This past weekend, N. C. House Speaker Thom Tillis posted a message on his Facebook page warning his Republican colleagues about overreaching. Then, Monday evening, the caucus he obviously can’t control did just that. They passed a sweeping bill that would allow guns in bars, on college campuses and public greenways and walking trails.
The GOP is on the wrong side of history on this one. They may truly believe that more guns makes society safer, but the majority of people do not. While most people respect the Second Amendment, they also want reasonable restrictions on guns and a reduction of gun violence.
Newtown changed perceptions and polls show the vast majority of Americans support background checks. In North Carolina, half the people support an assault weapons ban and over half support the more generic “stricter gun laws.” While the gerrymandered districts may protect individual legislators, the gun legislation just perpetuates the perception that the North Carolina GOP is becoming increasingly extreme.
The Republicans are almost certainly listening to the NRA spin and believing their own press. They are paying attention to the “atta-boys” from their base instead of the concerns of the people. And they are depending on NRA money protecting them while bashing their opponents. That’s the way it’s worked for years.
However, that dynamic has changed. Approval ratings of U. S. Senators who opposed background are falling. As my friend Joe McLean noted, Bill Clinton described the NRA’s influence in a parable. “You know that old story about, the problem with a cat that sits on a hot stove is that cat will never sit on a hot stove again, but also it will never sit on a cold stove. I think this is a cold stove.”
On immigration, gay marriage and now guns, the GOP is moving against national trends. They may be able to use these issues to motivate their base one or two more cycles, but the public’s perception has shifted. In the not-too-distant future, there will be a price to pay. Too bad the Republicans in the legislature won’t heed the warnings of their leader.