The good thing about social media is it allows people to air their opinions publicly and immediately with no filter. The bad thing about social media is that it allows people to air their opinions publicly and immediately with no filter.
Traditionally, politicians’ statements have been painstakingly massaged, filtered and spun until just the right phraseology, verified through polling data, is released to the public. Thanks to social media, candidates now can vent streams of consciousness without all that overhead. The direct nature of social-media communication gives voters unprecedented insight into what candidates actually think.
Now that a presidential election is on the horizon, a score of Democratic candidates are vying for Air Force One passes and giving us a sea change in messaging. Long gone are the days when a pandering politician dropped by the local Walmart to buy blaze orange for a photo-op pheasant hunt. The vote tabulation calculus has changed. While primaries are notorious for swinging far left or right of general election positioning, this one is characterized by candidates desperately trying to outflank each other to the left on gun issues. Even those with historically tepid public positions on gun control are saying some outrageous things.
Perusing the social-media accounts of those deemed most likely to earn the Democrat Party nomination, we see a handful of gun-issue positioning categories, but there is one overriding theme: a need for “common-sense” solutions. Not surprisingly, those proposed solutions include only gun-rights restrictions for law-abiding citizens.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tweeted: “Republicans won’t act-because gun lobbyists are signing their checks.” She’s not the only one making such baseless accusations. Bernie Sanders said, “After every tragedy the Senate, intimidated by the NRA’s power, does nothing. This must change.”
This Twitter rant is from former gun-rights proponent Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.): “The NRA is lying to the American people. The chokehold they have on our laws is not about the Second Amendment. It is about gun sales. It is about greed and corruption. It is about making sure the status quo—thousands dying every year—stays the same.” It gets worse. “The NRA and the gun industry just want to protect their profits—it is all about money and greed. They want to keep selling weapons of war to anyone willing to pay, no matter how unsafe it makes the rest of us. It has nothing to do with protecting the Second Amendment.”
Mayor Pete Buttigieg is also all in: “We are under attack by white nationalist terrorists, abetted by weak gun laws and the @NRA.”
Bolstered by the perception of broad support, all the Democratic presidential contenders call for “universal” background checks and closing of the so-called “gun-show loophole.” Joe Biden summed up the other candidates’ positions this way: “@senatemajldr Mitch McConnell should reconvene the Senate and pass the House’s universal background check bill. We cannot wait to take action.”
At least one candidate is clear about what background checks mean. Senator and presidential candidate Cory Booker (D-N.J.) wants to implement a national licensing program. Booker said, “We can save lives by implementing commonsense measures like my proposal for gun licensing—because if you need a license to drive a car, you should need one to own a gun.” (Will he ever learn the difference between a legal right, as the Second Amendment protects, and a privilege?)
One candidate leads them all with calls for bans on modern sporting rifles, at least in terms of the longevity of his political career. Bernie Sanders first called for an “assault weapons” ban back in 1988 and continues today with statements like: “You should not be able to walk into a store and purchase assault weapons. These type [sic] of weapons should be banned.”
Other candidates jumped on that bandwagon long ago, but the frequency of the disinformation has ramped up. Kamala Harris, for example, said, “Assault weapons are weapons of war. They are designed to kill a lot of people quickly. There is no reason they should exist on the streets of a civil society.”
In repeated social-media posts, Harris promises to act even if Congress doesn’t. Recent tweets include: “Congress must have the courage to pass reasonable gun safety laws. If they won’t act, I will” and “as president, I’ll take executive action to ban imports of AR-15-style assault weapons.” (Let’s not to tell her that most modern sporting rifles are made right here in the USA.)
Consistent with the rash nature of Twitter and Facebook posts, most Democratic candidates don’t hide their low opinion of law-abiding gun owners and NRA members. In the words of South Bend, Ind., Mayor and presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg: “It’s one thing to own a gun. It’s another thing to worship it, like a false God, believing it will make you a better man.”