Thirty years ago, national Democrats empathized with tens of millions of Americans on the politically muscular Second Amendment issue cluster.
Back then the struggle for the heart and soul of the gun rights movement was rabidly bipartisan.
Democratic Congressional leaders like John Dingell and Harold Volkmer spoke energetically about firearms and gun rights.
House Speaker Tom Foley and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jack Brooks would highlight NRA meetings as honored speakers.
Even Wayne LaPierre’s NRA predecessor, Harlon Carter, was a former Lyndon B. Johnson-appointed head of Border Patrol.
The gun rights movement was politically pluralistic if nothing else. What happened?
Democrats precipitously abandoned the efforts to craft a pro-gun vision within a progressive, or even a center/left, populist agenda.
NRA’s success in equating gun rights to the “essence of freedom” envisioned by our founders has been staggeringly effective.
Excoriating gun owners for their underlying belief in firearm ownership is now tantamount to being UN-American.
Firearm owners comprise over a third of the adult population in this country.
They care deeply about their guns and the full range of emotional, historical and political identifications that are encapsulated within this broad issue.
Understanding that one simple fact helps explain the gun rights community’s durable potency in American elections.
Gun owners consistently care enough to vote on gun rights as a defining issue whenever they feel threatened.
Ever since the presidency of Bill Clinton, national Democrats advocate policies erroneously conflating over 99 percent of regular gun owners with the problems from less than .01 percent of illegal gun criminals.
This crucial intellectual and criminological derailment validates the ardent fears gun owners have toward Democrats whose sights are on the White House or any statehouse.
Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have professed allegiance to the Second Amendment (during campaign season), but their actions (and our fears) once elected speak volumes.
The despicable racist murders in Charleston, S.C., last week might have created an opportunity for galvanizing firearm owners, but Hillary Clinton and the President are signaling to the gun community that our rights must be violated to placate the politically correct views of their uninformed and firearm-clueless big donors.
This feckless miscalculation allows a geographic and cultural divide to fester into a seismic political fault line skewing due right into Republican victories. Just ask Al Gore!
Guns are as much a symbolic issue as they are a policy fight, and symbols are mighty potent tools when manipulated by the media echo chamber.
Pro-gun leadership groups may deserve much credit, but it’s the national media who, for 40 years, have anointed the gun lobby’s “invincibility” time and time again. Indeed, are the words “powerful gun lobby” one word or three?
Michael Bloomberg can spend half his fortune propping up the “anti-gun” movement, and he will have some success where Democrats control all the levers of power.
Bloomberg and his AstroTurf minions would be well-advised to heed the words of former Congressman Barney Frank, who recently wrote, “… Liberals who try to comfort themselves with the notion that the NRA wins legislative battles because of their vast campaign contributions are engaged in self-deceptive self-justification. The NRA wins at the ballot box, not in the streets and not by checkbook.”
There you have it. Want to start changing the world? Stop protesting it!
A heartfelt, articulate Democratic pro-firearm civil rights agenda would allow for thoughtful discussion about the serious problems Americans face with the negligent misuse, the intentional criminal misuse and the mentally deranged misuse of guns.
Hey, Sen. Bernie Sanders, are you listening?
Counterproductive proposals couched in terms of “common sense” or “reasonable intrusions” widen the gulf, distort the problem and utterly fail to address constitutionally sensitive, results-driven policy solutions.
- Why don’t gun owners trust national Democrats?
- Why does the NRA have an approval rating three times that of Congress?
Don’t think too hard. They are rhetorical questions!
Richard Feldman, Esq., is president of the Independent Firearm Owners Association, and author of “Ricochet, Confessions of a Gun Lobbyist.” ( tiny.cc/8lwszx ) He attended the NRA’s April annual meeting in Nashville.