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The Shot(gun) Heard 'Round The World

By Thomas Lindaman (09/23/04)

It was a simple gift, one that would have been unthinkable a decade ago. Yet, with a simple gesture, it marked the end of a hard-fought struggle.

I'm speaking, of course, of the boxed set of the first season of "Seinfeld" being released on DVD. (On a side note, how can a show about nothing cost so much damn money to buy?)

Seriously, though, I'm referring to John Kerry accepting a semiautomatic shotgun from a supporter during a campaign stop in West Virginia. The president of the United Mine Workers of America presented Senator Kerry with Beretta A300, and Kerry accepted it, saying "...I can't take it to the debate with me."

It came out after he accepted this gift that the gun would have been banned, had a bill that Kerry cosponsored passed. When confronted with this information, Kerry supporters shrugged it off as an attempt by the Bush Administration to paint Kerry as anti-gun. (Frankly, I think cosponsoring a bill that would extend the assault weapons ban does the painting for you.) Instead, Kerry was to be seen as pro-gun and pro-hunting.

For most people, this would go unnoticed as a throwaway line designed to take heat off of Kerry. But to the astute, it is the death knell for gun control as a campaign issue.

Remember how gun control became a big issue in the 90s under Bill Clinton? With school shootings, militia groups, and assault weapons seemingly around every corner, the gun control movement made significant gains, including passing an assault weapons ban as part of the Brady Law. Then, after a while, a series of events lead to the momentum shifting in the other direction. Hell, even Sarah Brady was found buying a gun for her son.

You could also see the end coming with one particular 2002 race. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend was a pro-gun control Democrat and lieutenant governor of Maryland with hopes of winning the gubernatorial race. However, her gun control message worked against her and she wound up losing a lead near the very end of the campaign and, thus, losing the election. This was significant because it showed that the pro-gun control side was weakening.

But the whipped cream on top of this Second Amendment Sundae came with Kerry not only accepting the shotgun, but being photographed with it and being described as a "pro-gun Democrat." A decade ago, Democrats wouldn't want to be anywhere near a gun, as was evidenced by Sharon Stone and Rosie O'Donnell both publicly denouncing guns. Now, it seems as though Democrats in tight races are reaching for the nearest firearm they can find so they too can be seen as "pro-gun." This, ladies and gentlemen, is the sign Second Amendment advocates like myself have been waiting for: the public no longer buys into the gun control arguments, which are based more on fear than fact.

I won't bore you with the statistics of how crime rates drop whenever people are allowed to carry guns, or with stories about how average people have stopped crimes because they were armed. No, my friends, I have plenty of other ways to bore you. But I'll save those for another time.

Even the gun control side's rhetoric has shifted. I heard Hillary Clinton on a Sunday news show talk about "sensible gun control laws." First off, I never trust a woman in a pantsuit when it comes to anything sensible, let alone gun laws. But more important was the use of the word "sensible." In the spirit of all good advertising agencies, Hillary managed to shift the debate away from whether we need more gun laws to what a "sensible gun law" looks like all with the use of one word.

Clever, but it begs the question of what types of laws we had before the push for "sensible gun laws." Were they laws like "If you are a blind man, your seeing eye dog must also pass the firearms safety course"? (Then again, given some of the other laws on the books, I wouldn't be surprised if this really were a law.) The change in wording and tactics was significant because it showed that the gun control side was starting to realize that it couldn't get what it wanted all at once. Their only hope was to play up the emotional side of the movement by making it seem more warm and fuzzy. Whether this has worked is up in the air still, but I think it's safe to say that a kinder, gentler gun grabber may be the only way for the Sarah Bradys of the world to make progress.

Even so, John Kerry accepting the shotgun in West Virginia and being photographed shooting various rifles undercuts the gun control issue altogether because it leaves gun control without a champion. (Just be glad that he didn't come out in favor of the gun control movement or else you guys would really be sunk!) You guys had a good run and accomplished a little, but it's time that you give up the fight to add more gun laws to the over 20,000 municipal, state, and federal laws on the books. Your energies would be better served by doing something constructive.

Like learning how to shoot.

Thomas Lindaman is a columnist and editor for CommonConservative.com. He holds a Masters degree in Mass Communication from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and a Bachelors degree in English with a minor in Journalism from the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He lives in Des Moines where he works for a mortgage company.

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