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Remarks by Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) at NRA's "Celebration of American Values" Conference in Washington, DC -- 9/21/07

Friday, September 21, 2007

Monday, October 01, 2007

BARRASSO: Thank you. Thank you for that introduction. Thank you for the warm welcome. Congratulations on putting together such an incredible, successful event. And while all you are here sitting in this auditorium, all the members of the Senate, certainly on the Republican side, have C-SPAN tuned in to this, and that's what I've been watching all day.

 

You had a lot of Johns here today. John Thune. John McCain. John Dingell. John Ashcroft. President John Zigler. The whole bunch.

 

But, most important, I want to thank you for the work you that you're doing on behalf of the American people. You know, we talked a little bit about Wyoming, and no state embodies personal liberty and personal responsibility more than Wyoming. And our elected representatives have always reflected that.

 

Well, I have the great responsibility of trying to do all that I can to do the job that Craig Thomas was elected to do for the people of Wyoming.

 

Many of you know Craig. He was an incredible man. He was a cowboy. He was a Marine. And, as the Marines say, semper fidelis; Craig Thomas was always faithful. He was a true friend. He had a -- really, a clear sense of who he was and the traditions that we all believe in. And he is truly missed all around Wyoming and in the United States Senate.

 

Now, another member of our congressional delegation is Barbara Cubin. You know her. She's our lone member of Congress in Wyoming, but also she serves on your national board of directors.

 

And then I also serve with Mike Enzi. Mike Enzi has represented Wyoming for the last ten and a half years. He fights for Wyoming values and Wyoming interests and certainly for Second Amendment rights.

 

Mike has been absolutely wonderful. The day I got sworn in by Vice President Cheney, members of the Senate came up to me, and they said, you know, we miss Craig Thomas, a wonderful man, a wonderful friend, but they were quick to add, stick with Mike Enzi. He is a real work horse for the people of Wyoming. He is a real work horse in the United States Senate.

 

He and Diana have been absolutely terrific, and I'm very grateful to both of them.

 

But you know people from Wyoming and you know how well they have fought for Second Amendment rights. You certainly remember Malcolm Wallop (ph), and you know Al Simpson, who would come to this group and he'd say, you know, in Wyoming, the definition of gun control is a steady aim.

 

And you knew, of course, and know Dick Cheney. Well, you know, I'm the new guy. I am here to work just like all of the members of Wyoming who you've worked with in the past are ready to work for the things we believe in.

 

You know, I actually had to run for this position. It's an interesting thing in Wyoming, because when we lose a United States senator that Senate seat stays within the party where the loss occurred. So even though our governor is a Democrat, he had to choose from three Republicans, names submitted by the Republican Central Committee.

 

And when I went to that committee and asked for their vote, I said I was going to do several things. I said I was going to show up, stand up, speak up and then shut up. And the showing up was showing up for votes in Washington, but showing up at home every weekend in Wyoming. And that's where I am going after I finish this talk.

 

But I was going to continue to live in Wyoming, which is work in Washington. Then I said I was going to stand up; stand up for Wyoming people, Wyoming values and against Washington's "one size fits all" approach to government.

 

And then speak up; speak up for the things that are important to us: limited government, lower taxes, fewer regulations, strong defense, and secure borders.

 

And then shut up, because this job is about listening to the people of Wyoming, to the hopes and dreams they have for themselves and their families and their communities.

 

And I also promise to do 30 town meetings all across the state of Wyoming between the day I was selected and Labor Day, and I finished those town meetings and I've listened to people.

 

It has been a fascinating time in the United States Senate. I got sworn in on a Monday, and on Tuesday we were voting on immigration. The phone system broke down in the Capitol because so many people called in about that immigration bill.

To me, that immigration bill included amnesty for illegal immigrants. Some people may support it. I do not. The day I was sworn in, somebody said: Are you ever going to break with the president? The next day I broke with the president and voted against the immigration bill.

It has been a fascinating time. That second week, we had the all-nighter. You may have seen on television where they moved the cots into the Capitol building. The week after that, we were voting at one o'clock in the morning, on a Thursday night, Friday morning.

 

Judd Gregg, senator from New Hampshire, came up -- he said, "You know, you've been here three weeks. The phone system broke down. We had a sleepover. It's one o'clock in the morning, and we are still voting. This place worked a lot better before you got here."

 

And, Orrin Hatch, over the August break -- Orrin's from my neighboring state of Utah -- he was visiting with a number of people from Wyoming. And he said to them -- he said, "Thank you so much for sending John to the Senate." He said, "John Barrasso is so conservative," he said, "It makes me, Orrin Hatch, look moderate."

 

Well, like Craig Thomas, who lived in Wyoming, and just worked in Washington, home every weekend, tomorrow night, I will be in Cody. I will talk to your friend, Alan Simpson.

 

I'll tell him that you sent your best to him. But we're going to be in the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody. And they have an incredible firearms museum there.

 

I don't know how many of you have been there. The Winchester Collection is there. We have a fund-raiser there every year. We get to eat like this at tables, but it's right within the museum. It is absolutely marvelous. And if you can't make it tomorrow night, I'd invite you, next year, or any time your travels take you to Wyoming.

 

But Wyoming, as you know, is a great outdoor state -- hunting, fishing, ranching, farming, mining, timbering, multiple use of the land, great opportunities for all the people.

 

These are really the values that, to me, touch on traditional America. Now, there are people that want to close these things down. But when the people of Wyoming and, to me, particularly the gun owners, which, to me, is just about everybody who lives in Wyoming when they come under attack, I view it as a direct assault on the values and the rights of millions of law-abiding citizens and responsible Americans.

 

Gun ownership, to me, is not about hunting. It's about freedom. And there are two pieces of legislation that protect our rights. These are ones I've looked at and seen, since I've been here, and I've only been here a little two months.

 

The first is the District of Columbia Personal Protection Act. Now, it restores the second amendment rights of D.C. residents by overturning the D.C. gun ban.

 

The D.C. gun ban, as you know, prevents law-abiding citizens from owning handguns.

 

There are 41 co-sponsors in the Senate. Yesterday, I added my name, and I'm now the 42nd co-sponsor of the District of Columbia Personal Protection Act.

 

Then there is the Right to Carry Reciprocity Bill. The bill requires states to recognize each other's carry permits, just as they recognize driver's licenses and carry permits held by armored car guards.

 

There are 24 co-sponsors in the Senate. Yesterday I added my name, and I have co-sponsored the Right to Carry Reciprocity Bill.

 

I hold a concealed weapon permit. So Measures like that simply makes sense to me. I'm a life member of the National Rifle Association. When I was 12, I won my first NRA shooting metal. It meant the world to me. It meant so much that I still have the medal.

 

It meant so much I still have the certificate dated 1965.

 

And it meant so much I still have the target.

 

In the past, before I got elected to the state senate, I made commercials in Wyoming on behalf of the NRA. You'll remember the national campaign that said, "I am the NRA"? Well, we got together and did the same thing in Wyoming with private money.

 

But, you know, I'm a doctor, I'm an orthopedic surgeon, and I found it very rewarding.

 

Now, in the Senate a lot of people have aches and pains, and they come to me with those things.

 

The night we had the all-nighter, Senator Warner came to me, John Warner from Virginia, and he said, he said, "Doc, I have a very important thing to discuss with you." So I went in back of the Senate chamber, sat down next to him, and said, "Yes, sir?" He said, "It's my left knee."

 

He was getting ready to head back to Baghdad on his 10th trip and wanted to make sure that his knee would hold up in jumping out of helicopters, because he had hurt it.

 

But like Senator Warner at age 80, the people of Wyoming are like him, optimistic, tough, they laugh, they're glad every day, and they are very alive and kicking.

 

But I'll tell you, the people of Wyoming just didn't get tough overnight. There is a long tradition behind the people of Wyoming and how they got that way.

 

Teddy Roosevelt, who's one of my favorites, came to Wyoming 103 years ago. We take our kids to Mount Rushmore to see his face chiseled into the mountain. And he's up there along with Jefferson and Washington and Lincoln.

 

But when he came to Wyoming 103 years ago, 10,000 people showed up in Laramie to hear him. Now, that may not sound like a lot, but in 1904, in Wyoming, that was a huge portion of our sparsely populated state.

 

And he stood up there on the west side of Old Main at the university, and he said, "People of Wyoming, I believe in you and in your future." And he said, "Your success doesn't belong on -- isn't determined by the state or by the government. It depends upon the character of the individual."

 

And 25 years ago, Ronald Reagan came to Wyoming, came to Cheyenne. And he stood up there. He was in Storey Gymnasium. There was an overflow crowd. People couldn't get in. There were speakers in the next -- in the next building over.

 

And he said, "The thing I loved about the Rocky Mountain West," he said, "is that people here still believe that the future is ours to shape." The people -- the future is still ours to shape.


And I think that's what's so wonderful about the National Rifle Association. We know that the future is still ours to shape.

 

Well, as Chris mentioned, I was elected to the state senate for two terms. Always had an A rating from the NRA. I focused on quality of life issues for the people of Wyoming. Pretty good sense of those issues. Pretty good sense of the people -- limited government, lower spending, fewer regulations. And after 30 town meetings, I've heard what people of Wyoming have to say.

 

The values and traditions of the people of Wyoming have not changed, and those are the values and beliefs that I'm going to continue to work for in United States Senate.

 

Now, I will tell you, I'm going to ask for your help in return. Next year I have to run for election to finish Senator Thomas' four- year term. It is a special election. It's the first time in the history of the state of Wyoming that both senators will be on the ballot. I'll be up for a four-year term. Senator Enzi will be up for his six-year term.

 

And our opponents nationally are promising big dollars to get people to come into Wyoming, figuring the dollars there can buy more time, buy more exposure, buy more advertising than they might in other states. And they will come targeting both of us.

 

But I am going to work every day to regain this seat and do everything I can to support the things that we believe in.

 

I want to close by just telling you a little bit about my dad. He was a remarkable guy, had to quit school in ninth grade because of the Depression. Went to World War II, he was at Normandy, and he was in the Battle of the Bulge. And when he came home from the war to raise his kids, he was a cement finisher. And I really learned about hard work every summer pushing wheelbarrows of heavy, wet cement in high school, in college, and the first two years of medical school.

 

We lost him about two years ago, so he could not be there the day I was sworn in, but I had his dog tags in my pocket that day. And what he said to me every day as a kid growing up, and it is the lesson that I try to pass on to my son and daughter, he said, "John, you should thank God every day you live in America. You do not know how fortunate you are." And he is right.

 

And that's what I'm going to continue to do every day. I'm going to fight for Wyoming's beliefs. I'm going to fight for America's beliefs. I'm going to fight every day in the United States Senate for what we are dedicated to and what we believe in.

 

Thank you very much. I appreciate all your kindness today. Thank you.

 

MODERATOR: Just a few questions.

 

BARRASSO: Go ahead.

 

MODERATOR: Two years ago, Congress passed and the president signed into legislation to stop frivolous lawsuits against the firearms industry. Had you been in the Senate, when this bill was voted on, would you have co-sponsored it and voted for it?

 

BARRASSO: Asking an orthopedic surgeon about frivolous lawsuits.

 

Yes, and yes.

 

MODERATOR: Tell us what your position is on gun shows.

 

BARRASSO: Well, we have a couple of great ones in Casper every year at the fair grounds. I usually get there, visit around, and I think they are wonderful. We get huge turnouts. A couple years ago, they started charging admission.

 

But you know, it's -- you know, you get into the whole issue of gun checks and things like that. I have a credit card, I can put it into a machine and it will tell me -- they'll know if it's me or not, and I think instantaneous checks are the way to go.

 

MODERATOR: President Bush, recently issued an executive order calling on all federal agencies to increase hunting opportunities. In what ways do you believe Congress can act to help accomplish that goal?

 

BARRASSO: Well, with my committee assignments -- and one is on the energy committee, and the two committees, the subcommittee's that I am on, one is the national parks and the other is public lands, and I think it has to do with access to public lands, and Im going to continue to fight for that. I have a strong supporter of multiple use of our public lands. It's clearly, in Wyoming, it is a key part of everything that we do. It's a key part of our heritage, and I'm going to continue to keep those lands open for all Americans.

 

More questions?

 

Thank you very much.

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