Opinion:: Gun-rights hysteria doesn’t sell in the Trump era
In the fall of 2008, I went to a gun range I often visited and noticed an addition to the indoor décor: a photo of Barack Obama. But not an Obama I had seen before. This one had a Hitler mustache. The message was stark: Gun owners could expect no mercy from the Democratic nominee if he won the election.
He did win, and the National Rifle Association and other alarmists spent eight years sounding deafening alarms about the danger he posed to law-abiding gun owners. In reality, Obama lived up to the pledge he had made in 2008: “I will not take your shotgun away. I will not take your rifle away. I won’t take your handgun away.”
One day last fall, I went to shoot at a different gun range. And there on the counter was a flier with a scary photo of Hillary Clinton, informing patrons that if elected, she would trample on their Second Amendment rights. Shortly after the election, I got a letter from the NRA declaring grimly, “Our worst nightmare is staring us right in the face.” Obviously the mailing was done on the assumption that Clinton would win and that hysteria was still a sound operating plan.
It worked for the NRA and its allies for a long time, so they did their best to sustain it. Under Obama, gun production and sales doubled, and gun makers saw their stock prices soar. There were times when it was almost impossible to find certain types of ammunition because so many people were stocking up for Armageddon.
But those days are past. When gunmaker Remington said Tuesday it will file for bankruptcy, it confirmed that you can only cry wolf so many times before people realize that’s a golden retriever. Other makers of guns and ammunition have had to lay off workers.
What gun rights zealots forget — or, perhaps, prefer to deny — is that the Second Amendment is more robust and secure than it has ever been. Even after a succession of horrific mass shootings, Congress has been unwilling to take even basic steps to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, such as requiring federal background checks for private gun sales.
Permissive concealed-carry laws are now the norm, not the exception. Even Illinois now has one. Gun owners have the upper hand politically, no matter who is president.
Remington and other hard-hit manufacturers may hope the Democrats will regain the White House in 2020. But restoring the extreme paranoia that served them and the NRA so well may be too much to ask.
Steve Chapman, a member of the Tribune Editorial Board, blogs at www.chicagotribune.com/chapman.