2016 Presidential Field on Guns and Liberty
Remarks at the 2015 NRA Leadership Forum
“The ultimate authority … resides in the people alone. [T]he advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation … forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any.” —James Madison (1788)
Recently, the National Rifle Association’s leadership hosted me at their 144th convention in Nashville. Though an NRA Life Member for decades, this was the first NRA convention I have attended, as the demands of publishing deadlines don’t allow much travel.
While I never made it to the exhibit halls in the three days I was there, I did attend a succession of leadership meetings and events, and met many remarkable Patriots. And it was great to connect with some old friends, including one of the NRA’s most tireless Second Amendment (2A) advocates, Joe DeBergalis. Fact is, anywhere you turned in my home state’s capital, there were Patriot supporters of the Second Amendment — more than 80,000 of them.
I also had the opportunity to meet with some of the announced and potential 2016 presidential candidates. (No, Hillary Clinton was not there, but I assume you know her position on guns and Liberty!) They each delivered brief remarks regarding their record of support for the Second Amendment, and below I have provided links to each speaker’s comments.
However, before getting to the candidates, allow me to provide a brief context for their remarks, and note that I can assure you: Each and every speaker clearly grasped and articulated two key principles.
First, Liberty is an “innate and inalienable right” as set forth in our Declaration of Independence and enshrined in our Constitution, the latter establishing Rule of Law in order to protect those rights.
Second, the Rights of Man are only as sustainable as they are defendable — thus our Founders codified both the innate right to and obligation for that defense, specifically in Article the Second (AKA: “Second Amendment”) of our Constitution’s Bill of Rights – as ratified December 15, 1791. The Second Amendment states plainly: “A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”
For the record, in the context intended by our Founders and affirmed by the Supreme Court over the last two centuries, “a well regulated Militia” refers to the People.
While the 10 Articles ratified and appended to our Constitution as the Bill of Rights are commonly referred to as “Amendments,” there is a distinction between those Articles and subsequent Amendments. In the preamble to the Bill of Rights, our Founders noted that the States “expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added,” and that these Articles “when ratified by three fourths of the said Legislatures, to be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution.” In other words, our Founders intended those Articles to be inherent to our Constitution, while Amendments alter parts of our Constitution.
However, the addition of the Bill of Rights was the subject of hotly contested debates among our Founders. Many objected to enumerating innate rights “endowed by our Creator” because such a listing might convey that those indigenous rights are subject to alteration or amendment — which they most assuredly are not.
Indeed, both Article I and II of the Bill of Rights, while not specifically altered by amendment since ratification, have certainly been subject to much alteration by judicial meddling and mischief.
In regard to the rights enumerated in the Second Amendment, the nation’s leading organization holding that line is the NRA, America’s longest-standing civil rights organization. The NRA, originally chartered in New York in 1871, now has more than five million active members, 117,000 Certified Firearms Instructors and more than 800,000 Americans attend NRA firearms courses annually.
Regarding the NRA’s conventions, it is worth noting that whenever the NRA is in town the host city’s police department attests that the crime rate drops off the charts. Too bad this year’s convention was not this week in Baltimore. Of course, Maryland has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation, and there is a direct and demonstrable correlation between gun restrictions and crime. Cities with the highest crime rates also have the strictest gun laws.
According to the most reputable polling on firearms, there are more than 60 million gun owners in the U.S. More than 40% of American households have firearms, and 65% of those are handguns. (Of course, many Americans simply refuse to answer pollsters’ questions as to whether they own a firearm.)
The most recent Pew Research Center poll on firearms reports a significant shift in support for gun rights and ownership. That shift was the subject of a recent interview with Yale researcher John Lott, who is now Director of the Crime Prevention Research Center.
Now, there are some folks who don’t understand the enthusiasm of their fellow Americans for lawful gun ownership, but they most certainly know somebody who owns a firearm. I recommend they thank those gun owners for their commitment to the Second Amendment, because they are exercising the Constitution’s first defense for all the rights of citizens.
The NRA convention’s welcoming comments were delivered by my friend, Sen. Bob Corker, who has a solid record of 2A support. — Remarks
Introducing the Leadership Forum lineup was the Executive Director of NRA-ILA, Chris Cox: “Friends, we are here to celebrate American values, and lying is not one of them, so you are not going to hear from [a few people who were not invited].” Chris included a video featuring Barack “I believe in the Second Amendment” Obama, Joe “The president and I support the Second Amendment” Biden, Michael “Nobody questions the Second Amendment right to bear arms” Bloomberg, and Chuck “There is a Second Amendment right to bear arms” Schumer. He concluded, “But you will hear from some true champions of freedom.” — Remarks
Chris was followed by NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre: “If you’re like most of the people I’ve talked to all over America, you’re worried about our country. Something has gone terribly wrong. In so many ways, the values we care most about have been diminished, discounted and discarded by our political leadership. Values like honesty, integrity, virtue, generosity, kindness, civility — the core values upon which we were raised — have been replaced in Washington with lying, conniving, getting ahead at all cost, and building personal fortune and fame among a fawning media that is all too eager to raise their own ratings, wealth and celebrity. … I vow on this day, NRA members will stand shoulder to shoulder with you and with good, honest, decent Americans. We will stand and we will fight with everything we’ve got and, in 2016, by God, we will elect our next great president of these United States and it will not be Hillary Rodham Clinton!” — Remarks
Note: I have listed the speakers in order of appearance, not preference. All were received with enthusiasm, which, hopefully, helps reduce the likelihood of self-defeating, fratricidal infighting.
Hon. Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana — Remarks
Hon. Scott Walker, Governor of Wisconsin — Remarks
Hon. Rick Santorum, former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania — Remarks
Hon. Rick Perry, former Governor of Texas — Remarks
Hon. Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida — Remarks
Dr. Benjamin Carson — Remarks
Hon. Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator from Florida — Remarks
Hon. Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas — Remarks
Hon. Ted Cruz, U.S. Senator from Texas — Remarks
Other speakers whose remarks are well worth listening to:
CNN’s S.E. Cupp — Remarks
Sheriff David Clarke from Milwaukee, Wisconsin — Remarks
Hon. Lindsey Graham, U.S. Senator from South Carolina — Remarks
And even “The Donald” Trump had a few things to say — Remarks
All said, the Second Amendment will be well represented in 2016, including by those conservative contenders who were not able to make the event this year.
If you have yet to become a vocal 2A supporter, get on board. Read more on the Second Amendment here and visit our Second Amendment store. Promote Liberty and recruit additional Patriots to our ranks by distributing our Essential Liberty Pocket Guide to your family, friends and colleagues.
Pro Deo et Constitutione – Libertas aut Mors
Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis