Testing the Third Rail

Democrats Rediscover Third Rail

By Jeff Knox

(November 11, 2016) In the wee hours of the morning of November 9, a collective sigh of relief flowed from the hearts of millions of American gun owners. Hillary Clinton and the Democrat party had pushed gun control as a major issue in the election, raising serious anxiety among GunVoters. In the end, that GunVoter concern exacted a heavy toll. While GunVoters can’t take sole credit for Hillary Clinton’s defeat, we can be proud that we played a substantial role in it – probably more significant than the pundits will ever admit.

Back during the Democrat Primary, Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America – a Mike Bloomberg front group – declared; This year, the myth of gun violence as a political third rail was put to rest in the Democratic presidential debate, where candidates fought over who has the lowest grade from the NRA.” I’m sure Ms. Watts really wanted to believe that, but her belief doesn’t make it true any more than her last name makes her an expert on electricity. The proof comes when voters respond to the talk, and it is pretty clear that the power is still turned on in the gun control third rail.

We did suffer some losses. In California, where calls for “modest, commonsense” gun control took its next predictable step into irrational hysteria, we lost on Proposition 63, a draconian ballot initiative. After the California legislature passed a raft of harsh gun control measures earlier this year – on top of what were already the strictest gun control laws of any state in the nation – voters were duped into passing a sweeping gun control initiative that included many of the same measures, but takes them even further. When Prop. 63 takes effect next year, California gun owners will be criminals if they fail to register millions of heretofore legally possessed rifles, or if they fail to “dispose of” their legally owned and possessed ammunition feeding devices.

Proposition 63 makes California the prime example of exactly what gun control proponents are really trying to accomplish. They claim to be seeking only minor changes in laws to “close loopholes” and “keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them,” but they are never satisfied, and always have another salvo of minor changes they want to make – almost always fueled by the total failure of the previous step to accomplish its claimed objectives. California epitomizes why rights advocates reject even the most mundane gun control proposals.

We also lost an important ballot initiative in Nevada. There, Mike Bloomberg’s various front groups poured over $16 million dollars into convincing voters that they merely wanted to close a “dangerous loophole” that allows criminals to buy guns from private sellers “no questions asked.” Along with concealing the lack of any credible evidence that this “loophole” is actually a problem, and hiding the full scope of their initiative, the Bloomies claimed that 80% to 90% of Nevadans supported their “universal background check” scheme. When the votes were counted, it turned out that a majority of voters in only one Nevada county – Clark County, the home of Las Vegas – voted for the initiative, but that single county’s votes were enough to pass the initiative statewide by a margin less than 1 percent.

In Washington State, voters approved a measure that will allow police or family members to file to have a person’s guns seized if they believe the person is a threat to themselves or others. Again, the Bloomies and a coalition of billionaires funded the initiative, spending some $4 million to get it passed while opponents never really got out of the blocks. The initiative sounded very appealing, and explaining the problems with it was a complicated matter that wouldn’t fit well on a bumper sticker or media soundbite. It appears that opponents, looking at those challenges, basically gave up without a fight, spending hundreds to proponents’ millions.

GunVoters stopped the other gun-related ballot measure that went before voters this year. It was in Maine, where Bloomberg groups were pushing a “universal background check” initiative similar to the one passed in Nevada. Once again the Bloomberg groups significantly outspent opponents. In all the Bloomies spent about $5 million trying to pass the initiative, while opponents spent just over $1 million, the bulk of that coming from the NRA. But the lopsided spending wasn’t enough to overcome grass roots activism, and the measure failed by about 3% statewide.

Along with the presidency and numerous gubernatorial and state legislative victories, GunVoters contributed to several upsets in Senate and House races, and helped hold critical seats for pro-rights Republicans. This means that Donald Trump will assume the presidency with majorities in both houses of Congress. That’s worth crowing about, but we’ve been here before and been let down, so we have to make sure that doesn’t happen again this time.

There are a number of bills already in the pipe that can be renewed, and several other proposals that should be added. The Firearms Coalition has long advocated for an omnibus rights restoration bill that incorporates many of these proposals into a single bill – while maintaining the stand-alone bills for passage as opportunities might arise.

While the new Congress and President will have a full plate next year, it is critical that pro-rights legislation is high on the list of priorities. We also must be absolutely sure that anyone President Trump names to the U.S. Supreme Court will be a stalwart defender of the Second Amendment. We have to stop the steady encroachment on rights that is victimizing innocent gun owners in states like California, Connecticut, and New York.

We’ve just won some important victories, but that’s just the beginning. Now comes the hard work of repairing decades of damage to the country and the Constitution.