Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Robin Kelly's Anti-Gun. Deal With It.

Today Robin Kelly will become the congresswoman-elect from the Illinois Second District. So blue is Jesse Jackson Jr.'s old district that Kelly would be a mortal lock even if she had cheated on her husband with a Green Bay Packers fan. So it's not likely that she'll be hurt much by the desperate whining of conservative news outlets about a comment she made last week:
"In the movie [theater in Aurora, CO, in July 2012], they have conceal and carry, but nobody pulled out their guns to kill the gentleman that did all the damage that he did."
While the comment was interpreted in some circles as blaming the Aurora shooting victims for not doing anything to help themselves, it was generally ignored by the mainstream press. This is because, well, Kelly's comments just weren't that newsworthy.

First of all, she wasn't blaming the victims of the tragedy. Even if you accept that her statement was about dishing out blame (and her tone in the video makes it pretty clear it wasn't), if anything she was referring to the entire audience and staff of the theater, not just the victims.

Second, Kelly's point—that concealed-carry laws don't work—is a staple of Democratic rhetoric and, indeed, is the main argument standing in the way of everyone supporting concealed carry. (Those on the right are free to make their points, but they shouldn't do so in a way that makes it impossible to disagree. The same goes with the left, by the way.) Mother Jones and others have frequently made the point in the past that the odds of a "good guy" with a concealed weapon being in the right place at the right time to stop a shooting are extremely small. The late, great Roger Ebert even made the exact same point about Aurora in a New York Times op-ed. Conservatives doubtlessly disagree with all these arguments and the people making them. But they are widely held views among the progressive community, and that makes them hardly scandalous or unacceptable to hold—and it makes them about as newsworthy as Dog Bites Man.

The other issue is conservatives' inconsistent logic in attacking Robin Kelly here. In essence, they are blaming her for believing that a successful concealed-carry law would have stopped the shooting. (Again, when you recognize that the word "blame" doesn't belong within three miles of Robin Kelly's remarks, this is all the quote boils down to.) Yet that's exactly what pro-gun advocates contend when trying to pass these laws. In fact, it's more plausible to imagine Rush Limbaugh declaring that the Aurora victims should have defended themselves by packing more heat than a liberal Democrat doing so, don't you think?

I'm far from sold on Robin Kelly. I just think that her fairly typical liberal views on concealed carry are a tad less concerning than alleged timekeeping violations while she was working in the Illinois treasurer's office. That kind of disregard for best practices and following a very specific set of rules to protect the people's money is what brought down Jesse Jackson Jr. in the first place. While another politician-toppling scandal in notoriously corrupt Illinois would hardly be a surprise, Robin Kelly won't be brought down by her views on guns. Republicans should take a deep breath, realize this district will always stand opposed to them on firearms policy, and focus on the many more districts across the country that are friendlier to them. Robin Kelly's inevitable victory tonight does not threaten Republicans in the slightest on the one issue that they should actually care about—control of the US House.

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