At this year's annual Gun Rights Policy Conference in September, National Rifle Association President Sandy Froman endorsed Arizona Sen. John McCain in the upcoming presidential election. This came as no surprise; the Democrats have long been denounced by the NRA as the anti-Second Amendment party — Nanny-State know-it-alls, Big-Government gun-controllers out of touch with the majority of Americans, yearning to impose their vision on a population that wants none of it.
In this election, however, it's not that simple. The U.S. is facing a host of challenges, most of them brought on by the antics of a Republican administration that governed as a team of mendacious plunderers, with no regard for the future, or even for the beliefs that their own party once espoused. The Constitution — the very document that guarantees the right to keep and bear arms — has been treated with scorn. The economy, manipulated by the kind of "crony capitalism" we once despised in less-enlightened nations, is a shambles, at least for the middle class, and our energy policies are the laughingstock of the developed world. Today's Republicans are not just the party of the Second Amendment; they are also the party of the big energy companies. Is it possible, then, that gun-rights advocates might consider voting for someone who is not a Republican?
It's unlikely, unless the Democrats start acknowledging the gun vote and respecting the views of Second Amendment proponents. Gun owners represent at least 4 million of the nation's most dedicated voters. Election after election, they help change the outcome, sometimes electing politicians who are inept, corrupt or unabashed lackeys of corporate interests — people whose only appeal to gun owners is that they promise to leave the Second Amendment alone.
Now, however, the Second Amendment is more resistant to those politicians who might want to mess with it. The Supreme Court's recent Heller decision just declared Washington, D.C.'s restrictive firearms laws unconstitutional, thus weakening the power of state and local politicians to control guns or limit gun ownership. Given that — and given what is at stake in the U.S. today — it may be time for Democratic and independent voters to simply give up on gun control. We have so many more pressing issues to deal with.
For two decades, many liberals have thrived on despising the NRA and its members. Those who believe in gun control often hold enormous prejudice against those who don't. But there are already reams of laws pertaining to the use, abuse, purchase and sale of firearms. What new regulations would the gun-controllers create, and how would they work to address the problem of gun violence? Do they want to prohibit private ownership of firearms altogether? Many would like to ban handguns, without considering just what this would entail, what inequities of power would result, and what new, potentially dangerous, powers would have to be awarded to government to accomplish it. Like activists who want to ban pit bulls, the gun-control advocates remain relentlessly unspecific about what they hope to achieve. It has become clear, too, that these advocates hold a double standard regarding the U.S. Constitution: The First Amendment is vital to the health of a free nation, as is the Fourth, but the Second is respected only by the un-evolved and the violent. Only the parts of the Constitution that their side respects are valid, in this view.
According to Dave Workman, the senior editor of GunWeek, a publication of the Bellevue, Wash.-based Second Amendment Foundation, "The Clinton-era 'assault weapons ban' was more symbolic than anything else. The reason it was so overwhelmingly supported by the gun control movement was because it represented a federal ban on firearms based on cosmetic circumstances — what they looked like — not on their lethality. It was to condition the public to accept a piecemeal destruction of the Second Amendment."
Workman believes there was much to learn from the Clinton election. "When George H. W. Bush took the gun vote for granted in 1992, most of the gun owners voted for Ross Perot, or else they sat it out," he says. The election of Clinton, though, and what followed, cemented the gun voters' dislike of the Democratic Party. The Brady Law went into effect in 1993, and the "assault weapons ban" passed a year later. That was enough, says Workman, for the gun voters to see "how this was all going. They mobilized and threw out many of the Democrats, costing them control of Congress (in 1994)." The National Rifle Association first endorsed a presidential candidate — Ronald Reagan — in 1980, but gun politics as we know them today were born in 1994.
Since then, the gun vote has gone to the Republicans, and that is not expected to change anytime soon, even with pro-gun Democrats like Montana's Gov. Brian Schweitzer or Sen. Jon Tester gaining prominence. "It is not that the gun vote will not cross party lines," Workman said. "We know that there are a lot of pro-gun Democrats now, and we are not the one-mind, one-thought Neanderthals that many liberals believe us to be. But the Republican party remains the party of the gun owners, because the most entrenched Democrats are the old-left, dust-gathering anti-gun, anti-liberty politicians, and when the Democrats have a majority, it puts those people in charge."
Tom Gresham, host of the radio show Gun Talk, recognizes that there are dire problems with the Republican Party. Still, he refuses to vote for a Democrat. "I am proud to be a single-issue voter, and I will not cast a vote to strengthen the party of Nancy Pelosi. Let's look at what it means when any politician says that it is okay to take away any of the gun rights of a law-abiding citizen. It means that they truly believe that we are too childlike to be trusted with those rights, and it means that their attitude of government is that it will protect us from any and every peril. Tangentially, it also means that they want all the power."