March 25, 2013
In January 1994 – less than a year into President Clinton’s first term – George Stephanopoulos received a memo from Jody Powell. “If there is an area that needs ‘new thinking, ‘rethinking, ‘a different kind of Democrat,’ and all that, crime/gun control is it,” Powell wrote. “As much as I hate to say it, the NRA is effective primarily because it is largely right when it claims that most gun control laws inconvenience and threaten the law-abiding while having little or no impact on violent crime or criminals.”
Would criminals comply, Powell asked, and, if not, can we effective enforce the laws? “If the answer is ‘no’ in both cases,” he continued, “consider whether the benefits are worth making Bob Dole majority leader.”
Powell was prescient. A year later, Dole was indeed the Senate majority leader, and Newt Gingrich Speaker of the House. The new legislative leadership reduced welfare benefits, cut the capital gains tax, and impeached Bill Clinton.
Eighteen years after Powell wrote, Democrats and progressives again face the same prospect: gun control proposals that threaten to ignite a culture-war in exchange for no real gains.