In the 1930s, millions of Americans were in economic distress and there was talk of the need to move the country toward some form of socialism. The New Deal reforms, undertaken under the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt to help the poor, the unemployed, farmers and workers, were decried as an attack on business and capitalism itself.

But the reforms are best seen not as an attack on the country’s economic system but as a strategy for saving it, for addressing the country’s problems in a moderate and reasoned way and forestalling likely calls for radical reform if nothing were done.

Do we not face a similar situation today when it comes to gun law? Those opposed to stronger gun regulation warn that steps to restrict access to guns put us on a slippery slope toward elimination of all protections for gun owners. They point, of course, to the recent call by retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens for repeal of the Second Amendment. But such calls only arise because the gun lobby so predictably resists even the most modest steps toward change, making it appear to some that repeal of the Second Amendment is the only way.

Talk of repealing the Second Amendment indeed seems unrealistic, and repeal is perhaps not desirable even from the perspective of gun control advocates. But the very thought of it wouldn’t occur to those advocates if the gun lobby would only back off a bit and accept measures such as universal background checks, raising the eligible age for gun purchases or restricting the sale of large ammunition magazines. Call it a New Deal for those vulnerable to gun violence – that is, all of us.

Tom Eichler


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