As you read this column, another election cycle has come and gone. As I write it, however, I don’t yet know the results. That’s the reality I face every month while meeting publication deadlines that usually hit about two months before this magazine makes it to our members.
That said, while every column begins with the overarching general theme of protecting the Second Amendment, there are a number of options—typically based on current events—for how I want to present that theme. I can talk about legislation, court cases, the latest trend in anti-gun messaging, crime, anti-gun media bias, what inane things the president has said (or tried to say) about our rights and so on.
One subject that is always at the ready to discuss is elections, and there is a recurring message that seems ever-present in such discussions, especially when it comes to the Second Amendment:
The next election is critical for freedom.
Or, as it is sometimes framed, the next election is the most important since … fill in the blank with the last one.
You might think that this is mere hyperbole and simply intended to motivate our members to vote, but such a conclusion is only partially correct. Yes, I want to motivate NRA members and like-minded citizens every election cycle to go out and support pro-freedom candidates. But, I guarantee you, it is not hyperbole, and there’s nothing simple about it.
In other words, when I refer to “the next election” in this column, I don’t mean the literal next election. I’m talking about the ever-present “next election.”
As is often said, elections matter, and they have consequences. And the reality is that the most important election is always “the next election,” no matter how paradigm-shifting any previous elections have been.
In 1994, we saw a historic “wave” election that brought a solid, pro-Second Amendment majority into control of Congress. Control has swung back and forth since then, and anti-gun leadership had full control of both houses by 2020.
With federal elections held every two years, it is exceptionally rare for the results of one election cycle to lead to any truly long-term victories, although there can be exceptions.
In 2016, when President Donald Trump was elected, it seemed like a pretty important outcome for the Second Amendment, and it was. But the magnitude of that election result was not truly realized until this year, after three Trump-appointed justices helped deliver the 6-3 decision in NYSRPA v. Bruen that clearly spelled out that the Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms outside of the home.
That ruling, and the current makeup of the Supreme Court, should put certain Second Amendment debates to rest for at least a generation.
Joe Biden, after all, is still in the White House, and his office is still able to wield a tremendous amount of influence. He can continue to abuse his power by imposing unconstitutional restrictions on the Second Amendment through strained interpretations of his executive authority, and he can continue to use the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to bypass Congress and create new laws through its fantastical re-interpretation of existing laws.
Can these actions be challenged? Sure, but the judicial process can often take many years, is costly and holds few guarantees of success. As previously mentioned, though, because of President Trump’s appointments to the Supreme Court, the outcome of most Second Amendment cases that make it to the nation’s top court favor the correct interpretation of what the Second Amendment means.
But even that could change, which brings me back to why “the next election” matters.
If Biden is unable to impose his dream of enacting the anti-gun agenda he supports—an agenda that would completely gut the Second Amendment—and if the current Supreme Court strikes down whatever unconstitutional regulations he is able to enact through the executive authority he imagines he has, then I would not be surprised to see Biden fully embrace the idea of expanding the Supreme Court by adding anti-Second Amendment justices.
All he would need is a compliant Congress, and he can get that through “the next election.”
If he wants to pass anti-gun legislation that has stalled in the Senate, all he needs are enough anti-gun senators to abolish the filibuster. Again, achievable through “the next election.”
The simple truth is that all of the pro-gun gains we have made over the last 35 years can be lost after just one very bad election. That’s why you’ll repeatedly hear me say that “the next election” is the most important. Because it is.
While I still don’t know the results of this election as I write this, regardless of the outcome, NRA will continue to fight for the right to keep and bear arms, including preparing for “the next election.”