Congressional consideration was also delayed by gun control proponents’ insistence on a ban on assault weapons. This was a nonstarter to begin with; nearly everyone familiar with gun politics recognized that such a ban would never pass the House even if it made it through the less conservative Senate. Even if the law could be passed, it wouldn’t have made any dent in gun violence statistics because these guns are rarely used in crime. There was only one certain outcome from proposing to ban assault weapons: It was guaranteed to stimulate the fiercest opposition.
Focusing on assault weapons played right into the hands of the NRA, which has for years been saying that Obama wanted to ban guns. Gun control advocates ridiculed that idea—then proposed to ban the most popular rifle in America.
By spending time on an assault weapons ban, gun controllers hurt themselves in multiple ways. They energized the NRA’s base, who could probably have been persuaded to live with background checks. They wasted time, which had a huge cost: gun owners care about gun rights all the time, but the rest of the population mostly cares about gun control in the wake of a high-profile tragedy. And they made themselves look less like serious negotiators who were willing to come to a compromise that the other side could accept, and more like they were trying to reinstate the kind of gun laws that NRA members had spent two decades beating back.
In other words, by demanding more, they got less.
[The Obama administration is] not actually very good at politics.
No, it is not. Also, just a quick push-back on Adam Winkler’s piece: given that it’s conceded by everybody that the gun control people were negotiating in bad faith wrt an ‘assault weapons’ ban, I’m sure most reasonable people will concede that perhaps gun rights activists are justified in being a bit skeptical of their opponents’ intention wrt a national guns registry. I mean, we all know that gun-grabbers will lie, when it suits them. They even admit it to The New Republic…