Pro-gun Democrats exist. They’re not common, but they exist. As I mentioned in a post on Monday, they’re part of why some want to make gun control a nonpartisan issue.
In pro-gun states, however, Democrats have to walk a very bizarre line of being anti-gun enough for the Democrats in the primary, but pro-gun enough for the rest of the people.
The Democratic primary in Kansas is a good example of how that works.
For the Democrats, State Sen. Laura Kelly and former Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Josh Svaty repeat their support of gun owners on the campaign trail. They also tout their records supporting gun rights legislation during their time in the Kansas legislature — even as they take steps to add qualifiers to those records.
“It became very clear that we went too far,” Kelly said, referring to the law she supported in 2015 that lets Kansans carry concealed weapon without permits.
Svaty said that while he voted for a concealed carry bill in 2006, “it required eight hours of training and obtaining a permit from the state of Kansas.”
The school shootings in Parkland, Florida, and Sante Fe, Texas, earlier this year flung the debate over gun control back into the forefront. Yet since then, passion for the issue has waned.
For Democrats, the issue represents a tricky balancing act. While advocating for gun control could push away the moderate Republicans needed to win the general election, it can also attract Democratic votes in the primary. Gun control also presents an opportunity for Democratic candidates to distinguish themselves from their primary opponents and attack their previous voting records.
That’s where former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer’s lack of a voting record on gun legislation could be an advantage. A recent video on his campaign’s YouTube page doesn’t feature Brewer. Instead, it shows clips of Kelly and Svaty attacking each other on guns.
It’s definitely part of the challenge for these candidates. They have to appear anti-gun in one place, pro-gun in another, so they try and pretend they regret votes that expanded gun rights; though you can expect them to tout that vote later.
It’s the grimy, nasty side of politics, the requirement to pander to the base just to get nominated, only to then shift to appeal to the masses later. It’s why no one can stand politicians, as a general rule.
In truth, what it also does is make it difficult to tell if a pro-gun politician is truly pro-gun or if they’re only voting that way to advance their political ambitions.
The only way you can tell for certain where someone stands on the issue of guns is what they do when there’s no advantage to them. For politicians in pro-gun states, it’s always to their advantage to vote pro-gun. But when they back away from those votes for primaries, you can start to see what you’re working with.
Principle is standing up and saying, “Yes, I voted to expand gun rights. I’m proud I did, and here’s why…”
Saying, “Well, yeah, I did, but…” is a sign that you’re just waiting for an opportunity to cave.