You know you’re on the right side of an issue when those on the other side want their extreme proposals rushed into law before the American people and their elected representatives have had a chance to give them careful thought.
In December, on the day of the unforgettable, horrible tragedy in Newtown, Conn., Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, co-chairman of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s gun control group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, blurted, “Now is the time for a national policy on guns.” Two days later, Joseph Califano, former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare and once an advisor to President Lyndon B. Johnson, wrote in The Washington Post that President Barack Obama should “Demand action on comprehensive gun control immediately.” As Califano explained, “LBJ was always poised to grasp any opportunity to achieve his legislative objectives,” including the Gun Control Act of 1968.
Three days later, President Obama announced that gun control would be a “central issue” of his final term in office, and that he had appointed Vice President Joe Biden to head a task force with a single mandate: to produce a list of “concrete proposals” which, Obama said, “I intend to push, without delay.”
Though Obama didn’t say so, it was obvious that the top item on the list would likely be a new ban on commonly owned semi-automatic rifles, handguns, shotguns and magazines. Obama called for a new ban during his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, and he did so again after the Newtown crime. Biden introduced legislation on the issue when he was in the Senate and used his power as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee to help Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., get her so-called “assault weapon and large magazine” ban passed as part of the 1994 crime bill.
Within minutes of Obama’s task force announcement, the Brady Campaign applauded “[t]he urgency with which the president is taking [sic] this issue.” Two days later, the Violence Policy Center—which first proposed a so-called “assault weapon” ban in 1988 and ridiculed the old ban as a “joke” for not being harsh enough—declared that “Now is the time” to ban “assault weapons” and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.
Meanwhile, Sen. Feinstein promised to introduce a new gun and magazine ban when Congress reopened for business in January, telling reporters she was ready to move against “assault weapons” again. In addition to suggesting that her new bill would require the registration of hundreds of models of popular semi-automatic firearms under the National Firearms Act—treating them the same as fully automatic machine guns—she said, “We are also looking at a ‘buy-back’ program,” without addressing the constitutionality or enforceability of such a scheme.
As this article goes to press, Feinstein has announced that her new bill would ban everything banned in 1994, everything made to comply with that ban and new categories of guns that were not addressed by the 1994 ban. She has also said her bill would prohibit the transfer of these newly NFA-registered guns, even by inheritance.
Feinstein isn’t alone in pressing for gun bans in their most extreme form. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo—a potential Democratic candidate for president in 2016—was reportedly working on a bill to ban all firearms capable of holding more than seven rounds, which would affect the M1 Garand and the vast majority of self-defense and target pistols today. In Cuomo’s words, “Confiscation could be an option. Mandatory sale to the state could be an option. Permitting could be an option—keep your gun but permit it.”
The reason for gun-ban supporters’ hurry was obvious. They wanted to use the Newtown tragedy as the justification for passing their long-standing gun control agenda.
But none of their proposals would have prevented Newtown. Not a ban on private transfers of firearms; a ban on the acquisition of firearms by anyone placed on the FBI’s often erroneous “terror watchlist;” the rationing of firearm purchases or new restrictions on imported firearms. Not a federal law requiring states to “set higher standards for granting permits for concealed weapons,” as proposed by The New York Times; prohibitive new taxes on ammunition and magazines; permit requirements to purchase ammunition; a ban on mail-order ammunition purchases; or the registration of all firearms. Yet gun-ban activists have already exploited the Newtown murders to push all these ideas and more.
There are many things we as a nation can do to help prevent tragedies like Newtown, from fixing America’s broken mental health system, to improving school security, to reducing the culture of violence marketed to our kids, to prosecuting those who misuse firearms to commit crimes. In the challenging months ahead, your NRA will need your full support in making sure that our elected officials think carefully before they cast any vote that will destroy our right to keep and bear arms.
James W. Porter II, PRESIDENT
Allan Cors, FIRST VICE PRESIDENT
Pete Brownell, SECOND VICE PRESIDENT
Wayne LaPierre, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT
Edward J. Land Jr., SECRETARY
Wilson H. Phillips Jr., TREASURER
Kyle Weaver, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, GENERAL OPERATIONS
Christopher W. Cox, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE FOR LEGISLATIVE ACTION