Who’s winning the post-Parkland debate over guns? It depends where you look.
Legislatively, anti-gun control forces remain in control. President Donald Trump, after veering towards the NRA earlier in the week, veered away from it during a meeting with lawmakers on Wednesday. But he did something similar in January, vowing in a bipartisan meeting to legalize the immigrant “Dreamers” only to pull back as the legislative process evolved. And even if Trump remains sympathetic to modest gun-control measures, there’s no guarantee congressional Republicans will go along. Many responded negatively to his comments on Wednesday. And neither Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell nor House Speaker Paul Ryan have even agreed to hold a vote on measures the NRA opposes.
The climate isn’t much different outside of Washington. While some bluish states are considering tightening gun-control laws, red states like Kansas, Indiana, and South Dakota have actually responded to Parkland by making it easier to own a gun.
But shift your lens from public policy to culture, and the last two weeks look very different. More than 20 corporations, including United Airlines, Hertz, and MetLife have cut ties with the NRA. Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods, two of America’s largest gun retailers, have both announced they will stop selling guns to people under the age of 21. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas gun-control activists have become national heroes, praised by numerous celebrities. And last week, at a CNN town hall, those students and their families booed NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch so loudly so that they almost drowned her out.
This bifurcation between the governmental and cultural aftermath of Parkland has had a telling impact on conservatives. They remain powerful, yet they feel under siege. The day after the CNN town hall, Loesch spoke at the annual Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) convention. In 15 minutes, she barely mentioned the legislative process. Instead, she mostly discussed the ways in which journalists and corporations defame and persecute the supporters of gun rights. She accused tech companies of “chang[ing] their algorithms” and “Google rankings” in order to “suppress our speech on social media platforms.” She implied that CNN had not allowed anti-gun control “junior ROTC members” to ask questions at the town hall. She repeatedly addressed the “legacy media” covering her speech, and after claiming that they “love mass shootings,” warned that they would likely “scream at me and confront me” after her talk. She claimed that had security guards not protected her at the CNN town hall, people in the audience, “who were rushing the stage, screaming burn her,” would have threatened her life. Finally, near the end of the speech, as if to explain its focus, Loesch declared, “Always remember, always … politics is downstream from culture. It’s going to happen in culture first before it happens in politics.”
Other conservatives have echoed Loesch’s persecution narrative. Discussing the corporations cutting ties to the NRA, Rod Dreher warned in The American Conservative, “Once big business joins the social justice mob, it’s over. I’m beginning to understand now what friends who grew up in communist countries mean when they tell me that the atmosphere in the West now reminds them of their youth.” Conservative journalist Bethany Mandel called the CNN town hall “a lynch mob.” A Breitbart headline warned that, “YouTube is Shutting Down Conservative Criticism of CNN over Parkland Shooting.”