A warning on gun rights

What does work is gun deregulation. Supposedly gun-happy Texas actually banned the concealed carrying of guns until 1995, when then-Governor George W. Bush signed a law allowing concealed carry. Progressives predicted a bloodbath and vigilante justice. Instead, violent crime plummeted. The same pattern has been exhibited in more than a dozen other states that followed suit.

Noticeably absent from today’s debate are congressional Republicans — who love to talk up the Constitution when it’s convenient. Instead, defending gun rights has fallen to the NRA and a ragtag group of pundits and average citizens.

Indeed, multiple sources on Capitol Hill have confirmed to me this week that congressional Republicans are prepared to cave on gun control. Presumably, the congressmen think that caving on gun rights is practical given the shrill media voices calling for restrictions.

Practical and disappointing.

What is in the offing is the third major Republican betrayal of conservatism. It is no solace that Rep. Paul Ryan can invoke the Federalist Papers if he voted for the bank and auto bailouts — which he did. It is no solace that Speaker John Boehner can talk about the difficulties faced by small businesses if he voted for higher taxes on them — which he did. Likewise, it is of little comfort to know congressional Republicans carry mini Constitutions in their breast pockets if they don’t understand what they mean.

What’s most loathsome about the current crop of Beltway Republicans is not that they keep losing. It is that they are unpersuasive and hold their principles only when it is convenient and cost-free — making them what that other Founder, George Washington, called “Summer Patriots.”

There are exceptions. Ted Cruz, who has been a senator for only a week, has been more eloquent and active on gun rights and other conservative priorities than much of the GOP caucus. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie hasn’t ruled out changes in gun laws, but has artfully shifted the conversation to include mental illness and violence in our culture.

Beltway Republicans should follow their lead. Try being principled. Try being persuasive. Try doing politics.

Christian Whiton was a State Department senior adviser during the George W. Bush administration. Follow him on Twitter @ChristianWhiton.