With the recent movie-theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado, we are once again hearing discussion about America's gun control laws, along with a bunch of hand-wringing by pragmatists about the failure of government to establish "sensible" gun laws. They point their fingers at the NRA, but overlook the more fundamental problem: how can a fairly small group of single-issue fanatics completely dominate this aspect of our political discourse.
The answer is that all aspects of government are dominated by small groups with a strong interest in establishing a specific (often extreme) policy. Government is incapable of achieving any middle ground, or securing the general welfare. In the gun control battle, "sensible" policies never have a chance. Instead, policy oscillates between being fully pro-gun and fully anti-gun; either guns are prohibited or everyone is packing heat.
Both sides of this argument (at least, those with any motivation) are driven more by symbolism than by rational policy design. They are seeking a victory in the culture war, not seeking to build safe public spaces. This has nothing to do with the influence of libertarianism or any anti-government sentiment-- pro-gun conservatives are fully pro-government.
So before signing up with the anti-gun crowd and wasting our efforts on a massive ideological and electoral battle over guns, those of us who want safe communities should step back and consider this: maybe government isn't the solution.