Friday, August 7, 2009

The Senate confirmed Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court yesterday. Gun-control groups are crowing that the 68-31 vote was a major defeat for the National Rifle Association, which actively opposed the nomination. The gun controllers are reading too much into this vote.

The NRA scored Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation and ran ads to defeat her, but the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence counted eight NRA-endorsed senators who spurned the powerful gun-rights group to support her nomination. Some Democratic senators, such as Virginia’s Mark R. Warner, even took to lecturing the NRA about being hijacked by extremists.

The Sotomayor vote and the successful filibuster of state reciprocity for right-to-carry laws are being hailed as gun-control victories. The two votes supposedly show that politicians “can vote against the NRA and still win, and win in gun-friendly areas,” as Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign, phrased it.

But a new Zogby poll suggests that things are a little more complicated. Zogby found that 52 percent of American voters would be against the re-election of any senator simply because he supports confirming a Supreme Court nominee “who does not believe in the right to keep and bear arms.” Just 26 percent would support that senator. Mr. Helmke is right to believe that Judge Sotomayor is against gun ownership, and the Supreme Court is closely divided on the issue. What the poll tells us is that senators who voted for her should worry when their constituents find out about it.

The polls on concealed handguns confirm the pro-gun attitudes of most Americans. Eighty-three percent support letting citizens carry concealed handguns; only 11 percent oppose it. Even among Democratic voters, the support is extremely high: Eighty percent of those who voted for Barack Obama for president support the right to carry a handgun. This reality is not just what voters tell pollsters. People are now packing heat in record numbers, according to USA Today.

The positive results in the 39 states with right-to-carry laws have made a big difference in the popularity of the concealed-carry movement. The pro-gun views of the public suggest that the reciprocity bill for right-to-carry laws — which was shot down on July 22 — will be brought up again. The 58-39 majority in the Senate in favor of reciprocity was just two votes short of overcoming a Democratic filibuster. The NRA will have a chance to reload soon enough.

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