Conservatives should say no to Obama's power grab

The push by Obama and the Democrats to curb our gun rights is not about safety, but power. Conservatives should simply say no

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Matt Vespa
On 2 April 2013 15:42

After the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, liberals in America revamped their assault on the Second Amendment. The news media cited poll after poll showing support for limiting the size of magazines, banning so-called assault weapons, and expanding background checks for months.

Yet their incessant campaign ended in abject failure. It just goes to show you that culture isn't easily changed, nor can it be altered at a rate palatable to the progressive left.

Social media was fraught with liberals saying how x Amendment in the Bill of Rights was more important that y Amendment, which illustrates what's wrong with American liberals. For them, everything is on a graduated scale, and every solution must be within the parameters of a top-down government model. Washington can do no wrong in the eyes of a left-winger, and that's exactly what we’re seeing in this ongoing debate about guns.

Efforts by organizations, like the National Rifle Association, to defend Americans' right to bear arms have been greatly rewarded. The pernicious assault weapons ban amendment peddled by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D- California) has gone down in flames, with less than forty votes supporting the measure. It means that at least sixteen Senate Democrats rightfully said "no thanks" to her proposal. That's ignominious.

Despite support for banning so-called assault weapons, it failed – partially – due to the blind ideology. Some of the most vociferous anti-gun zealots come from the most liberal states in the country, where it's safe to make such inane remarks about gun rights. Yet, for legislators, like Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas) and Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), that isn't the case. Red state Democrats know that one dumb move on gun rights could boot them from office. There's no doubt that Al Gore would've been elected president if he hadn't tried to "out-gun control" then-Sen. Bill Bradley (D-New Jersey) during the 2000 Democratic primaries. Without a doubt, he would've won West Virginia, Kentucky, and Arkansas if he played smart – and Florida wouldn't have been an issue.

As a result of their numerous failures to curb gun rights, liberals in the States have taken a rather nasty demeanor in their messaging. They portray conservatives as Hobbesian, gun-toting fanatics, who are complicit in the deaths of the twenty-six children killed in Newtown. The truth is most conservatives are open to gun control measures that involve prohibiting the mentally ill from owning a firearm, some background checks, and punishing straw purchasers.

But every federally-licensed firearm dealer (FFLs) must conduct a background check on the buyer regardless of residency. As for the 40 percent statistic concerning guns that are obtained without one, it's a myth. John Lott, an economist, wrote in National Review on January 24 that:

...guns are not sold in the same way today that they were sold two decades ago. The number of federally licensed firearms dealers (FFLs) today is only a fraction of what it was. Today there are only 118,000; while back in 1993 there were over 283,000. Smaller dealers, many operating out of their homes, were forced out by various means, including much higher costs for licenses.

The survey asked buyers if they thought they were buying from a licensed firearms dealer. While all FFLs do background checks, those perceived as being FFLs were the only ones counted. Yet, there is much evidence that survey respondents who went to the very smallest FFLs, especially the “kitchen table” types, had no inkling that the dealer was actually “licensed.” Many buyers seemed to think that only “brick and mortar” stores were licensed dealers, and thus reported not buying from an FFL when in fact they did.
But the high figure comes primarily from including such transactions as inheritances or gifts from family members. Putting aside these various biases, if you look at guns that were bought, traded, borrowed, rented, issued as a requirement of the job, or won through raffles, 85 percent went through FFLs; just 15 percent were transferred without a background check.

If you include these transfers either through FFLs or from family members, the remaining transfers falls to 11.5 percent.

Punishing straw purchasers is not controversial, and barring the mentally unstable from firearm ownership isn't irrational either. Some of my colleagues, who tilt to the left-of-center, argue that if you support one measure, it becomes harder to argue that the Second Amendment prevents other limits.

On the contrary, the mainstream conservative movement has never advocated unfettered access to guns, and D.C. v. Heller, while a huge victory for the gun rights, doesn't say that limits on the Second Amendment are unconstitutional. Furthermore, the Supreme Court doesn’t say that its decision should be used to challenge current laws banning firearm ownership to felons and the mentally ill.

Yet, this talk about how to incorporate mental health into a background check, or any gun control measure, is fraught with legal entanglements.

For starters, our mental health system is in shambles, and in bad need of reform. And, of course, Congress doesn't have the authority to compel states to report on the mental health of their residents. (Although, what government did – in a gross affront to federalism – was withhold funds to states in order to sweeten the deal concerning cooperation, which was noted by Sarah Kliff of Washington Post’s WonkBlog back in December. It's similar to what federal government did to the states concerning the 1984 Minimum Drinking Age Act. States that decided to keep their drinking age at eighteen would lose 10 percent of their infrastructure funding. Kliff also noted that thirty-eight states are cooperating with the federal government in reporting mental health to be used in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) as a result.)

So, background checks are fine, but it's mental health that needs re-structuring. Liberals won’t be hesitant to discuss this subject since it diverts attention away from guns, and more towards a solution to the problem. The emotional level that they need to push their agenda isn't as intense when the debate is dominated by mental health. 

In all, we have enough laws on the books with gun control. Adam Lanza didn't go on a rampage because of lax gun laws. He tried to purchase a rifle, but was unwilling to undergo a background check. For all intents and purposes, Connecticut's gun control laws, which are stringent, worked. Lanza had to commit murder and larceny to unleash his fury on innocent schoolchildren, and that's the point. He was a criminal, not a law-abiding citizen, who are the only ones impacted by new gun control laws.

It’s been proven that banning assault weapons is bad policy. In 1994, the first ban did little to reduce violent crime, and high-capacity magazines have been in circulation since their expiration in 2004. Any future measures should be at the state-level. It's not unconstitutional for state legislatures, like New York, to be stupid about their gun laws. Case in point, New York forgot to exempt cops with their new limit on magazine sizes.

This push by Obama and the Democrats to curb our gun rights is not about safety, but power. They want more control consolidated in Washington, and conservatives should say no.

Matt Vespa is a conservative blogger based in Virginia. Follow him on Twitter @mvespa1

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