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Steal the GOP Playbook: Pass Gun Control Laws at the State Level

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A constitutional amendment in North Dakota is one public vote away from banning all abortions regardless of circumstances and without exceptions. It's the first successfully passed "fetal personhood" amendment in American history, and if it makes it through a referendum process, it will criminalize abortion as murder (the premeditated taking of a "life") within the borders of North Dakota. The amendment would also restrict some forms of birth control, as well as in vitro fetilization.

What continues to surprise me is how successful far-right, anti-choice activists and politicians have been with blasting away at reproductive rights at the state level. Not a week goes by without hitting an outrageous news item from a random red state that either mandates transvaginal ultrasounds, or that bans abortions after a certain period of time, or that cuts funding for family planning facilities like Planned Parenthood and the like. North Dakota has obviously swung for the fences and it's this close to the biggest anti-choice victory so far.

Certainly it helps to have three out of every five states controlled by Republican governors, but at this point, the Republicans have all but abandoned the war against privacy and Roe v Wade at the federal level. Instead, they've begun to construct a legislative Berlin Wall around these red states, holding women hostage to not-so-small government conservative zealots, most of whom are white males.

Suffice to say, it's all in serious violation of the U.S. Constitution, but the Republicans don't care.

So perhaps gun control activists and politicians should engage in a similar process and with similar disregard for the Second Amendment. Democratic Party leaders at the federal level are evidently too timid to take any sort of meaningful action in rolling back the American gun culture, but not at the state level. In fact, too many federal-level Democrats are deliberately timid because, like nearly all Republicans, they're puppeteered by the National Rifle Association and the congressional-firearms industrial complex.

Even with 90 percent support from the American public, universal background checks barely made made it into the Senate legislation. Again, 90 percent support! And there's still no guarantee that the Senate bill will survive much less pass through the considerably more crackpot conservative House. And so it appears as if the president's series of 23 executive orders will be the strongest gun control slate we'll see -- and it's merely temporary, since the next Republican president, with slimy Wayne LaPierre whispering in his or her ear like Grima Wormtongue, could very easily rescind all of it upon taking office. At that point, we're back to pre-Sandy Hook status on guns.

The path of least resistance, then, appears to be state-level restrictions on gun ownership -- constitutional challenges be damned. California, Washington, New Mexico, Minnesota, Florida, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont have pending gun control legislation in the works since the Sandy Hook massacre. In total 512 new gun control laws have been introduced at the state level, including bold laws like Missouri State Rep. Rory Ellinger's assault weapons confiscation law. Most recently, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed a law that included a ban on high capacity magazines, limiting them to 15, as well as background checks for all firearm sales.

But it's by no means going to be an easy fight. Sure, 512 newly introduced state-level bills sounds like a fantastic start. Yet the pro-gun complex has introduced 574 bills that augment existing gun laws. Plus, the NRA creepily tracks every single piece of legislation down to the local level, and it's willing to spend the necessary money to make sure that new gun control laws die quickly and pro-gun laws float into law. If financiers like Michael Bloomberg can continue to seriously ramp up support to match or, dare to dream, surpass the NRA's efforts, new gun control laws become exponentially more likely. Fortunately, Bloomberg has announced an unprecedented $12 million gun control ad buy in 13 states. This is a major expenditure and it's doubtful the NRA can match it, which is probably why Wayne LaPierre was on Meet the Press yesterday barely containing his bowel-control while struggling to discredit Bloomberg's spending.

Just as the congressional process has been infuriatingly slow and ineffectual, I can't help but to be encouraged what's happening at the state level, especially given the massive financial support of Bloomberg and the boldness of state legislators to defy the sociopathic will of the NRA and its conspiracy-trolling congregants.

The objective must be to pass the strongest gun control laws possible, then to defend against the constitutional challenges after the fact. Why not give the Republicans a gigantic tidal wave of their own under-the-radar, state-level medicine? If pro-choice, reproductive rights activists will have to spend time and money on legal challenges to the far-right's anti-choice extremism, then let's force the far-right to spend the cash on legal challenges to new gun control laws. Fair is fair. Stick it to them. Once again, all politics is state and local, and with an increasingly flaccid Congress, the aphorism is more necessary than ever.