If one thing came out of the first Democratic debate, it’s that the Blue Team isn’t afraid of talking about guns. Or to be more precise, talking about gun control. This has been something of a verboten topic among Democrats ever since Bill Clinton blamed Al Gore’s 2000 election loss on the virulent NRA campaign in Tennessee that cost Gore his home state. Let’s overlook the fact that even with the disappearing Palm Beach County votes, Bush won a whole, big 271 electoral votes – one more than the minimum – and lost the popular vote. So ascribing Gore’s loss to the ‘power’ of the NRA is something of a stretch, but it’s been accepted without question until now.
And now it appears that the Democrats have found their wedge issue, namely, the issue of guns. Not only was it the first, substantive issue discussed in the debate, but the candidates spent nine minutes trying to outdo one another over who had been given the worst grade by the NRA. All of them came out for expanded background checks, all of them lambasted the NRA, and of the more than 1,200 words uttered about guns by the five candidates, the 2nd Amendment was mentioned exactly once. Even Obama used to regularly mention his support of the 2nd Amendment when he would talk about guns. That was then, this is now. When it comes to the Democrats, all of a sudden Constitutional protections for gun ownership have disappeared.
The reason for this shift is very simple: enough is enough. A mass shooting here, a mass shooting there, no big deal. We’ve been living with this sort of thing since good ol’ Charlie Whitman climbed to the top of the Texas Tower in 1966 and began mowing people down. But when 11 people are killed and 14 injured in shootings at three college campuses in one week, all the stupid talk from the gun gang about ‘gun-free zones’ and ‘fixing the broken mental health system’ just doesn’t work. Nobody but the looniest among us would deny the accepted notion that government has a ‘compelling interest’ in keeping us safe; ipso facto, the shootings at campuses in Oregon, Arizona and Texas must, in the minds of most people, require some kind of government response.
Now you would think that the pro-gun gang would use these campus shootings to push their ‘armed citizen’ response as far as they can. And in fact the NRA just posted a new story on their website about how folks with guns protect others from crime. But since they couldn’t find any examples of armed citizens keeping students safe on college campuses, they fashioned a story around examples of armed response that took place in apartment complexes where “apartment dwellers are far from immune from violent crime.” But to actually find eight instances where apartment-dwelling citizens used guns in response to crime, the NRA had to go back to 2012; i.e., less than three events per year. Sorry boys, that just doesn’t stack up against three campus shootings in one week.
Hillary and the other Democratic candidates have nothing to lose and a lot to gain by going after the NRA. After all, the NRA has been bashing her and Democrats in general for the last twenty years. If she were to turn around tomorrow and announce, a la Donald Trump, that she “loves” gun rights, nobody would believe her anyway, at least nobody who supports the NRA.
On the other hand, it’s clear that the percentage of American households containing legal guns keeps going down. Which means that using ‘gun rights’ to gain an edge on voter turnout becomes increasingly a dead end. I’m not saying that all those politicians who routinely vote the NRA line are going to roll over and play dead. What I am saying is that if guns continue to be a wedge issue, it may be a wedge issue for the gun-control side.