The NRA came out forcefully against Barack Obama during the campaign, warning its members that he would be “the most anti-gun president in American history.” And though the group's endorsement of Obama’s Republican rival was criticized by some gun rights and conservation advocates in the hunting community (as we blogged about a couple months ago), Obama clearly took the threat of the NRA’s vitriol seriously, going out of his way to reassure voters that he didn’t plan to strip them of their firearms.
But recent infighting among gun owners shows many vocal Second Amendment supporters remain unconvinced. Dan Cooper, co-founder of Cooper Firearms of Montana, was forced to resign from his post as the company’s president when word leaked that he was an Obama supporter, a scandalous revelation that “led to calls on pro-gun Web sites to boycott the company's products,” according to Real Clear Politics.
Cooper told USA Today that he had voted for only Republican presidential candidates since Nixon, but would be crossing the aisle this year because of the war and what he saw as the Republican Party’s shift to the far right.
Like Cooper, most in the firearms community have been voting consistently Republican for some time, a reality that Hal Herring says should make Democrats consider abandoning gun control. In an article for High Country News, Herring writes:
Single-issue gun-rights voters are especially destructive when it comes to environmental issues. Year after year, Republican politicians swear allegiance to the Second Amendment, an act that costs them nothing, but guarantees the gun vote. Then they support measures to exploit, degrade, and even sell off the public lands and waters that hunters and fishermen depend on. Neither the NRA nor the gun voters themselves do anything to protest this. The gun vote has gone to anti-environment politicians for so long now that millions of non-hunting American no longer associate hunters with conservation, despite the fact that sportsmen have painstakingly restored wildlife and habitat, rivers and lands, with their gun and ammunition tax dollars, their license fees and waterfowl stamps. This will eventually backfire on gun owners — and on conservationists. In a society increasingly disconnected from nature and hunting, with places to shoot growing increasingly scarce, fewer citizens grow up in a traditional gun culture. That means fewer hunters will fund assets like the Federal Wildlife Refuge system, and fewer shooters will respond to future, inevitable challenges to the Second Amendment.
It is not too late for a new vision, one as unique as the nation itself. If the Democratic Party would recognize the Second Amendment as the Supreme Court has interpreted it in the Heller decision, and reassure gun voters that the years of backdoor maneuvers to promote gun control are over, the Republican deadlock on the gun vote could eventually be broken. It seems a small price for the Democrats to pay. All they have to do is recognize the Constitution.
Photo by Marion Doss, licensed under Creative Commons.