullets. You cannot stockpile them forever I believe, you HAVE to buy frecuently, and also fire your guns frecuently, so chocke the beast by the neck: access to bullets.

  • TR on January 09, 2013 7:08 PM:

    I do not think the case for gun-nuttery gets any stronger from discussion, at whatever volume.

    To the contrary, a bunch of gun nuts screaming and shouting like Tea Party morons will only help make the case for more gun control.

  • Mimikatz on January 09, 2013 7:37 PM:

    Currency transactions above $10,000 have to be feported to the Treasury. If we can't ban bullets at least require that any transaction of more than, say, 100 bullets has to be reported to a federal database. And whatever happened to that idea of having tracing material in billets so they could be tracked?

    If we concentrate on trafficking, cracking down on straw purchasers and on the volume of bullets sold it would help alot. But I agree economic progress (more jobs, less inequality) would help a great many of our problems, which is why the GOP won't help being that about.