Wishful thinking: Congressional Quarterly blogger says guns now a “non-issue” in campaigns

By Brian S. Stewart

The landmark Supreme Court ruling in D.C. v. Heller delivered a knockout blow to “collective” rights theorists in the anti-gun community. It put into jeopardy blanket handgun bans in Chicago, San Francisco, and other municipalities, and is without a doubt a victory for gun owners.

And as if on cue, anti-gun editorialists and the mainstream media are rushing to declare the electoral combat over guns to be over.

At Congressional Quarterly’s “Political Insider” blog, Taegan Goddard declared the fight over, under the heading “Supreme Court Makes Guns a Non-Issue”:

Today's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down the District of Columbia's 32 year ban on handguns as incompatible with the 2nd amendment is not exactly a win for Republicans -- even though it went farther than even the Bush administration hoped.

By re-affirming that Americans have a right to own guns for self-defense and hunting, the court effectively takes the gun issue out of the fall campaign. Republicans will now have a very hard time arguing that if you elect Democrats they will take away your guns.

Sadly, guns were already going to be out of the fall campaign. Barack Obama is the most anti-gun presidential candidate in U.S. history, and John McCain seems to view support for the Second Amendment as an electoral box to check, not a defining issue. But that is only at the presidential level. Anti-gun politicians are running for reelection in every state across the country, and often times there are pro-gun alternatives that need our support.

It’s also important to note everything that the Court did not decide. It did not rule out assault weapons bans, it did not rule out a national handgun registry, it did not rule out limits on gun purchases, it did not rule out waiting periods, it did not discuss ever-increasing campus violence and the question of concealed carry for students. It did not discuss Castle Doctrine, ballistic fingerprinting, trigger locks, or the like. While not to minimize the decision, it essentially affirmed what gun rights proponents have believed and argued all along. The Supreme Court of the United States now agrees that the Second Amendment now agrees with us, but these other issues are still out there, and still require vigilance against anti-gun politicians and activists.

And while Goddard and many other Democrats may wish it so, the idea that Republicans can’t paint certain Democrats as gun-grabbing opponents of gun rights just don’t hold much water. The most egregious municipal gun bans have been put and place and sustained by Democrats, and it is Democrats which will likely fight hardest to keep them.

Here in Ohio, Democrat Ted Strickland and many others like him wholeheartedly support gun rights to an extent far greater than past Republican leaders. This is a welcome trend that is, to a degree, spreading. But with Barack Obama at the top of the ticket, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi in Congress, and big-city mayors nationwide attacking the rights of gun owners – Democrats still have a long way to go before Republicans can’t paint Democrats as anti-gun.

Amazingly, this was a close 5-4 decision. Not a 7-2, or even a 6-3. But for one swing justice, we’d be looking at a far different opinion on gun rights, and one with far different ramifications. A Barack Obama presidency guarantees at least one extra justice in the Ginsberg, Breyer, Souter, Stevens mold, maybe more. So the claim that anti-gun politicians will take away our guns is still one that must be considered when gun owners go to vote.

There are still multiple Second Amendment questions to answer, and those on the wrong side of those questions will still have to answer for it.

Brian S. Stewart is a former infantryman and an Iraq War veteran. He recently graduated from the Ohio State University with a degree in Political Science.

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