November 14, 2016

Hillary's stance on gun control may have helped Trump win

The political lines are drawn on the gun control issue more clearly and unmistakably than at any point since 2000. A Trump victory will no doubt be seen as the political resurgence of disaffected white Americans, mostly men, who see themselves as left behind and ignored by the elites. The triumph of previously disrespected “Second Amendment rights,” as the Trump supporters interpret them, will be part of that Trump victory narrative.
---- Huffington Post, September 6, 2016

Here we are, a week after Donald J. Trump defeated Hillary R. Clinton in one of the most surprising upsets in American political history and still the final results are not in. Popular votes in several states are still being tallied, and two States are so close that their State Auditors are still hesitating to officially award their Electoral College votes. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that Donald Trump is the 45th President of the United States. Even if every uncounted vote went to Hillary Clinton, it would not be enough to swap the critical battleground state Electoral College votes into her column. For all practical and legal purposes, the race is over.

Democratic Party voters and Hillary Clinton devotees are still reeling from the result. They had been reassured over and over again by every media talking head, every experienced pollster, and every political expert, that Hillary Clinton was certain to defeat Donald Trump. Officially, in the minds of every expert, the election was over long before it ever started. No one could conceive of Donald Trump winning. Naturally, this has not gone over well. Experts, pundits, hobbyists, and Hillary Clinton devotees are rioting in major cities, signing online petitions, and writing long op-eds debating the merits of the Electoral College system. Those op-eds are asking once again, as they do after every presidential election, if this archaic system is still functioning in a way that accurately reflects the desires of the American people. As has happened a few times down through history, Hillary Clinton actually won the popular vote, but lost the Electoral College vote. The main reason this has happened in this particular election is that just over 50% of the American population is actually crowded into fewer than 20 counties. If the popular vote was the deciding factor, then neither candidate would have campaigned anywhere outside those 20 counties. This would have allowed those 20 counties to dictate federal policy to the rest of the nation.

There were three key areas where these two candidates had widely divergent platforms: economics, healthcare, and gun control. I'm going to ignore the first two (at least for the moment) and focus on the third. Donald Trump ran on a pro-gun rights platform. Hillary Clinton ran on a pro-gun control platform. Both platforms were extremely radical in many ways. Donald Trump's platform could have been written by myself, by the NRA, or by any of the million or so most vociferous advocates for keeping the federal government completely out of the gun control arena. He ran on a platform that emphasized no further restrictions on firearm ownership, no further restrictions on firearm transfers, nationwide CCW reciprocity, and preventing crime victims from suing firearm manufacturers. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, wanted to enforce background checks for firearm transfers between private citizens, between family members, and even for times when one friend loaned a firearm to another. She also wanted to find some means to invalidate or eliminate CCW regulations (undefined, but probably through appointing pro-gun control judges to the Supreme Court then launching legal suits against such laws). Most important of all was something she mentioned repeatedly in her debates and campaign appearances: she wanted to ban, buyback, and take other steps to remove "assault weapons" from circulation. She never used the word, "confiscate", but her policy, if implemented, would have required such firearms to be forcefully confiscated from owners who refused to participate in federal buyback programs.

Many Democrats and Hillary Clinton devotees are blaming bigotry for Donald Trump's victory. After all, he is clearly the vilest form of human being they recognize: a rich, old, white man. Therefore, their only conclusion from this shocking, unexpected defeat is that too many voters in critical battleground states were also rich old white men who simply refused to accept the possibility of a woman president. They cannot see any other possible explanation, even though Hillary Clinton only won 51% of female voters. True, she won the majority, but only by 1%! 49% of female voters cast ballots for Donald Trump. When that statistic is broken down by race, age group, and education, it does reveal some areas where Hillary Clinton won by a much larger margin, but in other areas it was Donald Trump who had the far greater margin of victory.

Many of the States that switched from Barack Obama to Donald Trump (from Democrat to Republican) also had new laws on the books which required a photo ID be presented by anyone who showed up at the polls to vote. For mail-in ballots some states required a photocopy of the photo ID, some states required the number of the photo ID, while a few states required both. All of these states had dramatically lower Democratic voter turnout, leading Democrats to reason that these new photo ID laws were suppressing minority votes, and votes by women. Their logic is based on the assumption that minorities and women don't have driver's licenses or other forms of state-issued photo ID.

However, Michigan, Minnesota, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, and other battleground states where Hillary Clinton was expected to win but wound up losing are also states where a large percentage of the population owns firearms. They use these firearms for self-defense, for target shooting, and for hunting. Many of them, such as Texas, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, are states that feature noticeably large concentrations of collectors and other firearm owners who have multiple "assault weapons" and are hoping to buy more in the future. Arizona and Pennsylvania, which voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 but voted for Donald Trump this time around, are also home to several companies that produce firearms, firearm accessories, ammunition, and firearm parts.

If American liberal progressives are ever going to see another victory, if the Democratic Party is ever going to run another successful presidential campaign, if America is ever going to have a woman for president, firearms will have to be accepted as part and parcel of American life. As long as gun control is a core component of the political platform of Democrats and progressives, they will not be able to achieve more than a few isolated victories in places like California, Illinois, and New Jersey where the majority of the population fears firearms and would love to see them removed from American society. Even though Hillary Clinton's pro-gun control platform is not the only reason she lost, it was most certainly a major contributing factor. Naturally, I don't know if it is the main reason, nor do I know if it is even possible to demonstrate that there is any one "main reason". I only know that there are tens of millions of American gun owners who have spent half a century fighting to restore their freedom to own firearms, use firearms, carry firearms, train with firearms, collect firearms, and enjoy firearm related pastimes. These people, both men and women, will continue to vote against any politician at any level of government who favors strict controls on firearm ownership, firearm transfers, or firearm manufacturers.

Americans love their guns. The present passion for firearm ownership is at an all time high in American society. Currently, more people own firearms and use them daily than at any time in American history. There are more firearms per person now than there were at the height of the Civil War or during the heavily mythologized "Wild West" era. This trend will no doubt continue far into the future.