In the course of this God-awful, drink-inspiring, litter-runt of a presidential election, it has become common to hear it said in certain of the Right’s more histrionic quarters that conservatism has failed and needs to be burned swiftly to the ground.
As a proposition, this has little to recommend it. One rarely improves upon the prospects of anything by setting fire to it, and, besides, the claim itself has the intractable problem of being false.
In fact, conservatism has achieved an enormous amount in the last half century, and, had it been permitted to take the Republican party’s reins this year, it could have continued to do so into the future.
The presidential veto being what it is, the Right’s national role over the last decade or so has been to stand athwart progressivism yelling “Stop.”
In the states, however — where most of the real governing is done — reform has been relentless and meaningful.
Consider, if you will, that both Michigan and Wisconsin are now “right to work” jurisdictions — a development that would have been unthinkable just a few short years ago;
consider that more than half of the nation’s education systems now boast some form of school-choice program;
and consider that the last five years have played backdrop to more than a quarter of all of the state-level abortion regulations enacted into law since 1973.
Where they have been able to gain a foothold, Republican officeholders have been busy and they have been effective, and the country as a whole has been improved by their work.
Those who remain skeptical of this defense need not take my word for it. Instead, they might look no further than to the right of the people to keep and bear arms, the swift and deep restoration of which has astonished even the most optimistic of the Second Amendment’s many ardent advocates.
Thirty years ago, concealed-carry licenses were the playthings of the rich and the connected; now, all 50 states have permitting regimes.
Twenty-five years ago, almost half of Americans wanted to ban handguns completely; today, to so much as broach that unlovely idea is to commit instant electoral suicide.
In the 1990s, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford took to the New York Times to urge the imposition of more gun control, while President George H. W. Bush publicly left the NRA; today, such maneuvers would be politically unimaginable.
The idea of an assault-weapons ban, which once enjoyed the support of 77 percent of the general public, is long gone — perhaps never to return.
And, most important of all, the revisionist interpretation of the Second Amendment that had been so cynically picked up within leftward-leaning academic and legal circles lies today in tatters, having been ripped apart not only by Antonin Scalia and his Supreme Court majority, but by a scrupulous group of progressive lawyers who proved unwilling to trade historical truth for political expedience.
The “gun-control moment” has passed.
That being so, one could be forgiven for wondering why John R. Lott Jr. has felt the need, in 2016, to write a long and defensive book
The War on Guns: Arming Yourself against Gun-Control Lies.
Surely, if there is indeed a “war,” it is he and his side who are winning it?
By rehearsing every argument he can think of, is he not out wandering the poppy-laden fields, bayoneting the last of the wounded?
The answer to these questions is both yes and no.
Certainly, Lott and his associates are winning now. But there are dark clouds on the far horizon, and they are moving ever closer.
Politically, the coming Trumpocalypse is likely to yield a political landscape that is less favorable to gun-rights champions than has been the status quo.
Culturally, it remains the case that pro–Second Amendment news is kept out of the national media and away from the public’s ears. And, while they have been all but vanquished in the court of public opinion, America’s flush anti-gun outfits have begun to organize and to spend in earnest.
Who is to say that 2017 will continue the three-decade trend?
Not Lott, evidently.
And so, faced by this trio of threats, he has contrived to prebut the coming onslaught — to get his blows in before the next battle has begun.
Taken in toto, The War on Guns is no less than a nonstop debunking of the most popular and the most abiding of the gun-control movement’s talking points.
It is not a polemic.
It is not a from-the-ground-up argument for self-defense. It is not a historical or explanatory stricture. It’s a sustained game of whack-a-mole.
Up pops the claim, and in comes the hammer. Bang! Bang! Bang! And that’s why you’re wrong.
Believe that most academics are in favor of more gun control? Bang, you’re wrong.
Convinced that extending background checks is a no-brainer? Bang, you’re wrong.