Mass shootings bring a predictable response, and perhaps nothing is more rote than to say the National Rifle Association — and specifically its political donations — are the reason “common sense” gun reform can’t happen.
In politics, it’s so much easier to blame a faceless group than grapple with the idea that people who disagree with you might be more effective at lobbying and winning the broader argument.
It’s not the money from the NRA, which is meeting in Houston this weekend, or any other gun group that carries the day. It’s voters, millions of them, who make their voices heard and make clear they’ll base their votes on an issue that’s important to them.
Take Sen. Ted Cruz, a frequent whipping boy on this front. The Texas Republican leads the pack with — gasp! — $442,000 lifetime from gun groups. In his career, Cruz has raised $178.7 million. So, we’re supposed to believe that, for one-quarter of 1% of his total haul, Cruz has been swayed to support terrible gun policy.
Why then, some ask, would politicians oppose policies with such broad public support, such as “universal” background checks? For one, take all polling on specific issues with a grain of salt. Most people haven’t thought much about the issue at hand. Questions almost never present trade-offs, which affect support or opposition.
And they don’t measure fervency. It’s probably true that the vast majority of voters prefer more background checks, restrictions on certain rifles and other changes. But they don’t vote on the issues. Many gun owners do, and politicians such as Cruz know it.
Democrats would rather rail against “countless political contributions from the NRA,” as Texas party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa did in a written statement Friday.
Oh, they’re plenty countable, Mr. Chairman. They just don’t add up the way you want people to think they do.
All this leads to a regrettable refusal to compromise. Conservative gun-rights supporters fight hard against any change. Many firmly believe that new gun laws won’t solve what is ultimately an issue with depraved humanity willing to kill. But they also believe any restriction will lead inevitably down the road to gun confiscation.
That’s not going to happen in America. But apparently, they don’t believe in their own power, even after decades of winning on the issue.
Gun-control advocates don’t believe it, either. They’d rather blame a shadowy force and its evil campaign contributions than accept that they haven’t figured out how to win the argument.
Editor’s note: A version of this column originally appeared in our conservative opinion newsletter, Right Turns. It’s delivered every Saturday with a fresh take on the news and a roundup of our best center-right opinion content. Sign up here.
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