As if misguided anti-gun policies that leave our fighting men and women defenseless stateside weren’t enough, some gun control advocates are intent on reviving a Clinton-era gun control tactic that would pose a danger to our military in the field. In an opinion piece for the Saturday edition of the New York Times, several representatives of the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation, described as a group “aimed at building power for social change,” encouraged President Obama to inject gun control politics into federal firearms acquisition procedure.
More specifically, Metro-IAF wants the president to exercise the federal government’s purchasing power to reward firearms manufacturers that acquiesce to “voluntary” gun control measures in its dealings with civilian gun owners, and punish those that refuse to curb the rights of American gun owners. According to the group, “For the government to keep buying guns from these companies — purchases meant to ensure public safety — without making demands for change is to squander its leverage.”
The first organization Metro-IAF would like to foist their gun control experiment on is the U.S. Army. The group states, “The Pentagon is in the process of selecting the provider of handguns for the United States Army. It should require all bidders to provide detailed information about their gun safety technologies and distribution practices in the civilian market. No response, no contract.”
Another target specifically mentioned by Metro-IAF is the FBI. However, it appears the group would like to extend this strategy to all of federal law enforcement. Under the group’s plan, in order to compete for federal contracts, manufacturers would be required to fund unprofitable “smart gun” technology, only sell through dealers that will not complete a sale following a delayed NICS check that extends past the three-day safety-valve provision (a potential gun ban for the significant number of persons wrongfully delayed each year), and “distribute their guns exclusively through dealers that sell guns responsibly.”
The writers neglect to mention that the firearms industry, from manufacturer to distributor to dealer and to purchaser, is highly regulated and overseen by a massive bureaucracy. By law, dealers are already required to sell guns responsibly. Dealer sales include a FBI-conducted NICS background check and stringent record-keeping requirements. If further nebulous demands are imposed on dealers, this could encourage sellers to profile potential buyers, inviting discriminatory outcomes.
The efficacy of Metro-IAF’s goals aside, their strategy to pursue them is a dangerous one. The inclusion of any criteria not related to a firearm’s performance characteristics in the procurement process poses an obvious threat to the men and women who will need to rely on the effectiveness of these weapons in the most dangerous moments of their lives.
As we’ve outlined before, back in 2000, the Clinton administration attempted to coerce gun manufacturers into supporting a raft of gun control proposals with the promise that the administration would steer federal and local government contracts to the manufacturers that conceded to their plans. In speaking with the Los Angeles Times, the general counsel for one major firearms manufacturer recalled an unsavory interaction with then-Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary, and now Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo asked the attorney how many guns the manufacturer sold to police departments and according to the counsel, "He made it fairly clear we wouldn't have that [business] if we didn't sign on to the agreement. I think the expression he used was, 'I have a lot of push with these Democratic mayors.'” The attorney went on to note, “There was no doubt in my mind that I'd just been threatened with economic extortion.”
At that time police were understandably reluctant to subject their vital equipment to political gamesmanship. National President of the Fraternal Order of Police Gilbert G. Gallegos made clear that “‘Adherence to a particular political philosophy’ shouldn't play a part in gun purchases.”
The danger is so acute that even the country’s foremost champion of gun control, ex-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has rejected this strategy. In 2011, when asked by a reporter whether he would play politics with procuring firearms for the New York Police Department by boycotting a major gun manufacturer, Bloomberg answered, “The trouble is, if we boycott one, you probably have to boycott all of them and then you go back to the days when the crooks had better guns than the cops. We don't want our cops out-armed, out-gunned… There's a lot of things that went into lowering the crime, but arming the cops was part of it."
At a time when we should be focused on providing our servicemen and women the opportunity to be equipped with the tools necessary for their own defense here at home, to suggest that their armaments should be subject to the politics of gun control is radically irresponsible. We don’t expect these gun control supporters to reform their misguided views, but we ask that at the very least they keep our service members and law enforcement officers out of their crass political designs.