"We did it once and now we will do it again, and this time we’re going to finish the job, and this time should be a lot easier because we have done so much with our military, with our vets, with the Second Amendment," President Donald Trump told wildly enthusiastic supporters at his 2020 campaign kickoff rally in Orlando. "In the face of new threats, we will defend privacy, free speech, religious liberty, and the right to keep and bear arms. We will protect our Second Amendment."
Those are great words, aren’t they? When was the last time you heard a president say them? That alone is a refreshing change.
So how’s he doing on actions to back them up?
Before we explore that, let’s get some things stated right up front, because “experience hath shewn” that any criticism of the president on guns draws no small amount of furious “Would you rather have Hillary”?” diversions from a faction of apologist gun owners ready to eviscerate anyone who suggests the emperor’s new clothes are anything short of magnificent. Besides, any perceived reversals of campaign pledges can always be rationalized as 3D chess moves by a guy playing at a level the whiners just aren’t savvy enough to understand.
Let’s stipulate up front that if Trump loses the presidency to any of the Democrats who have thrown their hats in the ring, successful attacks on the Second Amendment will go through the roof. The balance of power in the Supreme Court and lower federal courts will go through a polar reversal. And the tens of millions of illegal immigrants moved to the fast lane on the – forget “pathway” – superhighway to citizenship could just mean the Republican Party will be doomed as a credible counterweight.
Gun owners will be screwed. The hope for peaceable means of redress will be just that. This time, when Dianne Feinstein says “Mr. and Mrs. America turn 'em all,” your choice will be to obey or become a “gun criminal” at risk for life-destroying penalties with the choice to either fight or hope the amped-up assault team coming through your door allows you to surrender.
Are you ready to go outlaw, and domestic “Red Dawn,” with no end in sight until resulting festivities are over? No? Then you’d better hope the Democrats can be held back.
Which makes it fair to ask “At what cost?”
OK, so if that’s the case, why bring up Donald Trump back-sliding on the Second Amendment and jeopardize his chances? Would I rather see Dopey Joe, or Fauxcahontas, or Bernie the Bolshevik, or (an as-yet unannounced but don’t be surprised) Marxist Michelle win?
If the betrayals we’ve seen from Trump so far are indicative of a willingness to infringe even further, we’re entering frog in heating pot territory. Slow sellouts rationalized as “necessary compromises” might get us to the same place as out-and-out full frontal blitzes, but they’ll do it in such a way that most won’t think to jump until it’s too late.
Unlikely? Based on what? Besides, don’t tell me, tell the gun owners threatening to sit the election out because the president has already shown what they’re convinced are his true colors. Many insist he still ultimately believes in his past statements when he expressed support for bans on semi-automatic firearms, waiting periods, and ending private sales. Many have not forgotten his past actions, when he made substantial contributions to the likes of the Clinton Foundation, Chuck Schumer, Frank Lautenberg, Ted Kennedy, Harry Reid and Charlie Rangel.
Has everyone seen the acronym “TINVOWOOT”? It stands for “There Is No Voting Our Way Out of This,” and it’s being expressed in a growing number of internet comments following political articles, on blogs and in forums. Lest you think it’s just a handful, of bellyachers, consider the reality that the upcoming election promises to be another close one again decided by electoral votes, with highly-motivated Democrats out for blood. The president can’t afford to douse the fire in any bellies.
And a growing number of RKBA influencers are noticing.
- “How Trump can lose in 2020. Keep up the anti 2A talk,” Gun Talk Radio host Tom Gresham advised his Twitter followers. “Gunnies won't vote for your opponent, but they will just stay home.”
- “We need to warn him that if he bans suppressors, not only will he be waging war on the Second Amendment, he’ll be waging war against his own political base,” Gun Owners of America alerted its members. “After all, because of the President’s actions, gun owners in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa, Florida, and other must-win states may not show up to vote for him again in 2020.”
- “President Trump is running for re-election as a pro-Second Amendment President,” Breitbart News Second Amendment Columnist AWR Hawkins noted. “He has already banned bump stocks and he risks the loss of pro-gun voters if he goes after the suppressors they have acquired by jumping through bureaucrats’ numerous gun control hoops.”
- “President Trump stands to lose voters in 2020 if his administration undermines the Second Amendment,” GOA’s legislative counsel Michael Hammond elaborated in a warning published by Daily Caller. “Unfortunately, that’s exactly what’s happening.”
No one can restore receptivity to another Trump term with these disaffected gun owners but the president himself. Understand these are freedom-minded Americans who “won’t be fooled again,” and who will remain unmoved by yet more insincere “happy talk.” Think of the character Fletcher from “The Outlaw Josey Wales”:
“Don’t p*** down my back and tell me it’s rainin’.”
The Litany of Sins
If we’re to attempt to pull Trump out of a hole of his own digging, first we need to understand where the president has fallen short of his repeated promises:
“[W]e will protect your Second Amendment. Your Second Amendment rights are under siege, but they will never, ever be under siege as long as I’m your president.”
How’s he doing on “shall not be infringed”?
We’ve seen the “bump stock” outrage, where upwards of a quarter million probable Trump voters have been turned into felons with the stroke of a pen. As I’ve noted before, anyone who thinks this is about bump stocks has missed the point: This is about arbitrarily changing legal definitions and assuming undelegated powers, something a Democrat successor will be more than happy to expand on, as some of the current crop of candidates like Kamala Harris have already threatened to do.
We’ve seen support for “red flag” gun confiscation where the target has not even been charged, let alone convicted, of a crime, and the president’s sentiment has been “Take the guns first, go through due process second.”
We’ve seen the president tell English gun-grab zealot Piers Morgan that he’s considering a ban on suppressors after one was used in a “mass shooting” (in yet another “gun-free” zone). In the same interview, the only reason he could think of for owning an AR-15 was that “people feel that the rifles are fun to shoot” and “hunters need guns.”
We’ve seen tough talk but little effective action on illegal immigration (not to excuse an obstructionist Congress, Democrat vote-seekers, GOP cheap labor frauds, and “activist” judges). We’ve seen Trump sending unelected Jared out to cut deals on “legal” ones (with no thought paid to how those on a “pathway to citizenship” and their future “birthright citizen” children will vote, which experience shows to be overwhelmingly Democrat).
And let’s not forget that Trump's suggestion to deny all gun purchases to Americans under 21 would lead to declaring decorated soldiers not yet of age "prohibited persons," as well as effectively disarm a major part of the "unorganized militia" as defined by U.S. Code.
But What about Appointments?
That’s a strong argument for keeping Donald Trump in office, particularly for the courts. But the fact is, we still don’t know how faithful Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch are going to be on Second Amendment cases, we’ve been astoundingly betrayed by past Republican appointments, and the odds are new cases are going to be influenced more by stare decisis (court precedent) than by our favorite quotes from Sam Adams and Tench Coxe.
Gorsuch’s opinion that “the Second Amendment ... may not be infringed lightly” hardly rises to the level of “shall not be infringed,” and “[d]uring his confirmation hearings, Justice Gorsuch assured Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, when asked specifically about the banning of M-16 rifles and the like, that he would follow the law in Heller.” Similarly, Kavanaugh appears supportive of a rationale for licensing, and does not appear to agree that “in common use” should apply to arms a militia would need to be an effective counterforce, not just to what is commercially “popular” for civilian uses.
As for executive appointments, let’s review the bidding:
- FBI Director Christopher Wray has, under oath, adopted the same language as arch- gun foe Richard Blumenthal on “commonsense gun reform legislation” to address “gun violence.”
- Attorney General William Barr, also under oath, has stated his support for Brady Bill waiting periods, semi-auto bans, magazine limitations and “reasonable steps” to regulate transfers. He told Dianne Feinstein “red flag” laws are the "single most important thing we can do in the gun control area." He is fighting to defend the so-called “bump stock ban while his DOJ sandbags on a related Freedom of Information Act request. Moreover, gun owners with long memories have not forgotten Ruby Ridge, when Barr “was top cop during the federal siege and killing of Randy Weaver's wife and [12-year-old] son.”
- ATF Director nominee Chuck Canterbury, in his capacity of President, Fraternal Order of Police, is down with nationwide concealed carry for cops, but opposed it for the rest of us. He also supported anti-gun Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court, and of Eric Holder’s nomination for Attorney general testified:
“His positions, his policy work, and the official acts were consistent with the goals of the FOP, and we have every reason to believe that he will be an exemplary U.S. Attorney General with whom we will have a very productive relationship.”
State of the States
“Where is President Trump as some states reduce RKBA to sub-foreign levels?” this column asked a year ago. Aside from staying silent and not using his bully pulpit to be a leader in condemning an endless onslaught of infringements, his support of Republican “extreme risk protection order” legislation actually encourages multi-pronged innovative attacks.
"I think passing a federal law is probably beyond what the market will bear,” Lindsey Graham ruefully admitted, as if marketability is the issue. “But creating an incentive at the federal level for states who want to go down this road...I think that's the best way, at least initially to solve this problem."
Well, it will deflect blame from the enablers. It will also allow those states to get creative at seeing just how far they can push the envelope courtesy of your tax dollars. Any challenges will be tied up in the courts for years, with precedents created and upheld by activist judges who would like nothing more than to issue unchallengeable orders.
What about laws the states pass without subsidies? Let’s look at the higher-profile efforts reported by NRA-ILA just for June:
- As this article “goes to press,” California’s “ammunition background check” bill is set to take effect and a host of other edicts is working its way through the system.
- Washington State is making shooting ranges prohibitively expensive to operate with draconian lead exposure rules for workers that exceed federal and state standards. They’re also holding hearings on rifle transfer fees. As of July 1, the draconian I-1639, making all semiautomatic rifles “assault rifle,” raising the minimum age for purchasing them to 21, imposing a 10-day waiting period on rifle purchases, and expanding background checks to require a waiver of medical privacy rights, takes effect.
- The New Hampshire House of Representatives is choosing “die” over “live free” with a bill that restricts self-defense on school grounds.
- In New Jersey, both chambers of the legislature approved so-called “smart gun”legislation and there’s “a package of anti-gun bills” in the works.
- Nevada just enacted infringements that will “create red flag/pre-crime protective orders ... impose mandatory storage requirements [and] criminalize certain firearm modifications.”
- Virginia, under Gov. Ralph “Blackface” Northam, is going nuts, with efforts underway to criminalize private transfers, ban semi-autos and suppressors, impose one-gun-a-month, confiscate guns without due process, mandate one-size-fits-all storage, require “lost or stolen” reporting and weaken preemption/create a “patchwork quilt” of diktats.
- Maine is following suit on that, “to allow local municipalities to create a patchwork of laws, including prohibitions on where law-abiding citizens may carry.”
- In Illinois, Democrat politicians intent on banning commonly owned firearms as “assault weapons” are open in their arrogance, with State Sen. Julie Morrison smugly threatening confiscation instead of fines.
- In Connecticut, the governor signed three bills before the 2019 Legislative Session adjourned, requiring “lock up your safety” when a minor is in the residence, essentially ending manufacturing firearms for personal use and requiring locked safes in vehicles where firearms are transported.
- In Vermont, the “Republican” governor vetoed a waiting period to buy a gun, but he has approved “gun control” before. Count on the proponents of this latest infringement to rework it and be back. After all, Phil Scott has already signed bills “to remove guns from people at ‘extreme risk’ of violence or people who have been arrested on suspicion of domestic violence ... expand gun background checks, limit magazine capacity, ban bump stocks and require people under 21 years old to take a hunter safety course before they can buy a gun.”
- Rhode Island is going after “3D printed guns” as its “solution” to a non-problem that will have the added effect of threatening “the home manufacture of firearms or accessories.”
OK, but those are the states. What does that have to do with President Trump? He’s not the king and we do have (or are supposed to have) federalism.
True, but the Constitution is the “supreme Law of the Land,” and as Commander in Chief of “the Militia of the several States,” he not only has an interest but a duty to ensure “the security if a free State” is not endangered due to neglect, deliberate indifference or outright sabotage by domestic enemies. That’s a whole ‘nother topic requiring exploration because it really is at the crux of where we’ve gone wrong.
For now, let’s just focus on the fact that Donald Trump was elected under the promise of leadership, so how about showing some? What’s stopping him from making an occasional comment to his gun-owning supporters alerting them to dangers from their states and urging them to mobilize and oppose infringements? It’s not like a staffer couldn’t routinely monitor this stuff and pass on developments that would literally only take him seconds to comment or “tweet” on.
Taking it a step further, a president who was truly “pro Second Amendment” would expect his Justice Department to enforce it just as surely as it would were states violating the First, Fourth or Fifth Amendments, or anti-discrimination laws.
So What’s to be Done?
He hasn’t done everything wrong, and credit is deserved where due.
Did I mention Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the UN Arms Trade Treaty? True, he was never going to sign it anyway, but the largely symbolic gesture with the stirring rhetoric about “never surrender[ing] American sovereignty” resonated with the NRA members when he announced it, and the crowd, as they say, went wild. The thing is, his Directorate of Defense Trade Controls may have offset much of that by banning the export of magazines with an original capacity of over 32 rounds.
He also did good rolling back the Obama rule disarming people who need help with their finances, which the antis were quick to paint as letting crazy people have guns.
I have another small show of good faith he can perform that would cost him nothing. For whatever reason, probably ignorance and laziness on the part of staffers who don’t know any better, the White House website section on the Constitution has not been updated since Barack Obama left, and it claims “The Second Amendment gives citizens the right to bear arms.” I’m asking readers here to help by signing and sharing a petition asking him to take a few seconds and order that fixed.
OK, but what else can we get him to do? We know the man didn’t get where he is by having a small ego or self-doubts, and he doesn’t appear the type to “take it back” on “bump stocks,” on “red flags” and on the other infringements he believes he can get away with.
“Who else are they going to vote for,” the late RNC Chair Lee Atwater is reputed to have said about gun owners. He’s been proven “right” time and again as desperate gun owners prove there’s no amount of betrayal they won’t tolerate because “otherwise a Democrat will win!”
The problem here, as mentioned above, is that 2020 is going to be close. He can’t afford to lose any gun owners due to alienation, and it remains to be seen if a critical mass of TINVOWOOTers mean it when they say they’ve had it with elections.
What’s certain is, if Trump loses, we’ll get to see how serious many are about noncompliance and “Molon Labe!”
I’m sure some of you are going to be angry with me for bringing all this up, and with Firearms News for hosting it. Sorry, but I believe in making important choices only after exhaustive due diligence. If you just want to hear superlatives, you came to the wrong place. Besides, who here would buy a damn used car without a thorough examination and history check?
Only by being aware of what the problems are and where course corrections are needed can we make sure that no opportunities are ignored and that efforts to press for those corrections are timely. Plus, it is the responsibility of an electorate to be informed – anything less is citizenship malpractice.
The election is Trump’s to blow. If you don’t want to see him do that, work on him and work on your gun owner friends who have had it.
About David Codrea:
David Codrea is the winner of multiple journalist awards for investigating / defending the RKBA and a long-time gun owner rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament. In addition to being a regular featured contributor for Firearms Newsand AmmoLand Shooting Sports News, he blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,” and posts onTwitter: @dcodrea and Facebook.