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What Happens When the Middle Sits Out

By Warren Epstein, Citizens Project Board Member

So, we kicked the bums out.

Senators John Morse and Angela Giron got their walking papers, thanks to an unprecedented $200,000-plus special recall election (they’re calling it “Colorado’s total recall”) that drew a sparse 20 percent of the electorate, a fraction of those who vote in regular elections.

This was mostly a symbolic victory, of course. The new pro-gun senators will face a still Democratic-controlled legislature, and it’s unlikely they will be able to kill the offending gun bill that made Morse and Giron targets of the gun lobby.

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Still, what’s happened here is the birth of a new political weapon, one that can be wielded by both political parties. It’s a tool tailor made for extremists on the left and right. Clearly, offending politicians don’t have to break the law. They don’t have to embroil themselves in scandal. They merely need to upset a fringe group.

Then, the fringe group raises a bunch of money, calls a special election, and hopes that, once again, the middle stays home.

I’d like to take a moment to speak up for the middle. Granted, the center place between two extremes is not always where truth lies. Sometimes both sides are asking the wrong questions. But something important does lie in the middle.

Compromise.

It’s become a dirty word in our don’t-blink partisan politics. But in the middle, you’ll often find reason.

Most people I know think the gun debate is about two words: yes or no.

You’re for gun control or against it.

Morse and Giron, like most Colorado senators and our governor, passed a bill that explored a place in the middle that looked at background check loopholes and large ammo magazines. It wasn’t about going door to door, rounding up your guns.

The “no” people don’t want to hear about it. They don’t want to hear about what some people call “reasoned compromise” about gun control. For them, the only kind of good gun control is dead gun control.

But let’s back up a bit and acknowledge that both sides really do want the same thing: more security, more safety.

Both sides have “beliefs” about how to get there, and there are relevant questions on both sides:

Does gun control actually work? (Usually not.)

Does a focus on governmental and societal solutions take the responsibility away from the individual? You know, guns don’t kill people. People… Yeah, whatever.

OK, but here’s the truth of the matter that no politician will admit: We don’t know. We have some studies and history to examine, but case studies won’t serve as absolute predictors of what course will lead to a more safe and secure country.

Here’s another truth: without new restrictions, guns will grow more abundant and more deadly.

Gun sales have never been higher, and technology, unrestricted, will transform what we now call “guns” into weapons of mass destruction. Consider that modern guns already bear little resemblance to what our founding fathers were talking about when they framed the 2nd Amendment.

Those who give an absolute “no” to even discussions about gun control must acknowledge that we’re already involved in that conversation, and we’ve already agreed to certain compromises. Try to get a stockpile of fully automatic weapons or a rocket launcher for home use. It’s easier to get Bruce Springsteen to sing at your kid’s bar mitzvah.

Even the most extreme pro-gun folks would acknowledge that those restrictions make sense.

As the technology of guns continues to grow in lethality, isn’t it our obligation as citizens to continually engage in this discussion? To look for the reasonable middle?

The middle, what middle there is on such a divisive topic, sat out this special election.

We can’t afford to have them sit out many more.


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