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For The Record - Speech By James Jay Baker At The 2000 NRA Convention 2000-06-01

Thursday, June 1, 2000

Last month at the National Zoo in Washington, DC -- a place where mothers and fathers take their children to look at the pandas and eat popcorn -- a fight broke out between two groups of juveniles from rival schools. Sixteen-year-old Antoine Jones pulled out a 9mm handgun and began shooting. Seven students were wounded. One, an 11-year-old boy, was shot in the head. Of course, the media put the story on the air immediately. And anti-gun politicians began their ritual dance of finger-pointing. These attacks were aimed not at the perpetrator, but at you, at me, and at everyone in this room today. Within hours, Al Gore took the podium at a fundraising event in New York City. He told the audience that such hideous crimes show why it is imperative that we pass laws requiring mandatory trigger locks with the sale of every handgun in America. Trigger locks? This shooting took place in a city where the sale, ownership and possession of handguns are already prohibited. If disarming Americans were a solution to anything, our nation`s capital would be a crime-free, gun-controllers paradise. But instead, our nation`s capital remains plagued by criminals like Antoine Jones, who pulled the trigger that sunny day at the zoo. Antoine Jones was well known to the authorities. His father is currently serving time as the principal enforcer for one of Washington`s drug-dealing kingpins. The young Mr. Jones himself had many brushes with the law. In fact, at the time of the shooting, the 10th grader was on suspension from school for making death threats. By age 13, Antoine Jones had already participated in armed robberies. Trigger locks? Bill Clinton gave much the same response to the tragedy of a six-year old`s death in Michigan. He told the media that even a drug dealer in a crack house might have used a trigger lock and avoided that tragedy. Trigger locks have become a political symbol -- exalted on Bill Clinton`s altar of spin, and imbued with magical powers. According to Clinton and Gore, they can make crack dealers into responsible parents. They can even keep violent juveniles from viciously attacking their classmates. Today, the hysteria has reached such ridiculous levels that the Massachusetts legislature actually ordered trigger locks to be placed on the Minutemen`s historic flintlocks displayed in the State House. My friends, this hysteria goes further. For the past seven years, responsible gun owners -- you, me and millions of others who can not be in this room today -- have been portrayed as the enemy ... as dangerous extremists, potential killers and worse. Had it not been for the vigilance of millions of NRA members, these past seven years would have seen the total destruction of our rights. If Al Gore is elected, it won`t even take seven months! In 1993, my speech to this assembly was entitled "We Are Not the Enemy." The real enemy, I said, is not law-abiding gun owners, but the armed, violent criminal. Despite years of relentless attacks by the Clinton-Gore crowd, nothing has changed. We are still not the enemy. And we must not be shaken by those who say otherwise. Where are the cries of outrage from Bill Clinton and Al Gore about Antoine Jones? We would have a safer America if Clinton and Gore were half as interested in locking up criminals as they are in locking up our guns. These guys still can`t identify the real enemy. To Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and their allies in Congress, the day-to-day battles over our freedoms are nothing but a calculated political game. And this Administration has no intention of letting the facts get in the way of its political agenda. That agenda is to chip slowly away at our rights, and to shame and dishearten us into dropping our opposition. Their agenda for tomorrow is to drive pro-gun, pro-freedom politicians out of office, and build an unstoppable juggernaut of anti-gun politicians who will strip our freedoms to the core! We all remember what happened last year. Politicians panicked after the tragedy at Columbine High. The U.S. Senate rushed to judgment, after being whipped into a frenzy by media hysteria, and stampeded into adopting new restrictions on lawful gun ownership. These attacks were hidden behind another big lie -- the dreaded, ... and you`ve all heard it .... loophole. Their strategy is to target our rights for destruction step-by-step, and then paint whatever right that remains as the next loophole to close. Today I say to Bill Clinton, Al Gore, the U.S. Congress and the national media -- the Second Amendment is not a loophole! You delivered that message last year, when the House of Representatives took the time to debate these issues. The assault on gun rights was stopped -- stone cold -- in the House of Representatives. We had time to marshal the opposition. You had time to make your voices heard. Currently, the biggest issue remains the question of background checks at gun shows. Seven years ago, this White House told America that all they needed was the waiting period for sales at gun stores. Your grassroots action removed the worst parts of a bad idea in Congress. The instant check system that went into effect in November of 1998 bears no resemblance to what the Clinton-Gore gun control crowd was pushing at the time. Unfortunately, because the system was built under Bill Clinton, it also bears little resemblance to what the Congress intended. Only the Clinton-Gore Administration could build an instant check that takes five days! This system failed completely last week, halting all gun sales because of the Department of Justice`s twisted interpretation of the statute. I promise you that before this Congress moves to establish checks for private sales at gun shows, the Department of Justice will be called before Congress to explain why they are unable or unwilling to run the instant check system as Congress intended it to run. It all boils down to Election Day. The extremists will never be satisfied, and they will use every vote and every dollar to elect Al Gore, destroy our congressional pro-gun majorities, and then mandate the federal registration of all firearms. When all new gun transactions are registered, they will demand that every gun owner be tested and licensed. When they are confident that all of our guns and all gun owners have been recorded in a vast federal database, then the final loophole will be pursued -- the elimination of all private ownership of firearms. Today I make you this promise -- not on my watch! I will not let our enemies win even the tiniest step toward their goals without the hardest fight I can muster. But I cannot do it alone, and WE cannot do it alone. A staff of one-hundred-thousand could not protect our rights without you and your calls and letters. For the next six months, Al Gore is going to smear you as the enemy. He will slander you as gun-toting, knuckle-dragging bloodthirsty maniacs who stand in the way of a safer America. Will you remain silent? I will not! If we`re going to stop this, it is vital for every law-abiding gun owner in America to register to vote and show up at the polls on Election Day. Despite the Clinton-Gore administration`s efforts, Americans like you have fought back. You stood up and defended the truth against the Clinton-Gore lies. Their attacks backfired. The NRA has never been stronger. Your Institute for Legislative Action is organizing gun owners nationwide to take bold political action at the grassroots level. Our enemies are fighting every day and every minute to achieve their goals. They have the national media on their side, providing them with millions of dollars worth of free advertising through biased reporting that is served up as news. As they did with Columbine and the National Zoo, the anti-freedom zealots and their accomplices in the media will continue to shamelessly exploit every new crime and its victims. They will cite new loopholes, and demand more laws, more regulations, and more restrictions on gun owners. It is said "that a lie travels around the world before the truth gets out of bed." The lies spread by Clinton and Gore in the aftermath of rampage shootings like Columbine High can be defeated only by the truth. The truth is that liberty doesn`t cause evil. Freedom doesn`t cause criminal behavior. The truth, in turn, requires unity in its defense. To argue over what is the truth while the lie is made into law is negligence that history will never forgive. Our central purpose must be, first and foremost, to band together in common defense of our freedoms. America`s Founding Fathers understood with crystal clarity that the best guarantee of a peaceful, civil society is an armed citizenry. Even though the right to keep and bear arms stands second in the Bill of Rights, it stands first in its power to guarantee all of our rights. We should not be discouraged by the anti-gun propaganda campaign, or their rare victories. We are winning the fight for the hearts and minds of the people. The American people realize that armed criminals, not law-abiding gun owners, are the real enemy. We continue to win pro-gun victories, particularly in state legislatures. Over the past decade, dozens of states have passed "shall-issue" right-to-carry laws; all fifty states have passed hunting protection laws; and in forty states our shooting ranges are now protected from nuisance complaints and unwarranted closures. The courts, however, have also become a battleground. Unable to achieve their goals through the democratic process, the enemies of freedom have fled to the courts, hoping that unelected and unaccountable judges will impose restrictions on gun makers and gun owners. These big-city lawsuits against gun makers are nothing more than extortion, a blackmail scheme. But we have answered this call-to-action, and now twenty states have passed laws prohibiting reckless lawsuits against the firearm industry. A handful of other states are about to enact similar legislation -- so in two short years, with your grassroots help, we will have saved about half the country from having to suffer these backhanded assaults against the principles of our republic. But this problem shows again why it is all the more important that we elect a president and a Congress that will strip the trial lawyers of their role as self-appointed negotiators over our fundamental rights! All this is why the coming months leading up to Election Day 2000 are so critical. This year`s election will determine whether our freedom to keep and bear arms will survive into the new century. It`s just that simple. We stand at a crossroads. The next president will nominate at least two and perhaps as many as four justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. The election of Al Gore could produce an anti-gun majority on the nation`s highest court for years into the future. If Al Gore is elected, we will be dangerously close to going down the disastrous path already traveled by Great Britain, Canada, Australia and other nations that have effectively disarmed their civilian populations. This is a fight for freedom. This election will determine whether we march into the 21st Century in full possession of our Second Amendment rights, or whether lawful gun ownership in America could soon become only a memory. My friends, ours is a noble cause. It is nothing less than the defense of freedom itself. Tell me, what is it about the words "shall not be infringed" that our adversaries cannot understand? The enemies of freedom do understand that they have a lot riding on this election. They will go all out to elect anti-gun candidates and the media elite will help them. But we must rise above their tactics of deception to seize the greater objective. The 2000 election provides us the opportunity to define this issue well into the next decade, by electing a President, a Congress, and thousands of state legislators who all respect the Constitution and the Second Amendment. Then we can begin to take back what`s ours -- our freedom! Please never forget -- we are not the enemy and I`ll see you at the polls on election day. Thank you.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.