Early in the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency, I wrote a column entitled, “The State of the Second Amendment in 2009.” Since 2016 is the final year of the Obama era, an update is appropriate.
In the 2009 column, I described how Amber and I wrestled with my decision to attend my first gun show. Although both of us were well aware of the fact that, by definition, propaganda is a lie repeated so often it’s mistaken for truth, neither of us was any more completely immune to it than anyone else. In fact, Amber was worried about my safety.
To take up the story verbatim, “It was a close call, but I decided not to ‘pack heat.’ It was just as well, because a sign on the front door of the building housing the gun show warned, ‘No loaded concealed firearms.’ If all a room full of crazed gun nuts could do was shout ‘Bang!’ at each other, I could handle that.
“In truth, ‘crazed’ people were in very short supply. Instead, I observed a room full of regular folks, including a number of present and former law enforcement officers. I must admit that I did fail to find the much-feared ‘gun show loophole.’ To the contrary, guns were being bought, sold and traded pursuant to the same paperwork required at more formal gun shops.”
In 2009, the most onerous proposed federal gun control legislation was H.R. 45, which, to quote the bill’s preamble, would “provide for the implementation of a system of licensing for purchasers of certain firearms and for a record of sale system for those firearms, and for other purposes.” One of those other purposes was banning the possession of any type of firearm by anyone under the age of 18.
Meanwhile, north of the border, Canadian Parliament member Gary Breitkreuz, after conducting extensive research on similar legislation passed in Canada circa 1995, stated, “The gun registry has not saved one life in Canada, and it has become a financial sinkhole, estimated to have cost some $2 billion. Imagine how many more police we could have on the streets if we had invested more wisely.”
Between 2009 and 2016, the Canadian Parliament has made great progress in restoring the rights of its law-abiding citizens. This was thanks in no small part to the new-found courage of an ever-increasing number of politicians in Ottawa to be sure, but it was also spurred by a refusal of the country’s western provinces to fully comply with the firearms registration clauses in the 1995 law.
Closer to home, in January 2009, within days of placing his hand on a bible and swearing to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, both foreign and domestic,” president Obama launched an eight-year campaign to disable, if not de facto repeal the Second Amendment. I’m happy to report that, in the words of a 1950s Arthur Godfrey song, his efforts to date have produced “heap big smoke, but no fire.”
Part of the president’s problem is the facts keep getting in his way. For example, Chicago, a city with which he should be familiar, has one of the highest homicide rates in the United States, despite having “gun control” laws so strict that the U.S. Supreme Court struck some of them down. Much the same could be said of Washington D.C., the seat of our nation’s federal government.
Admittedly, President Obama has had to deal with a Congress determined to thwart his efforts on every issue. Perhaps the nation could have “invested more wisely” if the executive and legislative branches of our government had worked together on programs and policies that really might have reduced violence.
Finally–this is purely my opinion–the president’s blatant attempt to politicize mass shootings was an obscene miscalculation. I have no doubt but that many people who would vote to abolish the Second Amendment if they were given the chance were as offended as I was.
But to be fair, President Obama has accomplished one thing. His continuous barrage of threats and bluster have resulted in him having been responsible for putting more firearms in the hands of previously unarmed Americans than any single individual with the only possible exception of Samuel Colt.
So what does the future hold? Saying that it depends on the outcome of this fall’s election is a cop out. Thomas Jefferson probably didn’t say, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” The most likely source is Wendell Phillips in an 1852 speech to the Anti-Slavery Society. Jefferson did say, “Free government is found in jealousy, not confidence…In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in men, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” In 1752, Benjamin Franklin chipped in with, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
In other words, the future will be shaped by what you and I do and don’t do.
Gerald Scott can be reached at [email protected]