It never mattered that semi-automatic rifles are unheard of in drive-by shootings and they are not the gun of choice for drug lords. It never mattered that any gun in the hands of a felon or drug dealer is already an illegal gun. It never mattered that peaceable gun owners weren`t drive-by shooters nor drug lords.
The only thing that mattered--to the Sarah Bradys and Dianne Feinsteins--is that a decent person`s property could be relabeled, redefined and confiscated. This is the ultimate goal of so-called "sensible gun control"--it means that the state is in control of your guns, and it means that the state can send your guns to the steel mills.
With that breach of faith--in the name of gun control--the whole debate changed for firearms rights believers in every corner of the nation. Californians learned, as did the rest of us, that there is nothing "sensible" about gun control. And Californians paid for that lesson with the loss of their liberty.
The anti-gun-rights crowd always argued piously that registration would never lead to confiscation. Well, once again, they lied. If you live in Maine, California`s reality is close to home. If you live in Idaho, California`s reality is your reality. Californians` misfortune has brought us all closer. People all over the nation are more than willing to help. And NRA will surely be the catalyst for making California a national battle cry. Their cause is our cause. Their fight is our fight!
For me, I share their plight on a very personal level. I was born in San Francisco and grew up in the Bay Area. My mom and dad still live in the house where I grew up. I spent the first 10 years of my legal career in Southern California. And my sister and her family are Californians.
When my mom was 75 years old, she bought her first handgun. She didn`t seek my advice or counsel. She worked everything out for herself--from the kind of gun she wanted to figuring out all the hoops in the law she had to jump through.
When a friend asked her why she wanted that gun, she said, "I never thought I needed a handgun until they started making noise about banning them. If they are going to ban them, I want one." That`s my mom.
Now, in California, my mother is in jeopardy, just for making that very personal, very private choice. When a disgruntled former IRS employee discharged a gun into the grounds of The White House, the Violence Policy Center demanded my mother, and every peaceable person like her, pay the ultimate price for that random act of violence. The anti-gun-rights group said the event "is the latest incident starkly illustrating the need for a ban on the most deadly categories of firearms--small, easily concealable handguns and high-powered assault weapons . . . ."
Violence Policy Center founder Josh Sugarmann--the inventor of the "ugly gun" theory of propaganda--is the creator of the whole phony issue of the "assault weapon." Pick an object, portray it as fearsome and demonize it . . . ban it.
His new watchword: "It`s the guns, stupid." I despised that phrase when Bill Clinton used it. It was rude. But here it is something deeper, more sinister. It defines the condescending, elitist nature of our enemies.
The peaceable people who choose to own firearms in America are not stupid. My polite reply: It`s our rights, sir. And we will hold to them. And we will fight to protect those rights. American liberty is not yours to judge, nor yours to take, Mr. Sugarmann.
The Josh Sugarmanns, the Sarah Bradys, the Barbara Boxers, the Dianne Feinsteins, the Chuck Schumers--they all talk about one thing. Hardware.
The ever-expanding definitions of what gun is the "favorite of criminals" are meaningless. To the anti-gun rights crowd, affordable pistols and revolvers are "junk guns." They call semi-automatic rifles "assault weapons." And they call bolt-action rifles "sniper weapons." No firearms--owned by peaceable Americans--will escape their "hardware-to-hate" campaign. This fight is not about hardware. It is about rights and liberty.
It`s about my mom. And it`s about her right to have and use a firearm for any peaceable purpose. The real issue at the heart of this war is over continued rights, continued liberty, continued freedom. I can describe my mom`s firearm perfectly. It is my mother`s personal property and her owning it is protected by the United States Constitution.
We must convince reasonable people--gun owners and non-gun owners alike--that a loss of rights to any among us is a loss for all.
By rights, I am not just talking about the Second Amendment.
When the notion of banning gun shows appears--what it really equals is a curb on the First Amendment right of individuals to assemble and to speak. Commerce and speech are inseparable.
Registration leading to confiscation raises the real fear of Fifth Amendment violations. You are compelled to give information to the state which the state uses against you when it criminalizes something that was lawful when you complied. And that raises the specter of ex-post facto laws.
And what about the guarantee that we are secure in our property, papers and homes? Los Angeles wants to fingerprint firearms purchasers. Such a proposal raises deeply disturbing privacy questions. It goes on and on.
And too many Americans just don`t seem to care. We have to find ways to reach them and make them understand.
Take the example of the Tampa Bay Super Bowl. Every individual who walked into that stadium was photographed, digitally--their faces run against photographs of known criminals and terrorists.
This was surveillance of people whose only transgression was to assemble for a sporting event. So where is the outrage? What if-instead of being subjected to unobtrusive digital cameras--individual Americans entering the Super Bowl were stopped by police officers, told to stand against a wall and have their mug shots taken? Would they meekly submit? Hardly. The outcry would have been more thunderous than the fans` reaction to those amazing three touchdowns in 36 seconds.
When I put the discussion in those terms--even though it didn`t happen that way--people begin to understand, and they get angry.
And that`s what we have to do. Redefine what is being done--not just to us--but to all Americans under the guise of so-called "sensible gun control."
Take the issue of existing Federal law--written in black and white. There is nothing that the other side can think of dealing with violent criminal misuse of firearms that isn`t already a crime. In a state like California this is incredibly important.
Much of the media furor over so-called "assault weapons" that led to the latest ban stemmed from the August 1999 shooting spree and murder committed by Buford Furrow--a racist, anti-Semite with known ties to hate groups in the Pacific Northwest. After his rampage at the L.A. Jewish Community Center, virtually all the media and White House emphasis was on Furrow`s hardware.
Lost in all of this was that Furrow--a convicted felon with a history of violent psychopathic behavior--had been previously hauled before a Washington State judge for violating probation after having been caught in possession of firearms.
His simple possession of any gun was a Federal felony carrying severe penalties. Nobody in authority cared, listened or acted. The maimings and killing in Los Angeles could have been averted.
Had the U.S. Justice Department acted--as it is duty-bound to do--Furrow would have been serving a long Federal prison sentence in August 1999, instead of shooting children in Los Angeles. He would have been locked up and the shootings never would have happened.
The Furrow crime is just one of thousands in California alone that could have been prevented.
Violent felon with a gun. Federal prosecutions, in a month, could put hundreds of violent felons and drug dealers behind bars. The Federal penalties are tough--up to a lifetime in Federal prison for simple possession of any gun. The type of hardware is meaningless.
Ending violent crime has everything to do with putting criminals away for a long time and nothing to do with banning hardware. That`s why the media and politicians who press for gun control are intentionally silent about enforcing existing law against armed violent felons. Even so, public opinion polls are showing that a large percentage of Americans are awakening to our message.
When NRA`s Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre confronted President Clinton over this issue, the dynamics of American politics changed forever. I have never been prouder of NRA. Wayne broke through to the American people with a message that needed to be heard. And people still need to hear that message every day.
We must organize to reach citizens--who until now have been only casual gun owners. We have to reach them with the truth. And the truth is, that so-called "sensible gun control" is a cancer on our freedom that will metastasize and will sooner or later destroy us all. Those folks have to be brought around to seeing that what happened to the trusting SKS owners will happen to them.
We must get our message to the good people in the inner cities to help them understand that gun control is often racist--and to let them know that the rest of the state cares about their plight.
And we must talk about the issue of self-defense.
That`s how I came to this fight. I did not grow up around guns. Twenty years ago, I almost became a victim of violent crime. I bought a handgun, took some courses and, in the process, discovered how irrational people can be--toward me, and toward something they know absolutely nothing about. I swore I would not let their fear and ignorance go unanswered.
I know from personal experience that the choice of self-protection brings real freedom. If the California anti-gun rights crowd had its way, that choice would be denied to all citizens.
We can stop this destruction of our rights only by changing those who control political power. We`ve done it nationally--one vote at a time. And we must start now in California--united and determined--and build for the future.
Those of us who value freedom and liberty can use our new national political clout to accomplish change in California. It`s going to be a long haul, and NRA will be there all the way.
Copyright 2003, National Rifle Association of America, Institute for Legislative Action. This may be reproduced. It may not be reproduced for commercial purposes.