by John A. Miller
National Muzzle Loading Rifle Assn. Executive Vice President
People who love the tradition and challenge of shooting muzzleloading rifles, pistols, and shotguns are about to break out of the winter doldrums and start competing in the many matches held for muzzleloading firearms around the country. Muzzleloading competition continues to attract new shooters who want to experience the thrills of competing with the firearms that started much of our American heritage.
For many years, muzzleloading firearms have been exempt from many of the onerous provisions of the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA 68). Currently, they are defined under that act as "antique firearms," rather than under the broader category of "firearms." This exemption has made acquiring these guns significantly easier than acquiring modern firearms. But given todays anti-gun climate, that could change without the constant vigilance by those of us who enjoy these guns.
Last June, a disgruntled former employee of Norristown State Hospital in Pennsylvania allegedly used a replica of an 1856Colt revolver to kill his former supervisor and injure another nurse. This tragedy led Democratic US Rep. Joseph M. Hoeffel (PA) to request the BATF conduct a study to determine how often antique firearms were used in violent crime. That study has been completed and it showed that there were 775 antique firearms used in violent crime, including 15 homicides, during the last three years.
After reviewing these statistics, Hoeffel was quoted as saying, "These results prove we have a serious problem that requires a serious, sensible solution." While in no way diminishing the tragedy of these statistics, 15 homicides in three years does not constitute a problem requiring federal intervention and a host of new regulations governing our ability to acquire and use muzzleloading firearms. A study of the same three-year period would probably show that more people were killed with baseball bats than with antique firearms, but if muzzleloading enthusiasts stand by and do nothing, new proposals targeting regulation of these firearms could easily become law.
Hoeffel has indicated that he plans to introduce legislation that will bring all working firearms, including muzzleloaders, under the same regulations that cover modern firearms. That would mean background checks prior to purchase, filling out the same paperwork required for modern firearms, and no interstate or mail order sales. The fact that muzzleloading firearms are used in an infinitesimal number of violent crimes in this country seems to be lost on politicians who are looking for ways to grab headlines, but people who enjoy muzzleloading firearms are directly under attack now for the first time in many years.
The problem for muzzleloading is that, because we have not been the subject of governmental interference for so many years, many of us have become complacent. We dont use semi-automatic handguns with high capacity magazines, so many of us have not made a politicians stand on gun control the determining factor in whether or not we vote for him or her. That needs to change and change before the elections this fall. Gunowners in this country must truly unite for the upcoming elections as at no other time in our past.
A core problem for gunowners, including muzzleloaders, is a sense that my vote wont make a difference. Nothing could be further from the truth. The anti-gun individuals are counting on the apathy of gunowners and their own ability to organize and mobilize voters to get anti-gun politicians elected. Gunowners need to be much more aggressive in the coming months to ensure we get everyone who believes that firearms ownership is a fundamental, personal, constitutional right, registered to vote and informed on the issue.
Focus on Freedoms
Worse than our apathy, is our tendency to vote with our pocketbook rather than our conscience. Because we have been experiencing good economic times, many people are willing to vote to retain our elected representatives, even if we know they dont support our fundamental liberties. We listen to the leadership of other organizations like business associations, labor unions, civic groups and those who have a vested interest that may be in conflict with our personal liberty and often vote the way they encourage us to. This must change. We must make firearms ownership our own litmus test for candidates from now on.
This column is significantly different than what I normally write on behalf of NMLRA, but I believe that this falls general election could be the most important election in the continued battle between the lovers of liberty and those who would surrender our liberty to a central government. The phrase from our past that, "Those who would trade liberty for security will soon have neither," rings truer than at any time in our countrys history. There can be no security without liberty.
What can we do at this critical juncture in our history? First, we must all be registered to vote. There is no sense in complaining if we are not ready to take that first step towards resisting tyranny. Being registered to vote is that first step. Towards this end, I would encourage all shooting clubs and organizations in this country to make sure that each of their members is registered to vote.
The second step is to be educated as to what your candidate actually believes in. More important that what he or she says is what they have demonstrated in the past. If they are an incumbent, what is their voting record? If they are not, do they have a voting record on gun issues in some other office?
Finally, you must vote!
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