Politics & Policy

The Left Won’t Shame the Gun Culture out of America

(Gregory Johnston/Dreamstime)

If the last decade of culture war has taught us anything, it’s that the Left has become extraordinarily good at shaming America into political change. On issues from same-sex marriage to transgender rights, once the Left persuaded itself of the proper course of action, the unified power of media, pop culture, and the academy proceeded to deliver the proper cultural scolding. America was divided into the good people and the bigots, and no one should respect a bigot.

Consider this: In the last ten years of movies and television, have you seen a truly sympathetic portrayal of a religious opponent of same-sex marriage? When Bruce Jenner announced his “transition,” how much did the mainstream media or even the sports establishment entertain the idea that he might not be “liberated” but rather deeply troubled? There was no nuance in the discussion, and suddenly the “extremists” were the people who believed that biology was relevant to gender.

This unified liberal front has proven to be extraordinarily powerful — so powerful that it appears the Left is now aiming to marginalize “gun culture” in much the same way it has marginalized opposition to same-sex marriage. The “thoughts and prayers” controversy during the San Bernardino terrorist attack is a harbinger of things to come. Boiled down to its essence, the argument was that “thoughts and prayers” represent the way those (usually Christian) gun nuts express false sympathy for the carnage they’ve made possible. So unless they’re willing to repudiate gun culture, they should just shut up.

The next level of stigma is comparing the NRA to jihadists and its leaders to terrorists. The argument isn’t that the NRA advances bad ideas. No, they’re bad people — the worst kind of people, in fact.

RELATED: Liberals’ Silly Psychologizing of the Gun-Rights Debate

At the same time, there has been a marked increase in discussion of outright gun bans, repeal of the Second Amendment, and gun confiscation. Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have spoken favorably of the Australian model of mandatory gun buybacks — a program that simply can’t happen. Congress would never enact it, and the Supreme Court would never permit it.

At least not yet, answers the Left. Gay marriage was arguably less popular 20 years ago than the Australian gun buyback is today, yet look where we are now. Cultural change is happening fast, and why not aim at the real problem — American gun culture and the very notion of a true individual right to keep and bear arms?

#share#While shame is powerful, it has its limits. It’s one thing to browbeat people into supporting the way other people choose to live their lives (or at least to browbeat them into keeping their objections to themselves), but it’s quite another to hector people into changing the way they choose to live their own lives — especially when that change would require abandoning deeply held convictions about the very nature of citizenship and the responsibility of a man or woman to protect his or her own family. Especially when that change makes a person feel more vulnerable.

RELATED: The Ignorant Crusade

Boiled down to its essence, gun owners perceive the Left to be telling them that they’re terrible people for wanting to defend their families. They perceive the Left to be telling them that their government is worth trusting with their very lives. They perceive the Left to be describing them as “dangerous,” when they’d be willing to lay down their lives to protect their families, their friends, and even complete strangers who are being victimized by evil men.

#related#The shame campaign will succeed, however, at further dividing and sorting Americans. With the Second Amendment one Supreme Court justice away from dramatic revision (including effective repeal), we could conceivably face a scenario where there are effectively two Americas. Gun-owning Americans in the bluest states would watch their legislatures race to impose ever-stricter regulations, including confiscation, while Red America would maintain broad state constitutional and statutory protections. Driving across state lines would be even more perilous than it is today.

America’s gun culture is a key aspect of American culture — imprinted within our cultural and moral DNA. Millennials and their parents support gun rights in similar proportions, and while mainstream pop-culture hostility against gun ownership is strong and growing stronger, so too is the self-reliant American counterculture that believes government is accountable to an armed citizenry and that the first responsibility for self-defense lies not with the police but with the adults in the home. You simply can’t mock those beliefs out of the American public. The Left will try, it will fail, and America will become even more fractious because of its attempt.

— David French is an attorney and a staff writer at National Review.

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