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May 22, 2018 27 tweets 6 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
1. A long time ago, in 1981, the @NRA produced a short film called “It Can Happen Here.” In it, federal agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (@ATFHQ) are depicted as “Nazi gestapos” and “jack-booted fascists.”
2. The following year Congressman @JohnDingell, a Michigan Democrat, said this of the federal agency tasked regulating the national gun market: “I would love to put [ATF agents] in jail,” said Dingell, now retired. “I would dearly love it. I think they are evil.”
3. By the 1990s, the NRA’s coordinated attacks on the ATF had reached a “fever pitch,” according to gun policy expert Robert J. Spitzer (@spitzerb), a professor of political science at SUNY Cortland and the author of The Politics of Gun Control.
4. The ATF was called a “loose cannon” harassing gun owners and sellers. It was accused of “murder and persecution of innocent citizens.” The late US Rep. Harold Volkmer (D-Missouri) called it “the most Rambo-rogue law enforcement agencies in the United States.”
5. A conservative talk-radio host (@GGordonLiddy) went to far as to advise listeners to take “head shots,” because ATF agents were known to wear bullet-proof vests. In 1995, 100 ATF agents reported death threats not only to themselves but to their children.
6. The 1990s saw a fever pitch of incendiary rhetoric, but the 2000s saw the NRA’s political agenda turned into public policy. The George W. Bush administration allowed to expire, in 2004, a federal ban on assault weapons.
7. Four years later, the US Supreme Court ruled on Heller v. District of Columbia, which “nationalized” the Second Amendment so states could not prohibit ownership of handguns for self-defense.
8. There’s a name for all of the above. It’s calling expanding the “scope of conflict.”…
9. That’s what EE Schattschneider called it in his classic book from 1960 called The Semisovereign People. A professor at @wesleyan_u, Schattschneider was trying to understand how people organize themselves to achieve power and use it to enact policies they want.
10. He said it is the loser of policy fights “who calls for outside help” in order to gain the advantage, which is then used to change the outcome.
11. In the 1960s, the NRA was the loser. Since then, and for more than three decades afterward, the NRA expanded the scope of conflict to include unrelenting attacks on the ATF.
12. Now, the NRA is the winner. Gun control is the loser. But since #SandyHook & #Parkland, the losers have been expanding the scope of conflict to include unrelenting attacks on the NRA. If Schattschneider is right that conflict comes before policy, that is a necessary step.
13. But eventually, policy must come into play. Right now, the only policy discussion consists of federal background checks, assault weapons bans, and other things. But so far, nothing from the gun control side about enforcement.
14. As long as the ATF is weak, and as you’ll it is the “weak sister” of law enforcement, laws won’t achieve what gun control advocates desire. Consider these facts (all from Spitzer’s book.)
15. In 1985, the ATF had 400 agents to inspect more than 200,000 gun sellers. In 1994, it was 250 agents for more than 280,000 sellers.
16. From 1972 to 2005, the ATF revoked an average of 20 licenses a year. Through the 2000s, “corrupt gun dealers” who violated criminal laws “were almost never prosecuted.” Think about that for a moment.
17. A former ATF director who said he was so understaffed and underfunded, it would take his agency 750 years to properly vet firearms dealer applications.
18. Steve Higgins also said that illegal trafficking was so widespread at private-sale gun shows that “if we wanted to, we could go to a gun show and arrest people coming out, and just line ‘em up.”
19. It gets worse. The ATF tends to do better with Democratic presidents, but that’s not always the case. Unlike the Secret Service or the FBI, the ATF has no “native constituency” to protect it from political winds, Spitzer writes.
20. It inspires little respect in law enforcement. J. Edgar Hoover called it the bureau of “Whiskey, Cigarettes and Pistols.” It has also no statutory independence, so it’s easily starved of funding.
21. There’s more bad news. *By law*, the ATF is barred from computerizing its records. To this day, the vetting of firearms licenses are *still done by hand on paper*.
22. The agency is also barred, Spitzer writes, from creating a database of what guns are sold to whom, where and when. We still don’t not know how many guns are stolen each year.
23. An enfeebled ATF can’t regulate a federal gun market. This makes a mockery of state laws trying to regulate state markets.
24. New York has some of the strictest gun laws in the country but can’t do anything about corrupt gun dealers in Virginia, where most of the gun trafficking in New York comes from. The same dynamic takes place in high-regulation states like CA (guns from NV) and IL (from IN).
25. The tide is turning against the NRA. We can all feel it. And that tide is gaining momentum with each new revelation about the NRA’s role in forming a back channel between the president of the United States and illiberal foreign powers.
26. But eventually, as the scope of conflict is sufficiently expanded, we’ll need to talk about policy. Laws are one thing. Enforcement is another.
27. This was a deep dive but I hope you stayed with me. Please share! And don't forget to sign up for my daily newsletter! Click below.…

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More from @johnastoehr

Oct 9, 2018
1. President Obama said often that sensible people can gather to devise solutions to our country’s most pressing problems. He said partisan interests, in the end, would give way to reason, the national interest and the common good. That’s what he said.
2. His problem: he believed it.
3. At least, he did in the beginning of his presidency. By the end, he realized the opposing party had no interest in the national interest. Indeed, the Republicans decided their interests were predicated on being anathema to the common good.
Read 17 tweets
Oct 9, 2018
1. The Republicans aren’t alone. Democrats believe spin, too. To be sure, the numbers aren’t the same. While most Republicans really do believe their own nonsense, a small faction of Democrats tends to swallow baloney whole.
2. We can see this in the reaction to Joe Manchin’s vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh. He was the lone Democrat to do so. Some say there’s nothing good in the party having a Republican-lite. Others have called for him to be purged.
3. Others still say the Democrats don’t need the likes of Manchin. @onesarahjones, in New York magazine, said:
Read 19 tweets
Oct 8, 2018
1. Thread, quoting Jefferson to a friend, about SCOTUS: You seem in pages 84 and 148, to consider the judges as the ultimate, arbiters of all constitutional questions – a very dangerous doctrine indeed and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy.
2. Our judges are as honest as other men, and not more so. They have, with others, the same passions for party, for power, and the privilege of their corps. Their maxim is, ‘boni judicis est ampliare jurisdictionem’; and their power is the more dangerous
3. as they are in office for life, and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the elective control. The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal, knowing that to whatever hands confided, with the corruptions of time & party, its members would become despots.
Read 4 tweets
Oct 8, 2018
1. The Editorial Board’s mission is to cut through the noise by speaking plainly about politics. That mission is especially relevant now after so many spent so much time this weekend explaining why the Democrats lost the battle over Brett Kavanaugh.
2. Here’s a reality check. The Republicans had the advantage. They always had the advantage. There are 51 Republicans in the Senate. There are 49 Dems. The GOP needed a majority to confirm. They could have lost one Republican. The vice president would then have broken the tie.
3. It was a numbers game in the beginning. It was a numbers game at the end. Everything else might have impacted those numbers. But don’t let possibilities take away from this stone-cold and fundamental fact: the GOP had more votes.
Read 15 tweets
Oct 7, 2018
1. Paul Campos says that if Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed, he and the other four conservative justices of the Supreme Court will have been appointed illegitimately.…
2. Clarence Thomas, he said, perjured himself. John Roberts and Samuel Alito were appointed by George W. Bush, who won the 2000 election thanks to the court. Bush did not win the popular or electoral vote. He won because a divided court told officials in FL to stop recounting.
3. Then there’s President Donald Trump’s picks, Neil Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. Like Bush, Trump did not win the popular vote either.
Read 26 tweets
Oct 4, 2018
1. So much ado about the so-called Kavanaugh effect. In brief, it’s fear among Democrats that the fight over the nominee is going to drive out Republicans next month, limiting their possible gains, especially in the Senate. Let me give it to you straight.
2. That’s baloney.
3. If the Republicans were to hold a vote after the midterms, all of the above might be true. The Republican base, which cares about the courts more than the Democratic base does, would in that scenario have an incentive to come out in force.
Read 9 tweets

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