About half the hands in the room went up.That's the anecdote that leads off the NYT article "Democrats in Senate Confront Doubts at Home on Gun Laws." The article ends:
Despite his best attempts to reassure them — “I see no movement, no talk, no bills, no nothing” — they remained skeptical. “We give up our rights one piece at a time,” a banker named Charlie Houck told the senator.
During the lunch, Mr. Manchin shared a recent conversation he had with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Obama administration’s point person on gun control.How are we to think about rights? It's good for politicians to hear the deeply engrained American attitude: We give up our rights one piece at a time. There's a long tradition — predating the Bill of Rights — of thinking like that. Here's James Madison in 1785:
“I said, ‘Mr. Vice President, with all due respect, I don’t know how many people who truly believe that you would fight to protect their rights.’ ”
The senator added, “That’s what we’re dealing with.”
[I]t is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of Citizens, and one of the noblest characteristics of the late Revolution. The free men of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle. We revere this lesson too much soon to forget it.The issue there was not guns but the use of tax money to pay for teachers of religion. In the paragraph quoted above, Madison went on to say that citizens should object to the requirement of paying even "three pence" to support a religion because a government that extracts even that trifle may go on to coerce religious conformity. The small things are not small. The small things are where the people still have the capacity to fight authoritarian government.
Democrats know this. They are part of this American culture of deeply engrained belief in constitutional rights. What is different to the Democrats is that they don't believe that the right to keep and bear arms is a constitutional right. They think the Supreme Court misinterpreted the Second Amendment when it found a constitutional right. District of Columbia v. Heller was a 5 to 4 decision, and the 5 are the 5 Justices, still on the Court, whom the Democratic Senators would love to have a chance to replace.
The NYT portrays the folks back home in West Virginia as misinformed, troublesome, and hysterical. That’s what we’re dealing with.