You can’t afford to sleep with an elephant in the House
January 1, 2011
by Joseph P. Tartaro
Many American gunowners may be sitting back comfortably as 2011 arrives, considering their gun rights secure for the next two years as a Republican majority takes over the House of Representatives.
However that can be a risky position to assume.
No matter which party controls the Houseelephants or donkeysall of your rights are at risk on the bargaining table as new legislation works its way through the legislative sausage machine. And history has shown that Republican administrations and Congresses have been responsible for some anti-gun rights proposals.
Take the Firearms Owner Protection Act (FOPA) which passed during the Reagan years. The final bill that was enacted and signed in 1986 was not the reform bill that was originally proposed. And the bill that did pass included the last minute amendment that banned the sale of newly manufactured machineguns to qualified, law-abiding citizens.
As I recall, that amendment came out of the blue and was enacted by a voice vote; there was no rollcall vote in the Housejust a quick hustle as the railroad train raced over the rights of Americans who owned, or wished to own, arms already covered by the 1934 National Firearms Act.
What’s more, while the FOPA was supposed to take the legal risk out of transporting lawful arms while you travel, that issue has never been completely settled. Just read the story in this issue about the man who was arrested, convicted and sentenced in New Jersey for transporting his own legally owned, unloaded and cased firearms. He’s not the only example. Lots of American travelers have been arrested and lost their firearms property, if not their liberty, for transporting their firearms into or through the airports of cities where the Second Amendment is routinely trampled, like New York City and Albany, or Chicago or Newark.
I’m not just blaming Republicans for these problems but lawmakers of both parties, even when they profess support for the right to keep and bear arms, and even with pro-gun voting records. In the lawmaking process, some things are done in haste without full knowledge of the consequences or without reading and studying the measure, and at other times, because of bargaining. When Bill Clinton was trying to ram his “assault weapons” ban through and needed just two votes in the House, he got them by bargaining with a couple of pro-gun members of the House. That doesn’t mean deals are cut for personal reasons. Often, the sugar coats a pet project for the congressman’s district that will help him or her get reelected.
Concentrating too much on the fact that Republicans will be in charge in the House starting in early January obscures the fact that Democrats still control the Senate, the White House and the Cabinet, where many changes can be made administratively unless Congress acts to block the bureaucrats.
Another reason not to sleep too soundly in an environment where your rights are always at risk is that public moods can be changed quickly. Unforeseen events can cause a change in public mood. Official statistics that show that violent crime has been falling nationwide, belie the fact that the rate of violent crime in some cities is rising according to more recent reportsnot because of increased lawful gun ownership and use, but for extraneous reasons, and the establishment media is always ready to fan the flames of anti-gun activism.
Heck, the media can’t even report the facts properly.
Take, for example, the reportage on the fact that passengers traveling on some trains will now be allowed to transport the unloaded guns in locked cases in those trains which accept checked luggage, and only if the railroad is informed 24 hours prior to departure. There are a lot of conditions connected with transporting guns in your luggage.
But that’s not how the media reported the change just before it came into effect.
Almost universally, the headline read: “Passengers soon allowed guns on most Amtrak trains.”
Such headlines misstated the facts and probably frightened some of the general public. The stories were more accurate, but people tend to remember the headlines.
Then there are stories like the one The Buffalo News headlined “The return of the assault rifle” on Nov. 21.
The subhead read: “High-powered weapons seem to be regaining their deadly role in WNY crime and violence.”
The News reported that AK-47 rifles and other high-powered semi-automatic assault weapons were the guns of choice for street gangs back in the 1990s during the crack cocaine epidemic.
“Drive-by shootings and AK-47s were synonymous in some Buffalo neighborhoods as city homicide levels reached an all-time high.
“But now, more than six years after a federal ban on assault rifle sales ended, the feared weapon and similar ones appear to be regaining a foothold in local crime.”
Some of the figures quoted may or may not be accurate, but certainly the headline is not.
What the newspaper refers to as “assault weapons” never went away. The 1994 Clinton ban did not remove any guns from the street, nor did it remove them from the primary and secondary marketplaces.
Some were cosmetically changed to conform to the federal law, but the guns that were in lawful or criminal hands in 1993 were still in their hands after the gun ban sunset and in 2004.
The movies and media made these guns popular with criminals in the 1980s and ’90s and there was no reduction in media, movie or television images showing those kinds of guns in the hands of criminals.
The News claimed that during a 22-month period prior to the expiration of the federal ban on assault rifle sales in September 2004, authorities confiscated 40 such guns in Buffalo. The newspaper continued, “By comparison, over the past 22 months, 84 of these types of firearms have been seized. That’s a 110% (sic) increase in confiscations, based on figures provided by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.”
What this lengthy report did mention was that prior to the Clinton ban, the fight for the crack cocaine market by several gangs fueled the mayhem. However, what it did not mention is that the homicide rates, as well as the collateral damage, are once again linked to a new spiral in the wars over the drug market. They also did not mention that in Buffalo, the police department has been allowed to shrink in sizesomething that is happening elsewhere, perhaps for economic reasons, which has reduced the police presence on urban streets all across the country.
With slanted stories such as those quoted, one can always expect new assaults on gun rights.
We couldn’t close out 2010 as we print the first issue dated in 2011 without thanking all of those people who have helped Gun Week enter its 45 years of publication. First, of course, are our loyal readers and advertising, both of whom help make this biweekly newspaper possible. Second, we’d like to thank all those who alert us to news stories by forwarding clippings or emailing links to the original stories from newspapers, television stations and websites. While Gun Week is edited primarily for American gunowners and activists, it is surprising how many stories also come from foreign lands, especially since the issue of the right to arms for defense and recreation is becoming a hotter issue all around the globe.
On behalf of the Second Amendment Foundation and its headquarters staff in Bellevue, WA, as well as the staffs of its publications, The New Gun Week, Women & Guns magazine and the Gottlieb-Tartaro Report newsletter, we wish you happy holidays and a healthy and safe New Year.
Return to Archive Index