Colorado Passes Domestic Violence Gun Ban Law

One might hope that a law which keeps guns out of the hands of perpetrators of domestic violence would receive bipartisan support.

One would think.

As reported by the Huffington Post, "a Colorado bill that prohibits convicted domestic violence offenders from possessing firearms passed in the House Judiciary Committee on a 7-4 party line vote, with all Democrats approving the bill."

While champions of women's rights celebrated this new measure, its Republican opponents saw nothing but an ominous sign that the America they had grown to know and love was being lost. As State Senator Kevin Lundberg intoned, “This arc is headed toward tyranny, and it is clear."

My mind wanders back nearly half a century. In 1964, the American historian Richard Hofstadter produced a landmark essay called "The Paranoid Style in American Politics," in which he discussed an ailment in the American body politic that he felt flared up with unusual frequently — i.e., the titular "paranoid style." 

"The paranoid spokesman," Hofstadter writes, "sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms — he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values." Indeed, such a person tended (and still tends) to see modern liberalism as the greatest realization of this inherently irrational worldview, guided by a "now-familiar sustained conspiracy, running over more than a generation, and reaching its climax in Roosevelt’s New Deal, to undermine free capitalism, to bring the economy under the direction of the federal government, and to pave the way for socialism or communism."

Given that this article deals with gun control, discerning readers will have by now figured out the direction in which I'm heading with those Hofstadter excerpts. Despite the flurry of mass shootings from Aurora to Newtown, countless right-wingers and libertarians remain staunchly opposed to even the most modest firearms regulations because they insist such measures violate the Second Amendment.

One's initial response might be to rebut these shrill claims by citing Supreme Court precedent on Second Amendment law, most importantly the decision in United States v. Miller (1939) in which the National Firearms Act of 1934 was unanimously upheld on the grounds that, unless a law impacted a weapon in a way that specifically "has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument."

Unfortunately, gun control opponents usually respond to these by either reinterpreting the language of the Supreme Court to suit their own agenda or, barring that, arguing that any modicum of gun control is a sure sign that we are " headed toward tyranny." In short, they insist on seeing this issue in the "apocalyptic terms" described by Hofstadter.

The problem, as seen by the opposition to a bill protecting women, is that the price for their paranoia is too often paid by other people. National statistics from last year show that 1 out of 4 women will become victims of domestic violence, with 1.3 million suffering a third degree assault by an intimate partner each year. In Colorado alone, over 17,000 criminal domestic violence cases were filed in the state's courts six years ago, while nearly half of the murders in that state were committed by a partner. Residents of the Centennial State are clearly (and rightly) sickened by this situation ... hence why a recent poll found that 80% of state voters believed judges should be able "to order someone who is 'convicted of domestic violence or given a restraining order' to surrender their guns to the court."

If it wasn't for the inordinate political clout of the NRA and the paranoid mentality of the radical right, there wouldn't be any question about whether a law keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers should be passed. Our society ought to be ashamed of the fact that such common sense legislation is even called into question.

It goes a long way toward explaining why Hofstadter, when pre-emptively addressing the matter of whether the term "paranoid style" was unfairly disparaging, wrote, "Of course this term is pejorative, and it is meant to be; the paranoid style has a greater affinity for bad causes than good."