Democrat hostility to guns

Jeff Jacoby:

WHEN IT comes to gun control, the Democratic Party is a house divided against itself. That helps explain Barack Obama's dizzyingly inconsistent positions on District of Columbia v. Heller, the landmark Second Amendment case decided by the Supreme Court last week.

As a candidate for the Illinois Legislature in the 1990s, Obama had supported legislation to "ban the manufacture, sale, and possession of handguns," so it wasn't surprising that he endorsed the gun ban being challenged in Heller while campaigning for president. In November, for example, his campaign told the Chicago Tribune that "Obama believes the D.C. handgun law is constitutional." In February, when a questioner during a televised forum said, "You support the D.C. handgun ban," Obama readily agreed: "Right."

By March, however, his spokesman would no longer say whether Obama considered the gun ban constitutional, and when the senator was asked about it in April, he refused to give a clear answer on the grounds that "I obviously haven't listened to the briefs and looked at all the evidence." Still, when the court issued its 5-4 ruling last Thursday, Obama claimed that his views had been vindicated. "I have always believed," his statement began, "that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms." Then again, reported the Associated Press, "the campaign would not answer directly . . . when asked whether the candidate agreed with the court."

This is not just the customary political choreography whereby Democratic presidential candidates dance to the left during the primary election season, then pirouette back to the center for the general election. (Republicans twirl the other way.) Guns are a particularly thorny issue for Democrats, who have long been the party of gun control, and whose strong left wing detests firearms and looks down on the "gun nuts" who enjoy them. Liberal Democrats have generally seen the Second Amendment as an embarrassing constitutional anachronism. And they nurse a singular loathing for the National Rifle Association.

The problem for Democrats is that such views are well beyond the American mainstream. There are as many as 283 million privately owned firearms in the United States, and nearly half of all US households own at least one gun. Even before the Supreme Court ruling, a large majority of Americans - 73 percent, according to Gallup - believed the Second Amendment guaranteed the right of private citizens to own guns. Nearly 7 in 10 opposed any law making handgun possession illegal.

Given such widespread pro-gun sentiment, a political party inclined to demonize guns can expect to alienate many voters. In 1994, within months of enacting a ban on assault weapons, Democrats lost their majorities in both houses of Congress. Their "inability to consistently win elections in places where gun shops outnumber Starbucks," the respected political analyst Charlie Cook wrote in National Journal during their long exile, "is a big reason the party controls neither the House nor the Senate."

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The Democrats are so far on the other side of the voters on this issue it is surprising they get elected at all. but the same can be said on taxes and energy right now, but for some reason Democrats are favored this election. I think the only reason that is so is that they have successfully demonized Republicans and the GOP has failed to return fire to the point that voters hate everyone and trust no one. That explains the low regard for Congress, but it does not explain why anyone should vote for Democrats.

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