Donald Trump has flirted with the Bush model before, endorsing gun control in a February 2018 meeting with Senators Feinstein and Schumer. But Trump quickly pulled back. Now he seems more determined, apparently believing that the NRA, which is embroiled in internal conflicts and lawsuits over management issues, is too weak to stop him. Like many New Yorkers, Trump does not realize that the NRA itself is a consequence of American gun culture. If the NRA disappeared tomorrow, American gun owners would spontaneously self-organize in defense of their rights. The same is true for the pro-life movement, the environmental movement, and many others. Strike down their national organizations, and thousands of grassroots organizations will arise to take their place.
The same is not true for the anti-gun movement. There has always been a hard core of anti-gun extremists, exemplified by the 20 percent of persons in opinion polls who want to ban all handguns. But the anti-gun grassroots never did spontaneously self-organize to any significant degree. Today, that doesn’t matter, since anti-gunners are now organized by the best professional organizers that money can buy, thanks to Michael Bloomberg and other malefactors of great wealth. This creates the impression among some politicians that the anti-gun movement is larger than ever before, in terms of voting support. This is not true, but the anti-gunners are now much more visible.
Trump imagines that he will win reelection because the other party’s nominee will be so extreme. He should ask Jimmy Carter about that one. In 1980, Ronald Reagan’s ideas were indeed far from the center of gravity of American politics. But the American people were tired of Carter’s weakness, indecisiveness, and incompetence, and by a landslide they decided to give the opposing candidate a chance.