By Max McGuire
New Jersey --(Ammoland.com)- Communication between elected officials and the citizenry has always been an important part of our constitutional republic.
In Federalist Paper #51, James Madison wrote that it is essential to liberty that the Government “should have a common interest with the People; so it is particularly essential that the [Congress] should have an immediate dependence on, and an intimate sympathy with the People.”
The Constitution’s framers deliberately limited the term of the House of Representatives to two years so congressmen would be held accountable by their constituents.
So while a Senator may have the luxury of a six-year term, when a Congressman introduces bad legislation, there is no escaping his constituents. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), who recently co-sponsored H.R. 3018 which would add a 20% tax to firearms and a 50% tax on ammunition, is no exception.
On August 27, 2013, the Congressman hosted a town hall meeting in Cliffside Park, NJ to present what he has been working on and to take questions from the audience. While much of the event was focused on Syria and the Affirmative Care act, Rep. Pascrell fielded three questions regarding his gun tax bill.
When confronted on issues of government trust and over-taxation, Rep. Pascrell responded that “No Federal taxes have been increased over the last four years, as of today.” Considering the town hall was just 25 days removed from his proposal to increase the tax on firearms and ammunition, this is an extraordinary statement to make. And his hypocrisy did not go unnoticed.
Not long after, a man asked the Congressman to reiterate that he doesn’t want to increase Federal taxes. Pascrell responded, heatedly, “That’s not what I said! I said that we have not had a Federal income tax increase in four years.” And with that, I had my first experience of a congressman lying to my face.
“The excise tax on ammunition and weapons has not been increased since 1942 and 1951 (respectively),” the Congressman responded, “I felt it was a good source to consider and look at for helping our police departments… It’s my job to protect them and do everything I possibly can to strengthen against those who want to harm you and me, and my family and your family.” (This stump speech was met with applause)
“You were on the front lines of implementing gun control,” the questioner began to say before he was interrupted. “Not that’s not true!” Rep. Pascrell yelled, “I was on the front lines of ending gun violence!” He continued by promising that he would never propose legislation to confiscate weapons from anyone except for terrorists, felons, and the mentally ill.
When asked whether any of the bills would have prevented the tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut, Pascrell responded that the Assault Weapons Ban would be a good start.
“I think many of our police departments are out manned and out gunned by criminals and I don’t want that to happen. There’s no need for cannons in the streets, there’s no need for bazookas in the streets. People may say that’s a free country, but my friends in the NRA don’t believe that’s a free country.”
(Author’s Note: The NRA gives Rep. Pascrell a Grade of F, the lowest possible grade)
He continued by explaining that his supporters in the NRA “want to be able to get their weapons, they want to be able to hunt, to be able to display, they want to be able to have antiques, and I’m not going to stop them. I will not accept that I don’t have a right to know — just like the government has a right to know who is entering and leaving [the country] — I think we have a right to know, the government has a right to know who has a background check and who wants to buy weapons.”
Like many other advocates of gun control, Rep. Pascrell used a straw man argument to win points with the audience. There is nothing in the assault weapons ban that deals with “cannons” or “bazookas,” and he knows that. Nor is anyone really advocating open civilian ownership of rocket launchers. Yet that did not stop Rep. Pascrell from shamefully equating modern sporting rifles with rocket launchers.
It is also notable that when the Congressman lists the legitimate uses of firearms he agrees with, he mentions hunting, display, and collecting antiques, but he makes no mention of defense of self and country. Gun control advocates repeatedly use the “sporting purposes” argument, but as the majority opinion in DC vs. Heller proves, there is a self-defense proponent within the Second Amendment. To think it took 221 years to reaffirm what many of us knew all along…
Rep. Pascrell also makes it known that he believes the government has a right to know who is purchasing firearms. There is a big difference between running a background check on an individual and keeping a record of purchases. There is no way for the government to know who is buying firearms without some sort of registration or data mining. I would warn the Congressman that his comments sounded a lot like universal registration.
I was next to the microphone.
“I think it is very interesting to add an excise tax on something people rely on for personal protection,” I explained, “because if you proposed doing that for fire extinguishers or first aid kits to fund fire departments or EMS programs, you’d be laughed out of the building.”
“No one’s proposing that,” the congressman retorted, “you need to talk on the legislation, let’s get that straight.”
Anyone who has ever testified before a subcommittee or questioned an elected official on issues of gun control will know that the minute you begin to speak in generalities or attempt to make connections to prove a logical fallacy, you will be asked to stick to discussing the bill in question.
I replied, “No one’s proposing that because they are widely accepted to be useful tools for the defense of home, property, and life, especially useful when emergency services aren’t at your house yet.”
Obviously agitated by my comments, the Representative again asked me to pose my question, which was a very simple one:
“Have you considered the implications of making firearms and ammunition more expensive for people trying to learn to defend themselves. You can give money to the police all you want, but that can’t guarantee they’ll be at your house when the metaphorical ‘stuff’ hits the fan.”
Now it is important to note that Rep. Pascrell introduced the bill just before the August recess, so the Government Printing Office hasn’t even made the entire official bill available to the public yet. Despite explaining this to the congressman, he insisted that I read the entire unreleased bill before I comment on it. His response was that there is money in the bill that would go towards firearm education. But I told him I wasn’t talking about education, I wanted to be able to train. Pascrell didn’t like this and accused me of only wanting to talk about what I wanted to talk about (which coincidentally is the reason I drove an hour to a town hall event in a different congressional district). Ultimately, the congressman said he was open to considering other exemptions for average citizens.
The next questions came from Marcus Max, representing the New Jersey Second Amendment Society (NJ2AS). First he asked if the Supreme Court had already ruled that a poll tax was unconstitutional, why wouldn’t the same logic apply to H.R. 3018. Rep. Pascrell’s response was that the Supreme Court has already upheld these taxes. He didn’t know why H.R. 3018 would be constitutional, but he suggested that we read through the relevant case law.
Marcus next asked how H.R. 3018 would reduce crime, given the fact that criminals buy their weapons and ammunition out of a trunk and not from a gun store. Rep. Pascrell responded that was why Universal Background Checks were so important, even though he admitted that there would be no background checks for buying a gun out of a trunk. This was an extremely concerning statement because it implied that Universal Background Checks should be applied to ammunition purchases as well. In my state, the State Police and FFL dealers charge $15 dollars to perform a background check. There is absolutely no way anyone will accept paying more for the background check than they do for the ammunition.
The Congressman was also asked whether a tax on firearms and ammunition was just a convenient way to tax people who didn’t vote for him. He completely brushed that question off.
“You and I cannot be one issue people,” Pascrell concluded, “because that’s what’s destroying this country and dividing us.”
So basically, Pascrell is saying defending a natural right that quite literally built this country is unacceptable because there are more important issues on the table. It’s funny that he doesn’t make the same request of gun control organizations, such as Moms Demand Action. Out of all the members of Congress, Rep. Pascrell is one of the absolute worst when it comes to gun rights. Yet he asks me to forget about his attempts to violate my constitutional rights and join him?
Quite the contrary. I will do everything in my power to oppose him, or any congressman, who tries to chip away at any part of the bill of rights. We are endowed with natural rights, and the Bill of Rights limits what government is allowed to do. For some reason, the congressman sees it as the opposite. He wants to treat gun ownership as a privilege and a guilty pleasure to be taxed and regulated alongside alcohol, tobacco, and gambling.
His bill will never pass. For now, there is nothing to worry about legislation wise. But remember, just because the dog stopped barking doesn’t mean it won’t bite you. Many of our elected representatives are just waiting for an opportunity to piggyback on tragedy to introduce more legislation. Stay vigilant and let your voice be heard.
About SanityPolitic’ Max Mcguire;
Max McGuire is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Political Science at Villanova University. He graduated from Boston College, majoring in Political Science and minoring in Arabic Studies. Follow him on Twitter@SanityPolitics