By Chris W. Cox, NRA-ILA Executive Director
Four years ago, an anti-gun activist group celebrated the election of Barack Obama and Joe Biden by proclaiming, “Never in our nation’s history have we had an incoming president and vice president more supportive of strong gun laws.” Now, for reasons that have nothing to do with gun laws, President Obama and Vice President Biden will remain in power for another four years.
Exaggeration has become the norm in politics, but in this case it’s no exaggeration to say that the next four years could turn out to be the toughest that the Second Amendment has ever faced. Second Amendment supporters retain a majority in the U.S. House and Senate, but President Obama can damage the right to keep and bear arms severely in ways the House and Senate can do little, if anything, to prevent.
First and foremost, Obama can nominate anti-gun justices to the Supreme Court and anti-gun judges to other federal courts. Of course, the Senate blocks judicial nominations only in unusual circumstances, as demonstrated by its approval of Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan during Obama’s first term.
It will be bad enough if Obama has the opportunity to replace the high court’s two oldest anti-gun justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, with like-minded people who will carry the same views forward for decades. It will be far worse if he is able to replace one or more of the five justices who protected the Second Amendment in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago (2010). Even a one-vote change would create an anti-gun majority that could reverse those two decisions, declare that the Second Amendment does not protect a fundamental, individual right, and authorize new bans on guns, ammunition and accessories under government “police powers.”
Second, just days after the election—and with the Obama administration’s strong support—the United Nations voted to renew talks in March on the arms trade treaty that stalled this summer. The current draft of the treaty includes, among other things, provisions that would require registration of gun owners who buy imported firearms and require a “national control system to regulate the export of ammunition for conventional arms.”
The treaty’s supporters have pretended that the only controls they seek are those that would prevent Third World guerrillas from waging civil wars with military weapons obtained on the international black market. But the Control Arms Campaign, a coalition of civilian disarmament groups such as Oxfam International and Amnesty International whose campaign for the treaty has kept it on the U.N.’s front burner, now openly insists that the final document must also apply to “sporting or hunting firearms.”
As John R. Bolton, who served as the United States’ ambassador to the U.N. under President George W. Bush, once explained, “Gun-control groups, frustrated by years of failing to impose harsh measures on American firearms owners, have pursued a covert strategy. … [T]he hidden agenda of the gun controllers is to craft treaty language that, while seemingly innocuous, has long-range implications for the use and ownership of guns here in America.” Even a treaty that’s not immediately ratified by the Senate can pose a threat, as it could be taken off the shelf for ratification years or decades in the future, or simply pointed to as an international “norm” that the U.S. must follow.
On the domestic front, President Obama said during his second campaign debate with Gov. Mitt Romney that he supports a new federal “assault weapons” ban. Since then, staff members for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, d-Calif., have met with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to work on drafting the necessary legislation. According to published reports of the meeting, Feinstein seeks to reinstate the federal ban on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, which was imposed along with the federal “assault weapons” ban of 1994-2004. However, her new gun ban proposal is said to be significantly worse than the 1994 ban in two important respects.
First, while the 1994 ban allowed rifles like the ar-15 to be manufactured with pistol grips (as long as they didn’t have flash suppressors, bayonet attachments, or adjustable-length stocks) the new ban would prohibit pistol grips altogether, essentially banning the rifles entirely or requiring a radical redesign. The same criteria would also ban the detachable-magazine m1 carbine and perhaps also the fixed-magazine m1 Garand rifle. Such a ban would be the death knell for the most popular rifle marksmanship competitions in our country, and would prevent millions of Americans from acquiring the most popular home-defense rifles currently available.
Second, while Feinstein apparently isn’t calling for abolition of the right of inheritance altogether, as radicals on the political left have urged for centuries, her gun ban reportedly would prohibit passing on any banned firearms and magazines to your heirs, let alone selling them while you’re still alive.
In the debate with Gov. Romney, Obama also opened the door to restrictions on “cheap handguns,” the firearms that gun control supporters have always most loathed, but which were expressly brought under the Second Amendment’s protection by the Supreme Court’s decision in Heller. Needless to say, given Obama’s statement and his longstanding opposition to private individuals carrying handguns for self-defense, his reelection will give us a much tougher fight for federal legislation establishing national recognition of state-issued Right-to-Carry permits.
Despite our best efforts, we were not able to deny Barack Obama and Joe Biden another four years in the White House. However, as Alexis de Tocqueville observed, “The greatness of America lies . . . in her ability to repair her faults.” This year, five states—Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia—will hold elections for statewide offices. Next year, 20 Democratic and 13 Republican U.S. senators, and all 435 members of the House of Representatives, will be up for re-election. Record turnouts among voters who care about the Second Amendment can solidify our position at the state level and in the House and Senate. A stronger Senate majority, in particular, could block Obama’s most anti-gun nominees to the federal courts and reject any U.N. treaty that threatens the individual right to arms. Most important, record turnout could set the stage for the election of a pro-Second Amendment president in 2016.
Your NRA did everything in its power to protect our rights in 2012, and will continue to do so in the years to come. Political victories as important as the one we were denied in November will come when all Americans who care about the future of our country exercise their right to vote.