- - Wednesday, February 10, 2016

There is nothing so comforting as a closely held prejudice, even when it repeatedly harms you. The white-hot passion of Democratic politicians to restrict and even strip Americans of their constitutionally guaranteed right to buy, own, keep, shoot and carry firearms continues as a monument to self-abuse.

Simply put, the gun control issue is a loser. It doesn’t matter that the paid consultants, the lobbyists from the gun-prohibition industry, or the East Coast media all assure candidates that it’s now safe to come out of hiding and proclaim their open hatred of the very concept of self-defense and protecting your family. The history of Democrats who push to rip away the rights of millions of Americans constitutes a list of “whatever happened to” candidates. From dozens of Democrats who lost their seats in Congress because of their gun-ban vote in 1994 to Al Gore’s anti-rights position, which has been credited with costing him the presidency, the party of “trust the government for your personal safety” keeps having to relearn the lesson. In point of fact, their own party put out a paper some years ago warning candidates to not talk about gun control, calling it a loser issue.

How quickly they forget.

Now Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders fight to establish who is the strongest anti-Constitution candidate. It’s a clear indication neither they nor their advisers actually talk to real people outside the Washington cocktail circuit.

For more than 20 years I’ve hosted a national radio talk show about guns, and through that I’ve talked with thousands of people across the country — people who have owned guns all their lives, people who only recently bought a gun, and people who have never owned a gun but now want to. Typically, I’ll ask why they are thinking of buying their first gun, and the answer always is that they want to protect themselves and their families. They have looked at the news, studied the events, watched the videos of attacks on the streets, and they have concluded that no one else will be on the scene to protect them. Oh, and fully a third of first-time handgun buyers these days are women, so put aside that mental image of a demographic which can be ignored.

Perhaps it’s natural for a U.S. senator who has Secret Service protection or who works behind the security veil of the Capitol Police to not understand the desire for safety. For someone who sees more government as the solution to everything, it must seem strange that a mother would opt to protect her children rather than trust that the call to the 911 operator will instantly save her.

Callers to “Tom Gresham’s Gun Talk” say they look at the well-known attacks, do the math and understand that the police will show up when they can, but in most cases it’s too late to actually stop the attack. They categorize assurances of “just call the police — it’s their job” as callous putdowns from those who never worry about their own safety.

It may overstate it to call gun control the third rail of politics, but it’s certainly a hot stove that Democrats should have learned to avoid. That’s even more so now than eight years ago when Hillary Clinton soft-peddled her gun-ban leanings. During the intervening years, millions of Americans have purchased their first gun, moving from the undecided to committed. With their dollars they have voted for their own safety, and they simply don’t trust anyone who says they are wrong.

In 2013, the rush to purchase guns and ammunition emptied shelves at gun stores for nearly a year. That push may have lessened a bit, but gun makers still operate at maximum capacity. The millions of Americans buying guns do not think, as Mrs. Clinton has suggested, that we should consider Australian-style gun confiscation here.

The candidates have not been helped by others in their party who introduce bills in Congress and in the states calling for the confiscation of the most popular rifles and handguns in the United States. Faced with clear evidence of the intent to ban guns, the public smirks at reassurances from candidates and President Obama when they proclaim, “No one wants to take away your guns.” It’s a lie, and everyone knows it.

As for the claim that “90 percent of the public wants background checks,” it doesn’t hold up when you look past the misleading polls. If you explain that there currently is a national background check requirement, and that every gun purchase from a licensed dealer includes a background check by the FBI, you typically get, “Oh, I didn’t know that.” Likewise, if you explain that gun shows are governed by the same laws as all other gun sales, and that there is no exception for these community gatherings, the result tends to be a puzzled look, then an angry response, as the duplicity of politicians and the media in misleading the public on the mythical “gun show loophole” crystallizes.

One is left wondering why Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders have opted to not only reveal, but to loudly proclaim their enthusiasm for trampling the rights of 100 million Americans. Have they not looked at the number of people scrambling to get permits for concealed carry in the swing states? Have they not looked at the actions in the legislatures in swing states — actions opening concealed carry to more areas, laws which allow teachers to carry guns in schools, and even calls to eliminate completely any requirement for a permit to carry a gun for protection? The sea change in public opinion (for the first time, more than half the people polled oppose a ban on so-called “assault weapons”) appears to have been missed by Democratic insiders. When it comes to guns, the swing states in the general election do not have the same take on guns as eight years ago — back when Democrats knew better than to out themselves as gun banners.

As the Democratic candidates move ever farther from public opinion on the rights of gun owners, many observers scratch their heads, wondering how the party can continue to allow its prejudice to outweigh its self-interests.

Tom Gresham hosts the nationally syndicated radio talk show “Tom Gresham’s Gun Talk” (guntalkmedia.com).

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