In the aftermath of the shocking yet exhilarating electoral victory crafted by Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania’s 18th CD, I have seen numerous comments within the gun violence prevention (GVP) community raising concern about Lamb’s ‘pro-gun’ approach. That’s understandable, given the fact that his very first television ad contained a snippet showing him blasting away with his beloved AR-15. Which presents something of a dilemma for the GVP crowd going into November, because they have tied themselves to a campaign to ban assault rifles, among other things.
Actually, Lamb isn’t the first post-Trump Democratic candidate to fashion a campaign around being pro-gun. Last year a Republican, Greg Gianforte, overcame an assault of a reporter as well as the charge that he was a carpet-bagger to win a special election against Rob Quist, the latter beginning his campaign with a television ad showing him shooting what he claimed was his family’s trusty, ol’ Winchester to prove he was a Montana native through and through.
If I wanted to make a quick buck, I’d go downstairs to my private gun range (that’s right, I can get up from this computer, walk down a flight of stairs and bang away to my heart’s content) and do a couple of shooting videos that could then be sold to the DNC. And every Democratic candidate running in one of those ‘soft’ red Congressional districts could splice a piece of video into their television ads to prove they are ‘pro-gun.’
Could control of Congress in 2018 depend on which party is better at selling a message about how much they love guns? Whether or not this turns out to be the case, what I find interesting is how the NRA has suddenly begun to change its messaging in what is obviously an appeal to sell itself beyond its most extreme base. According to Chris Cox, the NRA is ready to engage in a ‘broad discussion’ about the ‘culture of violence’ which exists today. The purpose of this discussion is to “take action to prevent violence and protect 2nd Amendment rights,” including gun-violence restraining orders (GVRO) which the NRA used to oppose.
Even the NRA’s hard-and-fast opposition to expanding background checks all of a sudden appears to have changed. Before last week, America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ opposed any extension of background checks, anywhere, anytime at all. But last week the narrative changed. Here’s Wayne-o’s latest message to the faithful: “We will oppose any attempt to make people engage in a background check to transfer a gun to a relative, neighbor or friend.” How’s about selling a gun to someone you just met? I didn’t notice that Wayne-o is saying that any and all gun transfers should take place without a NICS check.
For the sake of argument, let’s say that when the 116th Congress begins its 2019 session that the majority switches from red to blue. And let’s further say that a new gun-control is proposed expanding background checks to secondary sales. Right now the bill that has been filed by Senator Murphy (D-CT) basically prohibits the transfer of any gun to anyone without first doing a background check unless the person receiving the gun is a spouse, domestic partner, child, sibling or other relative of the person getting rid of the gun.
Guess what? Figure out how to define ‘friends’ and ’neighbors,’ add them to that list and you’ve got yourself a comprehensive, national background-check bill. But it takes both sides to come up with language which each side can sell to their constituencies as being nothing other than what they have always said.
Until last week the NRA opposed any extension of background checks – no ifs, ands or buts. All of a sudden, the tune has changed. I’m not saying the NRA is morphing into a gun-control organization. But it’s one thing to take a shot at the enemy, it’s quite another to sit down and make a deal. Is either side in the gun debate willing to see something like this actually occur?