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April 29, 2015

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 was my host 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

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.

FOOTNOTE: Regarding so-called “gun violence” and “mass shootings”: For the record, murders of multiple people, particularly mass murders, are very rare in our nation of 330 million people. There were approximately 25,000 homicides in the U.S. in the latest year of record, which you can view state by state, and fortunately there are indications that homicides may be declining after the surge in violence unleashed by Joe Biden and his Democrat agitators in 2020.

The Demos ubiquitously and falsely label the generational murderous contagion they have seeded, “gun violence,” and focus exclusively on the infrequent high-profile “mass shootings,” which account for only a tiny fraction of all homicides. More than 99% of murders in the U.S. are not the result of mass attacks. (Notably, guns don’t commit violence, thugs and sociopaths commit violence.) The oft-cited Gun Violence Archive defines a “mass shooting” as any incident that involves a “minimum of four victims shot, either injured or killed.” The vast majority of those violent attacks are the result of drug and gang violence committed on Democrat-controlled urban centers.

In a country and culture that ignores the rising generation of sociopathic murderers – thugs in violent urban centers who are saturated with cultural violence to the point of glorifying it, it is fortunate that the incidence of mass murder is not ten times higher. Arguably, the only thing keeping that number from being higher is that 125 million Americans are legal and responsible gun owners.

Democrats don’t focus on the vast majority of murders, particularly the epidemic of black-on-black murders on their degraded urban poverty plantations because they want to avoid at all cost, the “inconvenient truth” about race and violence, which is the direct result of failed Democrat social programs. Those murders aren’t useful for the gun control narrative they invoke to evoke emotional reaction from mostly wealthy white suburban women, whom form the Demos’ largest voter constituency.

As for actual mass murders, that is detailed in the FBI’s data on “active shooter incidents” – which it defines as “one or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area” – in 2022 the FBI reported 50 incidents resulting in 313 casualties (100 killed and 213 wounded). That number was up significantly from 2020, when the FBI reported 40 incidents resulting in 164 casualties (38 killed and 126 wounded). A more relevant record of “mass shooting” data is maintained by the Associated Press and Northeastern University, which uses the Department of Justice definition of mass public shooting: “A multiple homicide incident in which four or more victims are murdered with firearms.” These numbers fluctuate significantly year over year, and range between 20 and 40 incidents.

FOOTNOTE 2: Regarding why Democrats only focus on less than 1% of murders nationwide – they are intentionally using these rare high-profile tragedies to foment fear – most notably their oft-repeated but erroneous claim that “gun violence is the leading cause of death for children.” If by “children” they mean gang and drug associated murders of those primarily between the ages of 16 and 21, then yes. Democrats are experts at fomenting fear and division.

The fear and angst Demos are intentionally propagating is taking a toll on Americans’ mental health. Psychological researcher Dr. Riana Elyse Anderson observes: “Watching it time and time again on your phone or on the headlines can really impact you in ways that I don’t think we knew before to be as impactful. It’s so ‘in our face’ all the time and we have access to so much footage, so many pictures, so many videos, so many accounts that we’re ingesting it in ways that’s really unhealthy for us.” The result for many mothers is an irrational fear that their children will be shot. That is precisely the fear that Democrats want to perpetuate, especially among their female constituents, in order to advance their gun control agenda.

FOOTNOTE 3: Regarding those so-called “assault weapons,” for much the same reason Democrats focus only on the rare high-profile attacks to generate fear and angst, some of those attacks involve semi-automatic rifles versus pistols, thus the calls to ban them. However, rifles and shotguns of combined are used in less than 3% of all homicides, but Democrats never let facts get in the way of their political agenda.

FOOTNOTE 4: Regarding firearms and violent crime, researcher John Lott reports, “Over 92% of violent crimes in America do not involve firearms.” Again, the only thing keeping that number from being much higher is that 125 million Americans are legal and responsible gun owners.

FOOTNOTE 5: Regarding firearms and suicide, 54% of all deaths involving firearms are suicide, most also involving drugs or alcohol abuse, but the big numbers in “gun violence” reports often do not distinguish between murder and suicide. It would seem that the Demos’ support for assisted suicide is in conflict with their support for gun control.

FOOTNOTE 6: Regarding alcohol v firearm deaths, Demos should ban alcohol because alcohol abuse is far more deadly than firearm abuse. More than 140,000 people died from alcohol abuse last year – that’s SEVEN times the number homicides associate with fire arms. Drunk drivers are responsible for 28 deaths per day. And notably, it is estimated that alcohol is also a key factor in at least 30% of homicides involving a firearm. (Include illegal drug use and that number jumps to about 60%.)

If Democrats are serious about homicides, they should outlaw alcohol. Problem is, the vast majority of alcohol users possess and use it legally and responsibly. Likewise, the vast majority of firearm owners possess and use them legally and responsibly. Enacting a prohibition on firearms is tantamount to enacting a prohibition on alcohol. In both cases, only law-abiding users obey the laws, while lawless users don’t.

Pro Deo et Constitutione – Libertas aut Mors
Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis

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