Fayetteville, AR –-(Ammoland.com)- Let’s start this off with a fact about American politics: There are no laurels, and we who support gun rights do not get to rest. Gun laws and the free exercise of the relevant rights have ebbed and flowed over the course of our history, and while those motions used to take a long time to work themselves out, in recent decades, we’ve seen the passage and then sunset of the federal ban on “assault weapons,” the growth in the number of states that respect the right to carry, and the increase in violations in a handful of states.
Recognizing, then, that things can change rapidly, there are two approaches that we need to take in the promotion of gun ownership and carry nationwide. The first of these involves gains that can be made in the short term, while the second looks farther into the future.
One example of an immediate gain that we could make is national carry license reciprocity. House Bill 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, has passed and been sent on to the Senate, having taken most of the year to get that far. Should we be grateful? Given the number of Republicans who have run on the promise of protecting gun rights, I have to ask what has taken so long. Honoring nationwide the licenses that states issue is an obvious move. The bill to remove suppressors from the restrictions in the National Firearms Act of 1934 got stalled after the Las Vegas shooting, even though the one had nothing to do with the other. On the other hand, attempts to ban bump stocks and “assault weapons” are also languishing, fitting in with the general pattern of getting paid to do not much.
I’m not going to blame Congress here. Employees generally do what they’re asked to do, and when they’re allowed to drift without consequence, that’s not their fault. Their bosses are to blame. In the case of our elected representatives, that puts the responsibility on each one of us. Admittedly, there are times when doing nothing is the best choice, but when we’re talking about rights, defending their free exercise is always important. We all must tell the politicians whose jobs we can affect that unless they support gun rights, we’ll hire someone else. The Roman senator Cato is said to have finished every speech, regardless of the topic, with Carthago delenda est (Carthage must be destroyed), and whether that is legend or fact, it’s a good policy.
Drum home the message again and again until those who wish to lead get things right.
In other words, as the saying goes, make hay while the sun shines. But as I suggested above, the metaphorical sun of Congress and the White House at least theoretically being in the control of a pro-gun party will not last forever. What we need to do is build more support for gun rights across the political spectrum. Does that sound impossible? It shouldn’t. Yes, gun rights are a plank of the right-wing platform, but according to a recent Pew Research Center survey, independents and Democrats also have people on our side. The numbers may not seem convincing—seventy-nine percent of Republicans, but forty-seven percent of independents and only twenty percent among Democrats—but if we dismiss Americans in the middle and on the left, myself included in the latter, we lose an opportunity to win. Adding up the supporters of gun rights produces a solid majority of voters, and that’s what we need if such rights are to survive the political winds.
Treating gun rights as a tribal matter—we value them; they oppose them—guarantees a continual erosion of those rights. Ralph Northam’s win in the Virginia gubernatorial election isn’t so surprising, given the state’s balancing between left and right, but the race in Alabama in which Doug Jones scored an upset victory is telling. The elections of 2018 may very well result in a flip of both houses of Congress. If Trump’s low approval rating remains where it is or gets worse, 2020 offers an excellent chance for the Democratic Party. Unless we can make connections along the whole spectrum, we are going to lose someday.
Can that be done? Some people will never change. Their positions are frozen. But among many Americans, the idea of basic rights is a shared value, regardless of party, and that is the point of entry. We may disagree about tax policy, foreign relations, and healthcare, but we can work together on the idea that each of us gets to make decisions about our own lives. That cooperation, rather than exclusive confrontation, is what will keep rights safe.
About Greg Camp
Greg Camp has taught English composition and literature since 1998 and is the author of six books, including a western, The Willing Spirit, and Each One, Teach One, with Ranjit Singh on gun politics in America. His books can be found on Amazon. He tweets @gregcampnc