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Feds Send Mixed Signals On Push For Gun Control

Friday, February 27, 2009

On Wednesday, February 25, just over five weeks after Inauguration Day, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Obama Administration will seek to reinstate the expired federal "assault weapon" ban and impose additional restrictions. 

"As President Obama indicated during the campaign, there are just a few gun-related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to reinstitute the ban on the sale of assault weapons," Holder said. Based on Holder's testimony during his confirmation hearings before the Senate, those other "changes" presumably include prohibiting private transfers of firearms and banning most center-fire rifle ammunition as "armor-piercing." 

Holder said that new gun control laws are needed because in Mexico, a country with a history of corruption and disregard for individual rights, there's a shooting war going on between drug gangs and government troops, and some of the gangsters' guns have been illegally purchased in the United States. 

Few Americans are going to buy into the idea that the U.S. is responsible for internal problems in any foreign country, particularly one to which we give millions of dollars in aid, and in turn illegal drugs and illegal aliens flow freely into our southwestern states. 

Holder tried to sell his scheme by saying that "International drug trafficking organizations pose a sustained, serious threat to the safety and security of our communities," noting that  law enforcement officers in this country have arrested more than 750 individuals on related illegal narcotics charges over the last 21 months. 

Atta-boy to our law enforcement officers for their good work in making drug gangs bite the dust. But it appears that Holder exaggerated the "threat" that they pose to the U.S. On Thursday, a Drug Enforcement Administration spokesperson told NRA-ILA that there is little incidence of Mexican drug gang members committing violent crimes in this country against Americans who are not involved in illegal activities with the gangs. Some Americans who have colluded with the drug-smugglers have not been so lucky, but for that they have only themselves to blame. 

Of course, ignored in the discussion was any mention that straw purchasing a firearm for a Mexican drug runner, and transferring a firearm to someone knowing it will be used to commit a violent or drug-trafficking crime, are currently federal felonies punishable by 10 years in prison. 

Holder was still enjoying the high (pardon the pun) that he must have felt from his media moment when Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reminded him that it isn't the Attorney General who makes laws in the United States. Asked whether Holder had spoken to her before putting himself in front of the national news cameras, Pelosi said "no," adding, "I think we need to enforce the laws we have right now." Shortly thereafter, the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) stated flatly that "Senator Reid would oppose an effort [to] reinstate the ban if the Senate were to vote on it in the future." 

Speaker Pelosi and Sen. Reid were joined in opposing Holder by members of the bipartisan House of Representatives Second Amendment Task Force. U.S. Rep. and Task Force co-chair Paul Broun (R-Ga.) said "The Attorney General's recent comments about reinstating the 'assault weapons' ban are extremely troubling since a ban clearly violates our Constitutional right to bear arms." Co-chair Dan Boren (D-Okla.) added, "The Second Amendment Task Force is adamantly opposed to reinstating the ban on the sale of assault weapons as it clearly would demonstrate a violation of United States citizens' right to keep and bear arms." Other members of the Task Force include Democrats Jason Altmire (D-Pa.), Travis Childers (D-Miss.), Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.), Jim Matheson (D-Utah) and Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.), and Republicans Rob Bishop (R-Utah), John Carter (R-Tex.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Steve King (R-Iowa) and Steve Scalise (R-La.). 

Independently, Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), an NRA Life Member, said that he would "oppose any action on behalf of the Attorney General or President Obama to reinstate the assault weapons ban." 

Unfortunately, Holder still has many options for ways to threaten the right to arms. As examples, he could force the BATFE to once again arbitrarily reinterpret firearm importation law, to further limit the kinds of firearms that may be imported. He could force the agency to discontinue its support of the Tiahrt Amendment, which protects both the privacy of gun buyers and the integrity of police investigations. And though the Justice Department has previously testified against the type of "armor piercing ammunition" restriction gun control supporters advocate today, Holder's DOJ could reverse course. Holder could also direct BATFE to adopt enforcement policies designed to drive licensed dealers out of business. 

And while Sen. Reid has a good record on many gun control issues, there is no doubt where Speaker Pelosi truly stands. She will support gun control, but on her timetable, not one provided her by the new Attorney General. 

As we expect to say a lot over the next four years, "Stay tuned."
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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.