Shotgun News, November 1, 2006
I know that there are a lot of Americans who are not happy with George Bush right now—and I know that some of you reading this column are among that group. I'm not happy with George Bush, either, and I would not be surprised if we share a lot of the same upsets. I'm upset that Bush has decided that allowing illegal immigrants into the United States, and then rewarding them for breaking the law, is preferable to enforcing our existing laws. I'm upset about the mistakes that the Bush Administration made in post-war Iraq. Some of them were hard choices, and perhaps if they had taken the other path on some of these choices, the results would be just as bad—or worse. Some of the decisions just make me scratch my head—wasn't securing Iraq's borders first of all a no-brainer?
Still, George Bush isn't running for re-election in a few days, in spite of how strongly the Democrats want the Congressional races to be a referendum on George Bush. Members of Congress are running for re-election, and most Republicans in the House of Representatives (and many in the Senate) disagree with Bush on immigration policy. Don't let Bush's irritating decisions cause you to vote for or against a Congressional candidate.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: there are pro-gun Democrats, and there are anti-gun Republicans. In some ideal world, political party should not matter. You would vote for the candidate with whom you most strongly agree. But in the real world, there are enormous pressures on state legislators and members of Congress to go along with their party. Anti-gun Republicans can be pressured to either not vote for a really extreme anti-gun measure, or rationalize voting with the rest of the party. Pro-gun Democrats can be squeezed to vote for mildly anti-gun bills. You may recall that in a previous column I reported how Wisconsin state legislator Gary Sherman introduced a “shall issue” concealed carry permit bill a few years back, persuaded both houses of the legislature to pass it, and when it came time for the legislature to override Governor Doyle's veto—Sherman voted against his own bill—just to avoid embarrassing Governor Doyle, a fellow Democrat.
Pro-gun Democratic politicians are slightly more common than anti-gun Republican politicians—which is to say, both are a bit unusual. This means that even if you help elect a pro-gun or neutral Democrat, and Democrats end up in control of the House or Senate—you have effectively put gun control fanatics back in charge. If you want to preserve your gun rights, you want Republicans to keep control.
If you have forgotten what it was like when Democrats controlled Congress or your state legislature, let me remind you. The Brady Law, passed in 1993. The federal assault weapon ban, passed in 1994 (and expired in 2004, because Republicans in Congress fought hard to make sure of that). In most states, concealed handgun permits either did not exist, or more commonly, if you lived somewhere that carrying a gun for self-defense made sense, you had to be politically connected to get a permit. Under President Clinton, the federal government was actively providing assistance for lawsuits intended to drive the handgun manufacturers out of business. I have no interest in going back to fighting those almost weekly battles to preserve my rights. Do you?
Even if the Democrat who wants your vote claims to be pro-gun, or at least doesn't care about gun control (and a lot of politicians, of both parties, really only care about this issue because their constituents do), that may not be enough. All it takes is one tragedy, and the resulting screeching from the news media, to stampede uncommitted politicians into passing whatever gun control measure comes along. By the time this article appears in print, you may have had a chance to see this in our neighbor to the north.
Back in 1989, a man named Marc Lepine, apparently mentally ill, and with a profound hatred of women absorbed from his father (a Muslim immigrant from North Africa), went into a Montreal university, the École Polytechnique, carrying a rifle. He separated the men from the women in one classroom, screamed, “I hate feminists!” and murdered fourteen women. It took a while, but the Canadian government responded to the screeching of gun control advocates by passing a series of very restrictive gun control laws, bans on the smallest handguns, mandatory registration for all guns, and a license for all gun owners. I've discussed this before; I won't go over the details again.
The last elections put conservatives back in power—and the new Prime Minister decided that the billions of dollars spent were a waste, and started preparing a bill to scrap the registration. Persuading the Canadian Parliament to scrap this law was not going to be easy. Canadian news media are even more controlled by the left than American news media, and even within Prime Minister Harper's party, he was going to get some whining about it.
This last Wednesday morning (as I write this article), repealing this law just became much harder. On September 13, a 25 year old man named Kimveer Gill showed up at Dawson College in Montreal dressed in black, carrying three guns. He murdered one person, and wounded more than a dozen others (some of whom may not survive), before committing suicide. I guess the mandatory gun registration law worked; all three of his guns were registered—for all the good that did.
Gill kept a website, and it is a dark and sad place. The disjointed and confused writing suggests a person fighting with mental illness. By his own admission, he expected to die a suicide, and “leave a mangled corpse.” He joked “we've called the guys in white coats to come and get you so dont commit a mass murder before they come or you'll find you'll be in there longer.” He described himself as “suicidally depressed.” “You're engulfed by Darkness no question about it. And if you want, you'll bring unlucky souls WITH YOU! When the inevitable comes, you WILL NOT REST IN PEACE!”
He hated practically everyone: “American government” “Republicans” “Anyone Who Supports The American Government” “God”. As much anger as I have for what Gill did, I can't read his website without wanting to cry for him. This was a guy in enormous emotional pain who either would not seek help, or could not find it. Two billion Canadian dollars were spent on gun registration—you wonder if the money might have been better spent on providing mental health treatment.
Let's not pretend otherwise: events like this are emotionally devastating. Rational, sensible people (which at times seems to be about 10% of the population) can look at an incident like this, and point out that gun registration obviously did not work. Nothing short of door-to-door searches is going to do much to disarm someone like this, with a terrifying obssession with death, guns, and video games that included both. But most people aren't rational. If they know someone who was killed or wounded in an incident like this, they are easy prey to the gun control advocates.
Never underestimate the emotional impact of a disaster like this, or the pressure that it puts on elected officials. I knew very principled defenders of the right to keep and bear arms who went all squishy about high-capacity magazines after the 1989 Stockton schoolyard massacre. We saw the enormous pressures brought on Congressional Republicans after the 1999 Columbine massacre—and fortunately, they resisted the cheap, easy, completely ineffective solutions that the national media screamed had to happen. We really can't afford to elect a Congress where 1/3 of the majority party are rabid, deranged gun banners, and another 1/3 is generally supportive of New York City style gun control laws. The 1/3 that is neutral or somewhat pro-gun, in the aftermath of another schoolyard massacre, would be pressured by either public opinion or the party leadership into “going along” with the program.
By the way, if you think that I am exaggerating how rabid the extremists are, let me tell you a little story. Some years ago, I lived in California, in the San Francisco Bay Area. I was the legislative officer for the Cotati Rod & Gun Club. One of my responsibilities was to contact people running for public office, and find out where they stood on the gun control issue.
In 1992, the Democrats running for office that I contacted ranged from mildly pro-gun to generally anti-gun—but most of them made some effort to find common ground. They would express their support for the right to own hunting weapons, or they would explain that they supported mandatory gun registration, but would oppose a gun ban. I slightly knew Lynne Woolsey, who was trying to get the Democratic nomination for Congress, and eventually, I reached her. I explained why I was calling, and instead of trying to find common ground, she responded with, “I'm not sure that there's even any point in talking to you. If I had my way, private ownership of all guns would be completely illegal.”
Even other Democrats, running for other offices, told me quite directly that she was a raving idiot, and an embarrassment to them as Democrats. Not surprisingly, she won the nomination, beat the Republican nominee (who was dying of brain cancer—a fact that he concealed from the voters until the day after the primary), and has been winning re-election from the First Congressional District of California ever since. The local paper has even referred to her as “Congresswoman-for-Life”--and this is a liberal Democratic newspaper.
If your choice is a strongly pro-gun Democrat and a strongly anti-gun Republican, I can see why you might vote for the Democrat. But if the differences are not large between the two candidates, even a neutral or mildly pro-gun Democrat is going to require enormous courage and strength to not knuckle under to the rest of his party.
Clayton E. Cramer is a software engineer and historian. His last book was Concealed Weapon Laws of the Early Republic: Dueling, Southern Violence, and Moral Reform (Praeger Press, 1999). His web site is http://www.claytoncramer.com.
 CBC Archives, “The Montreal Massacre,” http://archives.cbc.ca/IDD-1-70-398/disasters_tragedies/montreal_massacre/, last accessed February 20, 2006.
 Canadian Embassy, http://www.canadianembassy.org/government/guncontrol-en.asp, last accessed February 20, 2006.
 Roma Luciw, “Dawson College begins recovery,” Toronto lobe and Mail, September 15, 2006, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20060915.wmontreal0915/BNStory/National/home, last accessed September 15, 2006.
 http://188.8.131.52/search?q=cache:I3pvdq9pT1MJ:vampirefreaks.com/u/fatality666+fatality666&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=2, last accessed September 14, 2006.