Election Day: Guns Win - AGAIN

GOP should spotlight issue or voters will go hunting next fall and skip polls

As this column reported a few weeks ago, the Democrats are betting big on gun control for this election cycle. That’s good news for GunVoters, that minority of us who, while perhaps not being one-issue voters, don’t trust a politician who doesn’t trust us with a gun. Republicans, however, seem oblivious to the opportunity.

For the past 20 years, Democrats have tiptoed around the gun issue, with only an occasional surge in rhetoric after some highly publicized atrocity, but only after hedging their bets and voting cautiously lest they upset the GunVoters back home. For most of those 20 years, there has been a steady drumbeat from the professional gun control lobby and their media friends, denouncing the Democrats’ avoidance of the issue as unfounded paranoia based on false assumptions. A 2009 editorial from the New York Times, which relied heavily on expert opinions from the gun control lobbyists at the Brady Campaign, is a great example. It called the fear of offending GunVoters a “deadly myth” and dismissed GunVoters’ role in the Republican Revolution of 1994 and the defeat of Al Gore in 2000. They pointed to the election of Barack Obama, and pro-gun losses in various House and Senate races as proof the NRA is overrated.

They’re certainly right that the NRA is overrated, but the reality isn’t as simple as they paint it. The NRA is overrated because people who don’t understand the issue, including the Times editorial board and a majority of politicians on both sides of the aisle, think NRA is “the gun lobby.” That’s simply not true. The gun lobby is much bigger than just the NRA, and it’s much more complex than just one organization, its positions and its leaders. While the NRA is the big dog of the gun rights movement, it is a mistake to think that they are the end all and be all of that movement. Likewise, it is a myth to think that an NRA endorsement or NRA opposition is all that matters to GunVoters.

Pieces like the Times editorial point to other factors in the Democrats’ losses in 1994 and Al Gore’s loss in 2000, but the flawed analysis tends to look only at NRA endorsements versus Brady endorsements while ignoring other factors. They seem to think that since GunVoters didn’t score the wins all by ourselves, we had no role in the victories and defeats. Since we didn’t win every race the NRA supported, we have no clout.

I’m all in favor of anti-rights politicians believing that GunVoters are impotent. It’s refreshing to see them finally being honest enough to reveal their real position. What concerns me is Republicans buying into the other side of the same nonsense. It’s well past time for Republican leaders, strategists and candidates to recognize the potential of GunVoters and to embrace gun rights as a winning strategy. The fact is GunVoters often play a significant role in elections. From the election of Ronald Reagan to the purge of 1994 to Al Gore’s failure to win his home state of Tennessee, and possibly several others, GunVoters were an important factor. We didn’t do it alone, but we played an important role.

Until recently, Democrats understood that gun control loses. But what Republicans have failed to grasp is that gun rights win.

Since the election of Barack Obama, Democrats have managed to keep GunVoters on the sidelines by hiding behind weasel-worded platitudes about “respecting” the Second Amendment and telling misty-eyed stories about shooting .22s with Dad as a kid. They’ve been assisted in that by Republicans who try to play a “moderate” card on the issue, and Republican leadership that keeps promoting candidates with crummy records on guns – like Bob Dole, John McCain and Mitt Romney. These were candidates GunVoters didn’t trust and wouldn’t support, but they were offered up as alternatives to Democrats who, while not better on guns, were not perceived as being much worse either.

Now, with the promise of millions of dollars in support from Mike Bloomberg, Democrats are embracing the notion that fear of GunVoters is unfounded. They’ve torn down the façade and are openly talking about implementing “Australia-style” gun control in the U.S.

So where are the Republicans pointing out that Australia first required registration of all guns, and then confiscated almost all of them in mandatory “buy-backs”? Where are the Republicans proclaiming that Bloomberg’s scheme for “universal background checks” is merely widely dispersed registration that could later be easily changed to centralized registration just like the Australians had? Why do Republican candidates continue to get their advice on the gun issue from political hacks who know little about guns instead of relying on experienced rights advocates who know about guns and politics?

Elections are rarely won or lost over a single issue, but this is an issue that is proven to be able to swing large numbers of voters, often in conflict with their own party or their unions, and the Democrats are offering it up on a silver platter. Right now Democrats are riling up GunVoters, but if those angry GunVoters don’t have a clearly superior option in the Republican offering, they’re going to go deer hunting next November – just as many did in 2008 and 2012 – instead of going to the polls.

Bloomberg’s massive spending on two Virginia Senate candidates who were already leading in the polls, only to have one barely win and the other lose to a pro-rights Republican, should be a reminder to Democrats that gun control is a losing issue. But I hope they don’t get the message and continue to show their true colors.

More important, what just happened in Virginia should make Republican candidates realize that guns win. If they understand the issue and can articulate their position, there is no downside to being solidly pro-rights. But just an NRA endorsement isn’t good enough. They must pursue and convince GunVoters by getting out in front on pro-rights measures, and then following through on their promises.

©2015 The Firearms Coalition, all rights reserved. Reprinting, posting, and distributing permitted with inclusion of this copyright statement. www.FirearmsCoalition.org.

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