The Second Amendment and Felons: Your Brand-New GOP Wedge Issue

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 22 2014 8:44 PM

The Second Amendment and Felons: Your Brand-New GOP Wedge Issue

If you want a clear picture of the Tea Party's lasting victory, look to North Carolina and the Republican primary for U.S. Senate. It can be viewed as a clash of factions—social conservatives represented by Mark Harris, libertarians represented by Dr. Greg Brannon, the establishment represented by Thom Tillis, the state speaker of the House. But as Ashley Parker wrote in a profile of the race, Tillis is perfectly right-wing, and presided over what he calls a "conservative revolution" of legislation to roll back some voting rights, block Medicaid expansion, end the earned income tax credit, and end long-term unemployment insurance.

Yet Tillis can't break out of the pack. He's consistently ahead of his opponents, but only just, and it's likely that one of them—probably Brannon—will force him into a runoff. What can distinguish him from the field? We got an answer in tonight's (largely rote) televised primary debate, after a voter asked the candidates whether they'd stand for the Second Amendment rights of felons or the mentally ill.

Advertisement

The question went first to Heather Grant, an Army nurse and first-time candidate. She drew the line at restoring rights for felons, but: "When you talk about mentally ill, you need to look at the definition. Some people are using that definition to talk about our PTSD experenced veterans, and those are not people we should be telling don't have the right to own a weapon."

Brannon was next, and he started with a short recapitulation of his strict constructionist views. The feds, generally, needed to stay away from these sorts of issues; they were up to the states. But there were risks. "I give a lovely lady some medicine for postpartum depression, like our troops coming back home," he said. "We're having the federal government decide that that one-week episode of her life will stop her from a God-given natural right to self-defense? That's why it's important to understand the federal role, the state role, and the local role."

Tillis went next, and for the first time in the 60-minute debate, he criticized Brannon from the left. "Violent felons and people with mental health problems need to be rehabilitated, and they need help," he said. "You can't put a gun in the hand of someone who represents a danger to themself or to society. I understand the concept Dr. Brannon said in his words about the Second Amendment, but folks, this is about being practical."

How does that play in a Republican primary?

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Photography
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
  Arts
Television
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 21 2014 11:38 PM “Welcome to the War of Tomorrow” How Futurama’s writers depicted asymmetrical warfare.
  Health & Science
The Good Word
Sept. 21 2014 11:44 PM Does This Name Make Me Sound High-Fat? Why it just seems so right to call a cracker “Cheez-It.”
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.