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October 19, 2009

Meet the Boogeyman

Recently, I got hold of a fundraising letter that Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) sent out on behalf of a new group calling itself the National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR). To give you a perspective on their ideology, NAGR Executive Director Dudley Brown calls the Brady Law (which requires federally licensed firearm dealers to conduct background checks on gun purchasers) “dangerous” and “extreme” in a video on their homepage.

But I digress... Here’s an excerpt from the letter:

Dear Concerned American,

The great pay-back has begun, and it's going to be ugly. The gun grabbers in Congress are paying back the anti-gun extremists who put them and Barack Obama in office.

Hi, this is Congressman Paul Broun from Georgia. I wish I had better news, but you and I are facing an assault on our gun rights like we've never seen before. You see, H.R. 45 is Barack Obama's gun control package, and it includes the most vile anti-gun measures he's supported over the years. It's only the first step...but it's a HUGE step. H.R. 45 establishes a NATIONAL gun registry database of every gun and its owner—for the whole county! Your private information and every gun you own would be in the system. But that's only if you succeed in buying a gun in the first place! And since H.R. 45 dramatically increases requirements for firearms purchases far beyond those ever proposed, you just might find yourself incapable of buying a firearm once this bill takes effect.

And it gets worse too. The National Association for Gun Rights has a survey ready for you to complete, but I want you to understand just how dangerous this bill is before I give you the link. Please bear with me for a moment. You see, H.R. 45 would establish a national gun registry database which would:

* Increase requirements for firearms purchases, far beyond those ever proposed.

* Create a national firearms registry overseen by the Federal Government.

* Invoke Draconian penalties for bookkeeping errors related to the Federal Firearms Database.

I'm sure I don't have to tell you that gun registration has historically laid the groundwork for total firearm confiscation. Citizen disarmament is the watchword of tyrants everywhere. In fact, the most brutal dictators of the last century were famous for their gun registration and confiscation schemes. But H.R. 45, Obama's National Gun Registry and Citizen Disarmament Act, is more than just a forced registration of all firearms in America. The bill also makes it increasingly difficult to buy a gun in the first place.

It is certainly appropriate for this letter to hit mailboxes as Halloween approaches. Because here-in are three of the gun lobby’s biggest Boogeymen—Barack Obama, gun control and gun bans—all in one neat, scary package!

Never mind that the letter describes H.R. 45 as “Barack Obama’s gun control package,” even though it was introduced in the House of Representatives on January 6, 2009, two weeks before the president was even inaugurated...

Never mind that H.R. 45 has no co-sponsors and has received no hearing in a House committee—meaning you’re more likely to see a pig fly than this bill passing Congress...

Never mind that H.R. 45, “Blair Holt's Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act of 2009,” is named after a young man who died heroically while shielding a young lady from gunfire on a Chicago bus; and fully supported by his surviving parents…...

Never mind that overwhelming majorities of Americans support licensing gun owners and registering firearms (79% and 77%, respectively)...

Never mind that virtually every other modern democracy licenses gun owners and registers firearms, and none of those reforms have led to “brutal dictators” or outright gun bans (although they have led to astronomically lower gun death rates than we have here in the U.S.)...

Never mind that a tougher screening process for gun purchasers might be a good idea in a country that routinely arms individuals who are clearly a threat to themselves and others…

I think you get the idea... While it is entertaining to see the lengths to which some groups will go to scare donors into sending cash, it is also an important reminder to all of us to check the facts whenever we receive alarming claims in fundraising appeals. It turns out that line between fantasy and reality isn’t so fine after all...

October 12, 2009

Wear Them Out

I often find that true wisdom comes from simple stories, and one of the great story tellers was the one called Jesus of Nazareth.

According to the writer known as Luke, Jesus was traveling through the borderlands of Samaria and Galilee on a journey to Jerusalem. He stopped in a village and told his listeners a story about a widow and an unjust judge.

He said that in a certain town there was once a judge who cared nothing for God or man. There was a widow in that same town who constantly came before the judge demanding justice against her opponent.

For a long time the judge refused to grant the widow justice. But in the end he said to himself, “True, I don't fear God or care about men, but this widow is so great a nuisance that I will see her righted before she wears me out with her persistence.”

In this simple story there is a great political lesson that is often easy to overlook. The persistent widow is a reminder to those who seek justice that we should never lose heart. We must continue to press on, and will be rewarded if we do so.

October 5, 2009

We Like Our Lives

In March of this year, the “D.C. House Voting Rights Act” was put on indefinite hold in the House of Representatives when Democratic leaders couldn’t figure out how to move the bill without a harmful gun amendment attached. The bill would have granted D.C. residents voting representation in Congress for the first time ever (the United States is the only democracy on earth that denies residents of its capital such representation).

The gun amendment in question was drafted by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and sponsored by Senator John Ensign (R-NV). It would repeal the District of Columbia’s new gun laws across the board and prohibit the D.C. Council from enacting any law in the future that would “unduly burden the ability of persons” to obtain and possess firearms (changes that were not called for in the 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller ruling by the Supreme Court).

Earlier this year, Senator Ensign defended his amendment with noble-sounding references to “the Framers,” “the Constitution” and “Second Amendment rights.”

However, much has happened since then. In June, Senator Ensign admitted to an extramarital affair with a campaign staffer who was married to an employee in his D.C. office. The scandal led Ensign to resign his position as the Chairman of the Republican Policy Committee. The FBI has now opened an investigation into the matter that implicates another NRA Favorite Son, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK).

Ensign has apparently become so radioactive that one Senate aide commented, “[he] doesn’t have a lot of friends up here right now.” That’s unfortunate, because in the wake of his gun amendment, Capitol Hill was the only place in the District of Columbia the Senator had friends to begin with.

Under the weight of this pressure, Ensign made some incredibly candid and revealing remarks last Tuesday during a Senate Finance Committee debate on health care legislation. Commenting on the fact that the U.S. has a poor record on preventable deaths compared to other industrialized nations, the Senator suggested those statistics were unfair because they include deaths from auto accidents and gun violence. “When you take into account cultural factors—the fact that we drive cars a lot more than any other country; we are much more mobile,” Ensign said. “If you take out accidental deaths due to car accidents, and you take out gun deaths—because we like our guns in the United States and there are a lot more guns deaths in the United States—you take out those two things, you adjust those, and we are actually better in terms of survival rates.” You can view a video of Senator Ensign’s remarks here.

There you have it, victims and survivors of gun violence in D.C.—you simply don’t count. And if you District residents don’t want to abolish your firearm laws and make it easier for lunatics to get guns, well tough luck, that’s just one “cultural factor” you’re going to have to get used to.

Hmmmm... Thanks, but no thanks. As a D.C. resident myself, I can assure both Senator Ensign and the NRA that you might like your guns, but we like our lives and loved ones even more.