What should we make of a recent editorial arguing that the Obama White House has made no attempt to infringe upon the Second Amendment and that Obama openly declared his respect for the right to bear arms during his presidential campaign?
It's true that President Obama hasn't advanced the gun control agenda. He hasn't even sought a renewed ban on "assault" weapons. However, the idea that President Obama has more in common with Wayne LaPierre than with Sarah Brady is misleading. Remember the "bitter clingers" comment? Therefore, if eternal vigilance is freedom's price, then complacency must be its worst enemy. The Second Amendment is under assault even as the Supreme Court seems poised to recognize the individual right it protects.
Rep. Bobby Rush's Firearms Licensing and Record of Sale Act (H.R. 45) would require a license to possess a firearm. That license would also be required to transfer a firearm, and a tracking number would be assigned to each sale. Most ominous is H.R. 45's prohibition on storing firearms and ammunition in any manner that a child could access.
Rep. Rush's bill assaults the basic notion of a right. Free people need no government license to exercise a right. This bill would also create de facto gun registration and render firearms inadequate for self-defense. Unloaded guns are rather poor clubs.
Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee produced the Gun Safety and Gun Access Prevention Act (H.R. 257). Section Three in Rep. Lee's proposal would impose ten-year prison sentences upon firearm sellers if they have "reasonable cause to know" that their customers intend criminality. Section Four criminalizes the sale of a firearm without an approved security device. Section Five effectively forbids keeping a loaded firearm for self-defense whenever a child is present, much like H.R. 45. Section Six requires adult chaperones for minors at gun shows. Under Section Six (b)(8), the offending parent can be charged with child abandonment.
Since a defensive firearm must be kept loaded, and most homes contain children at least periodically, it's clear that Rep. Rush and Rep. Lee intend to abolish the use of firearms for personal defense. They also require dealers to be clairvoyant. To deny sales opens dealers to civil rights violations, while approving sales opens them to prosecution. It's a catch-22 for gun sellers.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg's Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act (S.1317) denies firearms to "dangerous" terrorists (is there another kind?). What Sen. Lautenberg has authored is a clever ruse. No one can argue that denying guns and bombs to terrorists violates the Second Amendment, right? Let's see.
Section 922A(1) of S. 1317 grants the Attorney General discretionary authority to deny access to firearms. The AG, under Section 922B(g)(1), can also withhold information used in the denial from the aggrieved party. Should gun owners feel secure if Eric Holder wields such authority?
What about Pres. Obama's stated respect for gun rights? Well, politicians will say just about anything to get elected. Obama is still on the record as supporting a ban on "assault" weapons. Furthermore, his administration is backing a U.N. treaty that would regulate the small arms trade worldwide. Don't scoff. The president can constitutionally enter such treaties under Article 2, Section 2. Said treaty would become law under Article 6, at least temporarily.
Inaction on gun control doesn't make President Obama a Second Amendment loyalist. Inaction doesn't mean that politicians and bureaucrats hostile to private firearms aren't at work. Gun-owners will benefit from a dose of extra vigilance now, even while the gun control waters appear still.
Anthony W. Hager has authored therightslant.com since 2003. More than 200 of his commentaries have appeared in a variety of publications and web outlets.