by Chris W. Cox, NRA-ILA Executive Director
I’ve had the privilege of knowing and working with Paul Ryan for decades, including during his seven terms in the U.S. House. Paul has been a consistent champion of our right to keep and bear arms. He is also an avid hunter who heads for the woods every year with a gun or a bow. He is a member of the NRA and shares our dedication to protecting the Second Amendment. To put it simply, he’s one of us.
Amidst his suddenly hectic campaign schedule, I was fortunate to be able to spend some time with Paul so he could share his views with his fellow NRA members across the country.
Cox: First of all, congratulations on being named the GOP vice-presidential nominee. Our fellow NRA members, and all the gun owners I talk to, are very appreciative of your strong record of support for the Second Amendment.
Rep. Ryan: Thanks. It’s a great honor for me to run alongside Governor Romney. He has a real plan to restore America’s greatness and I intend to help him do that, along with supporting our Second Amendment freedoms and hunting heritage.
Cox: The NRA members I talk to are very excited to have a fellow gun owner and hunter on the ticket. Why is this such an important part of your life?
Ryan: I love the outdoors and the times I’ve spent hunting with friends are some of my best memories. I really enjoy passing down those traditions to my kids. And you also learn a lot from hunting. I’ve told this story before, but the first time I gave a speech on the House floor, my leg started shaking just like it does when a nice buck walks into range. But since I had experienced this feeling many times before when bowhunting, I was able to get it under control.
Cox: One of a president’s most important powers is appointing Supreme Court justices and other federal judges. What type of individuals do you think should be nominated for these positions?
Ryan: You are absolutely right, and we’ve seen several cases in the last few years that show why this power is so important—including the historic Heller and McDonald decisions on the Second Amendment. Judicial nominees should follow the original meaning of the Constitution and our Founders’ intent. It’s important for people to remember that these are lifetime appointments, so the decisions the justices make will last for generations.
Cox: This summer, the United Nations held an Arms Trade Treaty conference. Fortunately for American gun owners and everyone who supports our Constitution and our sovereignty, they failed to reach agreement. Not surprisingly, though, they’re promising to try again. What’s your take on how this effort could affect Second Amendment rights?
Ryan: Our most basic rights as Americans are laid out in the Constitution, including the right to bear arms. A Romney-Ryan administration would not support a treaty with other nations that might infringe on these most fundamental American rights. We oppose any attempts that would dilute the freedoms, including gun rights, we enjoy here in the United States. I oppose the Arms Trade Treaty and I applaud the NRA for its continued defense of our Second Amendment rights.
Cox: Tell us about your support of legislation to provide national reciprocity for Right-to-Carry permit holders, so they can protect themselves when they’re traveling outside their home states.
Ryan: I absolutely do support that, and I voted for it in the House last year. Self-defense is a fundamental right of every law-abiding person, and it does not end at a state border. In fact, we have a new carry permit law in Wisconsin.
Cox: A few months ago, the House of Representatives voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate in the “Fast and Furious” investigation. Then, right before the vote, President Obama claimed executive privilege to protect Holder. How would a Romney-Ryan administration handle that kind of situation?
Ryan: It would never happen in the first place. If you appoint the right people to key positions, you won’t have a program like “Fast and Furious.” And that’s another important reason why it’s time for new leadership in the White House—that will bring new leadership to the Department of Justice, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Department of State, and a host of other federal agencies.
Cox: The violence along the Mexican border is a serious problem. What do you think is the right response?
Ryan: First and foremost, we need to secure our borders so that drug smugglers, human traffickers and violent criminals can’t cross so easily. We also have to track down and fully prosecute those who engage in criminal activity.
Cox: One of the big fears gun owners have about President Obama is his willingness to take action without congressional authority. Do you share that concern?
Ryan: Definitely. We’ve already seen the President take unilateral action on a number of controversial issues. Governor Romney and I believe this threatens the fundamental concept of separation of powers. President Obama has already done this with the requirement that gun stores report certain long gun sales to the federal government—something Congress never authorized. You don’t have to look very hard to find other ways President Obama could abuse his executive power to impose more restrictions on Second Amendment rights.
Cox: Let’s talk about a couple of additional gun issues that gun control supporters continue to push. For more than 20 years, we’ve seen anti-gun groups trying to ban commonly owned semi-automatic firearms. You’ve consistently opposed this. Would you discuss some of the reasons behind your opposition to gun bans?
Ryan: I oppose bans on commonly owned firearms because gun bans don’t work.I hunt ducks and turkey with a semi-auto Benelli shotgun. I have a semi-automatic .223 Remington for coyotes and target shooting. I understand that the guns they’re trying to ban are fundamentally the same. Criminals, by definition, don’t obey the law, so banning firearms only keeps them out of the hands of those who abide by the law.
Cox: Anti-gun groups have also tried to pass new restrictions on gun shows. You’ve opposed these efforts. Why do you think the restrictions aren’t necessary?
Ryan: I’ve been to gun shows, and I think they’re a great American tradition. Law-abiding people have a basic right to gather to exercise their freedoms, and that includes the right to purchase firearms or to exchange ideas with other like-minded people.
Cox: As a hunter, I know you understand that one of the biggest problems many hunters have is access to land. How do you think we can increase the availability of hunting land?
Ryan: I hear about this all the time from hunters back home in Wisconsin, and it’s something I’ve worked on with the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, which I co-chaired from 2007 to 2011. Not everyone is lucky enough to have access to private land for hunting, and in some areas the federal government owns most of the open land. Those federal lands need to be open to hunting, so I will keep on supporting efforts to expand hunter access.
Cox: Have you had an opportunity to teach your children about the shooting sports?
Ryan: I have. We have two hunting dogs, and Janna and the kids love to come with me into a duck blind or out in the fields in Wisconsin pheasant hunting to watch them work. I also take Janna or each one of the kids individually into my deer stand during gun season. The trick is getting my kids to keep quiet.
Cox: Do you have any final words for our members?
Ryan: I believe in our fundamental right to keep and bear arms. It is an individual right. This has been a way of life for me since childhood. I want to make sure that right is protected for my kids and someday, hopefully, for my grandkids, and I know Governor Romney feels the same way. This election presents a clear choice for our future. We can choose more economic opportunity, or less. We can choose more government involvement in our daily lives, or less. In short, we can choose more freedom, or less. We are at that proverbial fork in the road in America—but we have an opportunity on Nov. 6 to move our country forward and restore the greatness that our Founding Fathers envisioned. We’re asking for the support of every American who shares that vision.
Cox: Paul, thanks for your time and for your consistent support for gun owners’ and hunters’ rights. Good luck in November.
Ryan: Thank you, Chris. I’m a proud member of the NRA and am proud of my A rating. I’m looking forward to working to protect gun rights in our great nation.
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