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Where the House Judiciary Actually Got Things Right

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Where the House Judiciary Actually Got Things Right

While there was plenty wrong with Wednesday’s House Judiciary Hearing on H.R. 1296, the proposed ban on semi-automatic firearms introduced by Representative David Cicilline (D-R.I.), there were some shining moments for those who still support the Second Amendment.

First, there were the two women who testified in opposition to the latest attempt at banning America’s most popular rifles.

Amy Swearer, the Senior Legal Policy Analyst for the Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, used an effective combination of statistics, research, analytical thinking, and anecdotal evidence in her testimony to point out the massive flaws with enacting a revised version of the failed 1994 Clinton gun ban.

From a statistical standpoint, Amy explained that the firearms targeted by H.R. 1296 are used in a fraction of all firearm-related crime. She explained that Americans are four-times more likely to be stabbed to death than to be killed by a criminal wielding one of these firearms.

And while many in the gun-ban community continually ask why anyone “needs” a semi-automatic rifle, Ms. Swearer pointed out that these so-called “assault weapons” are particularly suited for civilians to use for personal protection, especially at times when the government is “unable or unwilling to defend entire communities from large-scale civil unrest.” Amy stated that in 1992, during the Los Angeles riots, many business owners and private citizens used such firearm to protect their lives and their property from rampant looters when the police were nowhere to be found. Similarly, during the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, these firearms were again utilized by law-abiding citizens for lawful, defensive purposes.

Amy drove home her point about the suitability of guns like the AR-15 for personal protection by relating the story of taking her mother, who was not familiar with firearms, to the range to teach her how to safely use a gun. Ms. Swearer related that her mother, like many handling firearms for the first time, had difficulty with using a handgun accurately and effectively. When she switched to an AR-15, however, Amy said her mother was able to control the firearm far more easily than a handgun, and her accuracy improved vastly.

“That is why law-abiding citizens buy millions of these firearms,” Amy said. “When accuracy and stopping power matter, they are simply better.”

Pointing out that firearms are used by law-abiding citizens for personal protection between 500,000 and 2,000,000 times a year, Ms. Swearer closed by hoping politicians do not strip her mother of the ability to use the most effective firearm possible for ending threats to her safety.

Dianna Muller, a retired 22-year police veteran, spoke next. A professional competitive shooter who has represented the United States in competition, Mrs. Muller also works with The DC Project, a nonpartisan educational initiative that seeks to bring 50 women, one from each state, to the nation’s capital to promote gun rights.

Mrs. Muller pointed out that gun rights are women’s rights. She stated that she is particularly vulnerable to violent criminal attack because she is likely smaller and “less equipped for violence” than someone who may seek to do her harm, especially if she is outnumbered. “My firearm is the great equalizer,” Dianna testified, “and levels the playing field.”

Also addressing the question of why someone “needs” an AR-15, she stated hers is her preferred firearm for home defense, and that her husband also uses one for hunting. Mrs. Muller also pointed out that if legislators want to look at reducing firearm-related fatalities, rather than demonizing gun owners, they should look at promoting several programs she mentioned that have already had an impact, and would be more effective than adding restrictions on law-abiding gun owners. Among the programs she highlighted were NRA’s Eddie Eagle and School Shield.

Outnumbered by five anti-gun panelists, and facing a hostile majority in the House Judiciary Committee, Amy Swearer and Dianna Muller did an outstanding job representing the views of those opposed to banning guns.

Several staunch defenders of the Second Amendment who serve on the House Judiciary Committee also exhibited their strong support of law-abiding gun owners.

U.S. Representative Doug Collins (R-Ga.), the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, reminded people that calling semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 “assault weapon” is designed to confuse those unfamiliar with firearms. He pointed out that some attribute the creation of the term to anti-gun extremist Josh Sugarmann, the founder and Director the Violence Policy Center. Sugarmann, Collins pointed out, stated, “The weapons’ menacing looks, coupled with the public’s confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons—anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun—can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons.”

Collins also pointed out the hypocrisy of those who promote banning guns like the AR-15 in order to allegedly save lives. While those opposed to these firearms keep trying to tie them to an “epidemic of gun violence,” the ranking member pointed out that rifles of ANY kind were used in 403 murders in 2017. Semi-automatic rifles that fall under the restrictions of H.R. 1296 would be only a fraction of those homicides.

By comparison, he pointed out that in 2017, knives were used in 1,591 murders, and hands and feet in 696. The “epidemic” would seem to be far worse in areas unrelated to semi-automatic rifles.

Ranking Member Collins also pointed out that speeding was the stated cause in 9,717 fatalities in 2017, and further pointed out that nobody is seeking to limit automobiles to a maximum top speed of 70 MPH.

During the period when committee members could question the panelists, Collins asked Dianna Muller—who was on the police force before, during, and after the Clinton gun ban—if the ’94 ban had any discernable effect on her as a law enforcement officer. She said it had zero effect.

When Representative Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) had a chance to speak, Amy Swearer related that the official report on the effectiveness of the 1994 gun ban found that renewing it would likely have no measurable effect on violent crime.

When it was time for Representative James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) to speak, he pointed out that the discussion of banning so-called “assault weapons” focused on cosmetic features, rather than how a firearm functions. After stating that hunting with a semi-automatic rifle is legal in most states, he asked the panelists if hunting rifles should be banned. Only Amy Swearer and Dianna Muller stated they should not.

Representative Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) used part of his time to point out that, when President Barrack Obama asked the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to look at existing research on gun violence, they found that “self-defense can be an important crime deterrent,” and that “semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15 are commonly used in self-defense, especially in the homes of law-abiding citizens because they’re easier to control than handguns.”

It was during Representative Biggs’ questioning that Dianna Muller made what was possibly the most widely reported comment during the hearing. When speaking about the proposed ban on semi-automatics being discussed, Mrs. Muller stated, “I will not comply with the ‘assault weapons’ ban.” Ohio Representative Jim Jordan (R) was the next Second Amendment supporter to speak, and he succinctly summed up what the legislation would ban, stating, “Semi-automatic weapons, with a magazine capacity of ten rounds or more, with scary features….”

During his questioning of Amy Swearer, the two discussed the fact that the “scary features” don’t have any impact on how the firearms function, and would not benefit criminals intent on doing harm. Both seemed to agree that those law-abiding citizens who follow the law will be less able to effectively defend themselves or their loved ones from violent criminals.

In fact, Ms. Swearer expressed concern that, should the bill become law, “You’ll see millions of law-abiding citizens become felons overnight for having scary looking features on firearms.”

As the two discussed the commonly understood fact that criminals try to avoid armed victims, and that the bill would only disarm law-abiding citizens, Rep. Jordan made another simple, but powerful point.

“Bad guys aren’t stupid, they’re just bad,” he said.  “They’re just evil. They’re not going to follow the law. What this legislation will do is make it more difficult for law-abiding people like you, like all kinds of folks, to protect themselves when some bad guy is bent on doing something wrong.”

Florida Representative Greg Steube (R) pointed out that those promoting the ban on modern sporting rifles like the AR-15, if successful, will eventually look to banning other guns until they are all banned. He also attempted to ask Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney to clarify an earlier remark about banning all firearms. Chief Brackney seemed unwilling to either clarify or walk back her earlier statement.

Other Republican committee members also spoke out in defense of the Second Amendment and in opposition to the bill, including Representatives Ken Buck (Colo.), Ben Cline (Va.), Louie Gohmert (Tex.), and Tom McClintock (Cal.).

Our thanks go out to all of those who spoke in support of law-abiding gun owners and our right to keep and bear arms, especially considering they were in a hostile committee where pro-gun panelists were outnumbered 5-2.

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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.