Paul Ryan and the Republican Tradition of 2nd Amendment Appeasement

Intense NRA activism is the only thing that keeps the GOP on the side of gun owners.

Paul Ryan and the Republican Tradition of 2nd Amendment Appeasement

by Gaius Marcius


The politicization of the Las Vegas shooting by gun control advocates fits the standard operating procedure of the Democratic party after any mass shooting. The gun community expects Clinton, Schumer, and Pelosi to use every opportunity to undermine the 2nd Amendment. But American gun owners were blindsided by the seemingly weak responses from Paul Ryan and the NRA, both of whom indicated willingness to negotiate on bump stocks.

The NRA may perhaps be excused for offering to negotiate because of their modern record of expanding gun rights, but the GOP has a less defensible track record. Republicans from George W. Bush back to Ronald Reagan have been as restrictive on gun rights as their constituents will allow them to be.

Do you want this map to turn green or do you want bump stocks?

George W. Bush is remembered for overturning the 1994 Clinton Assault Weapons Ban, but it is more accurate to say that Bush was the occupant of the White House during the successful NRA lobbying effort to overturn the ban. Bush was on record opposing repeal of the Assault Weapons Ban right up until 2004. The Assault Weapons Ban included the high capacity magazine ban, so if George W. Bush had had his way all of the Glocks in America would still be limited to ten rounds maximum. If the Clinton era legislation had not included a sunset period after 10 years, the ban would likely still be in place.

George W. Bush inadvertently improved  gun rights through his inaction, but his father George H.W. Bush actively used executive orders to ban the importation of foreign semi-automatic assault weapons, which in practice meant mainly the AK-47.  Loaded weapons were banned in national parks during the Reagan administration, and that restriction was overturned by Barack Obama, which indicates how much gun culture has become socially acceptable in the past 25 years. Reagan also gave a speech to the NRA that ranged over foreign policy and the Cold War but never mentioned the 2nd Amendment specifically.

The shifting gun rights priorities of the GOP indicate that for many politicians the 2nd Amendment is not a life and death issue of liberty but a means of alternately placating rural conservative voters and fundraising off of their legitimate fears of the left. If the NRA and the gun community make concealed carry reciprocity, silencers, and short barreled rifles their new priorities, the GOP will grudgingly move that legislation along. If we trust Republicans to understand the gun issue and support the 2nd  Amendment based on their Constitutional principles, bump stocks and assault rifles will just be the first in a long string of defeats.

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