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Has Their Time Come?

Monday, January 26, 2009

 

 

by Chris W. Cox
NRA-ILA Executive Director

"Never in our nation`s history have we had an incoming President and Vice President more supportive of strong gun laws. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence strongly endorsed the Obama-Biden ticket, and for good reason."--Brady Campaign

Last year, when then-Senator Barack Obama told his adoring faithful, "we are the ones we`ve been waiting for," anti-gun groups must have thought he was talking to them.

Unfortunately, they may have been right. After Election Day, while the votes were still being counted in some parts of the country, Obama announced that he would pursue the anti-gun groups` four highest-priority objectives--banning millions of semi-automatic firearms and magazines that hold more than ten rounds, driving gun shows out of existence, making firearms impossible to manufacture by establishing unreasonable requirements on their design and repealing the federal law that prevents anti-gun groups from using firearm-tracing data in reckless lawsuits against firearm manufacturers.

Sensing that their time has come, anti-gunners announced three additional things they want from the new Congress and president: repeal of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, so they can more freely sue gun makers and dealers, a "micro-stamping" law to register the ammunition we purchase and a law requiring that guns be stored according to guidelines that would compromise our ability to use firearms to defend our homes and families.

Longtime gun owners and newcomers alike have responded to the election of the most anti-gun president in U.S. history by buying guns at a record pace. According to the FBI, firearm sales run through the National Instant Check System between Nov. 3 and Nov. 9 were up nearly 49 percent compared to the same period in 2007.

But I`m proud to tell you that many of those people recognize there`s more to protecting the Second Amendment than putting another gun in the safe, filling more pouches with magazines and adding another case or two of ammunition to the shelf at home. At a major gun show near NRA Headquarters two weekends after Election Day, NRA staff and volunteers signed up nearly 1,800 new NRA members--and this in a suburban county that Obama carried.

We`re seeing similar responses throughout the country, so I`m hopeful that we`ll be in a strong position two years from now, when we head to the polls to vote for the entire U.S. House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate as well as thousands of candidates for state and local office.

In the meantime, gun ownership is going to be challenged more severely than at any time since the Gun Control Act of 1968--including the eight long years when Bill Clinton occupied the White House.

For the benefit of those new NRA members, I`d like to go over the four issues President Obama has said he will focus on in the weeks and months ahead.

Semi-Automatic and Pump-Action Firearms On his transition team website, Obama committed himself to reinstating the "assault weapon" ban that was in effect between 1994 and 2004. Most of us remember that the ban, among other things, prohibited the manufacture of detachable-magazine semi-automatic rifles with standard attachments, such as a pistol-type grip, an adjustable-length or folding stock or a flash suppressor.

It also prohibited the manufacture of many standard rifle and pistol ammunition magazines, imposing an arbitrary ten-round limit on magazines for sale to private citizens. As supplies dried up, prices naturally rose and many gun owners simply had to do without. Bearing in mind that police officers and soldiers use standard-equipment magazines for good reason--their safety--the ten-round, reduced-capacity magazines imposed by the ban were anathema to those who want firearms to be useful for self-defense.

A study required by Congress found the 1994 law was virtually useless. Why? Not (as the anti-gunners claim) because it was so poorly written that it allowed some guns to be made with pistol-type grips and others to be made with flash suppressors. Instead, the study pointed out that "the banned weapons and magazines were never used in more than a modest fraction of all gun murders" in the first place.

Now, instead of dropping the issue, the Brady Campaign, Violence Policy Center, Legal Community Against Violence and other anti-gun groups are insulting people`s intelligence by calling for a much broader ban, such as H.R. 1022, introduced in the 110th Congress by U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y.

H.R. 1022 wouldn`t just ban AR-15s, M1As, FALs, AK clones and similar rifles in their standard configurations. The bill would ban those rifles no matter how many attachments they have. And it would ban Mini-14s and M1 carbines; fixed-magazine rifles, such as the SKS; and tubular magazine shotguns, such as the Remington Model 1100. The Legal Community Against Violence and the Brady-affiliated Million Mom March even want pump-action rifles and shotguns banned as "assault weapons."

Naturally, the Brady Campaign still claims that firearm traces "prove" the 1994 ban reduced crime, even though the agency that conducts traces--the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE)--disagrees. As the Congressional Research Service has said, tracing statistics cannot be used to determine how often any type of firearm is used in crime. Moreover, there are over a million more so-called "assault weapons" in Americans` hands today than when the ban was imposed in 1994. And since the ban expired, the nation`s murder rate has been lower than at anytime since the mid-1960s.

Gun Shows and Private Gun Sales  In our adversaries` talking points, their so-called "gun show loophole" legislation would simply require people who are not dealers to run instant background checks on people to whom they sell guns at gun shows.

But their legislation tells a different story. For example, take the misleadingly-named "Gun Show Background Check Act," sponsored by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.  Under that bill, a person who is not a dealer would be defined as a "gun show vendor" if he takes a gun into a show. All "vendors" would be registered on a ledger that would be provided to the federal government, and gun show  promoters would be required to register with the BATFE and pay a fee set arbitrarily by the attorney general. Obama`s choice for that post, Eric Holder, would likely set the fee prohibitively high. (Holder was Janet Reno`s anti-gun point man in the Clinton administration and has advocated prohibiting private sales of firearms altogether.)

The Tiahrt Amendment Tracing firearms is BATFE`s job, and the NRA-supported "Tiahrt Amendment" allows BATFE to share firearm tracing information with any law enforcement agency involved in a bona fide investigation related to the traced firearm. That is how it should be.

When anti-gun groups claim the amendment prevents local police departments from having unlimited access to traces nationwide, they are lying. They don`t want access for police--they want the tracing information themselves, to use in lawsuits blaming firearm manufacturers and dealers for harm caused by criminals who use guns, even when the manufacturers and dealers have complied with every applicable law.

Banning Firearms by "Consumer Product" Regulation The number of people who have voluntarily taken an NRA or other firearm safety course is at an all-time high. The firearm industry abides by hundreds of standards adopted by the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute and accidents with firearms are now at nearly an all-time low.

Despite all this, anti-gun groups claim that there are no standards for firearm manufacturers, that accidents with firearms are common and that BATFE or the Consumer Products Safety Commission should therefore have the authority to dictate how firearms should be made.

But anti-gun groups envision standards so high that no manufacturer could achieve them, and that such standards would cause firearm production to cease. For example, the Violence Policy Center, the group that invented the "assault weapon" issue to rejuvenate efforts to ban guns, has said that under "consumer product" regulatory authority, "handguns should be banned from future sale except for military and law enforcement personnel."

What You Can Do for the Second Amendment With the nation`s economy in trouble and the threat of terrorism still very real, Obama and his anti-gun supporters may think Americans are too preoccupied to devote the time and energy to defending our Right To Keep and Bear Arms. But you and I have seen what gun owners and others who believe in the Second Amendment can do--when we are united.

In the weeks and months ahead, I encourage all of you to help out where you can, as often as you can, to bring gun owners together and win new supporters to our side. That may mean calling and writing your lawmakers, helping out at your local range or shooting club, teaching an NRA firearm course, participating in training events and competitions, writing letters to the editors of your local newspapers, registering fellow gun owners to vote or helping a friendly candidate`s campaign.

All of these activities will help build a stronger community of Second Amendment believers. The anti-gun movement has never been more unified and we must join together to fight their agenda. As we go forward, let us remember the words spoken by patriot Patrick Henry in his last great public speech: "United we stand, divided we fall."

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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.