While political party platforms usually mean little or nothing when it comes to the actual policies proposed and rammed down our throats by real-life lawmakers, they are an important indicator of what party apparatchiks think the public — the persuadable part of the public, anyway — wants to hear. And so it's interesting to track changes in tone and content over the years. For instance, to compare the Democratic platform's treatment of firearms in 1980 vs. 2012 is to see how the political center of gravity has shifted in those years. Back in 1980, banning handguns was considered a crowd-pleaser. Now, down-playing restrictions is the way to go.
The Democratic Party Platform of 1980 (with guns filed under "Law Enforcement"):
The Democratic Party affirms the right of sports-men to possess guns for purely hunting and target-shooting purposes. However, handguns simplify and intensify violent crime. Ways must be found to curtail the availability of these weapons. The Democratic Party supports enactment of federal legislation to strengthen the presently inadequate regulations over the manufacture, assembly, distribution, and possession of handguns and to ban "Saturday night specials."
The Democratic Party Platform of 2012 (with guns filed under "Protecting Rights and Freedoms":
We recognize that the individual right to bear arms is an important part of the American tradition, and we will preserve Americans' Second Amendment right to own and use firearms. We believe that the right to own firearms is subject to reasonable regulation. We understand the terrible consequences of gun violence; it serves as a reminder that life is fragile, and our time here is limited and precious. We believe in an honest, open national conversation about firearms. We can focus on effective enforcement of existing laws, especially strengthening our background check system, and we can work together to enact commonsense improvements—like reinstating the assault weapons ban and closing the gun show loophole—so that guns do not fall into the hands of those irresponsible, law-breaking few.
Yes, it's all marketing-speak, but it tells you how the Democrats have changed their perception of what the customers want, and how those customers should be reached. Politicians and political parties may still be selling us the smothering embrace of the not-so-competent state, but what nice, new packaging they put on it for our benefit.