Why gun control might backfire on the Democrats

Large-scale gun confiscation would raise Fourth Amendment concerns as well as Second Amendment ones. There are also huge practicality issues that have yet to be discussed. Even its proponents concede it is unlikely to happen. But it will be talked about. And even rhetorically attacking gun ownership as a rational decision without seriously pursuing these policies will trigger a serious political backlash. What then?

Maybe nothing, if progressive hopes that the Democratic coalition will soon be big and liberal enough not to have to make accommodations to the disproportionately red-state gun owners come to fruition. But there’s no guarantee this is true. This kind of triumphalism has backfired before. Republicans were once on the defensive about the assault weapons ban, for instance, but the politics changed to the extent that the law was allowed to lapse largely without incident. The demographics of gun ownership could also change to include more Democratic voters — it is already rising among African Americans. Even Bernie Sanders has to listen to his gun-owning constituents.

Frustrating, but in a tragic sense fitting. The gun control debate has always been part of the culture war and its conflicting visions of America, as much as an argument about firearms and public safety. And our politicians do culture warring much better than governing.

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