Obama’s New Gun Control Campaign – A ‘Slippery Slope’
By Daniel Gallington
Potomac Institute for Policy Studies
Washington, DC –-(Ammoland.com)- Newsweek reports this week that: “Obama intentionally did not mention gun control in his State of the Union, but aides say that in the next two weeks the administration will unveil a campaign to get Congress to toughen existing laws.”
Politically, Obama’s advisors may have determined that, because of the Tucson shooting – and specifically because it targeted a Member of Congress – the timing was right to check off the gun control item on his political agenda and leverage the Congress behind him.
The advisors may believe that Obama can do this because of the public outrage at the shooting: That this would help mute the responses of traditional gun rights groups, who might otherwise focus on Obama’s past political record as a rabid gun banner, which is certainly a fair description of his positions on these issues as a state and federal legislator.
Nevertheless, it’s a very risky cause for Congressional Members of either party to align themselves with, and many Democrats will be accusing Obama of already “sawing them off” for the next Congressional election. And, the effort might also be the final straw for many independents that supported Obama in 2008, turning them to vote against him in 2012.
Because the right to bear arms is a Constitutional right – just as personal as freedom of speech and assembly – legislative restrictions on the right are among the most carefully evaluated and debated pieces of legislation there are.
It’s simply not possible to bury them somewhere, as in huge appropriations Bills, and they will be debated extensively whether the Obama Administration likes it or not. In short, gun control stories are big news with “legs”.
For a great many people, gun regulatory legislation represents the epitome of government meddling in our personal lives – so they opposes it on general principles of limiting the federal government. Also, Congress will not forget that when the Clinton Administration did it in 1994, it caused a huge grass roots reaction: The Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives because of it and the political landscape of the South and West was forever changed. Some members of Congress even changed party from Democrat to Republican. Clinton was blamed for this in the same way Obama’s health care legislation and wild spending was blamed for the 2010 Congressional election. The 1994 election upheaval was over legislation that named and restricted certain sporting rifles as “assault rifles” and limited the size of magazines. The bans lasted for ten years and were – understandably – not renewed. It was, in the eyes of the many congressmen who were defeated for supporting it, simply the worst (and last) mistake of their political careers.
It is doubtful, therefore, that the Obama Administration will be able to get significant support or encouragement for more gun control from any but the most liberal members of Congress.
However, many responsible gun owners, and even general opponents of gun control legislation, wonder what’s wrong with the concept, for example, of having more stringent requirements for people to buy handguns so that nuts like the Tucson shooter couldn’t get one?
In a nutshell, the problem is that those who typically propose such restrictions are simply not trustworthy, in that they usually have an established anti-gun track record and have as their longer-term goal the infringement of the right to bear arms. In other words; they hope to put the plainly worded Second Amendment on a “slippery slope”.
“Pecked to death by ducks” is another way these folks look at their mission.
How, for example, do we know when the new regulations would stop and the limitations would end? Most folks who have watched these debates in other countries over the years have learned the answer the hard way: Only when the right of private ownership of firearms is driven underground or rendered meaningless. The long range campaign of anti- gunners is simple: First come relatively minor restrictions; then bans for categories, their use, and possession; then, stringent new conditions for ownership, sale, transfer, control and taxation follow.
It’s because of this that the many bi-partisan American supporters of Second Amendment rights are sometimes as inflexible as those who propose outright gun bans, and therefore there is little meaningful dialogue between them.
In fact, however, the legislative trends are in the opposite direction, with states lining up to enact “right to carry” laws of various kinds, which make it clear that the “right to bear arms” is a personal, individual right guaranteed by the Constitution.
Sure, the Tucson shooter should have never been able to buy, have or use a gun, but as the facts come out, the only effective prohibition could have come from his family, friends, classmates and associates – basically anyone who knew him and had an opportunity to observe his bizarre, irrational and scary behavior. It’s also clear that most anyone in this category would have had the legal right to seek his involuntary committal and evaluation, just based on what we know so far. A person like this is dangerous simply because they are “out there” and among us; if they can’t buy a gun legally they will get one illegally. If they can’t get a gun they will get a knife, a ball bat, build a bomb or drive a car into a crowd – there is no limit to the perverted creativity of a truly deranged person who is bent on killing someone – for whatever twisted reason they may have.
So, to suggest that this tragedy was somehow a failure of gun control is just plain wrong; then, to assume that there is some way to correct that failure by even more controls over gun sales is just as fallacious. The Washington politics behind Obama’s new gun control ideas are plainly air-headed: To use the senseless acts of an insane man with a gun in Tucson as an emotional lever to accomplish the first step in an anti gun agenda – and put us on a “slippery slope” – is a political non- starter for anyone who remembers 1994.
About Daniel Gallington:
Daniel Gallington is a Senior Fellow and Member of the Board of Regents at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies in Arlington, Va.
About Cypress Times:
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