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What Does Trust in Government Have to do With Gun Control?

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Guy J. Sagi/Shutterstock.com

Don't hold your breath waiting for changes in gun-control policy to be implemented, writes Yale law professor Stephen L. Carter in Bloomberg View. Why? Because Congress can't pass a budget.

Carter's logic works like this: In the wake of the Newtown mass shooting, more Americans say they're willing to accept new limits on guns and ammunition. But such sentiment may be fleeting, because those same Americans don't trust the federal government to do the regulating, especially since Congress can't seem to get its basic jobs done.

Here's Carter:

Consider the recent negotiations over the “fiscal cliff.” Although the last-minute deal has its defenders, it nevertheless showcases the federal government at its least competent. Reform of entitlements and the tax code is left for later. Increasing the debt limit is kicked down the road. And, as usual, the legislation was too long for members to read before they were required to vote. None of this helps to improve the image of Washington.

We are now approaching four years since the U.S. Senate enacted a budget. The last was in April 2009. And bear in mind that federal law requires an annual budget. Imagine the ire of the senators toward a private firm that treated legal requirements so casually.

Amid such ineptitude, “Trust us, we’ll protect you,” isn’t a very persuasive case to make to the tens of millions of Americans who have guns -- often very powerful ones -- in their homes. And directing fury at gun owners for their lack of trust isn’t likely to increase their faith in government.

I'm no defender of Congress' handling of fiscal policy, and I understand how it has affected overall trust in government. But if this is true, we're in deep trouble. We won't get anything done if political ineptitude in budgeting is used as an excuse to avoid action in utterly unrelated areas of national policy. And if we don't get anything done, that will simply breed further mistrust. That's the very definition of a vicious cycle.

(Image via Guy J. Sagi/Shutterstock.com)

Tom Shoop is vice president and editor in chief at Government Executive Media Group, where he oversees both print and online editorial operations. He started as associate editor of Government Executive magazine in 1989; launched the company’s flagship website, GovExec.com, in 1996; and was named editor in chief in 2007.

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