When I walked away from Donald Trump’s Republican Party, I did not walk away from conservatism. Instead, I gave up on a political party whose policies had become indefensible.
I support a pathway to citizenship for the “dreamers,” but my approach to immigration is far less expansive than that of most Democrats. I opposed the Republicans’ deficit-financed tax cuts, but I still believe that any Americans paying more than a third of their salaries to the government are being ripped off.
And once again, I and many other reasonable conservatives find ourselves at odds with GOP — read: National Rifle Association — orthodoxy.
After the Sandy Hook school shooting, I began calling for tougher background checks and a ban on assault-style weapons. But I continued to celebrate the Supreme Court’s 2008 ruling that the Second Amendment protects Americans’ right to keep and bear arms. I was relieved the court confirmed that citizens have a constitutional right to possess handguns at home for the purpose of protection. And, unlike most Democrats, I am uncomfortable with state laws that severely restrict Americans’ right to have similar protection outside their homes.
For most Americans, my view on guns would be considered conservative. But for Republican leaders and the NRA lobbyists who funnel millions to the GOP each year, conservatives such as me are just as out of touch as liberals who want to ban handguns and obliterate all Second Amendment protections.
They are dead wrong.
More than 90 percent of Americans agree that Congress should pass tougher background checks.
More than 80 percent of Americans at least somewhat favor a ban on “bump stocks” that make rifles fire much like automatic weapons.
And nearly 80 percent believe that assault-style weapons should be banned.
If Trump and the NRA try to tell you it is your God-given, constitutional right to stockpile weapons of war, they are lying. But don’t take my word for it. In District of Columbia v. Heller, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia ruled that the regulation of gun ownership was compatible with the Second Amendment. That “important limitation . . . is fairly supported,” Scalia wrote, “by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.’ ”
You would think that the ruling of a conservative legend such as Scalia would provide courage to Republicans who want to end the epidemic of mass shootings. Or they could stand with Ronald Reagan. His pleas to lawmakers helped lead to the 1994 ban on assault-style weapons .
After losing to the Gipper, NRA lobbyists in Washington lost their minds. They all but declared war on America’s government while comparing law enforcement officers to Nazis. These “jack-booted government thugs” wanted to “take away our constitutional rights, break in our doors, seize our guns, destroy our property and even injure or kill us.”
That extreme approach continues today, with NRA-funded ads coming ever closer to inciting violence against politicians and other public figures who dare to push back against their nihilism.
Maybe the gun lobby is panicking because history is not on its side. Since 1994, the number of hunters in the United States has fallen to about 15 percent. As Kurt Andersen noted in his book “Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire ,” just 3 percent of Americans own roughly half of the country’s guns. Three out of four Americans do not even own a gun.
The NRA and Trump’s Republican Party face a political landscape where neither history nor poll numbers are on their side. Americans want stronger background checks, a ban on bump stocks and assurances that military-style weapons will stop finding their way into the hands of terrorists, domestic abusers and the mentally ill.
Poll after poll proves I am not the one out of touch. Conservative voters, rank-and-file Republicans and an overwhelming number of Americans share these views. GOP politicians and the gun lobbyists they represent live in a bubble. Their indifference to the massacres of innocents will lead to their political ruin. Then, and only then, can we have an honest debate on the epidemic of guns in America.