By Tony Greco
“Common Sense” and Nonsense on Gun Control
One of the most popular rhetorical tricks in political conversation is to label something as “common sense.” Whether it’s about addressing carbon emissions, reforming the immigration system, raising or lowering taxes or transforming the US health care system, elected officials on both sides of the aisle constantly try to convince everyone that what they are selling are simply “common sense” solutions.
It sounds so benign and enlightened. Who could possibly be against something that is “common sense”?
When it comes to “common sense” gun control proposals, law-abiding gun owners may be forgiven if their BS detectors switch into overdrive. That’s because they know when they hear the phrase “common sense gun control” it is politician-speak for “take away your right to keep and bear arms.” We also know their “common sense” proposals rely on other distortions of language that have little connection to reality and buzz words designed to incite fear.
Public Health Epidemic or Crime Epidemic?
For example, President Biden and members of his party have told us many times that gun violence is a public health epidemic. Let’s take a closer look at those words. “Gun violence” is a favorite, although meaningless, rallying cry of politicians, activists, and lobbying groups who oppose gun rights. Guns, whether handguns, rifles, or shotguns, do not commit violence. They are inanimate objects, incapable of thought or action. But it’s much easier to blame the gun for the violence, instead of blaming the individuals who commit the violence using guns, when your goal is to take away the right of gun ownership.
Yet, the same politicians and groups who chant the mantra of gun violence to restrict the rights of law-abiding gun owners favor releasing the very criminals who commit violent gun crimes on no or low bail and with minimal, if any, prison time. Many in this crowd also support defunding the police – or their new favorite concept, “reimagining policing” – while simultaneously seeking to disarm private citizens and leave them defenseless.
Not to worry, though. Most of our so-called leaders who see “gun violence” as a public health crisis and want to reimagine policing live in high-security buildings or gated compounds and have private bodyguards – in other words, armed security – to protect them. Examples abound, but the most recent – and perhaps the most blatant – is that of Rep. Cori Bush (D-MI).
In an Aug. 4 interview with CBS News, Rep. Bush, a Black Lives Matter activist before being elected to Congress, defended spending $70,000 on private armed security for herself in the last three months, even as she continues to call for defunding the police. According to Rep. Bush, she receives death threats because of “people who lie about me” and deserves protection. Her message to the rest of us? “So suck it up, and defunding the police has to happen.”
Of course, Rep. Bush is a staunch advocate for tighter restrictions on gun rights. In other words, rules for thee but not for me.
The idea that gun violence is a “public health epidemic” is equally nonsensical as it twists the plain meaning of words. A public health epidemic is COVID-19 or a breakout of Legionnaires’ Disease or Swine Flu. Those in the gun-violence-is-a-public-health-crisis camp point to estimates by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) that the cost of treating firearm-related injuries tops $1 billion a year. They say that the majority of the victims are poor and, as a result, taxpayer-funded social programs such as Medicare and Medicaid bear the cost.
Unanswered Questions on Gun Buyback Programs
The simple fact is that violence committed by people using guns is a crime epidemic, and the treatment is self-evident: more police, strict enforcement of the law, and guaranteed long prison sentences that keep violent offenders from preying on society. If anything, the GAO estimates make an even stronger case for not defunding the police because too often the victims of violent crime live in poor neighborhoods and need – and want – more policing, not less.
Another popular “common sense” idea is a federal gun “buy-back” program. That’s a favorite of Vice President Kamala Harris and others such as former Texas Congressman and failed Democrat presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, who would empower themselves to dictate which weapons gun owners would be allowed to keep and which they would be required to surrender.
Here again, the distortion of language is on full display. How can it be a buy-back program if gun owners did not buy their weapons from the government in the first place? Also left unanswered are whether the government would reimburse full value to those who agree to turn in their guns; who decides which guns would be banned from ownership; and what criteria would be used to make that determination.
What about the consequences for those who don’t comply? You can use your imagination, but it’s probably fair to say that the same logic that goes into the reasoning for why violent criminals are allowed to roam free without bail and repeat offend will not apply to legal gun owners.
The Mother of All Gun Control Proposals
Perhaps the mother of all “common sense” gun control proposals is the so-called “assault weapons” ban. In some ways, it is the perfect vehicle for elected official and groups opposed to gun rights. It is completely vague and, as such, it can apply to anything and everything those who favor it want. An assault weapon – or as they’re now more commonly called, “weapons of war” – can be an AR-15, a semiautomatic handgun, high-capacity magazines, you name it. The only limit is one’s imagination.
The poster child for the assault weapons ban is, of course, the AR-15. It accepts high-capacity magazines, fires powerful high-speed bullets, and it sure looks scary. It even has AR in its name! It literally stands for assault rifle!
Well, no. As almost everyone reading this knows, the AR in AR-15 stands for ArmaLite Rifle, ArmaLite being the name of the company that first manufactured it. But this is what happens when those who know nothing about guns, have never fired a gun or even been in the same room with a gun decide they know what’s best based on feelings and not logic.
Originally designed and manufactured in 1956 for the US military, the AR-15 later became the famous M-16. Today, many gun manufacturers make a version of the AR-15, which is the most popular hunting rifle in the US. According to estimates by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), 19.8 million AR-15-type rifles, which the NSSF designates as Modern Sporting Rifles, are in circulation in the US today. That is out of an estimated 434 million total firearms in civilian possession.
To put the AR-15 in more context as it relates to gun control proposals, the FBI’s homicide data for 2019 (most recent available), show that of the 10,258 gun-related murders in the US, all rifles – not just the AR-15 – accounted for 364 deaths. That is less than 0.04 percent. One obvious reason for the comparatively low number of murders committed with rifles is that long guns are not easily concealed; anyone walking down a city street with one is going to attract police attention. That is not to minimize the tragedy of any shooting-related death, because all life is precious, and senseless violence is always to be rightly condemned.
Yet President Biden, disgraced ex-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and a host of other national and local elected officials who have never hunted a day in their lives say you don’t need 10 or 15 or 20 rounds or more to hunt a deer. They also point to the AR-15 as the weapon of choice in several of the most horrific mass shootings carried out by criminally insane murderers. They seek to paint law-abiding hunters and sport shooters with the same broad brush as the vilest mass murderers when nothing could be farther from the truth.
A related “common-sense proposal” designed to usher in strict gun control is the call for rescinding the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. Enacted in 2005, the PLCAA grants gun manufacturers and dealers immunity from lawsuits if their legally sold products are used to commit crimes and violence. Here again, President Biden is among those leading the charge. By this logic, if a drunk driver behind the wheel of a Ford pick-up truck were to mow down and kill a group of pedestrians, the victims and their families would be able to sue the company that made the liquor, the dealer who sold the truck, and Ford Motor Co. for manufacturing the vehicle.
Dismantling the Second Amendment
If “common sense” fails to circumvent the Second Amendment, gun-grabbing politicians are happy to just ignore it. As President Biden said in April, “No amendment to the Constitution is absolute.” Perhaps that explains why he nominated David Chipman, who apparently agrees with that assessment of our constitutional rights, as his first choice to head the Bureau of Alcohol Firearms and Tobacco.
Chipman served 25 years in the BATF before becoming a paid lobbyist for an anti-gun organization. In addition to his opposition to Second Amendment rights, he doesn’t seem too fond of the First Amendment, either.
In a 2019 interview with BBC television, Chipman expressed his “frustration” that US citizens can say things that “largely cannot be regulated.” According to Chipman, that makes it tough for the FBI and other federal agencies to respond to threats “when they don’t currently have the authority to remove weaponry just because people are saying hateful things.” In keeping with the playbook, he never explains who decides what speech rises to the level of “hateful things” that would enable federal agencies to “remove weaponry.”
Chipman, like the president who nominated him, also favors a ban on so-called assault weapons. Yet, when asked to define what an assault weapon is during a US Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on his nomination, Chipman could not give a definitive answer, or at least one that made any sense. First, he said an assault rifle is whatever Congress decides it is. Then, when pressed to be more specific, he said an assault rifle is any semi-automatic rifle with a detachable magazine that can accept ammunition above .22 caliber. As committee member Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) noted, that definition covers essentially every sporting rifle in the US today.
The good news for gun owners is that President Biden withdrew Chipman’s nomination on Sept. 9 after it became clear that Chipman had no chance of being confirmed. Senators of both parties said publicly they would not vote to confirm Chipman based on his past statements as well as omissions he made on a Senate questionnaire.
According to multiple news reports, Chapman allegedly made racist remarks about fellow BATF agents while working at the agency. In an interview last year, Chipman advised first-time gun buyers who purchased firearms out of fear during the COVID-19 pandemic to lock-up their weapons and only take them out “if the zombies start to appear.”
Additionally, Chipman failed to disclose an appearance on a China state-run television station in written responses to questions from the Senate committee. That interview, during which Chipman discussed the horrific massacre of schoolchildren in Newtown, CT, was used by the Chinese government as a propaganda piece to call attention to “gun violence” in America, while downplaying a knife attack at Chinese school in which 23 children were injured.
The Biden Administration has not yet proposed another nominee to head BATF.
What Can Gun Owners Do?
Perhaps the most important thing law-abiding gun owners can do is use their own common sense to fight back against “common sense” gun restrictions. Just as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said about trying to define obscenity, “I know it when I see it,” you’ll know it when you see you’re being fed a crock of lies about gun rights.
Here are four simple ways to start countering the anti-gun rights politicians, activists, and lobbying groups and their messaging:
- 1. Let your elected representatives at the local, state, and federal levels know what you think. Don’t be confrontational or impolite, that gets you nowhere and is more likely to result in your being ignored. Inform them of your opinions and make a rational, respectful case for your views. Tell them why you support the right to keep and bear arms, why you oppose a particular proposal, and why you will support and vote only for candidates who defend your Second Amendment rights. Don’t let your representatives mistake your silence for approval. Nothing makes elected officials think harder than responses from well-informed constituents who are paying attention.
- 2. Don’t be afraid to advocate for your gun rights. Some gun owners may be reluctant to speak up for fear of being labeled a “gun nut” or not wanting others to know their views, Take the opposite approach, instead. Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper, call-in to talk radio shows, post comments on message boards and social media and in response to online news stories. Spread the word to your friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Let others know what a responsible gun owner thinks and that there isn’t lock-step agreement about gun-control proposals just because someone says they are “common sense.”
- 3. With rights come responsibilities. Live up to your responsibilities as someone who is exercising your constitutional right to keep and bear arms. Above all, safety first. It’s the first, last, and everything-in-between rule of gun ownership. That means making sure your firearms are secure and keeping up with your training. Know the laws and regulations governing firearms where you live and be sure to abide by them. If you think they’re too restrictive, see numbers one and two above.
- 4. Support organizations such as the National Concealed Carry Association that support your rights as a gun-owner, foster a community of like-minded individuals, and provide valuable education and training resources for those who understand what it means to carry a firearm and seek to improve their skills.
Get involved, stay involved, and speak up for what your believe when it comes to your gun rights, because if you don’t do it who will?
It’s just common sense.
Published @ The National Concealed Carry Association
Tony Greco is a writer, gun owner, and Second Amendment defender.