Ban Gun Bans
19th Annual Gun Rights Policy Conference
by Dave Workman
September 26, 2004
"It's not surprising that the anti-gunners would be engaged in a masquerade for this campaign, they've been doing it for a lot of years..."
Liberal anti-gun Democrats have been engaged in a year-long masquerade in an attempt to beguile gunowners, and as the Nov. 2 election looms, it is important to see beneath the mask.
That was the assessment of Joseph P. Tartaro, president of the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) and executive editor of Gun Week, as he addressed this year's Gun Rights Policy Conference (GRPC) in Arlington, VA, Sept. 24-26. His remarks set something of a tone for the 19th annual conference, which focused not only on election year politics, but on past and possible future legislation that gun rights activists must be prepared to fight.
The conference, which was dubbed the "Ban Gun Bans" event, also featured a rousing address by Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), warning gunowners of the serious threat posed by United Nations (UN) global gun control efforts.
Additionally, Alan M. Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA), warned the audience that America stands at a crossroads, and which path the nation takes on election day will determine the future of gun rights and the Second Amendment.
The GRPC program also included a luncheon keynote address from Doug Painter, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a special address by Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO), a revealing presentation by Prof. John Lott on guns and crime, and a selection of panel discussions running the gamut from domestic security to hunting and the outdoors.
"It's not surprising that the anti-gunners would be engaged in a masquerade for this campaign, they've been doing it for a lot of years," Tartaro, who said he is a registered Democrat, reported as he warmed up the audience for the first day of the conference. "Democrats began their most recent masquerade last year when Americans for Gun Safety (AGS) developed a strategy to try and finesse single-issue voters in the gun rights movement."
Democrats have been, he recalled, working hard to overcome an anti-gun image they believe cost them control of Congress in 1994 and the White House four years ago. But Tartaro cautioned gunowners that what Democrats are saying is disingenuous, and masks their true intentions if they regain power.
"I've seen letters from Charlie Schumer and Dianne Feinstein and others saying we support the Second Amendment," he noted. "I've never seen them say 'we support the individual right of law abiding citizens to keep and bear arms.' They never say that. They say the 'Second Amendment' because while they're putting one mask on, they're already thinking about what they mean by the Second Amendment and it certainly isn't what we mean."
Tartaro also noted that Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry may have hurt his party's effort more than anyone by recently appearing with gun control icon Sarah Brady.
Tartaro's remarks opened the door for a verbal barrage against the anti-gun movement, and particularly Kerry, by Gottlieb, who also alluded to Democrat's efforts to re-make their image.
"Even the Democratic national committee, which supports every anti-gun scheme from Maine to California in their platform this year for the first time said they support the Second Amendment," he said.
"Polls are showing now that voters are more inclined to vote for candidates who support our right to keep and bear arms," Gottlieb noted. "At the same time we're finding that a lot of our opponents are pretending they're pro-gun when they're not."
"The road ahead has a fork in it," Gottlieb stated, "a fork that leads as John Kerry and John Edwards would say, to two Americas. One America where John Kerry tells us he supports the Second Amendment, and the other America where he sits down and meets with Sarah Brady and the gun ban crowd to plot to take away our gun rights; one America, where John Kerry shows up for a photo opportunity with a shotgun, and another America where he returns to the United States senate to vote to ban most hunting ammunition; one America, where John Kerry runs TV ads in battleground states proclaiming his devotion to the right to keep and bear arms, and the other America where John Kerry takes time out of his campaign to return to the United States Senate to vote to both ban semi-automatic firearms and against protection for the firearms industry from frivolous lawsuits aimed at putting them out of business.
"One America," Gottlieb continued, "where John Kerry tells America that no one needs an assault weapon to go hunting or for any other purpose for that matter, and another America where John Kerry proclaims in an interview that he owns a Chinese communist assault rifle that his staff admits hangs in his Boston, MA, office which is probably illegal.
"But believe me," he warned, "this is no flip-flop, it is 100% calculated. If John Kerry can get away with this, you can stick a fork in our gun rights. Because every anti-gun rights candidate to follow will use this trick to triangulate the Second Amendment."
Gottlieb listed gun rights priorities over the next few years. One of those priorities is to win in November, with pro-gun candidates taking state and federal elections. The next challenge is "to keep the Clinton gun ban from being re-enacted."
Gottlieb also opened another subject, one that was to become a central theme of the conference: National concealed carry.
"This next year," he said, "we must also build support for a national concealed carry law."
He said that reciprocity laws may expand over the next couple of years, leading the way to national concealed carry.
The subject of concealed carry was of such importance that it was the topic of an entire panel discussion on the second morning of the conference. Watch future editions of Gun Week for the details.
Gottlieb predicted that the anti-gun movement will be out in force immediately after the election, regardless which candidates win at the federal level.
He said there will be a "heavy push to ban assault weapons in a key number of states where our opponents control state legislatures. And we can expect the same thing against gun shows. There's a reason why: Our opponents know that we use these gun shows as a place to educate, to train, to reach and to turn out our people when we need them. It's our area of free speech and they need to shut that down."
He also said activists need to organize in four key states: Nebraska, Kansas, Wisconsin and Illinois, to help gunowners there push for concealed carry statutes.
The first panel session covered federal and even international affairs. CCRKBA Public Affairs Director John Snyder led the presentations, noting that the sunsetting of the so-called assault weapons ban suggests that "a great change in the gun control situation on Capitol Hill" has occurred. Yet, he warned that gun control proponents are not losing momentum.
Within days of the sunset, a bill was introduced by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) to reinstate the 10-year ban under the guise of a "Neighborhood Security Act."
"The fact is, it is not the end of the story and a lot depends on the outcome of the elections in November," he stressed.
He said other legislation that could be introduced in the next Congress could be stricter than the now-defunct ban. He also noted that pro-gun bills might surface, including one that would "put Congress on record as supporting the individual right to keep and bear arms."
Still, he advised the audience to be wary of politicians who claim to support the Second Amendment.
"They say 'I support the Second Amendment' but they interpret the Second Amendment as something that applies only to the existence of some kind of collective (right)," he explained. "They maintain there is not an individual right to keep and bear arms."
Chuck Cunningham, director of federal affairs for the NRA Institute for Legislative Action followed Snyder to the podium. He concurred that there "are still bad things out there and bad people pushing them," but added that, "we are on offense and offense is much better in politics."
Cunningham was disappointed that the Senate killed legislation earlier this year that would have protected the gun industry from frivolous municipal lawsuits.
"Leave it to the US Senate to foul up a bill that had a majority of its body co-sponsoring it," he lamented. "Right now the Senate probably couldn't pass a resolution commending sunshine."
However, much rests on how the elections turn out, he said. Currently, "the other side has more or less been reduced to defense and waiting for another tragedy to try to exploit, and as you know this issue can turn on a dime. We have to be vigilant and work as much goodwill as we can."
He noted the highlight of recent activities on Capitol Hill with this observation: "I think it's exciting to see the Brady legacy dismantled. Their beloved gun ban is no more."
"It is really hard to over-state how significant that sunset is," said Erich Pratt, director of communications for Gun Owners of America (GOA). "We got Congress' nose out of our tent."
Pratt admitted that "Getting the ban to sunset has never been a sure thing. We won because people were active."
Recalling that Bill Clinton "lamented that this issue was the one that cost him control of Congress," Pratt bluntly insisted that, "the antis are on the run."
The son of GOA founder Larry Pratt, the younger Pratt noted that Democrats realize that gun votes hurt them at the polls. He said that with anti-gunners now running for cover, it is time to "be pushing for more and more repeal votes." One of his targets appeared to be the Brady Law, which requires background checks for gun purchases.
"Why should honest gunowners have to prove their innocence to the government before buying a firearm," Pratt questioned.
He would also like to see the so-called Gun Free School Zones law undone, calling such zones "criminal safety areas." Noting that laws "shouldn't punish good behavior," Pratt said 85% of Americans surveyed in polls believe it appropriate for a high school principal or teacher to use a gun at school to defend their students. While arming teachers and administrators might be a start, Pratt suggested instead, "Preferably we should just be working to get rid of the law."
John Miller, executive vice president of the National Muzzle
Loading Rifle Association, was the first to warn the audience
about the threat that UN anti-gunners pose to American gunowners.
His allegations were later reinforced by LaPierre's speech.
Miller told the audience that there are "currently 29 full time staff people working within the United Nations structure, working full time to deprive you of your rights."
He said the UN wants a "legally binding treaty on small arms," and also wants to create a new bureaucracy to oversee and facilitate such a treaty. The long-range plan, he suggested, is to ban civilian ownership of automatic and semi-automatic firearms, and register all remaining guns in the hands of citizens all over the world. There are also plans, he alleged, to place restrictions on the number of guns someone can own.
"If you want to keep your firearms," he said, "we need to keep the UN at bay and that's an important consideration in your voting this fall."
Gary Mehalik, communications director for NSSF, provided an update on the litigation front. He said anti-gun lawsuits have cost the firearms industry $150 million so far, while acknowledging that the legal onslaught is "perhaps the best thing that has ever happened to the gun rights movement, because it has galvanized the industry."
Noting that there are an estimated 19 million hunters, 23 million target shooters, and five million muzzleloaders, he said the overall estimate that there are 40 million active shooters in the country may be "understated."
Mehalik said NSSF is engaged in an outreach program to educate the media about firearms, and to help reporters tell stories more accurately. He said NSSF successfully reached many reporters with correct information as the semi-auto ban expiration date loomed, though he regretted that some news outlets, notably "Nightline," still got the story wrong by suggesting that machineguns would be available on the streets.