What if Hillary Won’t Actually be a Disaster for Gun Rights?
Jon Stokes 08.12.16
I know you’re going to think this is crazy, and maybe it is, but hear me out. I’m trying to talk myself back from the “go on gunbroker and buy whatever’s left” ledge, and this is me thinking out loud. So here goes.
Hillary has campaigned on “war with the NRA,” but I take it as a given that she’ll jettison any part of what she has campaigned on for political advantage once elected. Obama did the same with his campaign promises in 2008, and he’s on track to be canonized as the Democratic Reagan.
Also, before I proceed, I should also call out the following very curious phenomenon that I’ve noticed: the same conservatives who believe Hillary would sell her own daughter into slavery for a smidgen of political advantage are simultaneously convinced that on this one issue of guns she’s going to stand on principle and fight the gun lobby to the death in a cage match. I don’t get it. She’s either a craven, calculating liar who says one thing and does another, or she isn’t. I happen to think she’s the former, which is why I don’t believe her when she says she’s going after guns.
To put it another way, for a Democrat to come out in favor of a new AWB and to claim that Heller was wrongly decided is like a Republican claiming to be pro-life and anti-deficit. It’s just part of the party catechism that you’re obliged to recite on the campaign trail, but you don’t actually have to do anything about it when in office.
So with this in mind, how big of a threat is HRC to gun rights, really?
The only gun control position that actually polls well is “universal background checks,” and I think mag capacity limits do okay, too. Both are impossible to enforce as a practical matter, and the latter wouldn’t make a lick of difference in mass shooting fatalities if it could be enforced (the answer to why this is the case is long-winded and involves actual data, which we have, on mag change times, practical rates of fire, average length of mass shootings and shots fired, etc. I’ll write about it one day.)
My point is this: is Hillary actually going to spend real political capital on an Assault Weapons Ban 2.0, given that most major gun control groups have actually abandoned the idea in a rare concession to reality and statistics? Even the Sandy Hook Promise group, made of the parents of murdered Sandy Hook children, aren’t pushing an AWB because it’s bad policy and even worse politics.
I’m coming around to the idea that the answer is no, she won’t do much about guns. She’ll make a real effort at passing universal background checks, make a token effort a mag limits, and maybe talk up the new AWB that’s circulating, but not actually invest in it.
The other thing she’ll no doubt do is continue the Obama admin’s serial attempts to torment lawful gun owners via capricious and non-sensical ATF rule changes about “armor piercing ammo,” ITAR, and so on. In this vein, there also might be an import ban on foreign-made “assault weapons,” so if you want a Galil or a SCAR or whatever, you should’ve bought one last month before they all disappeared from the shelves.
But as for legislation, I just don’t see her doing much.
But, the Supreme Court!
I also don’t see her going to the mat for a SCOTUS judge that will overturn Heller. I think she has priorities other than Heller, and she’ll be willing to tolerate someone who’s soft on guns just to get them through confirmation. (Of course, if she gets a Democratic Senate who’ll confirm whatever she sends their way, then all bets are off.)
Again, the GOP analogy is instructive here. For most of my life, Republicans have been donating and voting and working the phones and going to the polls for Republican presidential candidates on promise that someday, somebody will overturn Roe v. Wade. Not only has it never happened, but it doesn’t look like it ever will. And why would the GOP actually want to overturn Roe v. Wade? It’s their best fundraising tool!
I think Heller (along with maybe Citizen’s United) is the Roe v. Wade of the Democratic party. They’re gonna rail against it, raise a ton of money on it, and never overturn it.
Maybe all of this is just wishful thinking on my part, given that Hillary is the most likely person to occupy the Oval Office a scant few months from now. But then again, maybe I’m the one being realistic, and all the folks who think Hillary will be the end of gun rights are the fantasists.
Of course, as I said above, if the Dems take both houses of congress or even just the Senate, then all bets are off. And a Democratic trifecta–POTUS, SCOTUS, and congress–would no doubt reverse many of the gun rights gains of the past two decades. So it’s not like this election is low-stakes, but rather maybe the real stakes for gun rights are in the down-ballot races and not so much in the headline contest.