That wasn’t an earthquake you felt late last night, it was the ground shifting under the feet of America’s gun owners as both Republican candidates lost their runoff elections in Georgia. That means control of the US Senate will now pass to the Democrats under Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
The upshot of that development is Americans’ gun rights now face a clear and present danger on a number of fronts. Democrats ran on doing away with the filibuster altogether in the Senate if they took control. That means simple majority rule on any measure that comes up for a vote. Should they make good on that promise, Democrats would have no check on some of the most radical proposals Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. and the party campaigned on.
Biden lists the new limits he’d like to impose on gun owners here. And with both houses of Congress behind him, he’ll have a realistic chance of signing many of those into law. We’re talking about Democrats’ dearly-held gun control measures like a new “assault weapons” sales ban, regulating currently-owned “assault weapons” under the National Firearms Act, banning the manufacture and sale of “high capacity” magazines, outlawing private sales of firearms (universal background checks), and banning the online sale of guns, ammunition and gun parts.
As for that last one, think of a world without MidwayUSA, Brownells, Lucky Gunner, Aero Precision or Palmetto State Armory. Does “gun parts” include magazines (whatever their capacity)? There goes GunMag Warehouse.
The shift in Senate control now makes two Democrat Senators some of the most powerful men in Washington as far as gun rights are concerned. West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Montana’s Jon Tester are two “moderate” democrats from solidly red states. Both have claimed to be Second Amendment supporters, but we all know how much weight that carries in here in the real world.
Both Senators now represent states that voted strongly for Trump. Trump won West Virginia by 40 percentage points and the Montana margin was 16 points.
On the other side of the Capitol, Nancy Pelosi has the narrowest majority since the 1930s, but the chances of eleven or more Democrats defying her on a gun control bill vote seem remote. Democrats have a remarkably good record keeping their troops in line and ensuring they vote the way party leaders dictate.
Will that extend to landscape-altering gun control laws that West Virginians and Montanans oppose? That remains to be seen. Tester and Manchin will no doubt enjoy the political leverage they now hold on gun control and other votes in a narrowly Democrat-controlled Senate.
Then again, given the rightward shift of their states’ electorates in recent years, either or both could make a very lucrative deal if they’re willing to entertain the idea of switching parties. Besides keeping Republicans in control of the Senate, a party change would give them a chance of keeping their seats the next time they have to face the home state voters.