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Meanwhile, at the United Nations, Ambassador Susan Rice announced that the United States position had “evolved,” and the United States was ready to sign a very strong version of the proposed Arms Trade Treaty.
The United Nations never moves quickly, so it took several months before the Arms Trade Treaty was ready. But when it was, the international gun prohibition lobbies exulted that the new treaty provided everything they had asked for, including the mandatory registration of all firearms and ammunition, prohibition of all handguns and semi-autos, licensing of all gun ownership based on whether an individual could prove a “need” for a gun, and a new U.N. agency to impose embargos on the firearms trade.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper denounced the Arms Trade Treaty as “an affront to Canada’s traditions of outdoorsmanship.” Secretary of State John Kerry, though, was given the honor of being the first government representative to sign the treaty, which he praised as “an excellent balance between the sporting privileges of the Second Amendment and common-sense protection of public safety.”
Within a few weeks, the new U.N. Commission on Small Arms had announced arms embargoes against Israel and the United States. The Israel embargo was for having, according to the U.N., “the worst human rights record on the planet.” For the U.S., the basis for the embargo was the 2006 decision by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights that state and federal laws that allow police or crime victims to use firearms against criminals who attempt rape or robbery, but who are not attempting to murder, is a violation of the criminals’ right to life, as guaranteed by international law.
European governments ordered a halt of all firearm exports to the United States. The governments were quite grateful to the Obama administration for having recently contributed $2 trillion of U.S. taxpayer money to the International Monetary Fund in order to bail out European banks.
As the lawsuits slogged through the lower federal courts, the manufacturers of handguns and semi-autos struggled to stay in business. When consumers realized that they would have to wait years to take possession of a gun and pay a $200 tax, most of them chose to buy other firearms instead. Besides that, many big-city police chiefs announced that under no circumstances would they sign the permission forms that were required for persons to acquire or retain destructive devices. The smaller manufacturers of handguns and semi-auto long guns went out of business first.
November and December, and early 2013, were fantastic for the manufacturers of the long guns that had not been declared “destructive devices.” The factories were running three shifts, 24 hours a day, and guns were selling as fast as they could be produced. There was no more discounting, and retailers did a thriving business selling those rifles and shotguns at full list price, which had increased substantially.
However, in March 2013, the government of Mexico filed a lawsuit in a Mexican court against every U.S. firearm and ammunition manufacturer. The Mexican suit claimed that American manufacturers, by selling guns under the “lax” U.S. system of firearms regulations, had “recklessly” created a risk of gun crime in Mexico. The Mexican trial court agreed and issued a $4 billion judgment against the American companies collectively, which was quickly affirmed by the Mexican Supreme Court.
Leaked diplomatic cables later revealed that the Obama administration had encouraged the suit, and had quietly provided legal expertise to the Mexican government.
The American companies resisted Mexican efforts to collect on the judgment. But the Obama administration urged U.S. courts to cooperate with the Mexican collection efforts, out of respect of U.S. international obligations. Some U.S. companies disappeared overnight, with federal marshals enforcing court orders to seize the companies’ U.S. bank accounts and manufacturing facilities.
As U.S. firearm manufacturing contracted, so did the number of retailers. Back during the Clinton administration, ATF had gotten rid of tens of thousands of FFL retail licensees by finding any available pretext to deny a license renewal application. The Obama administration did the same, but even more aggressively, and the number of gun stores plummeted.
Obama appointees now dominated the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). They obeyed the federal statute that forbade the CPSC from acting against firearms or firearms ammunition. Instead, the CPSC determined that the availability of “high-power” airguns “presents an unreasonable risk of injury,” especially to children. So the CPSC prohibited the sale of all air guns with a velocity of more than 400 feet per second. President Obama praised the decision, noting that “the beloved Daisy Red Ryder BB gun” would not be affected.
The Environmental Protection Agency, using its powers under the Toxic Substances Control Act, imposed a complete ban on the use of lead in ammunition. The agency, which had rejected calls for a lead ban during Obama’s first term, now announced that it agreed with environmental groups who had argued that even though Congress had forbidden the agency to ban ammunition, merely banning a “toxic component” of ammunition was allowed.
By the time the Obama gun-ban cases finally made their way to the U.S. Supreme Court, President Obama, in his second term, had already appointed four new justices, due to retirements of older justices for health reasons. The Court now consisted of six Obama justices, along with Justices Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito and John Roberts.
Most legal analysts predicted that Heller would be overruled. Thus, there was widespread surprise when Justice Sotomayor’s opinion for the Court began, “We reaffirm the core holding of Heller, of the individual right to own a .22-cal. revolver solely in the home.”
But Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s seven-justice majority upheld all of the Obama regulations. The majority explained that it was persuaded by the arguments developed by U.S. State Department Legal Advisor Harold Koh that all of the Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment, must be interpreted in conformance with international legal norms.
The next week, the same 7-2 majority ruled that the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act was unconstitutional. Soon, hundreds of lawsuits were filed against the remaining firearm and ammunition manufacturers, and against almost all the remaining gun stores. Funding for the suits was provided by Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
As one of Bloomberg’s attorneys explained, “There are hundreds of cases, and not one of the defendants can afford to fight them all. Even if they could, they have to win everywhere, and we only have to win once.”
With the legal issues of new ATF regulations now settled, ATF began a major push to enforce the registration requirement for persons who had acquired destructive devices before the reclassification. Following a practice first used in the Clinton administration, ATF agents visited all firearms dealers and examined all their Form 4473 registration records of firearms sales. ATF also studied its enormous inventory of the 4473 forms, which dealers who go out of business must send to ATF.
If a Form 4473 showed that an individual had bought a handgun (other than a .22-cal. revolver), or a semi-auto, or a 12-ga. shotgun, ATF would check to see if that “destructive device” had been properly registered in ATF’s National Firearm Registration and Transfer Record (NFRTR), or if there was a pending application. If so, everything was fine. (Before the new Obama regulations, there had been no dealer records required for muzzleloader sales, so ATF chose to ignore them—for the time being.)
If the 4473 showed that a person had bought a destructive device, but it was not registered in the NFRTR, then ATF agents would visit the person’s home.
Most of the ATF home visits were carried out by polite and efficient agents. However, if the registration records indicated special danger (e.g., a person with an arsenal of five or more unregistered destructive devices), ATF would sometimes use a tactical team to carry out a dynamic entry.
Quite a lot of visits turned out to be a waste of time, since the NFRTR has long been known to be full of errors. Usually, persons who had properly registered their destructive devices, but who had not been correctly listed in the NFRTR, were able to clear up the problem for less than $15,000 in legal fees.
There were also plenty of people who had bought destructive devices, but who had failed to register their firearm with ATF, as was now legally required. Some of these people had wanted to register, but their local police chief would not sign the necessary form. These people had kept their guns anyway, rather than take advantage of the gun surrender programs, which ATF offered several times a year throughout the United States.
The penalty for possessing an unregistered destructive device is a fine of up to $10,000 and 10 years in prison, per device. However, Attorney General Eric Holder ordered ATF to offer generous plea bargains to low-level first-time offenders (who had only one or two unregistered devices): a fine of only $5,000 per device, no prison time, and a felony plea, which would result in a lifetime ban on the person ever possessing any type of firearm or ammunition.
Persons who had bought a destructive device years ago, and who told ATF that they had later sold the gun or given it away, had no problems, as long as they could identify the person to whom they had given the gun, and that person admitted to ATF that he did indeed own the gun. Otherwise, ATF would initiate a prosecution. Federal courts were kept very busy with such cases.
The Obama administration celebrated its Supreme Court win with the most lavish party ever held at the White House, financed by generous gifts from Bloomberg and George Soros. Mr. and Mrs. Clinton were invited, but did not attend. They claimed that there was a scheduling conflict, but unnamed White House sources leaked the real reason:
Former President Clinton was despondent that on gun control, as on health policy, Obama had succeeded where Clinton had tried so hard, but had failed. Clinton and Obama both knew that Obama would be remembered as a far more influential president than Clinton—indeed, as one of the very few presidents who, despite lack of congressional support, had accomplished dramatic change during his second term.
President Obama had fulfilled his promise of “fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”
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America's 1st Freedom
NRA's pure news magazine especially for our membership. Its mission is to deliver professional, compelling, accurate, timely and hard-hitting journalism that tells the truth about the threats to our Second Amendment rights.