By Alan Gottlieb and Joe Waldron
Democrats didnâ€™t get it and the media still doesnâ€™t. A record turnout of gun owners has once again helped shape the political landscape, this time around not only retaining control of the White House, but also reinforcing the strength of the Republican majority in both houses of Congress.
Firearms owners, including millions of hunters, were far quicker to see through the faÃ§ade John Kerry and his strategists tried to build, attempting to portray the Massachusetts liberal as pro-gun and pro-hunting when his 20-year voting record belied that image. When a politician has a track record of supporting every kind of restrictive gun control scheme that lands on his desk it is impossible to reinvent that person as a hunter and shooter. Itâ€™s not just that â€œthat dog donâ€™t hunt,â€ itâ€™s more like the dog has no legs and is blind to boot.
Whatever Sen. Kerry was thinking when he showed up at a canned pheasant hunt in Iowa, a shooting range in Wisconsin and more recently on a photo-op goose shoot in Ohio, if he actually believed these publicity stunts would gain him acceptance from a voting block he has consistently acted against, it would indicate he was not capable of being president of the United States. Nobody that stupid should be in the Oval Office.
Democrats are now faced, once again, with the task of reassessment. On this last go-round, they believed that portraying themselves as pro-gun and pro-hunting would apparently make it so â€œto the dumb bumpkins.â€ The plain truth is that Democrats, as a party, and as individuals, do not understand that one does not earn points in the gun and hunting community by claiming to be something. One has to honestly live those beliefs.
Adopting a strategy of telling people you â€œsupport the Second Amendmentâ€ really says nothing. At this yearâ€™s Gun Rights Policy Conference â€“ a late September gathering of gun rights leaders held in Arlington, Virginia â€“ it was more than skepticism that led many of those present to observe that merely â€œsupportingâ€ the Second Amendment could mean anything, and most likely translates to accepting the ridiculous notion that the amendment applies to a mythical â€œcollective rightâ€ of states to form militias.
Tens of millions of American gun owners know that to be hogwash. The right to keep and bear arms is an individual right. Until Democrats step up to the plate and say so, demonstrating in the process that they mean it, that important block of voting gun owners will continue to take its votes elsewhere.
Likewise, Democrats need to publicly acknowledge that â€“ despite the claims of organizations that pander gun control as gun â€œsafetyâ€ â€“ gun control laws have not worked. The time has come to repeal some of these onerous laws, and stop treating gun owners like criminals.
Law-abiding American citizens should be able to own any kind of firearm they want, and Democrats need to accept this. People should be punished for misusing guns, not penalized for exercising a constitutional right. So long as Democrats think otherwise, they will never again be embraced as a party by gun owners.
Curiously, the media continues to largely ignore the gun vote phenomenon. Obviously, the press does not understand that gun owners may disagree among themselves on various social and political issues and levels. That happens in any â€œfamily.â€ But like a family, gun owners come together forcefully when they see their fundamental right to own firearms threatened, and John Kerry â€“ with his anti-gun voting record â€“ embodied that threat.
Gun owners and especially hunters are typically a solitary lot. They prefer to be left alone. But like the proverbial sleeping giant, there can be nasty consequences when the firearms fraternity is awakened. It acts with deliberation and decisiveness. Democrats first learned this in 1994, and theyâ€™ve been reminded about it every two years since.
By Alan Gottlieb and Joe Waldron