Back in November 2015, when there were still four Democrats contending for the presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton took a potshot at Bernie Sanders for having received favorable ratings from the National Rifle Association in years past. With that, the candidates entered into an argument over which of them had, or deserved, the worst ranking from the shooting organization. This argument prompted Shannon Watts, the professional PR flak who heads Mike Bloomberg's astroturf, anti-gun group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, to declare in a fund raising email:
"This year, the myth of gun violence as a political third rail was put to rest in the Democratic presidential debate, where candidates fought over who has the lowest grade from the NRA."
Watts made a similar comment a month or two prior to this one, saying that the way the candidates were talking about gun control was an unprecedented "sea change" because "It (gun control) was the third-rail of politics." At the time, I noted that Ms. Watts' use of the past tense was just a tad premature, and welcomed the new, more honest posturing of these politicians. The "myth of the third rail" meme, is one that anti-rights advocates have been pitching for years. They claim that "the gun lobby" is a paper tiger, all bluster and no bite, and they've spent years trying to convince politicians that speaking out in favor of "gun violence prevention" – which of course is a euphemism for gun control – won't jeopardize their political careers. They have also gone to great lengths to develop alternate explanations for crushing defeats like the Republican tsunami of 1994 and Al Gore's dashed presidential hopes.
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But their arguments fall flat when examined in the real world without the bias gymnastics. Certainly, there were many factors involved in Gore's loss, but his shift to support of gun control was clearly a factor. We all know that Gore came within a few "hanging chads" and the Supreme Court of winning that election, but the debacle in Florida would have been irrelevant had Gore won just one more state. Even capturing the four electoral votes of New Hampshire would have been enough, but Ralph Nader drew almost 4 percent of the vote there, allowing Bush to eek out a win by barely 1 percent. Had GunVoters in New Hampshire not strongly supported Bush, that narrow victory would have fallen the other way. In Gore's home state of Tennessee, which he, like his father before him, had served in Congress for decades, Nader pulled less than 1 percent of the vote, and Gore lost by almost 4 percent – so no one can blame Nader for that one. Who can be blamed is Gore, and GunVoters. In 1990, Gore was re-elected to the U.S. Senate with 67 percentof the vote, but in his presidential bid he only managed to draw 47.3 percent. In the 10 years between those two elections, Gore had rather dramatically shifted to a position of support for gun control, and a big part of his poor showing in 2000 was directly attributable to that shift and the resultant heavy turnout of GunVoters supporting Bush.
As to the Republican Revolution of 1994, one of the most astute political minds of our time, none other than Bill Clinton himself, attributed the devastation of Democrats to GunVoters responding to passage of the '94 "assault weapons" ban. And Clinton wasn't alone in that conclusion. Many political analysts noted that a number of Republicans who had voted for the Clinton gun ban also fell by the wayside, taken out in the primaries, often by unknown candidates who campaigned almost exclusively on the gun issue. Luckily, Mrs. Clinton has always thought that her own political acumen was superior to her husbands, and she bought the "paper tiger" claims of Watts, Bloomberg and others, hook, line and sinker.
As for Ms. Watts and her premature pronouncement of the demise of the gun control "third rail," rights advocates were thrilled to hear it and to see the Democratic candidates lining up to prove that she was right – especially as the Republicans were doing everything possible to court the gun vote.
As with all things in politics – and life – the proof of the pudding is in the tasting, and right now, that sour bile flavor Democrats are tasting can be directly attributed to their candidates testing what they were told was a myth.
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Since November, Watts and her ilk have been trying hard to spin their devastating losses as something other than a national repudiation of gun control extremism, and they continue to urge politicians to take up their flag and defy the impotent "gun lobby." At The Firearms Coalition, we applaud Ms. Watts' efforts. We hope that every politician who supports her gun control agenda will boldly stand up and loudly proclaim their position. It just makes our work so much easier.
Media wishing to interview Jeff Knox, please contact [email protected].