All through the primary season, from the beginning of 2019 up until late this spring, the Democratic platform appeared to have at least one plank firmly embedded in its center. Gun control was going to be a hot topic. Mass shootings absorbed the news last year (at least if they involved a White person shooting one or more persons of color, anyway). Loopholes needed to be closed. “Assault rifles” and extended magazines needed to be banned. Scary looking weapons needed to be confiscated. But then, as if there was some cosmic-level record scratching sound effect ringing in everyone’s ears, it mysteriously stopped. You barely hear a peep out of any Democrat about the subject.
So what happened? That’s the question being posed this week by Bill Scher at Real Clear Politics. Particularly following the killings in Kenosha and Portland over the past couple of weeks, shouldn’t liberals be beating the drum louder than ever and calling for tougher gun laws as we grind through the final weeks of the election season?
Why aren’t we talking about guns? Chiefly, because the presidential candidates aren’t talking about guns. Donald Trump is busy blaming Joe Biden and Democratic mayors for failing to crack down on rioting and looting, while Biden is blaming Trump for fueling divisiveness.
Biden, as the candidate with a long record of supporting gun control, is the one you might expect to emphasize the issue. But he apparently does not see the political gain in doing so.
Biden wants to frame the election as a choice between a uniter and a divider, between an incumbent who is constantly polarizing America, and a challenger who will remind Americans of our common purpose. He can’t easily run as a de-polarizer and stress gun control, because the gun debate inflames our cultural polarization.
To a certain extent, that reason is obviously part of the answer, though hardly all of it. The political winds blow in the direction of the hot air coming from the candidates’ mouths and that of their surrogates out on the campaign trail. Biden doesn’t feel like talking about gun control and Trump’s only input on the subject is that we need a lot more guns in circulation. It doesn’t make for fertile ground in terms of pushing the gun-grabbing agenda. But that’s not the entire reason by a long shot.
Scher further argues that the shootings in Kenosha and Portland aren’t the type that gets the media hyped up to talk about gun control. What usually drives the conversation, according to the author, are mass shootings. When you have one or two White people being shot by another White person in the middle of a riot, that doesn’t put anyone in mind of further governmental abridgment of Second Amendment rights. I’ll even grant Scher that point, at least to a degree. Those weren’t the “flashy” sort of shootings that bring the inner gun-grabber out in most liberals.
But he’s missing the boat by ignoring the more obvious answer. While most Democrats may be wrong on the issue, their political strategists aren’t stupid. Beginning to talk about gun confiscation just as we’re seeing one record-setting month of gun sales exceeded by another is a bad strategy. And we’re not just talking about the usual flurry of sales that take place when it looks like a Democrat might be taking over the White House.
People are concerned. More correctly, at least in many cases, people are frightened. The nation’s cities are being consumed by riots and arson. Citizens sitting in public simply minding their own business are being harassed and threatened by liberal street mobs. The unrest is, in some cases, already pushing out of the downtown areas of the cities and into the suburbs. People want to be able to protect their homes and their families and many are realizing they may need a firearm to do that. Some are liberals who may have previously supported gun control measures and are now shocked to realize how hard it is to buy firearms that they were promised by Democrats were easier to obtain than chewing gum.
With much of the country in such a mood, even Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been forced to address the violence in the streets. And this is no time to for them to be reminding people of their previous promises to confiscate firearms and disarm the lawful. In fact, that could cost them more votes than they can afford to lose. So at least until the riots recede (assuming they do) we’ll continue to hear the sounds of crickets from the Democrats when it comes to gun-grabbing.