Making Political Hay

The Citizens Committe for the Right to Keep and Bears Arms is calling out the Democrats for their recent vote on DC Voting Rights, which was voted down because of the addition of an amendment that would have repealed the Washington D.C. gun ban:

Congressional Democrats claim at every turn they “support the Secon d Amendment,” but the truth came out Thursday when they pulled a coveted District of Columbia voting rights bill because of an amendment that would have ended the long-standing handgun ban.

“This shows the true colors of the Democrat leadership,” Alan M. Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms stated. “It should have been easy for the Democrat caucus to agree to the Republican-sponsored amendment, because of the recent federal appeals court ruling that declared the handgun ban unconstitutional under the Second Amendment.

“Instead,” Gottlieb said, “Democrats proved once again that all their avowed support for the Second Amendment is nothing but empty rhetoric. House Democrats had a chance to stand up and be counted, but instead they ran for cover, afraid to have a recorded vote prove that, as a party and as individuals, they remain as anti-gun as ever.”

I can’t honestly say I’m all that displeased with the outcome, to be honest, because it would have removed standing for the Parker plaintiffs if they go before The Supreme Court.  But this move was purely political: to get the Democrats on record as being in favor of handgun bans, so much so that they were willing to sacrifice a coveted bill in maintain it.  The politics of this is pretty  smart for the Republicans, as polls show that most Americans do not favor making handguns illegal.  This puts the Democrats on record as being pretty extreme on the gun issue when compared to most Americans.

But the Democrats could be playing it smart too, in a way.  Parker is a win-win case for them, and I could see that they might think twice before they would derail it.

If Parker prevails, it will essentially give the Democrats the political cover they need to back further away from gun control as one of their issues.  The Democrats seem to have accepted that this issue has been a killer for them in national elections, and is in no large part responsible for them being reduced to strips along the Northeast Corridor, parts of the Midwest around Chicago, and the West Coast.  In 2006, they won on the backs of some pretty pro-gun Democrats like Jim Webb, Bob Casey, John Tester, and the like.  Parker changes the political landscape a bit, and might give some politicians with less then stellar records on guns, to back away from the issue without making it look like flip-flopping.

If Parker loses, then the Supreme Court would be emboldening anti-gun forces within the Democratic Party, and offering political cover for some more moderate Democrats to move more to the anti-second amendment position.  The folks in Congress like Carolyn McCarthy and Charles Schumer would love to have a Supreme Court ruling that definitively said that the second amendment is no obstacle to gun control in order to beat pro-gun or moderately pro-gun democrats over the head with.

The real losers in the Parker case would be the Republicans, who would not like to see the gun constituency split between the parties.  We’ve been a good voting block for the Republicans, so I can see why they’d want to get this issue away from the courts and back into the legislative arena where it can help them more.  If gun owners feel secure in their gun rights, they might just be tempted to vote Democrat.  If we go down to defeat in Parker, it could convince a lot of gun owners that the system is stacked against them, and stop participating in political activism altogether.

I think looking carefully at each parties interest can explain the vote on the issue.   I don’t think it means the Democrats will head back to their gun control roots; they will stay away from the issue until after the 2008 elections.  Both parties are using this particular vote as part of a larger political game, and getting rid of the DC gun ban at this point isn’t in the Democrats political interests, even if a lot of party members would like to move away from an anti-gun position.

Of course, I could be wrong about this, and the Democrats are just being stupid.

2 thoughts on “Making Political Hay”

  1. It can end up being what Roe v. Wade has been to the abortion debate.

    I disagree that an upholding of Parker gives the Democrats political cover. I think it is the opposite. The anti-gun forces will probably try to chip away at the ruling in the way anti-abortion forces have tried to chip away at Roe. Knowing an outright abortion ban will never fly (outside of South Dakota, anyway), we have bans on partial birth abortion, parental notification, restrictions on taking minors out of state to get abortions, etc.

    Think of what the anti-gun legislators can in the face of Parker – more licensing requirements, federal taxes on guns and ammo, trigger lock and storage requirements, monthly purchasing limits, etc.

    Granted, not all of these may survive judicial scrutiny today, but that does not mean that down the road such restrictions will be struck down. In the partial birth abortion debate, the Supreme Court has struck down many of the laws banning them, but that does not stop legislatures from passing them again with different language in the hope that the new language survives a challenge. The same is certainly going to happen with regards to gun control – anti-gun legislatures are going to keep passing the restrictions until, in the end, something finally sticks.

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