Local Opinion: Gun rights could take down Republicans

Gun Rights

The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

Republican politicians who take absolute positions on three issues — abortion, gun control and election denial — are turning off voters. This is the one of three opinion pieces, each exploring one issue that has made Republicans vulnerable.

Tragedy upon tragedy in our country has not kept gun rights from being a winner for Republican politicians who adhere to an absolutist interpretation of the Second Amendment.

Yet even on this most solid of issues for Republicans, support is ebbing:

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A Gallup poll released in February showed a record 63% of U.S. residents dissatisfied with gun laws, wanting them stricter. The satisfaction number was 34%, which was tied for the lowest on record.

Even Republicans are losing zeal for no limits on guns: 54% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents were very or somewhat satisfied with gun laws, down from a record 70% in 2019 and 59% last year in Gallup’s annual polling on the issue.

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Support for absolutism is eroding, even as Republican politicians cling to it, exemplified in Tennessee U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett’s comment after the March 27 Nashville school shooting that killed six.

“It’s a horrible, horrible situation, and we’re not going to fix it,” Burchett said.

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, where mass shootings in the towns of Uvalde, Cleveland and Allen have stunned the nation, said no gun law changes were planned.

Why? Why won’t they act for the growing numbers of Americans sickened and fearful at what a wide-open interpretation of the right to bear arms has brought us?

Conservative journalist Charlie Sykes, editor-in-chief of The Bulwark website and former talk-show host, explains:

“For years, Republicans have effectively outsourced their thought leadership to the loudmouths at the end of the bar. But perhaps the most extreme example of that trend has been the issue of guns, where the party has ceded control to a gun lobby that has built its brand on absolutism.”

Absolutely, it’s absolutism. It still works in many places, but even in conservative Tennessee, a recognition that something needs to give has come about. Sort of.

After Republicans in the state House could no longer tolerate being called out for their inaction in the wake of the Nashville school shooting, they settled it — or thought so — by expelling two African-American Democratic legislators.

The fallout included accusations of authoritarianism, racism and backlash votes in Nashville and Memphis to return the evictees to their rightful seats.

Then, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said he would sign an order strengthening background checks, and he called on legislators to draft an “order of protection” law to keep guns away from people judged to be threats to themselves or others.

Alas, Republicans stopped it by deciding, in a combination of cowardice and legerdemain, that they would end their session early. It’s typical of what politicians will do to protect political power and gun rights.

In Arizona, no such shenanigans have occurred. Rather, Republican legislators have bulldozed bills allowing people with permits to carry loaded guns on college campuses and other school grounds; legalizing silencers; barring cities from prohibiting gun shows; banning banks from not doing business with firearms entities; and requiring public schools to provide firearm safety training.

Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs vetoed all of those bills, something her two most recent predecessors, both Republicans, would not do when the GOP-controlled Legislature pushed its gun-rights-at-all-costs bills.

Responding to one veto, the National Rifle Association said: “This veto highlights how defending the Second Amendment is a never-ending task. Law-abiding gun owners must remain vigilant and continue to work to elect officials who will uphold their rights.”

That statement, in turn, highlights the absolutism of the gun lobby and the never-ending task of opposing its and the current Supreme Court’s Wild West interpretation of the Second Amendment.

Given the recurring tragedies and resultant decline in gun rights support, Republican politicians may soon face a reckoning over their stance as they continue seeking election.

Michael A. Chihak is a retired newsman. He lives in Tucson.

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