How We’re Going to F**k Up the Gun Control Debate
Last week, as I was reading my friend Kurt Schlichter’s piece on Townhall.com, I realized that there are two emerging views among conservatives regarding what 2013 will bring in terms of new gun legislation. On one side, there are the doomsayers who are predicting “Disarmageddon,” and on the other, there are those who say the Dems will be all bark and no bite on gun control, out of fear of losing “red state” Democrats.
The truth, as it often does, will probably make an appearance somewhere in the middle of those two extremes.
What concerns me more is whether we will be able to benefit from the gun debate, regardless of how it goes. If the Dems have taught us anything, it’s that they can make political hay out of a real crisis (Superstorm Sandy), or an imagined one (the “war on women”).
In theory, if the Dems go all gun-grabby in 2013, we could use that to make inroads with swing state voters in the 2014 midterm. And if the Dems merely threaten gun-grabbiness but don’t follow-through, we could, in theory, STILL make hay out of their threats (just as Dems do when GOPs who know perfectly well that they CAN’T outlaw all abortions nevertheless pledge to do so).
There are large parts of this nation in which even the Dems own guns and go shooting, regions in which gun-grabbing or threatened gun-grabbing could become an effective issue for the GOP.
In theory, we could score points whether the Dems act or not.
In reality, we won’t. We’re going to cock up this issue just like we cock up almost everything we touch these days.
How are we going to cock it up?
Let me count the ways.
Conservatives have lost the ability to laser-focus on one issue. Attempting to use Dem gun policy to woo swing voters requires focusing on gun rights. It requires putting aside, if only temporarily, the social issues that can alienate those voters. And I just don’t think we have the ability to do that anymore. I don’t think we, as a party, can just shut up about certain social issues, if only briefly.
Women are an incredibly fast-growing demographic of gun owners, and the appeal to self-defense and personal safety is one of the strongest points 2nd Amendment advocates have. Gun rights is a women’s issue, in the truest sense of the term. But also, in ASTRONOMICALLY large numbers, American women are turned off by the “no exception for rape” anti-abortion argument. It’s not only a hugely unpopular view, it’s also an entirely moot one, as the debate over denying abortions to rape victims won’t even matter until or unless Roe v. Wade is overturned, and, with six of the nine current Supreme Court justices agreeing that Roe is “settled law,” that’s perhaps DECADES away.
So, we could try to make inroads with swing voters by using the gun issue, but it will only be a matter of time before someone relates the Newtown shooting to abortion. Oh, wait — Mike Huckabee already did. And many more will follow. I just don’t think we have the self-control to stay focused. I’m not trying to put down pro-lifers, and I’m not trying to belittle the pro-life cause; I’m simply saying that I think we’ve lost the ability to strategically know when to bring up certain issues, and when not to. Our party has become like an annoying car salesman, driving away potential customers by insisting they accept add-ons they don’t want.
“Hello, sir. Ah, I see you’re admiring our fiscal discipline line. Yes, that’s one of our most popular models. And if you buy it today, you’ll get, as an additional feature, no abortions for rape victims. Uh, no sir, I’m sorry – we can’t separate the two. Those add-ons are factory installed. Where are you going? Sir? Come back!”
See, here’s the rub – on the gun issue, EVERY FACT AND EVERY STATISTIC is on our side. There are few if any issues on which we stand on more demonstrably provable firm ground. On guns and self-defense, on statistics in U.S. cities and foreign countries where guns have been restricted or banned, on how so-called “lax gun laws” usually play no part in tragedies like Newtown, on the number of American lives saved each year by guns vs. the number of lives taken, on the fact that mass-murders are still committed in countries that ban guns…we win on all points, using irrefutable facts and figures.
But we won’t be satisfied with that. It would be too easy, too practical.
In the past week, I’ve seen about two dozen fake memes being passed around on FB, sometimes by respected conservative voices…memes with fake quotes and misused Holocaust photos (because typically, one resorts to Nazi analogies only when there are no real facts to cite…so of course let’s do that now even though the facts are on our side). Why rely on the truth when we can disseminate phony quotes about how Sarah Brady is preparing the U.S. for communist takeover, or how Janet Reno told “Good Morning America” in 1993 that she’s part of a conspiracy to end private gun ownership?
Indeed, when I commented on a thread in which a Big Hollywood writer had posted the phony Reno quote, I was attacked as being “David ‘Liberal-Lover’ Stein.”
Because apparently trying to be factual makes one a “liberal-lover.”
How else are we going to lose this winnable war? Well, we saw a glimpse of that at the Wayne LaPierre press conference. LaPierre was not content to simply cite facts and figures to support the gun rights case (and he did that part quite well). He also felt the need to divert the issue into an attack on Hollywood and video games. Now, personally, I dispute the notion that Hollywood or video games contribute to the kind of violence we saw at Newtown. But that’s just my opinion. What’s more important is that it’s a diversion. It creates an entirely new debate, one in which the facts are not so clear-cut, when we should be concentrating on the debate in which the facts are clear-cut and on our side.
We need to be countering the misinformation on guns coming from the Dems, rather than opening up a second front against Hollywood. That doesn’t mean that Hollywood is blameless, or that it isn’t made up of deplorable hypocrites (it is, most certainly). It just means that the “oh why do these horrible shootings happen” debate is separate from the defense of the 2nd Amendment. We don’t have to come up with an answer as to why school shootings happen – we simply have to point out that restricting gun rights is not the answer.
Ah, but again, that would be too easy, too practical. And heaven knows, we love making easy fights difficult.
Another case in point: A theme sweeping conservative circles since Newtown is that the killer wasn’t mentally ill but evil, and our society’s reluctance to recognize “evil” is to blame for school shootings.
Okay, at its core, I get that. The left has, indeed, inundated our society with a kind of moral relativism which teaches that nothing is “bad,” just “sick” or “misunderstood.” But it will not help us to inject that very complicated concept into the gun debate. We just got our asses kicked in November after being painted as “anti-science.” Sometimes that charge was unjustified (as in the conservative position on “global warming”), sometimes justified (as in “women can’t get pregnant from rape”), and in some cases…ah hell, I don’t even want to get into the whole “age of the earth” thing.
So now we’re going to come off as people who claim that mental illness doesn’t exist, or that it’s a curse from God, or that schizophrenics are demon-possessed, or that they’re from families that have sinned? Great. That’s just great. By all means, rather than concentrate on the gun issue, which is a winnable issue, let’s double-down on the stuff that helped get our asses handed to us (even in RED STATES) last November.
Yes, modern psychiatry doesn’t use the term “evil.” GOOD. That’s not what psychiatrists are supposed to do. Even in Christian-based counseling, proper clinical terms like psychopath, sociopath, narcissist, etc., are used. If your child is exhibiting abnormal behavior, you don’t take him to a mental health professional in order to get a diagnosis of “good” or “evil.”
I agree that, as a society, we have become unwilling to accept moral absolutes. But mental health problems exist, they are real. And – by most estimates – they affect over 100,000,000 Americans (in terms of either having some form of mental disorder, or having it in the family or in a spouse’s family).
Do you get the implication there? Roughly one in three Americans might be offended if we approach them with the “there’s no mental illness, just evil” message. So, if we go charging out there claiming there’s no mental illness, just evil, we lose. We alienate people, and we reject our strongest material (firearms facts and figures) in favor of things that are theologically and opinion-based.
And you can bet we’ll do that. And, rather than trying to use the Dems’ gun restriction policies to our advantage, we’ll again be at their mercy. That’s where the two extremes of the “what will happen in 2013 with gun control” debate agree. The “Disarmageddon” crowd – those who believe that the Dems will be confiscating our weapons, and the “bark worse than bite” crowd – those who believe that the Dems are just posturing and won’t follow through, both instinctively know that the ball is in the Dems’ court. They’ll slap us around, or they’ll leave us alone. It’s their call. I don’t think the Dems fear us one bit, and they have good reason for that attitude.
In theory, we could try to craft a strategy with which we can turn Dem anti-gun rhetoric and actions to our advantage.
But we won’t.