Rallying her base — and putting her enemies on notice — Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton told a debate audience in Las Vegas that the country must “stand up against the NRA” and push for more gun-control laws. It may have worked. Polls show that with Democrats, Clinton is up.
But Clinton and the Democrats do not have the support of the American people on this issue, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. Fifty-two percent of respondents view the Democratic Party as being “outside the mainstream” when it comes to guns, while only 38 percent think the Democrats represent “the mainstream.” A CNN/ORC poll just released has 52 percent of Americans also saying they “oppose stricter gun laws,” including 56 percent of independents. Clinton, not the NRA, is out of touch.
Clinton, like President Obama, has hinted at the idea of gun confiscation, but that doesn’t sit well with most Americans either: Gallup reported in 2012 that 74 percent oppose a handgun ban, a record high, and 51 percent oppose a ban on so-called “assault weapons.” In 2014 Pew Research reported that for the first time in two decades of polling, most Americans — 52 percent — are more concerned with protecting the right to keep and bear arms than passing more gun laws.
An overwhelming majority of Americans — 68 percent! — told Rasmussen pollsters just this year that they prefer to live where gun rights are respected. What is perhaps most revealing here is that only about 32 percent of Americans live in households where someone owns a gun — so around one hundred million non-owners are quite comfortable with the fact that their neighbors are armed. We might surmise that even ostensibly anti-gun Americans understand the benefit they derive from their gun-owning neighbors. When was the last time you saw a “gun-free home” sign on anyone’s lawn?
A Chapman University poll last April found that 58 percent of Americans fear corrupt government more than anything else — which might explain why so many people support private gun ownership. Gun sales spike every time a Democrat starts talking about guns, and Democratic pollsters admit that it’s typically a losing issue for the party.
Other indicators shed light on Americans’ views on guns and their importance in a free society. For example, Dr. Ben Carson, a Republican presidential candidate, rendered Hollywood celebrities and leftist commentators apoplectic when he recently suggested that Jews in Nazi Germany may have better resisted had they not first been disarmed.
Yet that is exactly what happened in Belarus, where the fierce Bielski partisans saved over 1,200 of their people from the National Socialist machine. In the Treblinka and Sobibor death camps, and the Warsaw Ghetto, Jews used stolen and illicit guns to fight back. In the latter case, German infantry, armor, and air power was tied up for a month clearing out urban guerrillas. During the fighting Joseph Goebbels wrote in his diary, “This just shows what you can expect from Jews if they lay hands on weapons.”
Indeed it is. And history shows time and again that people can resist when they have access to weapons for self-defense. In Ireland in the 1920s, and again in the late 1960s, armed resistance kept repressive forces at bay and significantly altered the status quo. During our civil rights era, armed groups like the Deacons for Defense protected marches and shot it out with the KKK in the Deep South, and even threatened government officials who participated in the harassment and victimization of protesters.
Despite the controversy surrounding Carson’s comments, they haven’t hurt him with the voters. He has even doubled-down on the matter, calling for an end to the moronically named and monumentally ineffectual “gun-free zones” in a subsequent talk-radio interview. Polls have him pulling second among likely Republican voters (behind Donald Trump, who has staked his own claim to the pro-gun position by calling concealed carry “a right, not a privilege”), and well ahead of Clinton in national head-to-head matchups.
Hillary Clinton can make all the rousing speeches she likes about the allegedly disproportionate power of the “gun lobby,” but she will only appeal to those within her party who hate guns and gun owners. Lobbyists for the NRA (and other such groups, like Gun Owners of America and Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership) are influential in the halls of power precisely because they represent the pro-gun sentiments of the American people and effectively focus voter attention on waffling members of Congress, especially in election years.
Scott McPherson is a policy adviser at The Future of Freedom Foundation and the author of the new ebook Freedom and Security: The Second Amendment and the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.