Hey guys, I saw that Galleta came back and went right back to being an asshole so he is now banned indefinitely.

Sorry for the trouble. Everyone else — don’t be a jerk.

Expand full comment
Nov 25, 2020Liked by Matthew Yglesias

This seems like a great example of a piece that wouldn't fit into Matt's mandate at Vox. I appreciate how provocative and persuasive it is. I started reading it with skepticism, but was sold by the end; it reminded me of Sam Harris's "Fireplace Delusion" essay https://samharris.org/the-fireplace-delusion/

Expand full comment
Nov 25, 2020Liked by Matthew Yglesias

I'm for ultra-rigorous gun control; but I found this piece highly stimulating and ultimately -- depressingly -- convincing. Like your other stuff, it shows that you're both willing and able to follow facts and reason to a conclusion in which you're not invested.

I'm getting news and commentary from a variety of good sources, but I can see that I'll have a special need for Slow Boring. Thanks.

Expand full comment

To me the key is "doesn't produce any gun control." It's worth taking a political hit on stuff that improves the country (example: Obamacare!). But for various reasons (some of which Matt elucidates), America is quite a long ways from implementing sane gun control policies.

First comment from new subscriber, by the way. For the record I got a raise today. Normal people go out for cocktails (this is pretty safe and pretty feasible here in Beijing) to celebrate, or maybe buy a new pair of shoes. I purchase wonkery and commenting privileges.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Here's to hoping 2021's Thanksgiving is a lot better (I bet it will be).

Expand full comment

This is such a great post, but it’s one that I find it hard to comment on. I’m a gun owner. I own an AR. I understand where people are coming from, but because gun rights is intertwined with cultural issues, people become very passionate. And I think this passion combined with cultural views, blinds people from efficient decisions.

I just want to say, that I respect everyone’s opinions. And I hope everyone has a great holiday.

Expand full comment

Gun control is the #1 least understood topic by liberals in my opinion. When conservatives complain that liberals know nothing about guns: I completely agree with them. Not only do liberals rarely know anything about the issue itself, they typically never fired a gun either.

As a gun owner: I'm totally fine with more control. Heck, I'd even give up my gun if we as a society decided gun ownership is no longer desirable. But I can empathize with the other side; I am curious how much a complete lack of faith in institutions increases support for gun ownership.

As for alcohol, there is (I suspect) one big difference between alcohol and guns: scope. I would imagine drinking alcohol is a far more popular hobby (with more bipartisan support) than shooting guns. Just a guess.

Expand full comment

I think the general rule Democrats and progressives should follow is to focus on big problems which are open to solution and to avoid symbolic causes with few practical consequences but which serve to castigate the other side and signify moral virtue.

Guns are a huge problem but with no obvious solution. Therefore gun control falls into the second category. Fighting the "religious freedom" efforts to protect, e.g., anti-gay bakeries, also falls into the second category because it's such a trivial problem that will be solved by the passage of time and the building wave of acceptance of the gay community. (I imagine the children of most of these bakery owners roll their eyes at their parents' attitudes.)

Focus on big things that can be solved, like climate change and improving healthcare access. Wean activists off symbolic fights and try to get them to commit to actions that actually improve people's lives.

Expand full comment

Meta: Galleta is back and trolling relentlessly, as predicted by everybody. Time for a swift banhammer.

Expand full comment

The analogy to alcohol and drug prohibition is a good one. These are all public health issues where the most effective solutions start with realism about what is and isn't possible in light of human preferences and behavior,.

If Democrats really wanted to reduce gun deaths they'd probably stop with the antigun rhetoric and instead try to foster a culture of responsible gun ownership and build alliances and credibility with responsible gun owners (the vast majority of gun owners). We need more organizations like what the NRA used to be, before it was captured by grifting nutcases.

Expand full comment

I liked this piece, and it's true that the anti-gun argument is largely beset by a misunderstanding of the scale and cause of the problem. As a prudential matter, it would obviously make a lot of sense for Democrats to more or less never talk about gun control.

The pro-gun argument however, is, if anything, built even more on faulty data and misunderstandings about the world than the naive anti-gun view. Around two-thirds of gun-owners put personal protection as the prime reason for owing a firearm*, far ahead of other reasons like hunting or sport.

In reality, though, owning guns puts you more at risk -you greatly increase the chance of accidents at home, of someone in your family taking your weapon, of making yourself a target for theft etc**.

First of all this make the comparison with alcohol moot. Our primary reason for drinking is enjoyment and pleasure and we are willing to make the trade-off with the health and societal costs (rightly or wrongly). With guns, people claim that they want them for safety, all the while gun-ownership is making them and their families less safe ! Should democrats just not mention that this a fundamentally wrong-headed calculation?

Aside from legislative decision-making, is there an argument that Dems should be making that whilst owning numerous guns to protect yourself and those around you does not make you a criminal, it does make you irrational and irresponsible?

* https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/10/22/facts-about-guns-in-united-states/#:~:text=2Protection%20tops%20the%20list,8%25)%20are%20major%20reasons.

** https://www.vox.com/2015/10/1/18000520/gun-risk-death

Expand full comment

Thanks for the comparison with alcohol -- it's a point too often left out of the public conversation. Morally it's close to an identical issue with guns, as you point out actually it's the greater evil, but liberals can't see it because with alcohol it's *their* culture, whereas guns are hick.

Another issue I think we're similarly blinded on is the personal morality of purchasing illegal drugs. Not because "drugs are bad lol" but because buying things like marijuana through illegal channels funds horrific drug massacres in Mexico and elsewhere. But bring this up to a vegan marijuana smoker who abstains from meat because of the cruelties of factory farming and you'll get shouted out of the room.

Expand full comment

I think this is mostly right on. The major additional factor I'd like to hear about is: the impact of the Parkland HS shooting and subsequent youth-driven activism. I wonder if that had an effect in driving youth involvement in the 2018 mid-terms and 2020. I'm a teacher and noticed that Parkland broke through to teenagers more that most political issues (even the impeachment).

Expand full comment

Another underappreciated demand side issue is the decline of hunting. It used to be a significant portion of the electorate owned guns for hunting, saw hunting as a family tradition and a reflection of their way of life, and that offered a way for Democrats to reach out to them.

Even the photo ops that get made fun of (John Kerry in 2004) were arguably part of a successful electoral strategy (given Matt's longstanding praise of Kerry's 2004 campaign).

With the decline of hunters, more and more the remaining gun owners are really focused on gun ownership as an expression of white cultural resentment in terms of "security" and "protecting my home and family." This influences an approach to politics that is more than just gun ownership. It combines "law and order" with a fear of "the other" which feeds into the broader xenophobic message of the GOP today.

Expand full comment

Good piece - it persuaded me to subscribe!

Coming from the UK, though, I don't think that comparison quite works. The UK has never had much of a broad tradition of gun ownership, and the unarmed police force long predates effective gun control, and goes back to the aftermath of Peterloo, and the need for some kind of civilian crowd control. In other words, it relates directly to the kinds of racial/class conflicts we now see in the US. Hence "the police are the public and the public are the police". The only major gun control issue the UK has had historically was service firearms linked to major conflicts. As I recall my Grandfather kept his service revolver for 30 years after WW2.

The better comparison I think is with Australia, which did have more of a US style tradition of gun ownership, and went through the process of weapons bans, mandatory buybacks and the like that you describe. The Australian example supports your overall argument better, because one of the reasons it worked is that the major step was taken by the Australian right under John Howard. Gun control is much more likely to be effective if it is brought in by the right, as part of an internal debate in a party's rural/suburban coalition, rather than as part of a partizan dispute, partly because it diffuses the tension rather, but partly also because it allows for a more honest conversation involving people who have longstanding experience of rural communities and gun ownership about what would actually be necessary.

Would welcome your thoughts on this!

Expand full comment

Perhaps we could ask New Mexico Democrats for advice? That state has some of the most libertarian gun laws around, yet it's moved decisively toward Democrats over the last two decades. New Mexico Democrats control all statewide offices, and control the trifecta. I've just about reached the limit of my knowledge on this matter, but perhaps some others here might have insight as to how this has come to be.

Expand full comment

I’ve been making a similar point to my wealthier liberal friends in a major city (Chicago) for years now, and I think it’s sinking in a bit.

Take the assault weapons ban. Per the FBI in 2017, just 4% of firearm murders were carried out by a rifle of any sort, which would include both semi-automatic rifles like AR-15 variants, as well as hunting rifles. This amount to around 400 deaths, equivalent to 4 days worth of deaths from car crashes in this country.

I’ve lived in the South as well, and I can say that a lot of the “from my cold dead hands” type are dead serious. Even if you assume that none of those 400 deaths would be carried out with a different gun, and that’s a tall order, it no way is it worth the massive destabilization that would occur if there was a serious push for just the assault weapons ban. People would think it’s just a ploy (thanks Beto) for full confiscation of the 15 million or so semi-automatic rifles in this country. It’s just not worth it. No matter how logical you think a reform would be, even if .01% of those people got violent, there could be a serious wave of domestic terrorism, which would then be countered by a civil liberties crackdown potentially like France is doing right now.

Any policy decision needs to take the facts on the ground into account. Getting normative without factoring in the descriptive is just tilting at windmills.

Expand full comment