Cornyn Leads GOP into The Red Flag Nightmare | Opinion

When Ted Cruz was elected to the U.S. Senate from Texas in 2012, John Cornyn had been a senator for 10 years, having won easy reelection in 2008. Cornyn has breezed to two more reelections since, but Cruz's conservative ascendancy has spawned intermittent bursts of Republican dissatisfaction with Cornyn's ideological reliability.

Fielding calls to this effect on radio, I found myself in occasional agreement until the Trump era. After 2016, listeners would still call to gripe when Cornyn struck them as wavering, but I found that he (and others in the Senate leadership, including Mitch McConnell) became more reliably conservative amid Donald Trump's unapologetic energy. The president gave many wavering Republicans room to flex some less-exercised muscles, and they surely saw the party changing before their eyes, with a growing desire for fighters and a developing fatigue for the old establishment politics of compromise and half-measures.

Now Trump is gone, and here comes a Senate gun bill, crafted by Cornyn and boosted by McConnell, that positively repels wide swaths of conservatives who had come to believe that Senate GOP leadership had learned its lesson.

Cornyn is being thoroughly torched by conservatives in Texas and beyond—not because the entire bill is an affront, but because it is saddled with a provision no constitutional conservative can accept: the due-process horror of red flag laws.

Under such measures, guns can be confiscated without a citizen being convicted of anything—in fact, without being charged with anything. The bill's defenders sheepishly tell us it does not establish a federal red flag law; it simply funnels money to states to help them deny basic constitutional rights.

This poison pill is a particularly sad irony. The bill contains elements conservatives have applauded, from more money for mental health programs to beefed-up school security. There were promising prospects for common ground even on the plan for additional scrutiny for 18-to-20-year-old gun purchasers.

But there is no sugar-coating the inevitable result of red flag rules: a march of flimsy suspicions piloted through a judiciary that could be peppered with gun-grabbing activist judges. Proponents have tried to downplay it, brandishing polls showing tolerance for such laws even in gun-owning households.

This just in: even gun owners can be constitutionally illiterate.

Sen. John Cornyn
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 14: Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) talks with reporters as he walks through the Senate subway on his way to a lunch meeting with Senate Republicans at the U.S. Capitol on June 14, 2022 in Washington, DC. Senate negotiators are trying to finalist legislative text for a gun safety bill, with hopes of holding a vote on the final version before Congress leaves for a recess in less than two weeks. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

As it turns out, the "A" grades handed out by the NRA to supposedly deserving legislators are not worth a spent shell. The list of 14 Republican co-conspirators is draped in "A" ratings, even A-pluses for Cornyn and McConnell. One wonders whether those grades are ripe for revision now that the NRA has registered its disapproval of the nascent bill.

One might also wonder if any of these Republicans might face consequences this November. Well, surprise—only two are up for reelection this year, and three are retiring outright.

This means we are seeing their true hearts and minds. We are seeing Republicans step willfully alongside their Democratic allies into the "Do Something" trap, which can snap around our common sense in highly emotional times. Even though volumes of ideas, some societal and some legislative, are on the table to stem mass shootings, the "Do Something" trap prods people to abandon normal discernment to avoid being branded as ambivalent about mass carnage.

Even the strong-willed can fall victim to the trap. President Trump telegraphed willingness to advocate for red flag laws in the summer of 2019; after waves of objections from Second Amendment defenders, that flirtation ended.

I would like to believe the John Cornyn I know would foresee the due-process wreckage of red flag laws and cast them aside to preserve a bill his constituents could unite behind. That became unlikely, however, the moment he reacted to conservative pushback by boasting that he has "never given in to mobs" and was not starting now.

Granted, this was after a wave of boos greeted the senator at the Texas Republican convention. But that reaction was righteous indignation over the prospect of a gun control scheme more suited for a Democrat.

This Senate measure, unconstitutional warts and all, seems to sport a filibuster-proof majority. If it becomes law, the Republicans who helped it will wear it. But to what effect? Eighty-year-old Mitch McConnell is not likely to seek reelection in 2026, but will Cornyn, a still youthful 70?

Politicians can often rely on short memories in an age of shrinking attention spans. Four years is forever. Along that path, we may see an energizing Republican president claim the White House, putting wind in GOP sails to navigate the nation out of the damaging storms of the Biden years. Cornyn and the other facilitators of this pernicious gun control law will surely enjoy waves of goodwill for their roles, perhaps submerging memories of the days of summer 2022 when their constitutional fidelity gave way to knee-jerk emotionalism.

Mark Davis is a talk show host for the Salem Media Group on 660AM The Answer in Dallas-Ft. Worth, and a columnist for the Dallas Morning News and Townhall.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.