Captain Ahab's relentless, obsessive, reckless pursuit of the great white whale in Herman Melville's allegory-filled 1851 novel "Moby-Dick" cost him his ship, his life and the lives of his crew (save for Ishmael, who narrated the story).
Their relentless, obsessive, reckless pursuit of a great white whale of their own could cost Democrats dear.
When Adam Lanza, 20, killed 26 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, Democrats recalled Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's advice never to let "a serious crisis go to waste."
In Washington, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced a bill to reinstate the federal "assault weapons" ban. The Newtown massacre made it imperative, she said -- even though it would apply to none of Lanza's guns.
No one acted faster than New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He invoked a provision of the state constitution to rush a sweeping gun control bill through the Legislature Jan. 15. Lawmakers had mere minutes to read it before the vote.
The expression: "act in haste, repent at leisure" is thought to have originated with English playwright William Congreve (1670-1729). It applies here.
• A provision forbidding gun owners from having magazines that hold more than seven bullets has to be modified, Gov. Cuomo said at a news conference last week, because "there is no such thing as a seven-bullet magazine."
• Police officers weren't exempted from a provision that prohibits guns on school grounds.
• Mental health professionals said a provision requiring them to report patients they consider a risk violates medical privacy laws, and would keep those most in need of treatment from seeking help.
• State government has no way to comply with a provision that requires registration of roughly 1 million firearms by the end of the year.
The upshot is that 40 of New York's 62 counties have passed resolutions calling for repeal. Gov. Cuomo's job approval has plunged.
Sheriffs in Colorado say sweeping new gun control laws there are unenforceable. They're suing to have them overturned.
Sen. Feinstein was shocked when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said last week he wouldn't bring her bill to the floor because "it couldn't get 40 votes." This was "a major betrayal of trust," she said.
There was an outpouring of outrage from the bigfoot media. Typical was Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News, who said: "Spineless pols spit on the graves of Newtown victims by not pushing for assault weapons ban."
Chastened, Sen. Reid (partially) backed down. Democrats may come to regret that. Here are a few facts that explain why he thinks an assault weapons ban can't get 40 votes:
• About 47 percent of Americans own guns. Gun purchases soared after the re-election of President Barack Obama, and again after the Newtown massacre. The gun most often bought is the Bushmaster AR-15.
• Gun ownership is rising fastest among women (23 percent say they're gun owners, up from 13 percent in 2005), and Democrats (40 percent, up from 32 percent in 2010).
• The rate of violent crime has declined since the "assault weapons" ban expired in 2004. States with the largest increase in gun ownership had the largest drop in violent crime. The violent crime rate fell in each of the 31 states that permit citizens to carry concealed weapons. Crime rates are lower in states that permit concealed carry than in states that do not.
Mr. Obama plans to tour the country to promote gun control. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire, plans to spend $12 million on gun control ads. Hollywood liberals and bigfoot journalists called gun owners nasty names.
But enthusiasm for gun control pretty much is restricted to wealthy liberals who see no hypocrisy in hiring armed guards when they feel the need for protection, but who would deny to those who can't afford private security the means to protect themselves.
Black women are the demographic group that has recorded the largest increase in requests for concealed carry permits, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. In their efforts to harpoon their great white whale, Mr. Obama et. al. risk offending millions who customarily vote Democratic.
Jack Kelly is a columnist for The Press and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. firstname.lastname@example.org, 412 263-1476. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/