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Democrats Lose ‘Gun Control’ – WSJ

Democrats Lose ‘Gun Control’ – WSJ #Democrats #Lose #Gun #Control #WSJ Welcome to Lopoid

If this week’s Senate gun compromise and Supreme Court ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen highlight anything, it’s how much gun politics has changed since 1994. The left’s 30-year campaign for sweeping “gun control” is hitting an ever-taller wall.

The media is hailing the Senate bill as the first federal gun breakthrough in decades—since President Clinton signed the short-lived “assault weapons” ban. The more honest headlines concede an all-important point: This is a “gun safety” compromise. It’s an acknowledgment of what isn’t in the bill—not a single flagship provision of the left’s gun-control agenda. No universal licensing. No bans on classes of firearms or types of magazines. No raising of the purchase age or limits on firearms purchases. No national database to track gun owners.

Instead, the overwhelming bulk of this “gun” bill consists of provisions aimed at mental health, school safety and tougher prosecution of gun crimes—precisely where conservatives have insisted for years that the federal focus needs to be. When even Democrats admit their standard prescriptions are nonstarters and make a deal anyway, that’s a notable political moment.

GOP gripes aside, what small changes the bill makes to existing gun laws are items even Second Amendment stalwarts (like this columnist) can support. Uploading juvenile adjudications and mental-health records to the background-check system is a no-brainer; blowing out 18 candles doesn’t suddenly make one a law-abiding citizen. Concerned that red-flag laws in blue states are a constitutional train wreck? This bill might help. It contains no mandates, and what grant money it offers is conditioned on states incorporating stronger due-process provisions in red-flag laws.

The modesty of the bill is an admission that despite Democrats’ campaign to leverage mass shootings into gun bans, there remain nowhere near 60 votes in the Senate for more gun control. And that’s a reflection of just how deeply ingrained Second Amendment rights have become in recent decades—partly thanks to the Supreme Court. Despite the press using every mass shooting to highlight liberal states that respond with more gun laws, those states remain the distinct minority.

Most of the country has gone the opposite direction. As Thursday’s 6-3 decision striking down a New York gun law noted, only six states and the District of Columbia still had what are called “may issue” laws—in which gun licenses are left to the discretion of public officials. Forty-three have “shall issue” laws, under which licenses are provided to anyone who meets established, objective criteria. That number has been steadily rising since the late 1980s.

More notable, 24 of those 43—along with Vermont, which has no permitting system for guns at all—are “constitutional carry” states, which allow law-abiding adults to purchase and carry firearms without a license. Alaska’s decision in 2003 to rescind its permit requirement opened a floodgate that continues today. A dozen states have passed or expanded constitutional carry in the past three years alone.

Gun ownership is on the rise, and across new demographics. In an online survey conducted by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, firearms retailers who saw an increase in sales reported that they sold 58% more guns to African-American customers in the first half of 2020 than a year earlier. The figures were 49% for Hispanics and 43% for Asian-Americans. Some 5.4 million people bought a firearm for the first time in 2021—30% of all purchases. For all the media touting of surveys that purport to show Americans want “gun control,” that support is concentrated in pockets of urban America. The message is a harder sell across most districts and states, where the conversation these days is increasingly about prosecutors’ failure to enforce existing laws and jail criminal gun offenders.

Meanwhile, even the left understands that the high court’s rulings since District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) potentially kill key parts of its gun agenda. In Bruen, the justices reiterated that the Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms in “common use.” As the media never ceases to remind us, AR-15s—and other “assault weapons” the left wants to ban—are pretty common these days. Would the Supreme Court agree to a law raising the purchase age to 21, given the long history of 18-year-olds fighting and dying for America?

What politics drove the bipartisan Senate deal? Republicans had an obvious interest in moving beyond the gun debate and returning the midterm focus to inflation. The Democratic motivation is more complex. Party leaders wanted to show that Democrats can govern and to give vulnerable members something fresh to advertise to constituents. But the decision to compromise was also an acceptance of political and legal reality. The notion that “ ‘we’ll get more later’ is just rank bulls—,” an anonymous Democratic senator told Politico this week. “For the foreseeable future, I think this will be the high-water mark.”

That could change if progressives manage to destroy the filibuster, or if the high court’s composition alters. But neither is on the immediate horizon, meaning Democrats need to rethink. Federal “gun control”—for now and for some time—is a dead letter.

Write to kim@wsj.com.

Journal Editorial Report: Biden says voters should defeat Republicans who disagree with him. Images: AP/AFP/Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly

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