WASHINGTON May 28, 2014 — The shooting at UCSB by a depraved and frustrated young man was a tragic event. Families are mourning their loved ones, friends are visiting friends in the hospital, and politicians are chomping at the bit to have their shot at gun-control.
Unfortunately for gun control advocates, the UCSB shooting will not spark a gun control debate that will make national waves. And while the gun control handbook instructs their supporters to capitalize on the emotional distress of a populace after a shooting incident, their efforts this time will bear no fruit.
The next two years are titanic election cycles that will decide the balance of power in the House, the Senate and the White House. The Democrats, having had control of the Senate and the White House and failing to pull the country back out of economic stagnation, are fighting an uphill battle.
This election is the Republican Party’s to lose, and they may. However, Democrats will need all the help they can get in November, and that includes pulling moderate and slightly right of center Republicans and independents over to their side. If they push gun control legislation and call for stricter gun laws now, they will simply put another nail in their coffin.
Gun laws are unpopular in this country for a reason. While Democratic politicians only see the “gun lobby,” which accounts for 10 to 12 million active members in the NRA and associated groups, the Republicans see “gun owners.” Gun owners include the 38 to 40 percent of Americans who do not like being called criminals and terrorists by the Democratic left. The perception of Democrats by gun owners is will hurt the Democrats going forward.
If the Democrats take more gun control measures to the floor, they will fail. That gun lobby that they hate is comprised not of just gun companies and corporations, but millions of Americans who are law abiding gun owners. They will hear the Democrats promise bans, limits and checks, and they will pump money into the coffers of the NRA as well as donate to conservative campaigns to make it plain that gun control is not an issue that they take lightly.
Democratic fire and brimstone about gun control will only inflame the Democrats’ opponents; it will drive up gun sales and resistance to gun control.
One of the most important reasons that a gun control push will fail is found in the anti-gun laws already in place in California. California has some of the strictest gun laws on the books.
What national Democrats will push for in Federal law is exactly what California has now. This includes stricter background checks, a 10-round magazine limit, strict assault weapons regulations, strict conceal carry permit requirements and mental-health evaluations as a prerequisite to purchasing firearms.
California has all of these, including a very strict conceal carry permit process which was found unconstitutional by the 9th Circuit Court. Mental health records are linked to the background check system, making it very difficult for those who are barred from owning a firearm by a doctor from actually getting one.
All of the safeguards and all of the roadblocks that the State of California placed in the way of owning and carrying a gun did precisely nothing to stop a mass murderer from going on his headline-grabbing rampage.
Politicians who point to this event as evidence that we need more gun control must argue that the level of gun control in California is not stringent enough. This is dangerous for two reasons. First, they will be singling out a bastion of progressivism in the United States as having done a poor job in keeping its people safe. If this tragedy happened in Georgia, Florida or Wyoming, they could link the tragedy to the loose gun control laws in those states, but California has been at the forefront of gun control for decades. It will do progressives no good to blame lax gun laws.
Second, if anti-gun politicians do claim that California’s laws are lax, hence the need for tougher Federal laws, they will have gone too far. They will be rejected by the public.
An event like UCSB drives fringe groups into a frenzy. Both sides are thinking in terms of a showdown. But none of this is likely to go very far.
Right now, political campaign managers who want to see their Democratic clients in office should be telling them to sound sorrowful and outraged, but to do nothing serious to limit guns. Sound hot, act cold. In a hotly contested election cycle, taking on the issue of gun control after the UCSB shootings will only draw unwanted attention to the fact that strong gun-control laws did not stop this man.
Democrats are going to vote Democrat, with or without a gun control push by the left. But gun-minded Independents and center Republicans who want to keep their constitutionally protected right to bear arms will be dissuaded from voting for anyone on the blue ticket should the Democrats make another incremental move to ban guns.
Democrats will likely make a great deal of noise in the coming weeks and months. They may even introduce legislation to limit the sales of firearms and ammunition. But in the end, their efforts will amount to little more than noise. They know that in an election year, despite demands from their base, they cannot win on the issue of guns in a country where 40 percent of the populace is armed. And they especially cannot win on that issue when they are already facing the prospect of losing the Senate in 2014 and possibly the White House in 2016.
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