The Second Amendment people are winning
Bloomberg is wrong: The Democrats are not “in charge” of Congress, at least when it comes to guns — the National Rifle Association is.
What accounts for the extraordinary strength of the gun-rights movement? Four factors come to mind.
First: While the polls show that the public supports some gun-control measures, that support has slipped over the last decade. In 1999, after the Columbine massacre, ABC found that 67 percent of the public wanted “stricter gun control.” Now 61 percent do. In 1999, the public was evenly split on whether people should be allowed to carry concealed handguns. Now they think it should be legal, by a 55 to 42 percent margin. Other polling organizations, and other questions, show similar results: The public has moved to the right. That movement may reflect the fact that concealed-carry laws have spread across the country without its becoming the O.K. Corral writ large.
Second: Support for gun control is a mile wide but half an inch deep. A lot of people who support particular gun-control measures — mandatory trigger locks, say — do so because those regulations sound reasonable to them. Many of them don’t believe that such regulations will do much to reduce crime. It is not an issue that moves their votes.
Opponents of gun control, on the other hand, tend to be gun owners, for whom gun issues are much less abstract. The intensity is all on their side. Many of them will vote against a politician based on gun issues alone.
Third: Democrats are gun-shy after seeing this issue backfire on them too many times. Many Democrats, including Bill Clinton, blamed their loss of Congress in 1994 on their support for the “assault weapons” ban. Many Democrats blamed Al Gore’s loss in 2000 on gun control, too, which contributed to his losing Arkansas, Tennessee, and West Virginia.
By 2006, the Democrats had backed off on guns. In some places, they ran pro-gun candidates. More often, they ran anti-gun candidates who campaigned on other issues. Guns were a major issue in only one competitive race last year: the contest to replace Henry Hyde, a moderate Republican on gun control, in the Sixth Congressional District of Illinois. Peter Roskam, a proponent of gun rights, beat back a strong Democratic challenge, partly by using the gun issue.
Fourth: The NRA is a highly effective organization. It has 4 million members — a little below its 2000 peak, but enough to be formidable. It keeps a wary eye on everything going on in Congress. And it understands that political muscle is built by being exercised.
The NRA worked that muscle twice in recent weeks. Rep. Jay Inslee, a Democrat from Washington State, proposed an amendment banning the importation of polar-bear trophies. The NRA opposed it as a regulation on hunting, and beat it in late June.
In mid-July, congressmen working with the NRA forced the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to withdraw a proposed regulation on explosives. The NRA feared the regulation was too broadly written, and would inadvertently make it hard for gun shops to store ammunition. OSHA is redrafting the rule.
Monday, July 30, 2007
I'm liking this piece from Ramesh Ponnuru, a graduate of the NSSF Media Program, in NRO: