A disappearing conservative issue?

When I clicked on Glenn Reynolds's link to the National Review's editorial review of Rudolph Giuliani's candidacy, I expected to see the usual conservative objections addressed. While NR allowed that "there is a lot to like" about the candidate, reading on, I knew there'd be no way to avoid the obvious:

there are serious obstacles to Giuliani's winning the embrace of conservatives.
Sure. We all know that. And we all know that right up at the top (along with other issues) is Giuliani's very troubling record of supporting gun control measures.


Wrong. The piece is about Giuliani's positions on abortion, stem cells, and gay marriage.

Does this mean the Second Amendment is of minor importance? Or is it just of less importance to conservatives than previously thought?

Has the gun issue perhaps become more a libertarian issue than a conservative issue over time? If the latter is the case, I'm both relieved and uneasy at the same time. Relieved because I see nothing intrinsically right wing or left wing about guns or human self defense. As a natural right, self defense could be expected to be defended by anyone regardless of their position on other issues, and I've never understood why there aren't more pro-gun Democrats than there are.

Here's why I'm uneasy about the possibility of the Second Amendment being apparently sidelined into the libertarian camp. Liberals already hate guns, and if conservatives are willing to look the other way, the ugly fact is libertarians are considered a bit on the kooky side, and outside of the mainstream.

The National Review is supposed to represent mainstream conservatism, and if mainstream conservatism no longer considers one of our primary freedoms to be worth a mention in a supposedly comprehensive editorial discussing the pros and cons of a man who is notably weak in that area, I think it's cause for concern.

This is not to say that I wouldn't vote for Giuliani over, say Hillary Clinton. (As I've said before, I would.)

I just hope it's not another sign of the changing times.

The sad thing about this is that the Second Amendment has for years been the one safe area on which libertarians and social conservatives could be counted on to be in very solid agreement.

What's going on? Has Giuliani done an about-face on guns and thereby earned the endorsement of the NRA? (Considering what Jeff Soyer was saying two days ago, I doubt it.)

Unless I am unaware of something, what gives?

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link and to all for coming.

Please bear in mind that it is neither my goal to attack Giuliani's position, nor defend him. (For all I know, his positions reflected the political realities of being the Mayor of New York.)

My worry is that the right to keep and bear arms might become the right that dare not speak its name.

However, I'm glad to see (via A. Jacksonian) that at least Sean Hannity is asking the right questions.

posted by Eric on 02.09.07 at 03:03 PM


Perhaps because gun control hasn't been a big issue lately, the Democrats' disinclination to push the issue has let conservatives relax about it.

Aaron   ·  February 9, 2007 3:43 PM

From the Hannity and Colmes Transcript:

HANNITY: Let me move on. And the issue of guns has come up a lot. When people talk about Mayor Giuliani, New York City had some of the toughest gun laws in the entire country. Do you support the right of people to carry handguns?

GIULIANI: I understand the Second Amendment. I support it. People have the right to bear arms. When I was mayor of New York, I took over at a very, very difficult time. We were averaging about 2,000 murders a year, 10,000...

HANNITY: You inherited those laws, the gun laws in New York?

GIULIANI: Yes, and I used them. I used them to help bring down homicide. We reduced homicide, I think, by 65-70 percent. And some of it was by taking guns out of the streets of New York City.

So if you're talking about a city like New York, a densely populated area like New York, I think it's appropriate. You might have different laws other places, and maybe a lot of this gets resolved based on different states, different communities making decisions. After all, we do have a federal system of government in which you have the ability to accomplish that.

HANNITY: So you would support the state's rights to choose on specific gun laws?

GIULIANI: Yes, I mean, a place like New York that is densely populated, or maybe a place that is experiencing a serious crime problem, like a few cities are now, kind of coming back, thank goodness not New York, but some other cities, maybe you have one solution there and in another place, more rural, more suburban, other issues, you have a different set of rules.

HANNITY: But generally speaking, do you think it's acceptable if citizens have the right to carry a handgun?

GIULIANI: It's not only -- I mean, it's part of the Constitution. People have the right to bear arms. Then the restrictions of it have to be reasonable and sensible. You can't just remove that right. You've got to regulate, consistent with the Second Amendment.

HANNITY: How do you feel about the Brady bill and assault ban?

GIULIANI: I was in favor of that as part of the crime bill. I was in favor of it because I thought that it was necessary both to get the crime bill passed and also necessary with the 2,000 murders or so that we were looking at, 1,800, 1,900, to 2,000 murders, that I could use that in a tactical way to reduce crime. And I did.


Federalism via States right to regulate, but not ban handguns. Read it as you will, but he is saying that as a Mayor and faced with a huge problem, he used every tool handed to him to get things under control. He does understand that what is right for NYC is *not* right for the Nation and says so.

Don't know if its what you are looking for, but there it is... it is a long, long campaign...

ajacksonian   ·  February 9, 2007 3:46 PM

Interesting interview. Thanks! Maybe the NR considered it reassuring enough not to bother with; maybe they don't care. I for one certainly hope he has come around on that issue.

Eric Scheie   ·  February 9, 2007 3:55 PM

You don't get to trim the Constitution as a tactic. And, it applies everywhere in the nation not just in those states which opt in. The NR types are mostly urban cowboys, the only gun owner is a galvanized Brit in Derbyshire, so I wouldn't expect them to hit on the gun issue. However, the places where guns are important, e.g. rural areas and the South, the NY prosecutor will not get the same kind of pass that these Nancy boys give.

Jim Burke   ·  February 9, 2007 3:59 PM

I think it may have to do with conservatives thinking that the BORs doesnt apply to the states. Giuliani has said that he thinks that different states can have different laws regarding guns. So I dont see how they could argue against that. That is the 'federalist' position.

Jonesy   ·  February 9, 2007 4:18 PM

If the Dems get smart and nominate pro-RKBA guys like Bill Richardson, the GOP may have to wait decades to ever win the White House again.

Letalis   ·  February 9, 2007 4:20 PM

Porlock's Law: Once abortion is mentioned, it immediately expands to fill all available discussion space.

PersonFromPorlock   ·  February 9, 2007 5:09 PM


Reread what Giuliani actually said. When he goes to places where guns are important he is likely to vigorously defend gun ownership. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see him take that position even in the NYC suburbs.

His position seems to be that New York in the late 80s was a special case; i.e., that only limited regulation is appropriate absent special circumstances. That seems to me both sensible (I lived in New York at the time) and consistent with principles of Federalism.

I wouldn't own guns when I lived in the city; burglary was always a greater risk than street crime or home invasion and I never would have qualified for a carry permit. Now that I live in the (much safer) suburbs I own several guns. And I don't consider myself a Nancy boy.

ronbo   ·  February 9, 2007 7:07 PM

The main Giuliani attribute that appeals to me is his lack (for the most part) of the kind of political self-contradiction under which both liberals and conservatives seem to labor. Most conservatives typically work to spread freedoms, rights and liberties abroad, at the same time that they strive to curtail (many of) them at home (abortion rights, gay civil unions, etc.), while most liberals campaign to expand rights, freedoms and liberties at home while at the same time shrink in the face of liberating those abroad from the very totalitarian and theocratic repression that breeds terrorists who strike at our own freedoms both at home and abroad (some paleoconseratives also suffer from the isolationist malady of shrinkage from assisting in the liberation of others).

Rudy does not in most cases suffer from such ideological cognitive dissonance. He has long been in favor of preserving and expanding rights, liberties and freedoms both domestically and internationally. I view this as a GOOD thing, and solidly in the mode of the classic (as opposed to leftist) liberalism of such people as Scoop Jackson and JFK, and a stance that is very appealing to the libertarians among us.

Inasmuch as he has had a dicey record on support for the second amendment, this is indeed a chink in his armor of intellectual consistency. However, his appeal to states' rights and the need to tailor local laws to pragmatic considerations (such as a massive metro NY murder rate, which his policies dropped by 2/3, but at the same time recognizing that more rural and hunter-populated - and less murder-prone - areas have different needs), while still acknowledging the constitutional involability of the right to keep and bear arms, reassures me on this issue, although I shall be keeping an eye on it.

It presently appears to me that Giuliani is far and away the best candidate for President in 2008 that either party has to offer.

Salamantis   ·  February 9, 2007 7:07 PM

Um, I think my comment was intended for Jim not Eric. My apologies.

ronbo   ·  February 9, 2007 7:17 PM

If we could only return the abortion issue back where it belongs; a decision made by each state, then we could actually deal with an another important issue everyone is avoiding; illegal immigration.

Not sure I want another President pandering to the idea that America needs more of those 'undocumented workers' social liberal/fiscal conservatives like Guiliani, Schwarzenegger politicians needing to satisify liberal elitists too rich to clean their own homes and too enlightened for their snotty environmentally-conscious kids to ever dig in the dirt.

And considering lately that every time a social liberal gets power they begin imposing all sorts of ridiculous nanny statist policies which do nothing but breed infantilism, I am very cautious about trusting any social liberal politician regardless of either party affiliation.

Religion aside, our abortion policy combined with the establishment of a permanent underclass of workers imported to serve our needs are foreign ideals of what America is to me. It is for these reasons I have a difficult time supporting fiscal conservative/social liberal candidates at this time.

I will however vote for anyone who clearly understands why America is at war.

syn   ·  February 9, 2007 8:17 PM

I would bet that the biggest thing Guiliani did to cut the murder rate was to semi-officially territorialize drug dealing.

i.e. this is your territory, you are sticking to it. You will keep your people in line.

Major drug busts will be kept to a minimum.


We had a major drug bust some years back in our town (pop ~150,0000). The FBI predicted our murder rate would go up. It did.

We haven't had a gang destroying bust since. (about 16 years). The gang problem has not gone away in our town.

Tell me a modus vivendi hasn't been reached.

M. Simon   ·  February 9, 2007 9:04 PM


It is only the first generation that is a permanent underclass.

I know some 3rd generation Mexicans. I speak better Spanish than they do. My Spanish? Beans and bus tickets.

M. Simon   ·  February 9, 2007 9:08 PM

The reason this is not a hot button issue for Rs is that the Ds have given up on gun control as a national issue.

Now if we could just get them to give up on socialism.

M. Simon   ·  February 9, 2007 9:16 PM

The 2nd Amendment has many defenders in all branches and parties. So traumatized are the Democrats by 1994 which Bill Clinton himself attributes to the "assault weapons" ban that they simply won't revist the issue. The President can do little about the gun laws. By executive order he automatically does a lot about abortion and homosexual issues.

jjv   ·  February 9, 2007 9:56 PM

People are making too much of this. Does anyone seriously think Rudy is going to go for national gun control? It'll be treated as a states' rights issue, just like it is now.

While we'd all like it if the Second Amendment was actually enforced against unconstitutional state and local restrictions, the reality is no President could even make that happen if he/she tried. What's important is that we get more justices like Roberts and Alito, so that over time freedom is protected.

TallDave   ·  February 9, 2007 10:44 PM

Tell me a modus vivendi hasn't been reached.

An armistice in the war on drugs?

I've never understood how a party that understands the power of freedom and capitalism in every other context seems so baffled as to why its efforts to crush them in this instance fail.

TallDave   ·  February 9, 2007 10:51 PM

Depressing reading... it seems that the 9/11 Era also ended at TNR, considering what they priorities are now.

vvvv   ·  February 9, 2007 11:05 PM

It's rather racist to believe that all illegal immigrants are Mexican but whatever.

How is it possible for 'undocumented workers' who have no access to legal representation since they are not citizens and our government (Guilani welcomed undocumented workers to his city) actively keeps it that way, to become part of the American dream?

My concern is for those 2nd and 3rd generation of 'undocumented workers' who must live their lives underground because elitist social liberals need cheap labor.

syn   ·  February 10, 2007 7:38 AM
My concern is for those 2nd and 3rd generation of 'undocumented workers' who must live their lives underground because elitist social liberals need cheap labor.

Ever heard of the Fourteenth Amendment?

xj   ·  February 10, 2007 9:08 AM

[i]What's important is that we get more justices like Roberts and Alito, so that over time freedom is protected.[/i]

I dont see how having more justices that interpret the BORs more narrowly and may not even believe they should be applied to all the states make us more free. I just dont trust majorities or the states that much.

Jonesy   ·  February 10, 2007 3:32 PM

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