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Sunday, December 4, 2016

After the massacre at the Sandy Hook school, the president and much of America — including the great Jon Stewart — agree that it’s time to talk about gun violence.

But what good can talk do when Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), who has an A rating from the NRA, is the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee? No piece of legislation that curbs the sales of any weapons or strengthens any background checks will ever get out of his committee as long as the NRA opposes it.

When Vice President Biden announced Wednesday that the president was considering executive orders to fight gun violence, the Drudge Report immediately posted the story with images of Hitler and Stalin, making the suggestion that the Holocaust would have been prevented if there were just MOAR GUNS. Gun rights supporters have their talking points down and they’ve already disrupted one Democratic congressman’s town hall meeting to voice them. It’s like the coordinated reaction to health care reform all over again.

But unlike much of the Tea Party movement, gun owners don’t have to be astroturfed. The four million members of the NRA are passionate and have been ginned up for years that someone is coming for their guns. And even though the only legislation being mentioned grandfathers existing weapons, that fear of confiscation is rampant — this thrills the gun industry, which only ends up selling more guns.

Former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly have launched Americans for Responsible Solutions to balance the power of the NRA. The Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence — started by Ronald Reagan’s former press secretary Jim Brady, who was critically injured in assassination attempt on the former president, and his wife — have been terrifically successful at pushing for gun safety legislation, particularly when Mr. Reagan was alive to promote its efforts.

It will be two years before there will be any chance to change the makeup of Congress, and redistricting has made Republicans more afraid of losing to a more pro-gun opponent in a primary since they carried their districts in the general election by at least 6 percent. The only way to force some reasonable steps to fight gun violence is to reshape public opinion and fast.

Is this even possible? If it’s going to happen, it’s going to take an unprecedented movement. But we’re in an era where we have tools that make unprecedented movements kind of easy — namely social media. Protesters in Northern Africa have used Facebook again and again to stand up to repressive regimes. Could it be used to break the NRA’s stranglehold on public opinion?

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