"No freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms."
— Thomas Jefferson, in an early draft of the Virginia Constitution.
In a stunning victory for common sense and the Bill of Rights, Congress, threatened by voters with having to find honest work, allowed the 1994 “assault weapons” ban to expire on September 14, 2004. The infamous ban on scary looking guns that passed by a single vote and with great treachery and deceit during President Clinton’s first term is finally dead.
Congress had swallowed the big lies that “assault weapons” were somehow more dangerous than other firearms, more powerful, deadlier, and frequently used in crimes. All lies. The rifles that were banned differed only in cosmetic features like grips, magazines, and accessories from equally powerful legal weapons. They were not “machine guns.” They were almost never used in crimes. Forcing gun owners to paint their weapons pink would have been as effective at reducing violence.
Two months after Congress passed the ban in September of 1994, voters returned over 30 of its supporters to the private sector. In 2000 the gun issue cost Al Gore, a gun ban supporter, his home state and the presidency. This year, the horrifying notion that they would have to find real jobs prevented our law makers from extending the ban despite a host of sly last minute maneuvers.
David Kopel, research director of the Independence Institute, believes the end of the “assault weapons” ban was as significant for the second amendment as the death of the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1801 was for the first. The Alien and Sedition laws forbade criticism of sitting public officeholders and stifled free speech. The courts didn’t find either of these laws unconstitutional. It was voters, through the congressional election process, who decided both were an unacceptable infringement of our rights.
There is, however, a major difference between these two political victories for basic rights. In 1801 there was no large well financed political effort to destroy the first amendment. The Alien and Sedition Acts affected only specific types of speech by certain people. None of its supporters wanted to throttle free speech entirely, or at least they understood that they couldn’t. The “assault weapons” ban, on the other hand, was seen by all of its most earnest supporters as simply a step toward total disarmament of all American civilians.
Charles Krauthammer, a Washington Post editorialist who openly supports total gun prohibition summarized the strategy in 1996: "Passing a law like the assault weapons ban is a symbolic — purely symbolic — move in that direction. Its only real justification is not to reduce crime but to desensitize the public to the regulation of weapons in preparation for their ultimate confiscation."
A quick Google search for quotes from the anti-gun lobby confirms the same sentiment and strategy again and again.
The expiration of this law renews my faith in the electoral process. It also confirms my confidence in my simplified, two rule voting decision system. Rule One: Vote against all new taxes or borrowing. Rule Two: Vote against anyone who does not trust you with a gun.
Because campaign platitudes are meaningless and promises of government loot or favor quickly forgotten, gun control is the perfect canary-in-a-coal-mine issue for deciding who is fit for office. If politicians won’t trust us with guns why would we trust them to run a government that is daily more deeply involved in every detail of our lives. Those who most fiercely support gun prohibition are the ones most likely to do something to us for which we might like to shoot them. The second amendment isn’t about duck hunting.
As far as the current presidential race goes, Mr. Kerry has never seen a gun control law he didn’t like. He does not flip flop on this issue. He voted 100% with The Brady Campaign (formerly Handgun Control, Inc.). His senate voting record includes support for banning rifle ammo, shutting up gun rights supporters, and longer waiting periods. He voted for gun and gun owner registration and licensing. He voted for every record keeping scheme that would simplify the confiscation of all civilian weapons.
In an act of stupefying hypocrisy he declared his support of civilian ownership of “sporting arms” after accepting a gift of a Remington semi-automatic shotgun that would be banned under a bill he is co-sponsoring in the senate right now.
Although Mr. Bush has been largely silent on the issue, his relentless attacks on civil rights and his promise to sign the ban if Congress extended it inspires no confidence.
If Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry were my only choices there would be no choice. They both support the war, the Patriot Act, massive government spending, and to greater or lesser extent, gun control.
Few Republicans or Democrats ever pass my two rule test. One or the other is always the lesser of two evils.
But in this race there is a candidate who passes my test and advocates political and economic freedom as a first principle. He doesn’t have a plan for how to run your life. He trusts you to run your own.
His name is Michael Badnarik. He is the Libertarian Party’s man for president. He is on the ballot in every state. He is the candidate least likely to do something to you that will make you want to shoot him. He is also the only candidate who completely trusts you to make a responsible decision on that issue.