Why Democrats Need to Rethink Gun Control
Gun control; not Russia, might be the real reason Hillary Clinton lost last year’s presidential election. There is some data that indicates the hardline Democratic position on gun control is costing the party votes and offices it should be winning.
The most compelling evidence for this argument comes from the November 2016 general election in Montana. Born again gun-rights advocate and Republican Donald J. Trump easily captured 55.6% of the state’s popular vote; and three Electoral College seats, The New York Times reported. Trump easily trounced outspoken gun control advocate Hillary Clinton who received just 35.4% of Montana’s vote.
On the very same day Democrat; and Second Amendment advocate, Steve Bullock won the governor’s race with 50.2% of the vote. The evidence is clear; 15% to 20% of the voters in Montana would be willing to back a Democrat, if she took a more moderate stand on gun control. Had Hillary been willing to soften her stance on gun control she might have won states like Montana, or at least been competitive in some of them.
Special Elections Show Second Amendment Rights Pay Off for Democrats
Even more evidence that standing up for the Second Amendment gains Democrats votes is provided by two recent special elections to fill empty Congressional seats.
First there was the Fourth District in Kansas; where Republican Mike Pompeo trounced Democrat Daniel Giroux with a margin of 60.7% to 29.6% in November 2016. Just six months later Democrat James Thompson managed to pick up 45.7% of the vote in the Republican-leaning district, Ballotpedia data indicates.
Thompson is a hunter and a gun rights advocate who even made a TV commercial in which he was seen firing an assault rifle. Thompson has even voiced his support for concealed carry and he managed to increase the level of support by 14.1%. He did it in an 82.8% white rural district that includes the Koch Bothers’ home town of Wichita. A district that Donald J. Trump won by a margin of 27% in November.
In the First District of Montana, Democrat Rob Quist won 44% of the vote in a May special election. Quist like Thompson is an outspoken gun rights advocate, who had a section about “protecting our second amendment rights” on his website. Even though Quist lost; he picked up almost 9% more of the vote than the antigun Hillary.
Second Amendment Rights can Help Democrats get White Working Class Votes
Taking a stand in favor of the Second Amendment can help Democrats capture a group of voters they desperately need: working class whites. The percentages of the vote won by Bullock, Thompson and Quist prove that working-class whites are willing to vote for Democrats who embrace the Second Amendment.
Their margins also demonstrate that the national Democratic Party simply does not understand working class or rural whites or how they think about guns. Guns are a traditional part of the culture in rural America; just a generation or so most rural residents owned firearms, and a large percentage of the men hunted. Many rural people are still proud of hunting and Western traditions in which guns played an important part.
When somebody like Hillary attacks guns she is attacking such people’s culture. To many rural residents antigun propaganda sounds like an assault on their lifestyle and values.
Democrats from predominately rural states such as U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (who claims to be an independent from Vermont) understand this. Unfortunately the majority of Democrats who come from urban, suburban and often upper class backgrounds fail to grasp this reality.
The Democratic Party must represent more than Upper Middle Class Soccer Moms
Since simply changing their position on one issue might help Democrats win, many people will ask: why don’t they do it? The answer can be found in the current thinking of the party leadership.
Democrats like Hillary; and her former advisor Jesse Ferguson, believe their party’s future lies in the suburban upper middle class, Week writer Ryan Cooper noted. That is why we get a Democratic platform tailored to white upper-middle class suburban soccer moms and nobody else. This is why we hear endless talk of gun control, abortion and gay rights from Democratic candidates but little mention of income inequality, healthcare, raising the minimum wage, voter suppression or Social Security expansion.
Gun control is the ultimate soccer mom issue designed for people who want to turn the United States into a giant well-policed suburb. It is easy to see why Hillary loves it and why Democrats lose.
Why Democrats should Oppose Gun Control
There are some other very good reasons why Democrats should oppose gun control including:
- Gun control is racist. The most aggressive and ambitious gun control effort in the United States was New York City’s “Stop and Frisk” Program. Stop and Frisk was an effort to enforce an old gun control law called the Sullivan Act by stopping and search people on the streets of the Big Apple. An analysis by the New York Civil Liberties Union found that around 90% of those stopped were black and Latino. On August 12, 2013, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin declared Stop and Frisk “indirect racial profiling” and ordered it stopped, Reuters reported.
- Any organized national gun control effort runs the risk of becoming a debacle; and an assault on constitutional and human rights, as great as the War on Drugs. Just as the War on Drugs failed to stop the flow of narcotics and end addiction, the war on guns would not lessen the availability of firearms or reduce violence. A likely result is to encourage lawlessness and increase crime by creating a nationwide black market for firearms. If legal sources of guns were cut off, gun dealers would simply turn to illegal sources overseas.
- There is an ugly element of class and race warfare to gun control. Stop and Frisk can be seen as an effort by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to clear New York of working class blacks and Hispanics. Much of the gun control rhetoric is an attempt to classify poor and uneducated white men as a dangerous criminal class that needs to be brought under control. Just as the War on Drugs became the “War on Poor Blacks;” the War on Guns will become the “War on Poor Whites.”
- Gun control would increase the number of people in prison and the size and scope of the prison system. There might be as many 2.3 million people locked up in America’s jails and penitentiaries according to the Prison Policy Institute. Criminalizing legal activities like gun ownership simply creates more criminals, and puts more people behind bars. Aggressive gun control would undo all Democratic efforts to reduce the size of the prison population.
- Aggressive gun control will increase the powers and size of law enforcement. Law enforcement abuses in the War on Drugs such as SWAT team raids; seizure of property via forfeiture and unconstitutional searches and seizures, are too numerous to name. The War on Guns will have similar results by turning militarized police loose on working class whites. Its’ victims will correctly blame the politicians who promoted the policy in the first place; and punish them at the ballot box, just as African Americans accurately blame Republicans for the War on Drugs.
Democrats need to make a choice: do they want to be the party of the working class again and start winning? Or become a minority party that only represents suburban soccer moms?