As legal scholar Reva Siegel and others have demonstrated, (white) conservatives’ opposition to gun regulation began in the wake of the civil rights movement and the rise in the 1970s of the ‘New Right,’ made up of former segregationists, cultural conservatives (the ‘moral majority’), and white politicians demanding ‘law and order.’ While the 1972 Republican party platform had actually supported gun control, the Reagan Revolution transformed the party. (Ronald Reagan wrote an article praising individual gun ownership in Guns & Ammo magazine in 1975.) Now, being pro-gun, like being anti-abortion, became a pillar of the New Right ideology.
After all, it ticked all the boxes, tapping into white fears of “crime” and “the inner cities,” populist resentment of “big government,” and male fears of losing power in the age of women’s liberation. The Right’s newfound infatuation with guns was white, male fragility projected onto firearm ownership.
And what had once been a fringe view rejected by the Supreme Court — that the Second Amendment gave individuals a right to own guns — gradually became Republican Party gospel when the fringe took over the party. Former Chief Justice Warren Burger (a conservative appointed by Richard Nixon) described it as “a fraud on the American public.”
Eventually, this view won out, not by persuasion but by simple politics. By 2008, there were five conservative justices on the Supreme Court, and Justice Scalia wrote an opinion in D.C. v. Heller saying that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to own guns. [Continue reading…]