While there are countless lawmakers (as well as voters, as the Zogby poll indicates) who are Democrats and who are solid supporters of the Second Amendment, the most visible and vocal Democrats—including Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (S.D.); House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (Mo.); U.S. Senators Hillary Clinton (N.Y.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Ted Kennedy (Mass.), and Chuck Schumer (N.Y.); and U.S. Representatives, David Bonior (Mich.) and John Conyers (Mich.)—are also some of the most strident advocates of restricting our Right to Keep and Bear Arms. They, unfortunately, set the legislative and political agenda that all other Democrats are expected to embrace.
But as anti-gun extremism continues to fall out of favor with the general public, perhaps more pro-gun Democrats will begin to take a greater role in directing the course of their party when it comes to firearms. Already we have seen U.S. Senator Zell Miller (D-Ga.) speak passionately about his support of law-abiding gun owners when he spoke at NRA’s recent Annual Meetings in Reno, Nev. And pro-gun stalwarts such as U.S. Representatives John Dingell (Mich.), Ike Skelton (Mo.), Charles Stenholm (Tex.), Collin Peterson (Minn.), and Ted Strickland (Ohio), to name just a few, continue to reject the anti-gun agenda of their party’s leadership.
Unfortunately, another outcome of the general public’s rejection of anti-gun extremism seems to be a concerted effort by candidates to disguise their anti-gun records, and campaign under the guise of being "pro-gun." Most recently, we have seen former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell—one of the pioneers of the reckless lawsuit campaign designed to drive law-abiding gun makers into bankruptcy—claim he "support[s] the Second Amendment," while he sought the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor of Pennsylvania. But if having been endorsed by the gun-ban lobby wasn’t enough to tell you where Rendell truly stands, a recent opinion piece in the Philadelphia Daily News by Professor John Lott should remove all doubt. In the article, Professor Lott recalls an encounter with Rendell in 1999. Lott stated he overheard the then-Philly Mayor reassure representatives of the Violence Policy Center (VPC), "I just can’t say publicly what we want to do, we have to take these things slowly." This comment to representatives of a group that openly advocates banning firearms should be an eye-opener to anyone who has bought into Rendell’s deceptive campaign. But Lott goes on to relate that "Rendell said that, as a city prosecutor, he had never seen a defensive gun use, and that as far as he was concerned, he had never heard of a defensive gun use. He said that he didn’t believe they occurred." It’s hard to imagine someone can claim to support the Second Amendment, yet also claim to be ignorant of the defensive uses of firearms by law-abiding citizens. Especially when research indicates law-abiding citizens use firearms for defensive purposes as many as 2.5 million times a year.
Clearly there are many good Democrats who truly support our Right to Keep and Bear Arms. But as the Rendell campaign shows, there are others who continue to embrace the gun-ban agenda, but also understand the general public has grown tired of anti-gun extremism. While some, like Rendell, will do everything they can to camouflage their true anti-gun views, you can rest assured that NRA will continue to expose those lawmakers and candidates seeking office who are truly opposed to the Second Amendment.