Mike Bloomberg's Gun Control Friedmanism

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 7 2012 3:35 PM

Mike Bloomberg's Gun Control Friedmanism

I define "Friedmanism" as the Tom Friedman-esque habit of throwing up your hands and saying "neither party is doing anything about this issue" when one party clearly is. The Friedmanism is most often used to discuss fiscal policy -- why won't Democrats support the deficit reduction package that they'd said they're ready to support?. Mike Bloomberg throws us a curveball Friedmanism by talking about guns.

Just two weeks after the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado, we've seen another mass shooting. One in which it appears there were some warning signs in the shooter. And still the two presidential candidates have not given the American public a plan to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. Every day 34 Americans are murdered with guns. The fact that criminals, terrorists and other mentally ill people have access to guns is a national crisis.

Well, like I said yesterday, Barack Obama ran on restoring the Assault Weapons Ban, and in office, he decided not to pursue it. But to say that he hasn't "given the American public a plan" is narrowly wrong. Two weeks ago, the president spoke at the Urban League's conference in New Orleans and spent a few minutes talking about what he'd ordered Feds to do vis-a-vis gun control, and what he wanted to do next.

[A] lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals -- that they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities. I believe the majority of gun owners would agree that we should do everything possible to prevent criminals and fugitives from purchasing weapons; that we should check someone’s criminal record before they can check out a gun seller; that a mentally unbalanced individual should not be able to get his hands on a gun so easily.

The NRA's been just a little cowed by the last fortnight-plus of gun violence, so this didn't engender the usual Wayne LaPierre gut rumble, and it didn't get a ton of attention. The fact that Obama said it in NOLA, with less media than he'd get in NY or DC, probably cut down on the coverage, too. Around the same time, Mitt Romney told CNBC that he didn't "believe that new laws are going to make a difference in this type of tragedy." One candidate is open to new firearms restrictions; one rules them out. Does that mean that a re-elected Barack Obama would enact those restrictions? No. He'd have fewer Democratic allies than he did in 2009. But this is a difference between the candidates, and eventually the NRA -- which doesn't have any Friedmanism problem -- will scare the bejesus out of voters about that difference.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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