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Opinion

January 5, 2013

Shribman: History meets firearms

(Continued)

This is not liberal propaganda, for if you listen to conservatives you will hear the identical argument made with regret: that Obamacare and Dodd-Frank are massive intrusions of government interference in the economy with little if any precedent. If that argument can be made persuasively by conservatives, and you can hear it almost daily on talk radio, then it can be made by liberals to elevate Obama among progressive presidents.

A victory on gun control would similarly set off an earthquake across the American political landscape.

Curtailing the availability of weapons has been a liberal goal since the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, with a few conservatives, including former White House press secretary James Brady, joining the effort after the 1981 attempt to assassinate Ronald Reagan. What Obama almost certainly will propose will be more far-reaching than any proposal on this subject by any previous president, and if he prevails he will have succeeded where other chief executives with liberal leanings, including Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, have failed.

Although liberals would be reluctant to agree, a victory on gun control also would be a profound departure in American progressive history.

The story of American liberalism is the accumulation of rights. The nation began with brave Enlightenment-era talk about the rights of man, but that very phrase, part of the vocabulary of the late 18th century and the title of a Thomas Paine manifesto, specifically omitted half the population and, because of the presence of slavery in the new nation (and the decision to count slaves as three-fifths of a person), delegated these vaunted rights to a distinct minority of people who thought they lived in a land consecrated by majority rule.

The glory of American liberalism has been the extension of rights to those who did not own property, to those who were not male, to those who were not white, to those who were not straight.

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