One of my big regrets of blogging about gun politics today is that I think all the interesting developments in politics are happening outside the gun issue. I’m hoping that a refresh on the federal bench might change some of that in 2017, and we can get some interesting movement in the courts again. But it’s hard to know what will happen.
I sense that the 2016 election is a pretty epic shift in the political balance, much in the same way 2008 was. Both the 2008 and 2016 election are not the pendulum swinging one way, and then swinging back. If you think that, you’re trying to shoe-horn the current political situation into the context you’ve understood all your life: the Post-WWII order created by our parents (if you’re a boomer) and grandparents (if you’re my generation). I believe 2008 and 2016 represent that order shattering. I’m not sure that will be a good thing. First let me argue where I think things are going with the gun issue:
- Trump will fulfill a lot of his promises on court nominations, and that’s largely because Presidents don’t have a whole lot of leeway in who they appoint. If they did, we’d be talking about Justice Harrier Meyers. Court appointments are where Presidents appease their base. Your average voter isn’t paying attention to court fights, and nominations tend to get drowned in issues those folks don’t care to follow closely. We never would have won Heller and McDonald if Al Gore had won the 2000 election, even though Bush came into office promising to sign a renewal of the Assault Weapons Ban. We can make progress with politicians who are “good enough.” We don’t need angels.
- Trump is going to disappoint us in a lot of other ways. I am not looking forward to his first big test on the issue (think a Sandy Hook like event). He’ll be under a lot of pressure and he tends to get stupid off the cuff and under pressure.
- Our bigger disappointment will be Congress. We’re all talking about this election as if we just won the lottery. It still takes 60 votes to pass legislation through the Senate. The GOP will be more than happy to put on a show for you and blame those dastardly filibustering Democrats for not being able to get anything done. Just be mindful of that. It’s not an excuse. The Dems will nuke the filibuster first chance they get. You can count on it. Republicans shouldn’t entertain any delusions about that.
- Bloomberg is going to find that he can only defeat us at the margins, only at a very heavy cost in dollars. Unfortunately for us, the 20 million dollars Bloomberg blew on his gamble in Nevada is pocket change to him. He can still afford to whittle at the margins a lot, even if it mostly results in defeat, and if he’s smart it won’t. That said, I believe Bloomberg has hit his high water mark with gun control, but events unforeseen could prove me wrong here.
- I believe we’re going to arrive at an equilibrium there we are not fully happy with, but it’ll be one that’s not disastrous to the gun culture we’ve been trying to build. There will be opportunities opened up. I think we can win on gun bans. The worst excesses of the anti-gun states can be checked.
- On the down side, anti-gun states are going to win on a lot of marginal issues we won’t be completely happy with. I don’t believe California and New Jersey are, in my lifetime at least, ever going to be as pro-gun as Wyoming. The courts are going to leave more room for variation than we’d ideally like.
- I don’t believe I will live to see the Hughes Amendment repealed, though I’d love to be wrong. I think we may get some more exceptions shot through it, but I think even a few decades from now if you want to take up collecting machine guns, you’re going to have to jump through hoops, deal with the legal maze, and fork up serious coin. That’s assuming it’s even legal in your state, because I don’t foresee court enforced protections for full-autos, SBRs and SBSs. That will have to come legislatively.
- The good news is that I think we can achieve deregulating silencers closer to the short term, and that SBRs and SBSs might also be reachable legislatively, though I’m not very optimistic the courts striking down NFA provisions. In a lot of states these will remain illegal or more strictly regulated than under federal law.
- The courts are liable to uphold a lot of “gun free zones” we’re not happy with. I believe they will uphold much of the “prohibited persons” mechanisms, though they might actually demand some token due process here and there. I’ve said for a long time, I will never live to see a return to cash on the barrel sales of firearms. Background checks are not going anywhere. There are probably even private sale restrictions the courts will uphold.
- Here’s the real hard pill to swallow: the younger generation are far less concerned about personal privacy than earlier ones. They don’t have the visceral reaction to registration that we do if bans and confiscation are legal impossibilities. Even if the government never imposes formal registration, de-facto registration will likely become reality. To be honest, privacy is quickly becoming obsolete just because of technology. I’m not sure this is taking us to a good place, but that’s where we’re going whether we like it or not. How to manage this future could be a whole long post in itself.
What about politics in general?
- Nationalism and populism are back, baby, and God help us. I don’t mean just the kind of traditional pride in your country, sing the national anthem at sporting events kind of nationalism, but the kind of nationalism that brought us such wondrous events as World War I and World War II. This is a global trend. Democracy is reasserting itself, and the people are sick of transnational institutions. Is this a good thing? Who knows. I generally tend to think the people reasserting themselves is probably healthy, but I also think there were good reasons many of our founders feared raw democratic power.
- The post-WWII order is definitely disintegrating before our eyes. I’m not certain this incantation of nationalism will be the same as the kind we were taught spurned two major calamities, but I’m also not sure that another major calamity isn’t coming. History doesn’t really repeat itself, but it does have parallels.
- Our current international institutions are anything but democratic, and probably deserve some rebuke. Both the UN and the EU are post-WWII technocratic institutions with no real democratic legitimacy. The UN was intended to be a top-down instrument of policy for the victors of the Second World War. It served as a stage on which the Cold War could be fought, and a mechanism by which “minor” country squabbles could be resolved before they had the chance to draw in major powers.
- For all it’s faults, much of the Post WWII order was designed to avert the possibility of a Third World War fought with nuclear weapons, and it worked. But no one younger than 35 really understands this, and I believe that’s very dangerous.
- The EU is probably going to collapse. To put it bluntly, the EU started off with good intention as a way to tie the continent together economically so as to make future wars unthinkable. It worked too well. What the EU has turned into is a not so subtle conspiracy by British, French, and German elites to control Europe both economically and politically via extra-democratic means. This was all well and good as long as those elites were actually doing a good job, but shit is starting to get real, and they don’t have answers except to double down on the status quo. The people have noticed.
If I had to make a prediction, technocratic and bureaucratic transnational institutions are going the way of the dodo. I don’t know what will replace them because I don’t believe globalism is going away: globalism is an inevitable consequence of technological progress. But people, everyday people, are reasserting themselves. You’re going to see that across the world, and not just here. Brexit and Trump are just symptoms. I don’t really know where all this is going, but it is definitely an interesting time to be alive, and I’m not sure whether by “interesting” I mean good “interesting” or bad “interesting.”
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