There are liberal gun owners.
I want to get that out of the way right here and now, because I know I’m likely to hear from one or two if I don’t go ahead and start this post by stating that. That’s fine, though, because while I probably disagree with them on a whole lot of stuff, I’ll take any ally I can get in defending our Second Amendment rights.
Most gun owners know this to some degree.
However, it seems the Democratic Party doesn’t.
While the Democrats once had some degree of diversity of thought on the issue of guns, those days are well and truly over.
At her recent CNN town hall meeting, Democratic presidential hopeful Kamala Harris was asked by a pastor what the country can do about gun violence. “We have got to have smart gun safety laws in this country,” she responded. “You can be in favor of the Second Amendment and also understand that there is no reason in a civil society that we have assault weapons around communities that can kill babies and police officers.”
What stood out about that exchange was not that it distinguished Harris from her competitors for the Democratic nomination. Far from it, in fact: In January of 2019, a number of high-profile Democratic candidates in the Senate all co-sponsored an assault weapons ban bill, including Harris, and her presumptive primary opponents Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts).
In the run-up to the 2020 election, there’s just not all that much variance among the Democratic candidates’ positions on guns. In the field, pretty much all the major candidates are committed to gun control, and are not shy about admitting it.
Just look at the most recent National Rifle Association ratings for a dozen of the presidential candidates: Harris, Booker, Joe Biden, and John Delaney rate a seven on the NRA’s one to 100 support scale. Gillibrand, Klobuchar, Sanders, Warren, Beto O’Rourke, and Sherrod Brown all rate a 13. Governor John Hickenlooper got a failing grade from the NRA for his work to pass bipartisan gun control in Colorado. Only Montana Governor Steve Bullock pulls decent NRA ratings—a 43—but he doesn’t look to be anywhere close to the top tier of candidates right now.
This agreement on gun-control issues marks a remarkable shift for the party. A little over a decade ago, most national Democratic candidates didn’t want to bring up gun control on the stump. Democrats were largely convinced that their support for gun control had cost them control of the Congress in the 1990s and the presidency in 2000, and they radically retreated on the issue, while the NRA became far more aggressive and more explicitly partisan in its support and its messaging.
So what happened?
It’s an interesting thing, but at least part of it is the post-Parkland push. More than that, though, was the widespread belief that gun control was a winning issue in the midterm elections. This has emboldened many Democrats to take a strong anti-gun stance.
Couple that with the growing partisan divide in this country, a divide that’s been a decade or more in the making, where every issue is decided along partisan lines, and you can start to see the problem. Namely that Democrats who know little about guns are latching onto the topic du jour and announcing strong positions on it or primarily because Republicans are taking a contrary position.
The question then becomes, can anything counter this?
Honestly, I’m not so sure. Yes, it would be nice to not have to constantly worry about Democrats taking power and destroying our Second Amendment rights. After all, as much as he espoused anti-gun views, President Barack Obama passed no gun control measures during his presidency, in part because when Democrats controlled Congress, they had no taste for the topic.
Today, they do, and unless the party changes back, we’re going to have problems down the road. House Democrats are pushing gun control measures knowing full well they won’t pass the Senate, but they’re doing it anyway.
What happens when they take control of both Congress and the White House?
Someone will probably claim that won’t happen, but that’s incredibly shortsighted. Of course, they will. The only thing inevitable in politics is that the pendulum will swing. Democrats will regain power at some point, which is why Republicans need to be cautious about any rule changes they make. Look at how that bit Democrats in the rump, after all.
They’ll eventually regain control, and if it’s this brand of Democrat, our gun rights are as good as over. While we may be able to hope that the Supreme Court can overturn the worst of it, that takes time and destroys lives in the meantime.
But if it’s the old school Democrats, the ones who have no taste for gun control anymore?
Then things aren’t nearly so terrifying.