On the eve of the upcoming presidential election, Constitutional constructionists -- Patriot advocates of the liberty and freedom ordained by our Creator as framed in our Constitution -- were informed by the Bush administration that President George Bush will sign renewal of the 1994 Clinton-Feinstein-Schumer gun-control regulations scheduled to expire on 13 September, 2004 -- if Congress supports extending the measure.
It is understood that the administration's position on this legislation -- which is indistinguishable from that of John Kerry -- politically calculates that the measure will not get through Congress. This would prevent the legislation from becoming political fodder just prior to the presidential election.
However calculated, it is a stupefying example of bad judgment and timing -- arrogance in fact -- that President Bush's pragmatic handlers have taken a public stand on this legislation when the administration could have remained silent and waited for Congress to act one way or the other. In taking a position on the legislation now, the administration offended both the overwhelming majority of the President's constituency, and the constitutional foundational of our Republic -- a colossal blunder!
The Constitution's Second Amendment prohibition against government interference in the "right to keep and bear arms" is the one assurance that ensures all others. As noted by Justice Joseph Story, appointed to the Supreme Court by James Madison: "The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it 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."
Indeed, Madison himself wrote in Federalist No. 48, "The 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...." That is no less true today than it was in 1787.
Senators Dianne Feinstein and Charles Schumer were the original sponsors of this gun control measure, which narrowly passed the Democrat-controlled House and Senate in 1994, and was signed into law by Bill Clinton. Though House Majority Leader Tom DeLay says that the votes in the House are not there to renew the measure, Feinstein and Schumer will press for a roll call vote in order to politicize this legislation prior to the election.
Feinstein and Schumer even applauded the Bush administration's position on the measure, writing: "We welcome your support and look forward to working with you to gain swift passage of this legislation. With your assistance, we will be able to pass legislation to continue the ban and help make America's streets safer."
"Safer"? For whom?
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, firearms-related crime has declined 54 percent in the last decade. The number of violent crimes reported in 2002 was 980,000 fewer than in 2000. But, a National Institute of Justice report (headed by Christopher Koper at the University of Pennsylvania) concludes, "We cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation's recent drop in gun violence. And, indeed, there has been no discernible reduction in the lethality and injuriousness of gun violence." Feinstein's own California Assistant Attorney General Patrick Kenady noted in an internal memo: "Information on [these guns] would not be sought from forensics laboratories as it was unlikely to support the theses on which the [Feinstein-Schumer gun-control] legislation would be based."
Even the Washington Post painfully admits, “[The banned guns] play a part in only a small percentage of crime.”
Feinstein-Schumer, ostensibly, claims to protect law-abiding citizens. Of course, only law-abiding citizens comply with such restrictions -- and at their own peril. Criminals don't care whether the weapons they're using comports with the 23,000 federal, state and local gun restrictions already on the books. But they do care whether their intended victim has a firearm: Extensive interviews with violent felons make it clear that they prefer to prey on the victims who are least likely to possess a gun for self-defense.
In Commonplace Book, Thomas Jefferson quotes Cesare Beccaria from his seminal work, On Crimes and Punishment: "Laws that forbid the carrying of arms ... disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. ... Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man." Again, no less true today than it has been throughout history.
For 30 years, the Left has used the "safety" claim as the foundation for its strategy of "incremental encroachment" on the Second Amendment to achieve its ultimate goal of gun confiscation. The Feinstein-Schumer legislation, which prevents law-abiding citizens from owning semi-automatic rifles (so-called and decidedly misnamed "assault weapons") for lawful purposes, is no exception. To wit, Feinstein said of the 1994 legislation, "If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate ... for an outright ban, picking up every one of them -- Mr. and Mrs. America, turn them all in -- I would have done it!"
Other Congressional Leftists such as Sen. Frank Lautenberg and Reps. John Conyers and Carolyn McCarthy have drafted additional legislation to ban or confiscate millions of guns used for personal protection -- this despite the spirit and plain language of the Second Amendment. (Memo to Lautenberg, Conyers and McCarthy: What is it about "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed" that you don't understand?)
Our Republic's Founders had it right. "To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them," warned George Mason. Patrick Henry concurred, imploring future generations: "Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined."
The Bush administration's calculation that the renewal of the Feinstein-Schumer legislation will never get to the President's desk because it won't make it through Congress is a dangerous gambit, and there is no excuse for the advance notice that Mr. Bush would sign the renewal, which served only to encourage Leftists gun confiscators. That encouragement just made re-election of conservatives in Congress -- and the White House -- more difficult and more expensive.
There are at least six bills reauthorizing Feinstein-Schumer pending in the Senate and House. Congress will return from its summer recess on 07 September, and will be in session only 4 work-days before the sunset date. Fellow Patriots, let us urge our elected representatives to oppose H.R. 3831 and S. 2498, and any other legislation seeking to extend the so-called "assault weapons" ban. And let us not underestimate the resolve of those who would infringe upon our Second Amendment rights: "I really believe passionately in this," said Senator Feinstein. "I'm not going to give up." (Memo to Senator Feinstein: Neither are we.)