When Tragedies Pass Laws

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 12 2011 11:15 AM

When Tragedies Pass Laws

I find the debate over Sarah Palin's response to Arizona tragedy incredibly boring, except as starting point for some fun cheap jokes. More interesting, definitely, are the pieces of legislation that are being introduced in response to the shooting. In Arizona, as I've reported -- Evan McMorris-Santoro has more -- the tragedy has probably helped the cause of pro-gun rights legislation in the state. It has kickstarted debate in Washington on two or three bills -- a ban on high-capacity magazines, expanding the laws banning threats against the president and vice president to all federal officials, and a proposal for a 1000-foot zone around federal officials in which no guns are allowed.

It's worth noting how mundane this is. As gun control advocates have been pointing out, trying to convince skeptics like me that there's any chance for their legislation in a Republican Congress, all big gun control measures have come in response to tragedies. Gun crimes are not alone in their power to inspire legislation. Most Arizona observes agree that the state's 2010 immigration law was passed in response to the murder of a rancher, Rob Krantz. That was the post made in a widely-circulated letter from Arizona State Sen. Sylvia Allen .


I want to explain SB 1070 which I voted for and was just signed by Governor Jan Brewer.Rancher Rob Krantz was murdered by the drug cartel on his ranch a month ago. I participated in a senate hearing two weeks ago on the border violence; here are just some of the highlights from those who testified.

Again, mundane but true -- horrific tragedies create the openings for legislation. The PATRIOT Act consisted, in large part, of provisions that were politically unworkable until 9/11 make them seem necessary; or, I guess, made voters so scared that they'd back anything. Liberals who obsess over the rhetoric of conservatives are, ironically, closing the window they might -- might! -- have for introducing and passing limited gun control legislation.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 



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