The Knox Report
(April 28, 2008) The topic of guns came up unexpectedly in the Hila-Bama Follies with Obama expressing the opinion that blue-collar voters are a tough sell for the Democrats because many have been left behind in the economic expansion and they are the first to feel economic contraction. “They get bitter,” Obama intoned, slipping a foot deeply into his mouth. “They cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or antitrade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
Obama’s “bitter” blooper was just another description of the “Angry White Males” whom the Democrats learned to fear in 1994. That, of course, was the year that GunVoters turned out in droves to punish the 103rd Congress for the Clinton gun ban, changing ownership of the House for the first time in decades, and turning out a sitting Speaker, the first time that had happened in a century and a half.
From the avalanche of chin-stroking analysis and commentary that followed Obabma’s gaffe, there emerged this nugget from the April 19 issue of The Wall Street Journal. Gun owners are not “bitter,” according to Arthur C. Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University. Analyzing data from the General Social Survey, a long-running and wide-ranging survey of trends in American attitudes and behaviors which has tracked gun ownership since 1973. In the WSJ opinion piece, Brooks found some rather interesting, and not entirely surprising factoids about gun owners. Among them:
· Gun owners are more likely to agree with the statement, “Those in need have to take care of themselves.” Yet gun owners also donate more to charity than non-gun owners, and even give blood more frequently.
Brooks slices the data up in some other interesting ways, including across party lines. Gun-owner Republicans tend to be slightly happier than gun-owner Democrats, who are in turn still happier than non-gun owners at large. Overall, he concludes that gun owners are indeed happier as a group. Searching for an explanation for this apparent “happiness gap,” Brooks suggests that a “plausible reason is a sense of self-reliance, in terms of self-defense or even in terms of the ability to hunt their own dinner” and points out studies that reach the seemingly obvious conclusion that lacking control of one’s environment is a stress factor.
It’s diverting to read about gun owners and to see one’s own opinions confirmed – that law-abiding gun owners are pillars of the community, the salt of the earth, and typically all-around good guys. We knew that. But it’s downright entertaining to watch Brooks, a Seattle-bred northeastern academe, learn a bit about his neighbors, about gun owners, and about the factors that can go into happiness.
But even if gun owners are not necessarily “bitter,” it’s certainly possible for them to get angry, as the Angry White Male voters demonstrated back in 1994. Both Clinton and Obama are showing signs of acute awareness of that fact as the Democrats’ candidate selection wraps up in largely rural states. North Carolina and Indiana are next up at this writing, with West Virginia, Kentucky, Oregon, Montana, and South Dakota to follow. Expect to see more circumspect treatment of gun owners and of the Second Amendment, not to mention more false signals. Hillary has waxed misty-eyed recalling those halcyon days when her daddy took her shooting, while Obama has secured the endorsement of American Hunters and Shooters Association, the faux gun group set up by a bevy of Democratic Party fundraising heavyweights.
Robert VerBrugen, writing in The American Spectator a couple of days after Obama’s “bitter” goof but before it broke on the national scene, remarked on both of the Democratic candidates’ newly-acquired respect for the Second Amendment. In particular, he studies Obama’s moves, including recent endorsements by pro-gun Democrats, and the highlighting of Obama’s record as a Constitutional scholar (but certainly not his voting record) as he has tried to appear less anti-gun than Hillary Clinton. VerBrugen’s parting advice to GunVoter Democrats: Flip a coin.
Unfortunately no matter who gets the Democrat nomination, there won’t be a presidential candidate GunVoters can get excited about. Even though Republican John McCain has a good pro-gun voting record, many GunVoters are still angry with him over his gun show bill. Last time GunVoters were mad at the Republican, Bill Clinton was elected.
With thirty-four Representatives retiring, twenty-six of them Republicans, and five retiring Senators, all Republicans, the Democrats smell blood. They can cement their hold on the legislative branch, and the White House is theirs to lose (although at this point they may seem to be doing their best to hand the keys to McCain). GunVoters will make a difference at the polls again this year. The only question is whether we will make that difference with our votes and our support, or with our absence.
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