Extension of Clinton-era gun ban unlikely

Freedom Newspapers

This campaign season, the Democrats seem to be throwing everything they can think of at George W. Bush to see what sticks. It doesn’t seem to matter if the charges are true or even if the president has any connection to the subject in question.

One charge is that Bush endangers Americans if he doesn’t actively push for a renewal of the Clinton-era ban on certain semi-automatic rifles and pistols. The decade-old ban is set to sunset in September unless Congress and the president renew it. Bush has expressed support for a renewal, but so far he hasn’t pressured lawmakers to send him an extension to sign.

With Republicans in the majority of both houses of Congress, and gun owner rights one of the party’s hallmarks, it’s not likely an extension of the ban will be approved before it expires. That’s what has Democrats up in arms. They claim Bush’s expressed support for the extension requires him to twist arms within his party to get the ban extended. To do otherwise just exposes his hypocrisy, they say.

But we think his non-support shows he knows the ban is mostly feel-good legislation that doesn’t protect anyone and might even endanger Americans.

The ban forbids the manufacture, importation and sale in the United States of several specific rifles and pistols based on cosmetic features and magazine capacity. Ban supporters claim these firearms are inherently more dangerous and unnecessary.

“The fact of the matter is there is no legitimate use for these weapons,” said New York Sen. Charles Schumer, a longtime opponent of gun rights. What Schumer and others like him either fail to realize or refuse to admit is they are not the final arbiters of what are legitimate uses of firearms. Our guess is they know it, but it doesn’t serve their interests to face the facts.

These folks have it in their heads that “legitimate” uses of firearms are only hunting and organized target shooting, no doubt the latter limited to sanctioned competitions held at formal shooting ranges. While those are certainly recognized uses for firearms, millions of gun owners don’t hunt or do their target shooting in less organized situations. Is such recreational shooting less “legitimate?”

Even gun owners can find themselves on the wrong side of the legitimacy debate. That’s part of the gun-control agenda: divide and conquer. Many owners buy into Schumer’s argument about legitimate and illegitimate firearms.

Democrat Sen. John Breaux of Louisiana noted recently, “I own five shotguns, two handguns and four or five rifles. I don’t see why I need an assault weapon.”

Putting aside the fact that the banned guns are not really “assault weapons,” our right to protect our lives, liberty and property isn’t limited by someone’s notion of which firearms we can own to do so. Those rights are protected by the Second Amendment, set up by the Founding Fathers in a time when the militia was our nation’s defense from enemies, foreign and domestic. Despite the argument that those militias have become the National Guard, we hold to the original intent of the Founders, that firearms in the hands of citizens are one of the surest ways to protect the liberties we all enjoy. In order to do so, those citizens must be independent of government, national or state. To argue that the government will protect us from the excesses of the government is self-contradictory.

In addition to the illegitimacy charge, supporters of the ban seem to believe that a magazine capacity of more than 10 rounds makes a firearm more dangerous. To bolster this claim they routinely cite shooting sprees in which a gunman, often already involved in a criminal endeavor, fires many rounds before being apprehended or killed.

Countering this evidence, we’d point to the Washington, D.C.-area sniper shootings of two years ago. It’s true the rifle used in those shootings was a semi-automatic modeled loosely on the military M-16, yet the killers most often used only one shot to kill their victims. Magazine capacity was immaterial; a single-shot firearm, commonly used for hunting and target shooting, would have sufficed.

Gun banners will use any argument they think will resonate with most voters, who too often don’t take the time to think through claims if they sound legitimate. But the activists don’t care about preserving liberties, only their impossible dream of a gun-free America.