Ban Gun Bans
19th Annual Gun Rights Policy Conference

by Dave Workman
Senior Editor

Our GRPC 2004 report is divided into sessions for easier reading.
This is the third installment. The report will conclude in the next issue of GunWeek.
Click on the desired section to read.

September25, 2004

September 26, 2004

“The goal is to create a sustainable environment for hunting and the shooting sports in America and to support and safeguard our traditional freedoms...”

2004 Elections
Face it, explained Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA) and founder of the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), when John Kerry talks about “two Americas,” he is “not flip-flopping; this is 100% calculated.”

Gottlieb was lead-off speaker on the panel dealing with this year’s presidential and congressional races.

“John Kerry tells everybody that he supports the Second Amendment,” Gottlieb observed, “and the other America is where he sits with Sarah Brady and other gun banners to plot taking our gun rights away.”

He said there is “not really a whole lot of battleground areas in the US, only 12 senate seats that could change party hands and in the House, about 33 seats. This is where our rights are going to be decided.”

Gottlieb was followed by veteran gun rights activist Neal Knox. A former National Rifle Association (NRA) board member and one-time head of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, Knox offered an historic overview of why gun rights activists have become involved in the election process.

In 1978, he recalled, “we started bending Congress toward our way of thinking. Back in those days I could count in the fingers of both hands all the true stalwarts in Congress, and I’d have fingers left over.”

Nowadays, a lot has changed, and one sees more pro-gun votes on Capitol Hill, even if they are cast by people who are not even gunowners.

“In a word,” he said, “they are afraid of us. We threaten the number one asset of a politician, the ability to be elected, and they’re scared of us.”

However, Knox—who has often been branded as a no-compromise hard-liner—offered words of caution to those who consider themselves “purists” on the gun issue.

“If gunowners refused to vote for anyone except purists,” he warned the audience, “we’re going to have precious few times to vote and unless we vote with those who vote with us, we’re going to see our political clout disappear. We must not allow that to happen.”

But Knox underscored the importance of this fall’s elections when he noted, “One of those two (President Bush or Sen. Kerry) are gonna be elected and they will select three maybe four of the Supreme Court justices who will decide the future of the Second Amendment. If the Second Amendment is further gutted we can still defend our gun rights but it will be harder, much harder, and defending our gun rights cannot happen unless we maintain our political clout.”

Good First Step
Radio host Tom Gresham was next up, recalling, “I remember the passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968. I remember before it was passed, we were told this was going to be the answer to crime, this is going to take care of crime, but at the signing ceremony, they said this is not really going to do anything about crime, exactly, but it would be a ‘good first step.’ ”

The same thing happened after the 1994 Clinton semi-auto ban.

“We’ve got 20,000 of these ‘good first steps’ and you’ve got to keep asking yourself, what are they stepping toward?” he questioned.

Gresham said many callers to his syndicated talk show Gun Talk “are confused about this election.” He said the Kerry campaign has done a good job of promoting the senator as a pro-gun politician, yet he noted that this campaign strategy was dictated by the anti-gun Americans for Gun Safety (AGS) several months ago in political pow-wows with Democrat strategists.

“The Kerry campaign has done an exceptionally good job, taking the marching orders from AGS,” he said.

Gresham also offered a startling statistic: According to a poll he had seen prior to the conference, 42% of NRA members polled said they plan to vote for John Kerry.

“Don’t tell me this thing isn’t working,” he said. “Don’t tell me the photo ops aren’t working.”

He urged the audience in the waning days of the campaign season to challenge candidates who lie, and make corrections via letters to the editor.

“If you see it, call ’em on it,” he stressed. “A lie left unchallenged becomes the truth. If you leave it out there, people will believe it.”

Larry Pratt, head of Gun Owners of America (GOA), continued this theme and reminded the audience that this year, perhaps more than ever, “every vote counts.”

He reminded the audience that the Clinton gun ban set a precedent, and it was a bad one.

“A precedent that they could ban guns is not very good at all,” Pratt stated.

He also lashed out at trial lawyers, who “want to put the Second Amendment out of business with their lawsuits.”

“Please be motivated,” he said.

Industry, NRA Plans
Jack Adkins, manager of regulatory affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), offered details on what the industry has been doing during the campaign season. Creation of the Heritage Fund five years ago has given industry a campaign war chest of sorts, allowing advertising and responses to attacks.

“The goal is to create a sustainable environment for hunting and the shooting sports in America and to support and safeguard our traditional freedoms,” he explained.

Under the program, industry participants contribute a percentage of their revenues to the fund. In its short history, that amounts to a sizeable amount of money. It pays for advertising in broadcast and print media, and for other efforts and materials.

Perhaps the most important thing about the NSSF effort is the birth of the “Vote Your Sport” campaign. Designed to educate sportsmen about candidates and where they stand on gun and hunting issues, this campaign is proving very effective in key battleground states.

Adkins said a direct mail campaign to 2.5 million sportsmen in those states has also been part of the effort. He told the audience that this year’s campaign has been one of the worst he’s seen.

“Politics is a dirty business,” he said. “This year’s campaign seems more sordid than any I can recall in recent history.”

NRA’s Chuck Cunningham, director of federal affairs for NRA-ILA, offered more harsh reality to the audience.

“You… need to know that whatever can be won in a legislative session can be lost in the next election,” he said. “It’s important that pro-gun candidates prevail in the White House, US Senate and US House of Representatives to confirm that the Clinton gun ban was bad policy and keep it in the past forever.”

Trust the Opposition
Acknowledging some “disappointments with the Bush Administration,” Cunningham insisted that a second Bush term would be far more favorable to gunowners than a Kerry takeover.

“I can’t think of a single pro-gun vote that he’s cast,” Cunningham said. “John Kerry is without a doubt the most anti-gun candidate to run for office in the history of this country.…He says he supports the Second Amendment, is a lifelong hunter and gunowner. Challenge him where, if he supports the Second Amendment, prove it.”

Cunningham said the best way to judge where Kerry’s true intentions lie is by looking at who has endorsed him.

“Trust out opponents,” he said. “The Brady bunch has given him a perfect rating of 100% and they’ve endorsed him.”

He said anti-hunting organizations have endorsed Kerry, also. Yet the NRA has consistently given Kerry an “F” rating.

“He also is co-sponsoring a bill that would ban all semi-automatic rifles and shotguns,” Cunningham continued. “He supports re-enactment of the Clinton gun ban and he supports a much stronger version.”

Going down a short list of states, Cunningham provided an overview of how he thought gun rights candidates would fare this year. While stressing that the main focus “needs to be on the White House and the Senate,” he suggested there are several open races that might hang in the balance.

“Candidates are trying to camouflage their record,” he said. “(Doing) anything they can to try and confuse people; we can’t afford for them to do it.”

Voter Alienation
Gottlieb closed out the panel by noting that polling data shows the American public as a whole “feels a little alienated from their leaders.”

How that translates into action will not be known until the morning after the elections, he said.

Following a question and answer session on the subjects covered in the afternoon panels, GRPC participants networked during an evening reception co-hosted by NSSF and its Hunting and Shooting Sports Heritage Foundation. Shared experiences and future strategies were common topics of conversation. The reception also provided and opportunity for the grassroots to talk one-on-one with the leaders of national and state organizations.

The previous evening, gunowners from across the country gathered at another reception co-hosted by NRA and Glock.

Next Issue: Looking over the horizon at firearms legal issues, an address from Jeff Snyder, author of A Nation of Cowards, and a discussion on the differences between conservationists, hunters and gun rights activism as our coverage of this year’s GRPC concludes.

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