It occurs to me that our nation is currently divided over three large issues: gun control, abortion, and the assault on democracy specifically the January 6 riots. One of these things is not like the others.
While pro-choice advocates try to frame the abortion issue as an assault on women’s rights, for the true believers it is not about women’s choice. A large percentage of our population truly believes that human life begins at conception. They believe that abortion is a murder just as foul as what took place in Sandy Hook, Parkland, or Uvalde. If you truly believed that an unborn fetus was a human being, you would be as opposed to abortion as anyone who already is. It is possible to see their point of view even though you can totally disagree.
Tomorrow night, the house committee on January 6 will present evidence of the horrors of what happened that day. They will condemn those who organized and instigated the event however that won’t make a difference to some people. It is clearly evident that the people who took part in the January 6 attack on the capital as well as many who supported them truly believed that Trump won the election. For a moment, separate the fact that they had been fed a pack of lies. If you have sincerely believed that you were defending democracy against an existential threat rather than actually being the perpetrators of such a threat, you right have done the same thing. You can disagree with the basic premise behind the actions but ultimately it is possible to understand why the people at the capital did what they did.
Set aside for a moment the hypocrites who exploit the true believers of both of those issues for their own personal or political gain. It is possible to understand, given their personal perspective with which you may justifiably disagree that they are acting reasonably within their own belief system.
The same thing cannot be said for gun control.
For reference purposes, here is the text of the Second Amendment.
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
The Supreme Court has previously ruled under Heller that this extends to personal ownership of a handgun and that the Second Amendment does not solely apply to militia. Heller does not in any way suggest that this constitutional right need not be well regulated. Both a liberal and a conservative law clerk who worked in the Supreme Court during the Heller decision recently co-wrote an op-ed saying that we cannot blame Heller for our current situation. Nothing in that decision suggests that Congress cannot pass gun control legislation.
Apart from a minuscule, twisted minority who believe that Sandy Hook and Parkland were staged events, there are no true believers with which one could sympathize in the same way that one might understand those opposed to abortion or those who believe that the election was stolen. The true believers on the issue of gun control have placed their Second Amendment rights above the constitutional right to life. They ignore the words “well regulated” claiming that any attempt to regulate or limit gun ownership somehow violates their rights. Even if the words well regulated did not exist in the Second Amendment, it is indefensible to suggest under any circumstances that a constitutional right to ownership is somehow more important than the right to life.
One of the justifications used in the leaked draft of the Supreme Court decision which will likely overturn Roe argues that because abortion is about life, it should be judged under different standards than other constitutional rights.
Center and left media are making a big deal out of the fact that 88% of people believe in universal background checks and large majorities are in favor of other common sense regulations on gun ownership. They are blaming Republicans for ignoring the will of the people.
This morning on MSNBC a political commentator said that normally one thinks of threats to democracy as being big events such as a fraudulent election, a military coup, or a war. He suggested that the institutional loopholes such as gerrymandering, the electoral college, and the filibuster which allow the minority Republicans to stagnate Congress into inaction against the will of the people are the real existential threat to democracy. The majority want gun control. The majority are pro-choice. The majority voted for Joe Biden.
The Republicans are characterized as hypocrites and cowards who are at the mercy of Trump, his misguided supporters, and a powerful NRA lobby. While they are largely to blame, the general public is equally at fault.
The left needs to learn lessons from the pro-life movement. The religious right has become so politically active and so steadfast in their desire to overturn Roe that they have succeeded. They have done so by ignoring the racism, misogyny, deceptiveness, ineptitude, and narcissism of Trump solely because they believed he would install conservative justices and Roe would be overturned. Being anti-abortion has been a litmus test for political candidates that has superseded all other issues including Christian values such as the treatment of the poor, the elderly, the disabled, and immigrants.
The reason that the power-hungry in Washington can get away with ignoring the will of the people is that the people are not expressing their will in the way that the Constitution prescribes for them to do so… at the ballot box. The minority will of the antiabortion movement has succeeded because they have exercised their vote ruthlessly in favor of their position.
Two things have to happen to change the situation. The left needs to attack candidates vigorously on the issue of reasonable gun restrictions. They have to pull out all the stops with the same ruthlessness with which the antiabortion movement has attacked Roe. I hate to say it but, if the antiabortion lobby succeeded by publishing photos of aborted fetuses, maybe we need to release the autopsy photos from Uvalde. Okay so that’s extreme but still, they need to wield their political power fearlessly on this issue perhaps even setting aside other issues such as climate change to concentrate on this.
The other thing that has to happen is that the left needs to call out the hypocrisy of being so-called pro-life when it comes to abortion but placing Second Amendment rights above the right to life. They need to persuade religious fundamentalists and all people of faith that common sense gun control is very much a pro-life issue that should not be divided along liberal/conservative lines. These same pro-life arguments can be made on things like healthcare and immigration reform. The Catholic Church has a doctrine called the “Consistent Ethic of Life” by being not only opposed to abortion but being opposed to the death penalty and strong on issues like healthcare, immigration, and other social justice issues. The left needs to work with them and to shame other alleged pro-life elements into seeing gun control as a pro-life issue.
Recent Republican primaries have illustrated that Trump and his followers do not have a monopoly on the Republican Party. Although, some Trump-supported candidates have seen victory in primaries it has not been a clean sweep. Last night a Republican who voted in favor of impeachment survived a primary challenge. We need more such courageous Republicans who will oppose Trump and stand courageously against him and his supporters. Similarly, we need a few brave Republicans who will go against the NRA lobby and illustrate to the rest of the Republican party that they need not be held hostage by the Trump fringe or the NRA.
Congress is stagnated and ignores the will of the people because the people are not exercising their political power to elect candidates that represent their values. The only thing to stop a bad guy with a gun lobbyist in his pocket is a good guy with the power of the people in his pocket.