In response to the two recent and horrific shooting sprees in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas Joe Biden and the Democrats have unleashed their hatred and frustration in many directions. They have largely declined, however, to focus on the moral and spiritual failings of the shooters themselves.
Responding to the children killed in Uvalde, Biden’s halting, emotional address to reporters conveyed understandable anger and sadness, but he leveled his biggest criticism at the “gun lobby.” Of course, he emphasized not guns, but the scourge of “white racism” a week earlier in Buffalo.
Biden’s remarks on Tuesday were, like many of his speeches, both forgettable and dishonest. He said you don’t need an AR-15 for hunting, and few would disagree. Biden side steps the fact that guns are a protected constitutional right not because of hunting, but because of our revolutionary national origins. The right to keep and bear arms expresses a more fundamental and political set of concerns embodied in the Bill of Rights about government overreach. Has anyone calling for trust in government ever wondered why there is a prohibition on the quartering of soldiers in the same Bill of Rights?
Biden’s blame of the “gun lobby” suggests selfish, pecuniary motives are the real driver of American gun policy, as if financially struggling gun manufacturers had significant sway over Congress. These remarks misstate the reality: the gun rights lobby consists of millions of committed American gun owners, who use guns for self-defense, recreation, and hunting, and who will remain committed to defending these rights and voting on this issue after the news cycle turns to some other concern.
With two shooting sprees in as many weeks, it might appear the moment is ripe for a push for additional gun control. But it remains unlikely, because this is one of those rare areas where people on the Right are not in a defensive crouch.
For many gun owners, gun control is a moral issue that implicates our right to defend ourselves and our families from criminals and a government run-amok. The fact that some people misuse guns—tragically and terribly—has little to do with our own ownership and use of guns. For us, gun control is as illogical as suggesting we ban cars after Darrell Brooks’ decision to run over dozens of people at Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin last year.
On abortion and gun rights, the Right has the courage of its convictions. These are also the issues on which the Right has obtained the most success. On abortion, a single-minded determination to appoint originalist jurists appears finally to have us on the cusp of overturning the baleful Roe v. Wade decision. On guns, “shall issue,” concealed carry, and constitutional carry have been extended to almost every state. On both issues, the Right believes itself to be morally and practically correct; thus, we are not swayed by emotional appeals, shaming rhetoric, and the sophistry that Biden displayed in the wake of these recent shooting sprees.
This level of conviction should be contrasted with the usual positions of conservatives, particularly on issues implicating sexual morality, immigration, and race relations. There, conservatives are defensive and uncertain, easily cowed into submission by a distorted and dark account of America’s past. The best conservatives can muster in these cases is to show their greater commitment to leftist principles, as with the embrace of Kaitlyn Jenner and the argument that Democrats are the real racists.
In politics, it’s tough to achieve anything on the defensive. When that happens, the other side sets the agenda, and the most important foundational issues—political goals and political morality—are conceded at the front end. Not only is this politically ineffective, but frequently dissonant and humiliating.
Recall the spectacle at the 2020 Republican National Convention where one ex-convict after another was trotted out to proclaim the special circumstances that, to their minds, suggested they ought to be excused from the consequences of their crimes. While lamenting widespread riots, Republicans were also touting their stronger commitment to “criminal justice reform” and begging for approval from racial minorities, as if their approval alone is required to determine whether a policy is acceptable.
This is all quite ridiculous; even if one were completely cynical and concerned only with political power, this tactic has not worked. On gay marriage, affirmative action, “transgenderism,” law and order, and multiculturalism, the Left has proceeded to advance on all fronts and obtain institutional support for its corrosive views. The Left has done so without apology or doubt, because it believes itself to be on the side of angels, a force for liberation from an evil culture of restriction and inequality.
In response, those on the Right have been sheepish and defensive, conceding the Left’s basic premise that the historical America was a fundamentally evil place because of various forms of discrimination, and thus that the country and its traditions should have little moral authority today. When a concession this great is made, the game is over. It’s just a question of when the Left declares victory and how much pain will be visited upon the core of American society in the name of reparations.
In light of the recent fracturing of the country and explosion of political and racial violence in 2020, a lack of trust in both government and one’s neighbors has only increased the commitment of those on the Right to defend themselves. Moreover, nothing about Biden or his party suggests he has the popularity, rhetorical chops, or gravitas to move the dial on gun control.
The relevant lesson from the Right’s success in protecting gun rights is not to give up the game and lose, but rather to propose and embrace an alternative moral framework and win.