‘Molding public opinion is the most important factor. Abraham Lincoln, debating slavery, said in 1858, “Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed. Consequently he who molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions. He makes statutes and decisions possible or impossible to be executed.” The triumph of gun rights reminds us today: If you want to win in the court of law, first win in the court of public opinion.
One lesson: patience. The fight for gun rights took decades. Another lesson, perhaps obvious: There is no substitute for political organizing. Before social movements can win at the court they must win at the ballot box. The five justices in the Heller majority were all nominated by presidents who themselves were NRA members
Since 2011, activists have waged a widespread public education campaign to persuade citizens that new state laws were illegitimate attempts to curb voting rights, all as a precursor to winning court victories. Now many democracy activists, mortified by recent Supreme Court rulings in campaign finance cases (all with Heller’s same 5-4 split), have begun to map out a path to overturn Citizens United and other recent cases. Years of scholarship, theorizing, amicus briefs, test cases and minority dissents await before a new majority can refashion recent constitutional doctrine.’