You didn’t hear the word “guns” voluntarily pass the lips of any Democratic speaker at this week’s convention in Charlotte, N.C. Liberals may be smart enough to avoid alienating the almost half of all Americans who have guns in their homes, but the same can’t be said for their party platform.
The Democratic policy statement approved this week calls for enacting “common-sense improvements — like reinstating the assault-weapons ban and closing the gun-show loophole.” The so-called “assault-weapons ban” in the 1990s banned scary-looking guns and magazines that held over 10 rounds. The platform does toss in a line that claims to recognize the right to bear arms, but it is “subject to reasonable regulation.” The left wants “an honest, open national conversation about firearms.”
I asked many Democratic leaders about the party’s position on firearms at the convention, but almost all claimed not to have read that section of the platform. Jesse Jackson was one of the few willing to come out and say he wants to ban all guns except bolt-action rifles, shotguns and revolvers.
“You have the right to have a gun in your castle to protect your house. You have the right to have a gun to hunt,” the reverend said in an interview in Charlotte. “Semi-automatic weapons — military-style weapons — are beyond the zone of reasonableness.” The civil-rights leader asserted, “These mass killings in Aurora and Milwaukee … we must end easy access and ban these assault weapons.” He added, “Twenty-five percent of all police are killed by assault weapons, and they cannot defend themselves from that.”
The District of Columbia has the most stringent gun laws in the country, requiring registration of every firearm while denying any right to carry. D.C. Councilman Jack Evans, a delegate to the convention, explained to me, “We still feel very strongly about guns in the District — and people not having them.” Mr. Evans said of the platform, “the stronger the language, the better.”
In contrast, the Republican platform opposes restoration of the “ill-considered Clinton gun ban” and supports national reciprocity for concealed carry, a House-passed bill that’s currently stalled in the Democrat-controlled Senate. The GOP also opposes a new Senate bill to restrict “high-capacity” magazines.
Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan embraced the issue in Iowa on Wednesday. “I see a guy with an NRA hat, I see a bunch of camo. I have those myself,” said the Wisconsin congressman. He asked the crowd if they remembered when Mr. Obama said people in the Midwest were clinging to their guns and their religion.
When the crowd yelled, “yeah!” he responded, “This Catholic deer hunter is darn proud of that, and I’m guilty as charged. That’s who we are in this country. I happily cling to my guns and my religion.” In November, Republicans will appeal to more undecided voters with their words and policies supporting gun owners.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.