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How Right-Wingers Still Run America, Despite Losing Elections

From guns to Social Security to FISA, the real majority party prevails while liberals lose out again.

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Most recently, with the prospect of new gun-safety legislation on the horizon, the House and Senate appropriations committees — including both Republicans and Democrats — have tacked “riders” onto a short-term spending agreement that make permanent what had previously been a set of temporary, pro-gun provisions. The bill prohibits the Justice Department from keeping an inventory of gun dealers. It also prevents the ATF from refusing to renew the licenses of dealers “due to a lack of business activity,” thereby hampering law enforcement’s ability to clamp down on illegitimate dealers, and includes a requirement that the ATF disclose in its reports that gun trace data “cannot be used to draw broad conclusions about firearms-related crime.” The details of these amendments are “boring” — they rarely make headlines. However, they do tie the hands of the ATF and send a message to the dealers: We have your back. And the ATF agents would be foolish to ignore the implied warning: Take it easy or expect new obstacles. Case in point: In January 2013, President Obama sought to reinvigorate the agency by giving it a director (something it has not had in six years), but his nominee, B. Todd Jones, has yet to be confirmed because of conservative opposition. This further hamstrings the ATF, as there are many operations that agencies without a director are banned from undertaking.

A favorite line of the National Rifle Association is, “Why not just enforce the laws that are already on the books?” A very good question, and the answer is exceedingly clear: Because the conservative party won’t let us. Further, we will not progress in curbing gun violence — or on most other political fronts — until we correctly read the political layout.

We have a conservative majority and a liberal minority, not two more or less equal parties. How we may change this line-up is the political challenge of the generation. But one thing is for sure: Simply voting for Democrats will not do the trick.

 

Amitai Etzioni is a University Professor at The George Washington University, and author of  From Empire to Community .

 
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