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The Fight Is On

Monday, April 1, 2013

By Chris W. Cox, NRA-ILA Executive Director

As winter ends, the NRA springs into action against attacks on the Second Amendment.

Throughout the 2012 elections, the NRA warned gun owners that if given a second and final term, President Barack Obama and his congressional allies would unleash a full-scale, government-wide assault on the Second Amendment. The president and his media supporters scoffed but, as January turned into mid-February, events—including multiple White House events, multiple Senate hearings, and the introduction of some of the most sweeping anti-gun legislation in U.S. history—have proven us right. 

On Jan. 16, Obama held a press conference at which he outlined his “solution” to the unimaginable tragedy that took place a month earlier in Newtown, Conn. Unfortunately but unsurprisingly, rather than proposing real security for our schools and communities, or an overhaul of our broken mental health system, he did little more than promote the major initiatives of anti-gun extremists from the past 20 years.

Obama’s legislative plan calls for passage of a new ban on “assault weapons,” a ban on standard-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, and—the centerpiece of activists such as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg—criminalizing private transfers of firearms between law-abiding people.

Of course, none of these so-called “solutions” will stop another tragedy, nor will they prevent the criminals who rule the streets in many of our cities, including Obama’s hometown of Chicago, from continuing their violence. Even as Obama and his allies called for new gun controls, police in Chicago—home of gun laws that include gun licensing, gun registration, mandatory training, an “assault weapons” ban and even a ban on possessing a gun in your own garage—reported that the city had seen more than a 15 percent increase in murders from 2011 to 2012.

The president reiterated his demands in his State of the Union address on Feb. 12, calling for expanded background checks and for a ban on “weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines.”

But while Obama may call these proposals “commonsense reforms,” what do his own experts say? 

According to an unpublished Jan. 4 white paper from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ)—the research and evaluation arm of the Obama Justice Department—an “assault weapons” ban could only be effective “if coupled with a mandatory gun buyback and no exemptions,” and even then “would not have a large impact on gun homicides.” Likewise, a magazine ban could only be effective if it included “a massive reduction in supply” through “restrictions on importation, manufacture, sale, and possession.” And as for so-called “universal background checks,” the NIJ said their effectiveness would depend on “requiring gun registration.” (NRA-ila obtained a copy of the document and released it—along with a strong ad highlighting its findings—the night of the State of the Union speech; to view the ad and read the entire memo, go to www.NRAila.org/obamasexperts.)

What’s the next step in our legislative battle? With the State of the Union address behind us, the fight is now under way in Congress, beginning with the introduction of a flurry of anti-gun bills, hearings and “task force” reports.

On Jan. 24, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced s. 150, a new and sweeping ban on common semi-automatic firearms. (Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., introduced an identical bill, H.R. 437, in the U.S. House.) Contrary to media misreporting, the bills would do far more than just reinstate the 1994-2004 gun and magazine bans; key elements of the bills include a definition that bans any semi-automatic rifle with a detachable magazine and any semi-auto shotgun unless specifically exempted. The bill also bans magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. While existing guns and magazines could still be possessed, guns legally owned before the ban could only be sold through licensed dealers. Magazines, on the other hand, couldn’t be transferred at all, even to your heirs.

Feinstein is promoting this new ban in spite of all the evidence that the previous ban had no real impact on crime, in part because the guns it affected were only used in a tiny percentage of crime. It is clear her goal is to deny legal ownership of these guns by law-abiding Americans—no surprise, given her support for a handgun ban in her hometown of San Francisco.

Support for Feinstein’s ban—and the rest of the president’s agenda—came, also unsurprisingly, from a “Gun Violence Prevention Task Force” of House Democrats, appointed by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. (To read the report, go to www.NRAila.org/pelositaskforce.) Their report parroted Obama’s anti-gun agenda, endorsing all of his anti-gun goals. Like the president’s plan, it fails to address the root causes of violent crime or mass shootings by prosecuting criminals or fixing our broken mental health system in any meaningful way.

Meanwhile, kicking off a series of congressional hearings, the U.S. Senate Judiciary committee held a hearing on Jan. 30 entitled, “What Should America Do About Gun Violence?” 

The hearing (which can be viewed online at www.NRAila.org/judiciaryjan30) consisted of a single panel that included NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, Second Amendment scholar David Kopel, pro-gun attorney Gayle Trotter, Baltimore County, Md., police chief James Johnson, and gun control supporter Mark Kelly, the husband of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. (Rep. Giffords, who deserves credit for her determined recovery from a January 2011 attack by a madman, made a brief opening statement to the committee before the other witnesses took their seats.)

A familiar group of anti-gun politicians including Sens. Feinstein, Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., made the same emotion-laden arguments they’ve made for decades on why government should restrict Second Amendment rights. But as always, they failed to provide any rational evidence that their so-called solutions would reduce ordinary street crime, let alone stop the kind of tragedies that have recently shocked our nation.

Wayne LaPierre, on the other hand, stood firm in the face of repeated calls for more gun laws.

In his testimony, he made clear that the NRA would not go along with new restrictions on the rights of honest Americans. “Law-abiding gun owners will not accept blame for the acts of violent or deranged criminals,” he said, “nor do we believe that government should dictate what we can lawfully own and use to protect our families.”

In particular, he stressed that Congress should focus on solutions that work: “the immediate protection of all—not just some—of our school children; swift, certain prosecution of criminals with guns; and fixing our broken mental health system.” (To read Wayne’s full testimony, go to ww.NRAila.org/wlptestimony.) 

The pro-Second Amendment members of the panel, including Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Mike Lee, R-Utah, Ted Cruz, R-Texas and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., helped face down the attacks by making strong statements in support of gun owners’ rights. One of the most dramatic examples came from Sen. Graham, who addressed the issue of magazine capacity by describing a recent case in which a Georgia woman used a revolver to defend herself and her family against a home invader: “My basic premise is that one bullet in the hand of a mentally unstable person or a convicted felon is one too many. Six bullets in the hands of a mother protecting her twin 9yearolds may not be enough.”

In a follow-up hearing on Feb. 12, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights heard testimony on “Protecting Our Communities While Respecting the Second Amendment.”  Testimony at the hearing ranged from the scholarly—by former Assistant Attorney General Charles J. Cooper (who has long represented the NRA in major constitutional cases) and Harvard Law School’s professor Laurence Tribe, a gun control supporter—to the dramatic, with an appearance by former Texas state representative Suzanna Gratia Hupp. 

Rep. Hupp’s entry into politics was sparked by the 1991 mass murder at Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, where she saw her parents murdered while her handgun was tragically out of reach in her car, in compliance with Texas law. 

Once again, the subcommittee’s ranking Republican, Sen. Cruz, and  South Carolina’s Sen. Graham deserve credit for standing up for Second Amendment rights. (Video and written testimony are available online at www.NRAila.org/2ahearing.)

At press time, an additional Senate Judiciary Committee hearing was scheduled for Feb. 25. But all these are just the opening act; what happens next will be crucial. Second Amendment opponents are pushing for action as fast as possible, and by the time you read this article, we may well be in the midst of an all-out floor debate in the U.S. Senate. 

Wherever things stand at that point, one thing is certain: the NRA will continue to oppose new restrictions on our freedoms. NRA members must stand up now and be heard. Let your elected officials know you will not be blamed for the actions of criminals or the dangerously mentally ill. 

To identify and contact your legislators in Washington, D.C., use the “Write Your Reps” feature at www.NRAila.org, or call your U.S. senators and House members at (202) 224-3121. 

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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.