How Gun Control Lost

April 18th, 2013

Following the defeat of the post-Newtown gun-control push, the invective is flying fast and loose. "Guilt," "shame," and "cowardice" are the words of the day. How this sort of rhetoric is supposed to win sympathy on the Hill is beyond me.

S. 649 is still up for consideration, but without the Toomey/Manchin amendment, it's going to be even less appealing to lawmakers. Harry Reid changed his vote at the last minute so he can bring the bill back to the floor for reconsideration, but at this point, the momentum is gone. They blew it.

Why? There are several reasons. The first is that we've been down this road. A renewal of the Assault Weapons Ban was the last thing they should have proposed. Many Americans remember the first one, and they're not in any hurry to see it repeated.

The second is their utter misreading of public opinion. We kept hearing (and still do) that 90% of Americans supposedly support universal background checks. That makes no sense. You will never find that sort of consensus on any issue. I suppose if I limited the sample size in a single survey to a sympathetic group, I might be able to get that number, but it's not reflective of the nation as a whole.

The reality of the situation is that only 4% of the nation considers gun control to be a pressing issue. Gun control advocates bought into their own 90% myth, and they overestimated their prospects. The support turned out not to be there. Now they're left holding their hats and wondering how it happened.

This brings us to the third reason: hubris. They really thought they were unstoppable. People in offices as high as the Vice President mocked us. The media lampooned us as knuckle-dragging hillbillies. What they failed to realize is that they weren't stigmatizing a small, homogeneous group. They were insulting a diverse cross-section of the American public as a whole. The gun culture is a mix of people from all walks of life, all cultures, and all political beliefs. That includes many Democrats, some of whom put their necks on the line for us on Wednesday.

(For the record, how many times did anyone see us mocking them on television? None? Yep.)

Now mud gets slung, and they blame anyone and everything but themselves. They describe the NRA as an unstoppable juggernaut with unlimited coffers, but in fact, Michael Bloomberg alone outspent them on this. What they failed to understand was that it was never about money. This was a bad bill, built on failed social science and advanced in haste. That's not how we make good laws, and for once, our elected officials listened.

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