8/08 Will They Ever Learn?

Will They Ever Learn?
Larry Pratt, Executive Director, Gun Owners of America
Alaska Lieutenant Governor Sam Parnell appears to have lost a squeaker in his effort to unseat anti-self defense Alaska Representative Don Young.

It did not have to end this way. Parnell should have won walking away.

Rep. Young has been under very public investigation by the Justice Department for alleged payola. His Senate colleague, Ted Stevens, is already under indictment on corruption charges made by the same Justice Department.

Parnell had a clear shot at unseating a Representative whose time for retirement had long since passed. What kept him from lapping his opponent at the finish line?

Let me suggest that Parnell is typical of all too many Republicans who have not learned to let the Second Amendment work for them politically. Parnell refused to return candidate questionnaires from both the NRA and GOA. In Alaska, Parnell did not want to show off his pro-Second Amendment views? It makes no sense.

In 1994 Democrats lost control of the Congress. President Bill Clinton stated more than once that it was his mistake; that he should not have pushed for the gun ban he rammed through the Congress. In 2000 Al Gore insisted on telling people how strongly he supported gun control. The people told him how strongly they disagreed with him.

The Democrats came to the conclusion that they should hide any of their efforts to expand gun control. The Republicans came to the conclusion that they should not appear to be against gun control. Say what?

As a result, the Republicans did almost nothing when they had control of the Congress to exploit the lesson that voters oppose gun control. While they did finally enact a law to protect the firearms industry from frivolous law suits, they could not keep some fellow Republicans from trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to load up the bill with anti-gun amendments before the measure finally passed.

In the end, Republicans left in the Lawsuit Protection Act a requirement that trigger locks be sold with handguns. Trigger locks are a terrible idea that only helps criminals who will not be encumbered with a trigger lock while a desperate homeowner will be trying to remove his and load his gun. The Supreme Court struck down the District of Columbia law that required shot guns and bolt-action rifles (the only guns allowed before their handgun ban was overturned) be encumbered with a trigger lock.

The Republican Congress also renewed a ban on guns that do not exist — plastic guns. Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) wanted the measure, so the Republicans accommodated him. This happened well after the 1994 and the 2000 elections when Republicans should have learned their gun lesson.

Generally, Republicans all too often appear to be operating on the assumption that the American people are clamoring for more and more government control — over guns, property, and many other freedoms. Yet the Battleground Poll (a bipartisan poll conducted by a Republican and a Democrat pollster) shows something very different.

The Battleground Poll has consistently shown that 60 percent of likely voters consider themselves either very conservative or somewhat conservative. By contrast, only 36 percent of likely voters consider themselves very liberal or somewhat liberal.

Gun Owners of America have seen too many Republicans refuse to return the GOA candidate questionnaire. If they are not outright anti-gun, they are by their actions at least saying that being pro-gun (and more generally, conservative) is an embarrassment. No wonder we have seen such fecklessness when Republicans had control of Congress and the White House.

Is it any surprise that voters are disinterested in, or even disaffected from, such lukewarm politicians? Until the Republican party gets its act together, it can expect to spend some more time in the voters’ time out room.