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

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday, September 28, 2007

SEN. MCCONNELL:  Thank you very much.  Well, thank you, Chris. It's great to be here and to be with all of you.  Welcome to town.  I know you have several presidential candidates here to speak.

You know, as the Senate Republican leader, it's best that I remain neutral, so I will not make a recommendation to you. (Laughter.)  You'll hear from them all.  And I've said before that I'm not going to, as I indicated, be picking one of those horses in that race, but that hasn't stopped people from asking me my thoughts on leadership.  Who has proven he has the drive, the ability and the ideals to inspire a strong and growing movement?  So walking up to the podium just now I had a sudden realization.  Folks, I have an announcement to make.  I think John Siegler would make a spectacular president. 

It's good to see John and Wayne LaPierre and David Lehman, and of course, Chris Cox, thank you for the nice introduction.  I'm honored to be at your conference today and to recognize one of America's oldest and most respected citizen rights groups.  Our Found Fathers expressed this right in just 27 simple words, the "well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

And yet today -- and yet today, as you know, some tend to try to cast some doubt over the wisdom of our Founding Fathers, even doubt about the meaning of what they had to say.  Anti- gun activists continue to try and whittle away Second Amendment rights.  They ask us to imagine what a better country this would be if we would only let them have their way.

But we don't have to imagine.  Few countries protect the right to bear arms as well as we do.  And when we look at the state of gun owners' freedoms around the world, we see a pretty sorry picture. Only 13 percent of residential burglaries occur when someone is home here in our country, but Canadian criminals are much more brazen.  Our neighbors to the north are four times more likely to witness a potential deadly home invasion.  Canadian burglars strike at night, when homeowners are likely to be asleep.  American criminals, on the other hand, tend to strike during the day, when folks are away, for fear, of course, of armed confrontation.  That means that every American with or without a firearm benefits from the strong odds that a criminal will encounter a victim who can fight back.  That's certainly not the case in Canada.

And then there's the United Nations.  The U.N. Humans Rights Council couldn't be more wrongly named.  The United States, of course, is not a member of the U.N. Human Rights Council, but countries like Cuba, China and Saudi Arabia are.  The Human Rights Council Subcomission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights last year endorsed a report titled "Prevention of Human Rights Violations Committed With Small Arms and Light Weapons."  If just hearing that title makes you nervous for what the U.N. has concocted, go to the head of the class.

In America, owning a gun is a fundamental right.  But this U.N. report states that insufficient gun control is a violation of human rights.  Yes, according to the U.N. report, countries that don't enforce gun control strictly enough are violating the human rights of their people.  The right to defend yourself doesn't give you the right to use a gun, according to the bureaucrats at the U.N.  Let me read a sentence from the report.  This is what they had to say:  "The principle of self-defense has an important place in international human rights law, but does not provide an independent supervening right to small arms possession, nor does it ameliorate the duty of states to use due diligence in regulating civilian possession." That's the U.N.  Pretty scary, isn't it?

Luckily, we live in a country where the right to bear arms is woven into the founding documents, even if some elected officials refuse to acknowledge the plain text of the Constitution.

America has been around a lot longer than the U.N., and we owe our existence to an armed and vigilant citizenry which rose up against tyranny.  Two hundred years later, I have good news to report to you all:  In the battle to preserve our freedoms, we are still winning.

Supporters of the Second Amendment have won some important triumphs, and our success bodes well for the road ahead.  Let me remind you of a very recent victory.  In the last Congress, we were able to pass important legal reforms to protect the firearms industry from frivolous lawsuits.  Trial lawyers and anti-gun activists worked together to bring financial ruin on firearms makers by suing them for actions of criminals.  Cash-strapped local governments were all too happy to go along and looked past the pockets of the criminals at fault and into the much deeper pockets of the firearms industry.

Of course the millions of Americans who lawfully own and use firearms for sporting activities or self-protection were justifiably indignant at the suggestion that an industry participant could be held liable simply for manufacturing a legal product.  Would the makers of Ginsu Knives be next?  Not only did the overzealous anti-gun activists lie at the root of these sham suits, the proliferation of such dubious claims also threatened the industries vital to -- to the exercise of our Second Amendment rights.

Without a healthy firearms industry, we would unable to provide the brave men and women of our armed forces and our police forces with the tools they need to keep us safe, and we'd be unable to guarantee the right of any citizen to own and use a firearm for sport or for self-protection.  At the time we passed this bill, testimony provided before a House of Representatives subcommittee indicated that the firearms industry had spent over $200 million to defend itself against perfectly baseless claims in court.

Now, for a smaller industry, that much money wasted is more than just a nuisance; it's a threat to the life of the very industry itself.  The lost resources wasted on sham suits also prevented firearms manufacturers from continuing robust research that could lead to newer, improved products for the benefit of our police and our military.

More than 30 states had passed legislation protecting the firearms industry from frivolous lawsuits, and I thought it was time the federal government followed suit, and so I co-sponsored the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.  The act passed with bipartisan support and was signed into law, and now, thanks to this important legal reform, judges have the tools they need to swiftly dispose of sham anti-gun lawsuits. 

No more will these cooked-up claims clutter our court dockets to slow down justice for those who truly need access to our judicial system.

Thanks to these important reforms, the anti-gun lobby and trial lawyers are discouraged from filing their suits in the first place, and those who do are swiftly shown the door.  I'm proud of my role in getting this important legislation through.  Protecting the firearms guaranteed to us by the Constitution is very important to me and to most of my colleagues.

Now, Chris alluded to the campaign finance fight.  Many of you know that I was, at least in the beginning, kind of a lonely soldier there, but all of a sudden we had a larger group, and nobody was more central to the fight against what I still believe is unconstitutional campaign finance reform than the NRA, and I thank you for your leadership on that issue. 

Remember, when you hear those three words, "campaign finance reform," somebody's trying to take away your right to speak.  And the NRA was a very, very effective advocate.  And by the way, the new Supreme Court leads me to have some hope that there are parts of that bill that will be rolled back in subsequent lawsuits.  Like every senator, I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution, and I thought that was at the heart of that important fight.

Now, some of you have heard there were some midterm elections recently.  It is true the Democrats are now in control of Congress. The agenda is quite different.  But because of your past successes, more and more Democrats are recognizing the importance of protecting the Second Amendment.

Here's one example where Democrats are acknowledging that they have to work with us, not against those of us who cherish our Second Amendment rights.  For the last four years, when my party controlled Congress, we always included an appropriations legislation language to safeguard gun trace data.  Gun trace data is important for law enforcement officers to have to conduct criminal investigations, as you know.  But some, looking for quick infusion of cash, have tried to abuse that information and use it to sue firearms manufacturers.

This year, with Democrats in the majority, much to my regret, I know you were worried about losing this important protection.  But the Senate Appropriations Committee recently approved language by an almost two-to-one margin that once again safeguards gun trace data and stops anti-gun activists from using it to attack the firearms industry, and that's real progress. 

Four brave Democrats joined with Republicans to protect the industry that puts backbone in our Second Amendment.  Bipartisan action like that happens because dedicated grassroots support has made its voice heard here in Washington, which is of course what you're doing here today.

So take it from me.  On the Republican side, the membership of the NRA is well-respected.  And on the Democratic side, some are catching on.  In 2000, 2002 and 2004, your efforts helped support pro- gun-rights candidates for Congress and for the White House, but now the stakes could not be higher for 2008.  Working together, Republicans and those who support our efforts to protect your constitutional rights are doing our best to hold the line in this Congress.

But imagine what a Democratic Congress and an anti-gun-rights president, working together, could do to chip away at what we've worked so hard to protect.  The hard-fought gains we've won over the years could be lost.  A Democratic president and Congress would likely push for re-enactment of the Clinton gun ban, so we can't rest on the successes of the past.

We must stay vigilant in defense of our freedoms.  The upcoming elections will offer Americans a clear choice between two very different parties.  As the Senate Republican leader, I'll do everything in my power to protect our Second Amendment freedoms.

Thanks to you, America does not follow the lead of Canada, and certainly not the U.N., when it comes to protecting gun rights. Instead, we follow the lead of our founders and of our Constitution. Grassroots groups like the NRA are fundamental to protecting our constitutional liberties.  I appreciate so much the opportunity to be with you here this morning.  Thank you, and God bless America

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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.