Shotgun News, January 1, 2007
I knew that there was a possibility that the Democrats might regain control of the House of Representatives—and a long shot possibility that they might regain control of the Senate. It was still pretty discouraging to see it actually happen. Gun owners have a tough two years ahead of us.
First, the good news. Dave Kopel from the Independence Institute monitored the results, and concluded that while the elections were a net loss for gun rights, the loss was not dramatic. We had what Kopel considers a 1.5 seat loss in the governorships. You didn't know that there were half-governors who lost their seats? By this, Kopel means that one of the losses was Bob Ehrlich of Maryland, who said the right things, but did little to help us, and in New York, moderately anti-gun Pataki will be replaced by fiercely anti-gun Elliot Spitzer. The good news is that a strongly anti-gun Republican, Governor Bob Taft of Ohio, was replaced with a strongly pro-gun Democrat, Ted Strickland.
We lost pro-gun Senator Jim Talent in Missouri to his Democratic anti-gun challenger, Claire McCaskill. For the other seats, while Democrats beat enough pro-gun Republicans to take control of the Senate (by one seat), most of these newly elected Democratic Senators seem to be pretty strongly pro-gun. A number of the Democrats newly elected to the House of Representatives are pro-gun—or at least, that's what they said to get themselves elected. Again, time will tell.
Now, here's where it gets a bit scary. The Democrats are now in the majority in both the House and the Senate. A number of these Democrats are on our side—but the leadership, people like Nancy Pelosi, the new Speaker of the House—are fiercely hostile to gun ownership. There's enormous pressure that the Democratic leadership can exert on pro-gun Democrats—everything from refusing to help them at re-election time, to denying them seats on committees that they really want, to blocking funding of pork barrel projects back home. Because some of these pro-gun Democrats won by very small margins, they are at very serious risk in the next election. The prospect of facing a well-funded Republican next time around may cause some of them to get all soft and squishy on gun control measures if they can persuade themselves this particular bill won't really matter to many of the voters back home.
Yes, that means assault weapon bans, and probably some attempt to repeal last year's limitation on gun manufacturer liability for criminal misuse. The only way that we are going to defeat such measures is by being extremely loud (but polite) in letting our Congresscritters know that these measures are a bad idea. If some of these newly elected pro-gun Democratic Senators like Jim Webb hear from Virginians, “Don't do this” in large numbers, they will feel more confident defying the party leadership.
There are a couple of flies in the ointment, however, for which we will need to watch very carefully. All political parties are made up of coalitions of interest groups. The major interest groups that make up the Democratic Party right now includes the MoveOn crowd of leftists, largely driven by the desire to withdraw all forces from Iraq and Afghanistan (and probably San Diego, next). It includes labor unions who are looking for ways to disadvantage non-union employers—so expect some legislation aimed at Wal-Mart, currently at the top of the union hit list. It includes environmentalists, who are keen on promoting alternative energy and conservation—even if it means destroying union jobs making cars. It includes the ACLU, whose zealous defense of its peculiar misreading of the Constitution (the “right to keep and bear arms” isn't a right, in spite of being explicit, but same-sex marriage is a right, hiding somewhere under the 14th Amendment or maybe the 9th Amendment). It includes conservative Democrats, who so far seem more interested in rolling back the Bush tax cuts and raising the minimum wage than anything else. It includes gun control activists. While they are a small group, they have enormous media support.
These groups have little in common, except the party label, and as I write these words, I see talking heads on television discussing the intraparty strife that is already well underway. Speaker of the House Pelosi may see a “sensible” gun control bill as a method of whipping the conservatives in her party into line, because she can count on the news media to tell whatever lies are necessary to get even a largely symbolic gun control measure passed. You would have a hard time getting nearly all the news media onboard for most other measures that Pelosi would be interested in passing.
There's another issue that should concern gun owners. Since 9/11, there have been no large, successful al-Qaeda terrorist attacks within the United States. (I've put some qualifiers in that sentence because there have been unsuccessful attacks, and at least one small attack at Los Angeles International that no one will admit was probably al-Qaeda inspired, if not instigated.) Gun control advocates have been screeching for several years now that we need tougher gun control laws to prevent al-Qaeda terrorists from buying guns here and using them in random attacks.
There's absolutely no question in my mind that this is going to happen—especially if, as now seems likely, we decide to withdraw prematurely from Iraq. As much of a disaster as Iraq has been, the place has acted like flypaper, attracting terrorists from as far away as Britain. Once we are out of Iraq, and probably shortly thereafter, out of Afghanistan, those attacks will start happening in the United States.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it is going to happen. Some of them will be like the terrorist hostage incidents at the theater in Moscow, and the school in Beslan. (In case you didn't know—the Chechnyan terrorists involved in both incidents are closely allied with al-Qaeda.) Some of them will be like the bombings in Spain, Britain, Bali, and India. Some of them may be individual al-Qaeda sympathizers who decide to shoot up the local mall or school so that they can die while fighting the “infidels,” in the hopes of an afterlife surrounded by 72 perpetual virgins. Three important factions of the Democratic Party coalition—and three parts with enormous media influence and sympathy—are going to be behind it.
When these terrorist incidents start to happen, Pelosi and friends will be pushing for mandatory licensing of gun ownership—not resumption of the NSA's wiretap program for identifying terrorists. Why? The gun control faction (which includes effectively all the news media in the U.S.) has wanted this for decades—when terrorism in America was inconceivable. The ACLU prefers gun control that affects everyone over a wiretap program that, shock of shocks, is likely to mostly be listening in on the phone calls of Muslims and Arab-Americans. The MoveOn crowd really doesn't want us to fight and win a War on Terrorism because they are convinced that terrorism directed at us is our own fault, and that we should adopt their foreign policy recommendations, and make everyone love us.
When these incidents start to happen, it is going to take Congresscritters with more guts than I can imagine to say, “Wait a minute! Maybe instead of preventing law-abiding adults from defending themselves, we should be focusing our energies on identifying likely terrorists!” I try not to be too pessimistic about this, but I can see some very dark days ahead for the United States.
Nations at war—and especially nations engaged in an internal war—are not noted for their careful attention to well-established legal principles. The Russian Federation has responded to the Chechnyan terrorist attacks with brutality that, unfortunately, breeds more terrorism. The British government's responses to the IRA included forced confessions and summary executions. Our government locked up 110,000 Americans strictly based on their race, because we knew that a few of them were Japanese spies—and we had neither the time, energy, nor inclination to try and figure out which were disloyal. The gun control groups will use terrorist incidents to scuttle the right to keep and bear arms—and we better be ready to bury our elected representatives in letters and phone calls when that time comes.
Clayton E. Cramer is a software engineer and historian. His next book, Armed America: The Remarkable Story of How and Why Guns Became as American as Apple Pie (Nelson Current, 2007), will be available in bookstores in mid-January. His web site is http://www.claytoncramer.com.
 Dave Kopel, “Arms-Bearing Can Bear The Defeat,” National Review Online, November 8, 2006, http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=ZjViZDZlMTkwNDBkZDU0ZDE3MGFkYTE0Y2RiYWE4MjU=, last accessed November 19, 2006.
 “Los Angeles Airport shooting kills 3,” CNN, July 5, 2002, http://archives.cnn.com/2002/US/07/04/la.airport.shooting/, last accessed November 19, 2006; “FBI, Justice: El Al attack was terrorism,” CNN, April 12, 2003, http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/West/04/12/airport.shooting/, last accessed November 19, 2006..