CNN Contributor Avlon Invokes Reagan in Pro-Gun Control Column

John Avlon again attacked conservatives, this time on the gun rights issues, in a Thursday column on CNN.com. Avlon bashed the "bumper sticker policies" and the "reason-free activist crowd" of Second Amendment activists. The Daily Beast writer also invoked Reagan's past support of gun control measures in another attempt to sever today's conservative activists from the former president's legacy.

The "no labels" CNN contributor began his column, "Why is NRA spurning Obama move?", with a lament over the status quo over the gun control, particularly in the wake of the Tucson shooting earlier in 2011:

Two months after the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, talking reasonably about gun policy remains a third rail in American politics. That's despite this fact -- more than 2,400 Americans have died of gunshot wounds since the rampage in Tucson, Arizona. That is four times the number of American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan last year, combined. As Americans, we react forcefully to crisis and conflicts -- but we have a hard time focusing on more slow-moving problems, such as the daily blood drip-drip of gun violence.

Who does Avlon see as "talking reasonably"? President Obama and his pro-gun control allies in Congress, of course, along with Michael Bloomberg. As his title hinted, the side that wasn't doing this are the NRA and other gun rights supporters:

...President Obama wrote an op-ed for the Arizona Daily Star, in which he proposed strengthening the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and called for a depolarization of the gun policy debate. The administration signaled that it wanted to meet with the National Rifle Association.

The NRA's response was to flatly turn down any administration requests to meet. Its director, Wayne LaPierre, declared, "Why should I or the NRA go sit down with a group of people that have spent a lifetime trying to destroy the Second Amendment in the United States?"

Incredibly, one of the few new solutions to gun violence in the U.S. proposed by the NRA in a written response to the president was for "the national media to refrain from giving deranged criminals minute-by-minute coverage of their heinous acts." Apparently, if we just ignore gun violence, it might go away....

"Too often, any serious discussion about guns devolves into ideological arguments that have nothing to do with the real problem," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg pointed out at a Washington press conference this week with members of his coalition, Mayors Against Illegal Guns. "We also know from experience that we can keep guns away from dangerous people without imposing burdens on law-abiding gun owners."

As part of that effort, Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, both of New York, have proposed measures to strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, much along the lines the president proposed.

Both earlier and later in the column, the Daily Beast columnist did his best to paint Second Amendment activists as extremists:

John Avlon, CNN Contributor | NewsBusters.orgInstead of facing facts and figuring out where constitutional common ground might be, we see a rush to bumper sticker policies, like Texas' new proposal to allow students to carry concealed weapons on college campuses, which took another step through the state Legislature yesterday . I can't imagine what could possibly go wrong with that plan....

Second Amendment activists should feel secure about the individual right to bear arms, given a string of recent Supreme Court decisions striking down strong gun restrictions in Chicago and Washington. Obama has even signed legislation into law which loosened existing gun laws, by making it legal to bring firearms into federal parks.

But gun debates, like so many culture war wedge issues, are often reason-free zones among the activist crowd. Last year, I interviewed protesters at a Second Amendment rally in a park outside of Washington for The Daily Beast, and pointed out that the only reason the rally was possible was the aforementioned legislation signed by Obama.

"As far as Obama signing anything, I think that's just a ploy," a protester named Randy Dye told me. "I think he's just trying to appease us for today. But down the road, I still feel that our Second Amendment rights are going to be threatened."

These fears have been systematically stoked by the fear-mongering-for-fun-and-profit crowd. Glenn Beck has told his listeners that Obama "will slowly but surely take away your gun or take away your ability to shoot a gun, carry a gun."

Near the end of his piece, Avlon used his example from Reagan in an attempt to further club today's conservatives, particularly the NRA:

Divisions are often inflamed for narrow partisan reasons -- but it wasn't always this way. The NRA has been a proactive partner of some government programs in the past, like Project Exile, which moved the prosecution of crimes committed with an unlicensed gun into federal court. The pilot program in Richmond, Virginia, succeeded in cutting the "gun carry" rate among criminal suspects in half within two years.

If that example doesn't carry weight with conservatives today, then perhaps this testimonial will. Ronald Reagan backed the Brady Bill and signed a 15-day waiting period for handgun sales when he was governor of California. In a New York Times op-ed piece from 1991, he wrote, "Critics claim that 'waiting period' legislation in the states that have it doesn't work, that criminals just go to nearby states that lack such laws to buy their weapons. True enough, and all the more reason to have a Federal law that fills the gaps."


The CNN contributor did something similar in a July 27, 2010 column where he claimed that "Reagan...would have a hard time getting the GOP nomination today" due to the supposed extremism of the Tea Party movement.

CNN once turned to Avlon for his designated "winguts" on the left and the right, but he has consistently proved to be tougher on conservatives than liberals with his appearances on the network and with his contributions to their website. He cannot legitimately put himself in a "no labels" category with that kind of track record.

— Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center