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Kirsten Gillibrand and the gun issue:

In today's National Review Online, I suggest that it would be politically self-defeating for Sen. Gillibrand to reverse her position on Second Amendment issues.

As my article explains, in 1996 incumbent Republican Representative Daniel Frisa faced a challenge from Carolyn McCarthy, and so he did an about-face on gun issues, while claiming that he had been consistent all along. Thus, "Voters could see that McCarthy had a sincere and consistent position on gun control, while Frisa changed his position based on transparent political calculation. Frisa's flip-flop undoubtedly made voters wonder which of his other supposed convictions he would abandon when it became politically useful. McCarthy crushed him in the general election by 58 to 41 percent."

Gillibrand's strong support for the Second Amendment is likely an advantage in the general election, and a flip-flop would doom her in the primary.

wohjr (mail):
DK-

I'm curious why you write that KG would face issues in the primary? You mean the general election, perhaps? Color me naive, but as a life-long New Yorker this is one issue on which I would be quite pleased to see a flip-flop, as I imagine many of my fellow residents would be as well. One of the greatest threats facing Gillebrand as she looks to re-election is being primaried from the left, particularly on the gun issue (see, e.g. Rep. Maloney). She has already "softened" her position on LBGT rights and immigration...
2.24.2009 11:41am
RichW (mail):
Gibrand will do well in upstate NY, basically north of Westchester. Westchester, NYC and Long Island are another story. This is where the rabid anti-gunners reside or at least the very vocal ones. The 1911 Sullivan law was created by these people not for themselves but to keep guns out of the hands of the great unwashed. For a typical but fairly accurate portrayal of the situation of wealthy vs. poor you could watch the movie Newsies.
Can she win without the downstate part. Yes if she sticks to her positions and stays what she has been. Upstate will vote for her because they are tired of the outsiders. It will be tight though.
2.24.2009 11:45am
gerbilsbite:
Absent polling evidence to the contrary, I think all you've got is weak conjecture: Gillibrand would be less likely to win the Primary without catering to the views of the NYC bloc that will likely swing that vote, and without those voters turning out in force I don't see her being particularly strong in November.

(Also, what compelled you to rhetorically employ "McCarthyism" to describe Carolyn McCarthy's stance on gun rights--is there a particularly strong similarity between supporting stricter gun laws and creating a latter-day witch hunt wherein all manner of innocent people have their characters disparaged and their livelihoods stripped from them? And what on earth made you think that calling her husband's killer "a black racist" was in any way relevant--and why did you decide to use that descriptor rather than "an insane guy who ranted against both black and white in his rambling notes," which would be far more accurate and far less inflammatory?)
2.24.2009 11:56am
Anon21:
Frankly, the zombie focus on gun control/rights is fairly far from politically relevant, Prof. Kopel. For the time being, this aspect of the culture wars is over, because conservatives won. Liberal politicians don't see any mileage out of the gun issue; it only hurts them with working class voters who might otherwise be sympathetic to liberal economic policies. (Particularly strange is some right bloggers' desire to find a nefarious plot against the Second Amendment in the Obama DoJ, when it's clear the issue couldn't be further from its collective mind.) Gun control is not going to be a high-profile issue outside of a few specific local races for some time to come, and your article presents fairly little evidence why NY-Sen is a race we should expect the issue to be prominent in.
2.24.2009 12:13pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Particularly strange is some right bloggers' desire to find a nefarious plot against the Second Amendment in the Obama DoJ, when it's clear the issue couldn't be further from its collective mind.
So why was bringing back the federal assault weapons ban up on the White House website within an hour of Obama taking the oath of office?
2.24.2009 12:27pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

And what on earth made you think that calling her husband's killer "a black racist" was in any way relevant--and why did you decide to use that descriptor rather than "an insane guy who ranted against both black and white in his rambling notes," which would be far more accurate and far less inflammatory?)
Hmmm. Wikipedia's description of his defense is:

Ferguson's defense team had proposed an innovative defense that he had been driven to temporary insanity by black rage, and that he should not be held criminally liable, even though he had committed the killings.
That's what I recall at the time was his argument--that he was taking revenge on white people for racism.

Mentally ill? Clearly. But we dare not ask why our society has decided that the severely mentally ill should be out on the streets.
2.24.2009 12:34pm
Fact Checker:
Mentally ill? Clearly. But we dare not ask why our society has decided that the severely mentally ill should be out on the streets.

It is ironic that Clayton, who sees the 2nd Amendment as a cornerstone of liberty, is so eager to deprive the mentally ill of all liberty as a supposed solution to their access to guns.
2.24.2009 12:39pm
Steve:
Voters could see that McCarthy had a sincere and consistent position on gun control, while Frisa changed his position based on transparent political calculation. Frisa's flip-flop undoubtedly made voters wonder which of his other supposed convictions he would abandon when it became politically useful.

This seems like a conclusion in search of supporting evidence. We don't know what other factors were present, we obviously don't know how the election would have turned out if he had stuck to his guns.
2.24.2009 12:41pm
PubliusFL:
gerbilsbite: Gillibrand would be less likely to win the Primary without catering to the views of the NYC bloc that will likely swing that vote, and without those voters turning out in force I don't see her being particularly strong in November.

In that case, an interesting scenario would be if Gillibrand sticks to her guns (hoping to win on the basis of her upstate support) and loses the primary, in the process denying the Democrats the incumbency advantage going into the general election and simultaneously firing up upstate independent and Blue Dog Democrat voters against the hard-left NYC Dem pick. That might be the GOP's best hope for a fighting chance of winning the seat.
2.24.2009 1:25pm
Eli Rabett (www):
It probably depends on how many strong opponents are in the field. If there is only one (say Cuomo for argument's sake) she loses the primary on the gun issue. If there are two or more (Patterson and Cuomo for example), they split the vote on the gun control side, while she picks up the gunners.
2.24.2009 1:34pm
Siskiyou (mail):
Anon 21: "This aspect of the culture wars is over, because conservatives won." Heller? Not really. And in any event, not in California.
2.24.2009 1:47pm
SeaDrive:

So why was bringing back the federal assault weapons ban up on the White House website within an hour of Obama taking the oath of office?


Anyone relying on the pro-gun blogspace for his news would think that the creator of the revisions to the White House Website made a specific point of posting something about firearms. If you look at the web site, it's pretty clear that it was an lightly edited version some campaign material, and the gun stuff was dragged along willy-nilly.

Obama glossed over gun issues in the campaign with vague comments designed to be comfortable for his base. The real action on gun control right now is in the state houses (some going left, some going right). The real risk to gun ownership is the chance of a new horrific gun event, not new proposals from the administration.
2.24.2009 1:50pm
Michael Ejercito (mail) (www):

It is ironic that Clayton, who sees the 2nd Amendment as a cornerstone of liberty, is so eager to deprive the mentally ill of all liberty as a supposed solution to their access to guns.

It makes perfect sense.

If the mentally ill can not be trusted with guns, why would it be wrong to intern them in camps or otherwise monitor their whereabouts on a regular basis like what is done with parolees?
2.24.2009 2:04pm
LarryA (mail) (www):
I'm curious why you write that KG would face issues in the primary? You mean the general election, perhaps?
There are a lot more pro-gun Democrats than commonly believed.
One of the greatest threats facing Gillebrand as she looks to re-election is being primaried from the left, particularly on the gun issue (see, e.g. Rep. Maloney).
The point of the article was that a flip-flop is more harmful than taking either position.
is there a particularly strong similarity between supporting stricter gun laws and creating a latter-day witch hunt wherein all manner of innocent people have their characters disparaged and their livelihoods stripped from them?v
I can think of several examples, besides McCarthy's call for refusing to seat Gillibrand. Sarah Palin springs to mind. Charlton Heston attracted a lot of vitriol, including that from Michael Moore. On a grander scale, the Lautenberg Amendment in 1997 added everyone with a misdemeanor conviction for anything related to domestic violence to the list of those prohibited from possessing firearms, and did so retroactively. Thousands of cops and soldiers lost their professions over that one. A current Brady proposal is to add everyone on the Federal no-fly list, people without even an arrest record, much less a conviction. I personally had a gun control advocate threaten to boycott a non-profit I was working for if they didn't fire me because I teach people to shoot.
Gun control is not going to be a high-profile issue outside of a few specific local races for some time to come,
U.S. Congress, House Bill 45.
It is ironic that Clayton, who sees the 2nd Amendment as a cornerstone of liberty, is so eager to deprive the mentally ill of all liberty as a supposed solution to their access to guns.
Violently mentally ill people need to be kept away from other people. Keeping guns away from them at the same time is a side benefit.
In that case, an interesting scenario would be if Gillibrand sticks to her guns (hoping to win on the basis of her upstate support) and loses the primary, in the process denying the Democrats the incumbency advantage going into the general election and simultaneously firing up upstate independent and Blue Dog Democrat voters against the hard-left NYC Dem pick. That might be the GOP's best hope for a fighting chance of winning the seat.
Second interesting scenario: President Obama or the Democrats in Congress do press the gun control button with registration, "assault weapons" ban, etc. just as the Clinton administration did. The resulting 2010 gun rights backlash makes the pro-gun Gillibrand the only NY Democrat who could possibly survive the resulting House/Senate cleaning. (As happened in 1994.)
"sticks to her guns"
Right on.
2.24.2009 2:20pm
Yankev (mail):

And what on earth made you think that calling her husband's killer "a black racist" was in any way relevant--and why did you decide to use that descriptor rather than "an insane guy who ranted against both black and white in his rambling notes," which would be far more accurate and far less inflammatory?
In addition to the Wikipedia information cited above, I remember his statement after his arrest that he deliberately waited to start his attack until the train had left New York City, so as not to embarrass Mayor Dinkins, out of consideration for a black public official.
2.24.2009 2:47pm
Dan M.:
My goodness, people who think that Obama doesn't have an anti-gun agenda are delusional. Rahm Emanuel has explicitly told the Bradys that he supports their proposal to use the No-Fly list to deny gun rights. President Obama specifically wants to undo the Tiahrt Amendment so that Bloomberg will have more access to gun trace data so he can sue people. President Obama wants to legally mandate childproof guns. It's all on his fucking website and you call us delusional.
2.24.2009 3:42pm
Closet Libertarian (www):
Maybe she should just stick to her principles.
2.24.2009 3:52pm
James Gibson (mail):
What it comes down to is whether there is a State of New York, or just a city surrounded by unpopulated land. As Wickipedia puts it, 40% of the State's population lives in New York City. As Schumer himself stated Gillibrand comes from an area with fewer people per square mile then any NYC resident and thus she represents "Montana" and not New York Residents (my interpretation of his words).

But here is the real issue. Until recently the only Dem onclave in upstate New York was in Albany. They have made gains in recent years, but a lot of this seems to be infighting among the republicans. The State Republicans have literally thrown the last two Senate votes to the Dems by not having a primary and having the party candidate selected by the Party leadership. So in reverse Schumer and others want the Dems to essentially disenfranchise all up state dems and select their representative. In this regard I think the present Governor was actually very smart in selecting Gillibrand, in that he is trying to build on party gains in the Up-state segments.

Thus comes the real question. When the State is made up of 5.5 million dems of which maybe 65% are in New York city that means the city produces about 3.5 million votes. But Republicans, conservatives and Independents in state produce around 3.6 million votes.

If the Up State Dems vote on party lines alone the Dem will win.

If the up-staters don't vote at all because they don't like the candidate selected by the City folk because she doesn't represent their thinking (AKA Conservative Democrat), the Dems will lose.

And if they get really ticked because the party leaders in Albany and New York selected a super liberal wot go with super liberal Chucky who has already declared that Up-staters are unimportant Moose burger eaters, they could become Independents or switch parties and really give the Democratic party in New York City a hard time.

In the end its so much fun noting that the Diverse, Open Democratic party thst so likes to call the Republicans the old boys club can show themselve to be nothing but Urban liberals with no room for Suburban or rual democrats.
2.24.2009 7:15pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

It is ironic that Clayton, who sees the 2nd Amendment as a cornerstone of liberty, is so eager to deprive the mentally ill of all liberty as a supposed solution to their access to guns.
Actually, as a solution to a whole host of serious problems. Freezing death rates more than doubled from 1974-84 in the United States, and the demographics of those who froze to death in places like DC look suspiciously like sleeping in public parks in winter isn't a good strategy for the mentally ill. Death rates for the mentally ill homeless from exposure, tuberculosis, violence, malnutrition, alcohol poisoning, and a pile of similar problems, are shockingly high. It has been a disaster for the mentally ill, and it has degraded the quality of life in many American cities. It is difficult for those who grew up after 1980 to have any idea how dramatically and rapidly urban life changed, as the mentally ill homeless became a sizeable fraction of the population in many cities.
2.25.2009 11:17am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

It is ironic that Clayton, who sees the 2nd Amendment as a cornerstone of liberty, is so eager to deprive the mentally ill of all liberty as a supposed solution to their access to guns.
I'm also interested in depriving convicted murderers of all liberty, too, although for a rather different reason. You can either insist that those who are too criminal or too ill be deprived of some liberty, or you can deprive everyone else in the society of liberty to reduce the risks. I would rather that 2-3% of the population be deprived of liberty, either because of criminal conviction of mental illness commitment, than that 100% of the population be deprived of liberty because we are unwilling to restrict those who can't be trusted. The liberal solution--to leave the mentally ill free and lock up only a very, very few violent criminals--requires that the rest of our society be like a low grade prison.
2.25.2009 11:22am
Sebastian (mail) (www):
The real risk to gun ownership is the chance of a new horrific gun event, not new proposals from the administration.

And if the Administration is as committed to keeping his mitts off the gun issue as you say he is, this shouldn't be any kind of "risk" to gun ownership. The 99.99% of gun owners who will never commit a "horrific gun event" shouldn't have their rights limited because there are a very small number of people who misuse guns. But I doubt Obama is going to roll that way if another Virginia Tech happens.
2.25.2009 2:36pm
LarryA (mail) (www):
The real risk to gun ownership is the chance of a new horrific gun event, not new proposals from the administration.
Perhaps. OTOH if another such multiple shooting happens in yet another "gun-free" zone it might have the opposite effect. People are starting to recognize that trend. One result of the Virginia Tech shooting is that the once-unmentionable subject of concealed carry on college campuses is being debated, with pro-carry bills filed in various legislatures.
2.25.2009 5:30pm
PubliusFL:
SeaDrive: Anyone relying on the pro-gun blogspace for his news would think that the creator of the revisions to the White House Website made a specific point of posting something about firearms.

See if you can pick up the "specific point" made by Obama's attorney general here:

The Obama administration will seek to reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 during the Bush administration, Attorney General Eric Holder said today.
2.26.2009 10:04am
Happyshooter:
She just rolled to anti-gun. Democrats can't help themselves, they always run anti-freedom when the heat is on.
2.26.2009 10:07am

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