Politics & Policy

Congressional Democrats’ Sit-In: What a Pompous Exercise in Virtue-Signaling

House Dems on the House floor, June 22, 2016. (Twitter via Reuters)
To defeat ISIS, America will need bombs and bullets, not gun control.

Talking to gun-controlling Democrats after Orlando is a truly amusing exercise. On the one hand, they turn to the horror of Orlando and demand action. They demand a response, and that response is gun control. Point out that the very gun-control measures they now demand would not have prevented the massacre, and they immediately pivot — this isn’t about any one shooting, they say. It’s about the problem of gun violence generally.

Indeed, if a government was designing a rational policy to prevent jihadists from killing Americans, gun control would be at the bottom of the list. As I’ve noted before, less than 3 percent of Americans who’ve died to jihadist violence on American shores have died to gun violence. And when jihadists do use guns, they tend to violate multiple laws to do so — often including laws and regulations that ban weapons from their target locations. Laws intended to bring safety made Americans more vulnerable instead.

We actually have a model of policies that kept Americans safe. Between 9/11 and President Obama’s first term, three Americans died here at home to jihadist violence. Relentless offensive military action combined with heightened security here at home deprived the jihadists of safe havens and denied them freedom of action. By the end of the Surge, even the mighty terrorist force called al-Qaeda in Iraq (soon to be renamed ISIS) was reduced to a few hundred demoralized terrorists scattered across Iraq, hiding from American and Iraqi special forces.

RELATED: House Democrats Throw Tantrum, Eat Granola Bars

And now? The number of domestic terror deaths has increased by a factor of 30, terrorists control more territory and larger armies than at any time in the modern era, and they’re striking with increasing frequency not just in the heart of the United States but also in the great capitals of Europe.

And we’re talking about gun control?

No, actually we’re witnessing the continuing breakdown of the American body politic. Last night’s Democratic sit-in — complete with its singing, grandiose comparisons to Selma, and shouts of “Shame!” at Republicans — was about separating the good people from the bad. Full of quasi-religious zeal, the Democrats held their own version of a tent revival — except without any real missionary purpose. They weren’t hoping to convert, merely to define.

#share#A fundamental reality of the contemporary gun-control debate is that only one side is offering evidence-based solutions to mass shootings. According to an exhaustive fact-check by the Washington Post, not one recent mass shooting would have been prevented by Democratic gun-control proposals. In contrast, Eugene Volokh has documented multiple incidents in which mass shootings were stopped or prevented by the much-derided “good guy with a gun.”

Compounding their failure, Democratic-run cities are notoriously lax and delinquent both in enforcing gun laws that are on the books and in supporting tougher penalties for existing gun crimes. Their desire to end gun violence runs straight up against the dramatic racial disparities in violent crime and against their desire to end “mass incarceration” — and when that happens, identity politics always wins.

RELATED: Democrats Abandon Due Process

The challenge for the conservative is twofold. The easiest part is defending gun rights. When your ideological opponent achieves the pious progressive trifecta — condescending, self-righteous, and ignorant — it’s a remarkably simple exercise to mobilize the conservative base to preserve gun rights and preserve due process. The Democrats’ proposals are doomed, and they know it.

The far more difficult task is to pivot the debate back to the real enemy — jihadists. With Democrats united in virtue-signaling over meaningless gun-control measures and the administration seeming set to continue its extraordinarily slow-motion war abroad, we have virtually no short-term hope for effective action against ISIS. That means more attacks. That means more dead Americans.

The Democrats shouted “Shame!” when they have none. They invoked the language of civil rights to try to deny civil rights.

Even if a new administration could step up the offensive against ISIS, enormous damage will have been done. Not only will ISIS have infiltrated the West, it will have months and years more time to indoctrinate radicals already here. It will have had time to reorganize in new locations (such as Libya), and it will have shown future jihadists perhaps the most effective long-term tactic for attacking America: not through the difficult and elaborate spectacular attack but rather through the random shooting, stabbing, or pressure-cooker bombing.

Today, there are vast numbers of progressives who feel quite pleased with themselves. They cheered the sit-in. They established once again that they’re good guys. They scratched that lingering Selma itch. But they did nothing to stop jihad. They did nothing to stop gun crime. And they have no real intentions of doing anything meaningful about either issue.

#related#The Democrats shouted “Shame!” when they have none. They invoked the language of civil rights to try to deny civil rights. They were hailed from the left coast to the far-left coast. In the meantime, there’s an actual enemy out there, and that enemy won’t be defeated by songs and chants. It will take bombs and bullets. And if the Democrats want to signal their virtue, they should do so by focusing their fury at the men who want to kill us, not at the law-abiding citizens who want to defend their homes, their liberties, and — yes — even the politicians who chant to take away their rights.

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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