By Paul Helmke
I was in Charlotte on Friday to debate Alan Gura, the lawyer who brought the Second Amendment cases against DC and Chicago, at an event sponsored by the local chapter of the Federalist Society. As it happens, there was a somewhat bigger event in town at the same time: the NRA Convention. Every year at this event, we hear more of the same fear-mongering: “your guns are going to be outlawed; your guns are going to be confiscated; hunting will be banned; you won’t be able to have a gun in your own home”. The politicians, celebrities, and NRA leaders say these same self-serving things every year because they ignore the facts – guns haven’t been banned in this country and the Constitution, as well as politics, makes it clear that they won’t be banned next year, or any year.
The most popular speaker for the NRA this year was apparently former Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. The Associated Press article summarized her talk: “Palin says Obama would ban guns if he could.” Her version of “the sky is falling” (after briefly acknowledging that President Obama hasn’t done anything to push common sense measures to reduce gun violence) was this statement: “Don’t doubt for a minute that, if they thought they could get away with it, they would ban guns and ban ammunition and gut the Second Amendment”.
Now Palin, of course, failed to mention why President Barack Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, or anyone else are unable to ban guns. Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case District of Columbia v. Heller that total gun bans violate the Second Amendment’s individual right to own a gun in the home for self-defense. Justice Scalia, quoted approvingly by Palin in her speech, did make it clear in Heller, however, that this right, like all other rights in the Constitution, “is not unlimited”. Despite Palin’s scare tactics, gun bans and confiscations are out of the picture, but the common sense gun laws that I, and the Brady Campaign, promote– like background check on all gun purchases, being able to stop suspected terrorists from purchasing guns, and cracking down on illegal gun trafficking as a way to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people – are perfectly acceptable.
This is not just a problem with Palin’s speech, of course, because all of the NRA speakers followed the same script. As they did last year. And the year before.
What’s even more ridiculous is the fact that the public, gun owners in general, and NRA members disagree with the NRA leadership and their politician buddies with regard to the common sense gun laws mentioned above. This is why they have to raise the specter of mythical gun bans and use scare tactics to ensure they maintain their financial and membership support.
Lake Research recently conducted a poll for the Brady Center that found a majority of Americans oppose people carrying loaded guns openly in public. Rasmussen conducted a poll on the same topic, and found similar results. The Mayors Against Illegal Guns conducted a poll in December that showed 69 percent of NRA gun-owners support requiring all gun sellers at gun shows to conduct Brady background checks of the people buying guns, and that 82 percent of NRA gun-owners support prohibiting people on the terrorist watch list from purchasing guns.
So when will the NRA’s leaders admit that no one is coming to take away their guns? Never. How could they raise money to pay their big salaries otherwise? There is no appeasing them. They’re not happy even though they can now carry guns into our national parks. They aren’t content now that they’ve destroyed the District of Columbia’s latest chance at getting an elected representative in Congress. They aren’t even satisfied with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to keep a gun in the home for self-defense.
Tennessee State Legislator Joe McCord recently spoke out against an NRA bill to allow people to carry guns into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, and summed up the problem as follows: “The NRA is not right here, and we’re not standing up to them… It makes me wonder, what line will we not cross for the NRA? I’m just curious. At what point do we say this is too much?’”
Our elected officials in the White House, Congress, and state legislatures across the country need to stand up to the NRA bosses now and take steps to reduce gun violence in this country. If they don’t, then the deaths and injuries will continue. The lines being crossed because of their quest to get more guns in more places are making our world more dangerous everyday.