It has been said that Republicans are the “party of stupid” and Democrats the party of something worse. In their reaction to Democrats’ demand for gun control several weeks ago, President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared ready to prove the comparison about the GOP.
Soon after the multiple-victim murders in Dayton and El Paso—the former by a Democrat and self-described leftist supporter of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the latter allegedly by someone who, for the sake of the environment, theorized “if we can get rid of enough people, then our way of life can be more sustainable”—Trump and McConnell said they were considering two elements of Democrats’ decades-old civilian disarmament agenda: “universal” background checks and a ban on so-called “assault weapons” and ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, including those for handguns.
If Trump and McConnell, encouraged by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham, who supports susceptible-to-abuse “red flag” gun confiscation laws; Rick Scott, who as governor of Florida signed legislation prohibiting young adults from buying firearms; and Pat Toomey, co-sponsor of a version of “universal” checks, cave to Democrats on guns, they might alienate enough voters to assure that Democrats re-take the White House and Senate, and hold the House of Representatives in the 2020 elections.
However, there are more important reasons Republicans should reject Democrats’ demands on guns.
‘Universal’ Checks Are Really About Gun Confiscation
By way of background, firearm dealers are required to run a background check on anyone to whom they sell guns. “Universal” checks would impose the same requirement on everyone else.
Whenever there is a multiple-victim murder with a gun, Democrats don’t wait for law enforcement agencies to determine how the perpetrator acquired the gun. They immediately demand “universal” checks, to trick the public into thinking that the perpetrator could not pass a background check, therefore bought the gun from someone who is not a dealer, therefore the crime would have been prevented if the seller had been required to conduct a check.
The deception, promoted by the gun control-supporting media, is intended to manipulate the public into supporting the scheme, and prevent the public from instead blaming such crimes on societal factors associated with the leftist voting base.
However, almost all mass murders with guns are committed by people who pass background checks to get guns. As Professor James Alan Fox, the nation’s leading criminologist in the study of murder, has explained, “Most mass murderers do not have criminal records or a history of psychiatric hospitalization. They would not be disqualified from purchasing their weapons legally.”
Furthermore, “universal” checks would not be universal, because most other criminals—who commit the vast majority of murders with guns—get guns by methods to which a background check requirement is irrelevant. The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics has repeatedly found in surveys of state prison inmates imprisoned for gun crimes that most—90 percent, in the most recent survey—got guns by stealing them, by buying stolen or illegally trafficked guns on the black market, or from acquaintances such as “straw purchasers”—people who can pass a background check, who illegally buy guns for people who cannot pass checks, and who would still be able to do so if a “universal” checks requirement were imposed.
The surveys, which go back to 1991, also undercut Democrats’ phony alarm about the so-called “gun show loophole” by consistently finding that less than 1 percent of criminals imprisoned for gun crimes get guns at shows—all from dealers who, as noted, are already required to run checks.
The Real Reason Democrats Want ‘Universal’ Checks
To understand why Democrats want “universal” checks, some additional background is in order.
Democrats’ intent with the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA) was to restrict firearms particularly useful for defensive purposes. Told by the Department of Justice that a ban would be unconstitutional, they settled for requiring the registration of fully-automatic firearms, short-barreled rifles and shotguns, and sound suppressors, and almost imposed the same requirement on handguns and semi-automatic firearms that held more than 12 rounds of ammunition.
In 1968, Democrats imposed the Gun Control Act (GCA), which included provisions restricting guns the executive branch at any time deems not “particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes,” meaning those suitable for or adaptable to defensive purposes. Signing the GCA into law, President Lyndon B. Johnson complained that it didn’t require the registration of all guns and the licensing of all gun owners.
In 1976, the handgun-prohibition activist group National Council to Control Handguns admitted that it envisioned registration as the second step in a three-step plan to ban and confiscate handguns. It said, “The first problem is to slow down the increasing number of handguns being produced and sold in this country. The second problem is to get handguns registered. And the final problem is to make the possession of all handguns and all handgun ammunition . . . totally illegal.”
In 1989, California ordered owners of “assault weapons” to register them with the state government, but only about 2 percent of owners complied. Compliance was similarly small after New Jersey ordered “assault weapon” registration in 1990. Democrats focused on civilian disarmament took notice.
In 1993, a Democrat-majority Congress passed and President Bill Clinton signed the Brady Bill, which included a provision requiring the background check system to be established within five years. The late Neal Knox, a no-compromise opponent of gun control who some years earlier had been the director of NRA’s political division, said that gun owners would eventually “rue the day” the system was imposed.
Soon after, Democrats set about proving Knox right. First, they began demanding checks on non-dealer gun sales at gun shows. Next, they began demanding checks on non-dealer sales everywhere (“universal” checks). Then, in 2009 and 2013, respectively, the late-Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.)—hailing from the very states where “assault weapon” owners had refused to register their guns—introduced legislation to allow the FBI to retain records on people who pass checks to acquire guns.
In 2013, a Department of Justice report said “universal background checks . . . depends on . . . requiring gun registration” and without “a nationwide registration and licensing program,” gun confiscation “cannot be effective.” If “universal” checks were imposed, all that would be required for the system to become a registry would be for check-related records kept by the FBI to include the make, model, and serial number of any gun sold, given as a gift, or inherited. Such a registry could then be used to enforce a gun confiscation law, such as the one Joe Biden and other Democrats are threatening to impose if elected president.
The ‘Assault Weapon Ban’ Didn’t Reduce Crime, But It Wouldn’t Matter If It Had
On August 9, 12, and 20, respectively, former president Bill Clinton in Time magazine, Biden in The New York Times, and gun-prohibition advocate Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) via Twitter claimed that the “ban,” in effect from 1994 to 2004, reduced crime. Other writers have disagreed.
On the one hand, the disagreement is irrelevant. The right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental, individual right protected by the Bill of Rights and, as the Supreme Court said in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), “the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table.”
In Heller, the court also observed that people have “the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation,” including “all instruments that constitute bearable arms.” Although the court erred in emphasizing arms “in common use,” the 10-million-plus guns and tens of millions of magazines that Democrats want to ban certainly meet that standard. Moreover, a ban directed at guns and magazines that are useful for the purpose contemplated in the Second Amendment is patently unconstitutional.
On the other hand, it’s easy to show why Clinton, Biden, and Feinstein are wrong. All that’s required is to compare the year-to-year trend in the U.S. murder rate, as reported by the FBI, to the number of just one of the “banned” guns Americans own, the AR-15, based upon firearm production data reported by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Before beginning, it’s important to explain why, in this instance, the word “ban” is presented in quotation marks. Contrary to Democrats’ claim that the “ban” reduced the number of “banned” guns and magazines in Americans’ hands, the “ban” didn’t require anyone to turn over any guns or magazines to the government, it allowed “banned” guns already in existence to continue to be acquired, it allowed “banned” magazines to continue to be imported and acquired, and—most important of all—it allowed “banned” guns to continue being made and acquired in slightly modified form.
For example, the “ban” banned the manufacture of the first AR-15 shown below, but allowed the continued manufacture and sale of the second one. At least 730,000 such AR-15s were manufactured and sold while the “ban” was in effect.
Now, the data. First, as illustrated in the graph immediately below, the annual murder rate (murders per 100,000 population) began declining in 1991, three years before the “ban” was imposed. Furthermore, while the “ban” was in effect (1994-2004), the murder rate continued declining while Americans bought the 730,000 AR-15s noted above, along with an unknown number of other similarly modified rifles, as well as countless “banned” rifle and handgun magazines.
Second, as shown in the next graph, all of the other crimes tracked by the FBI declined at the same time: rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft. Something was causing crime to decline, but it wasn’t anything to do with guns.
Finally, as illustrated in the next graph, since the “ban” expired in 2004, Americans have bought another 10 million AR-15s, and through the first half of 2018 (the most recent data) the annual murder rate has averaged 18 percent lower than when the “ban” was in effect. It’s worth noting that rifles, of which those like the AR-15 are a subset, are used in 2-3 percent of murders, while 27 percent of murders are committed without firearms of any type.
Reducing Violence Isn’t Why Democrats Want To Ban and Confiscate Guns
No one should believe Democrats when they say they want to ban and confiscate guns because they oppose “violence.” After all, the old Democrat Party was the party of the Ku Klux Klan and the new Democrats’ underlying ideology is leftism, the adherents of which around the world over the last 200-plus years have murdered “enemies of the revolution” as a matter of course.
Leftists in this country might say that what their brethren have done in other countries doesn’t mean they would do the same thing here. However, the FBI reported in “Terrorism 2002-2005” that the most serious domestic terrorist threats in this country during the preceding 30-plus years were “leftist-oriented extremist groups, that generally professed a revolutionary socialist doctrine and viewed themselves as protectors of the people against the adverse effects of capitalism and U.S. foreign policies.”
The FBI noted that in the 1950s, leftists attempted to assassinate President Harry S. Truman and “opened fire on a session of the U.S. House of Representatives,” and in the 1970s bombed Senate and State Department buildings in Washington, D.C.
More recently, there have been the Bernie Sanders supporter who tried to kill Republican members of Congress playing softball, the murders in Dayton by a Warren supporter, the murders in El Paso allegedly by an environmentalist fanatic, numerous violent attacks by members of Antifa, the felony assault upon Sen. Rand Paul, the attack upon a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office with a Molotov cocktail and, as Chrissy Clark detailed for The Federalist on August 14, several attacks upon Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices around the country.
Then there are the supporters of a Democrat state senator pretending to assassinate President Trump, the various leftwing entertainers who have portrayed Trump’s assassination onstage and in music videos, threatened to suffocate Trump to death, posed for photographers holding a facsimile of the president’s guillotined head, and talked about blowing up the White House. And the college professor in Iowa who said “I am Antifa” and that he wanted to hit Trump with a baseball bat and to kill all Christians.
And then there is the Washington Post columnist who encouraged fellow travelers to “burn down the Republican Party” and to leave no “survivors,” and the people who publicly celebrated the death of Republican philanthropist David Koch, and Democrats’ limitless support for abortions, which in the U.S. outnumber firearm-related murders by at least 50 to 1.
Democrats are going after guns for two reasons. First, since the advent of the big-government Democrat Party under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, they have increasingly opposed people having arms with which they might most easily defend themselves against government overreach.
After imposing the NFA and GCA, primarily to restrict guns particularly useful for defensive purposes, Democrats in the late 1970s and 1980s supported campaigns to get handguns banned. In 1986, when most members of the House of Representatives were not present, Democrats snuck into the otherwise favorable Firearms Owners’ Protection Act an amendment banning newly manufactured fully-automatic firearms. In 1989, they began campaigning to ban various semi-automatic firearms. Democrats also signed amicus briefs supporting the District of Columbia’s handgun ban in Heller.
Second, midway through the Obama administration, “progressives” decided to use “guns” as a core issue around which to rally their voter base.
The Second Amendment Protects the Right to ‘Weapons Of War’
Democrats, who have disparaging names for everything they don’t like, call rifles like the AR-15 “weapons of war.” However, if the rifles are what Democrats say they are, they are quintessentially what the Second Amendment prohibits the government from banning.
After all, the amendment was adopted to protect the right to keep and bear arms for defense against tyranny. The statements of the Founding Fathers leave no doubt on this point. Here are some examples.
In The Federalist No. 28, Alexander Hamilton wrote, “If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no resource left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government.”
In The Federalist, No. 29, Hamilton added that an army “can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little, if at all, inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their fellow citizens.”
In The Federalist, No. 46, James Madison, who later introduced the Bill of Rights in the House of Representatives, wrote that tyranny would be opposed by “citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties.”
And Then There Is the Supreme Court
Democrats claim that the Supreme Court never considered the Second Amendment to protect an individual right to arms before Heller. To the contrary, the court did so in U.S. v. Cruikshank (1876), Presser v. Illinois (1886), Miller v. Texas (1894), U.S. v. Miller (1939), and U.S. v. Verdugo-Urquidez (1990). Heller was only the first case in which the court was asked specifically to state whose right the amendment protects.
In U.S. v. Miller, cited by Heller, the court further recognized that the amendment protects the right to arms that have a “reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia,” including those that are “part of the ordinary military equipment” and any others the use of which “could contribute to the common defense.”
For that proposition, the court cited the decision of the Tennessee Supreme Court in Aymette v. State (1840), that “the arms, the right to keep which is secured are such as are usually employed in civilized warfare, and that constitute the ordinary military equipment. If the citizens have these arms in their hands, they are prepared in the best possible manner to repel any encroachments upon their rights by those in authority.”
U.S. v. Miller also cited U.S. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story’s “Commentaries on the Constitution” (1833), which noted that “The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms . . . offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers, and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.”
President Trump, McConnell, and other Republicans should stand up to Democrats and explain to the American people why they are doing so. Showing courage and commitment to their promises might help them in the 2020 elections and, more importantly, help avert what the Second Amendment was designed to prevent.