August 28, 2020
By David Codrea
“Trump campaign launches thirteen new coalitions,” a late August press release for the Trump campaign announced. “All across America, diverse groups are coming together to support President Trump and his promise of economic empowerment, personal liberty, and the American Dream," Ashley Hayek, Trump 2020 Director of Coalitions, explained.
Among the groups -- most representing the interests of various backgrounds and professions -- one stands out as relevant for Firearms News readers: “Gun Owners for Trump.”
That rang a bell—didn’t we already have one? No, that was an earlier group set up in November 2016.
“The Second Amendment Coalition for Trump-Pence includes joint Chairmen Donald J. Trump, Jr. and Christopher Cox, and 62 co-chairs,” a media advisory at the time announced. “These leaders will continue to advise Mr. Trump and Governor Pence as they protect our Supreme Court and our right to keep and bear arms.”
They had a “to do” list publicized by The Trace, a Michael Bloomberg-seeded anti-gun agenda site that presents itself as “news.” Coalition goals included rescinding President Obama’s executive actions, allowing military personnel to be armed on base, revoking restrictions on Chinese gun and ammo imports, and liberalizing rules for suppressors. But nothing of substance coming from the group was heard for months, leading USA Today to ask “What ever happened to President Trump's gun advisory group?” Evidently not much, as the information from the Trump campaign now has to be accessed via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine website.
That’s unfortunate, because while the group that supposedly had the president’s support was doing nothing, there were all kinds of efforts to undermine the right to keep and bear arms happening within the states where the president stayed silent, and at the federal level, where he initiated the infringements, including the “bump stock” ban, as well as made noises like “Take the guns first. Go through due process second,” or that he was considering a suppressor ban and raising the age to buy guns to 21.
A group of committed gun advocates that had the president’s ear could have not only helped rally gun owners to deter some of the losses, it could have educated him in areas where his opinions were ill-informed. That would have helped him avoid doing and saying things that only serve to take the fire out of core constituent bellies and make some give up on voting altogether.
Is having his ear what is being offered here?
“Gun Owners for Trump will unite gun rights advocates in our mission to protect and defend our Second Amendment rights as enumerated by the Constitution of the United States,” the group website declares. “President Trump knows that every American has a God-given right to protect one’s self and family. Through re-affirming support for this Administration, gun owners across the country will work to deliver a second term – ensuring the appointment of even more constitutionalist conservative judges who will protect and defend our American liberties for generations to come.”
That doesn’t exactly say they’ll do anything other than publicly “support” him, does it? It’s called an “Advisory Board,” but will it actually have the president’s ear and be able to advise him, or is it just another “Get Trump Elected” committee that will never even meet, let alone be given a seat at any policy-making table?
As for the “Board” itself, some names most gun owners have heard of while others are mostly known within niche circles. There are industry guys with hardliner reputations like Ronnie Barrett and advocacy guys like Alan Gottlieb. There are trainers and sport shooters. What I don’t see is anyone I recognize who has credibility as an authority on the core purpose of the Second Amendment, the establishment of the Constitutional “Militia of the several States.”
That opens up some other questions:
- What was the criteria and selection process for the advisory board and who recommended and approved each member's inclusion?
- Is there any kind of formal organization with a charter or a bylaws equivalent delineating board member duties and responsibilities?
- How does the board advise the president and what is the process for approving and communicating their resulting advice? Do they vote on it? Will the rest of us be able to see whatever advice reports they prepare? Will there actually be any?
- Who is the campaign contact and what process will assure the advisory board that their advice will reach and be considered by the president?
- Has this board been given any information by the president about what he will do for the Second Amendment in his second term (reform ATF and firearms rules and policies which do not need congressional approvals, champion the Hearing Protection Act and other pro-2A legislation such as “Constitutional carry” and restoration of rights if Republicans gain majorities, issue executive orders supporting 2A, extend civil rights enforcement of RKBA to states undermining it, changing BATFE policies which hamper the 2A, lead on militia revitalization, return the 2A to its original intent as a defense against tyranny, force states to abide by the Bill of Rights, etc.)?
These and more are all fair to ask, but that raises the question of who can we ask? The Gun Owners for Trump website notes “Paid for by Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.” in the fine print, so they’re the ones calling the shots. So, who do we approach that will be responsive?
Will Director of Coalitions Hayek be the person who can answer, and be the two-way communications conduit?
These are all legitimate questions because what the president does on guns – and what the board advises him to do (assuming they advise at all) affects all gun owners, and we don’t always have identical interests or even agree on fundamentals.
Case in point: Mr. Gottlieb and his organization are probably the best informed and positioned to identify legislative initiatives the president could attach himself to. He’s even recently shown everyone a copy of his invitation to the president’s nomination acceptance speech at the White House, so we know somebody there appreciates his stature in the gun community. On the plus side, gun owners should be glad NRA no longer has a monopoly on the president’s attention, and many worthy and creative ideas and efforts emanate from the Second Amendment Foundation and the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. But I say that with a caveat that not that long ago, he thought it an excellent deal to support the Manchin/Toomey expanded background checks bill in exchange for “interstate sales of handguns, gun rights restoration, travel with firearms protection civil and criminal immunity lawsuit protection, and most important of all, the guarantee that people, including federal officers, will go to federal prison for up to 15 years if they attempt to use any gun sales records to set up a gun registry.”
If he has Trump’s attention will he resurrect the deal? Because those of us who argued against it last time would want to make sure our voices are heard as well.
Will any of this even come into play? That too is fair to ask, because the day after the coalition’s press release was issued, the campaign put out another announcement titled “Trump campaign announces President Trump’s 2nd term agenda: Fighting for you!” In it, they highlighted 50 “core priorities for a second term,” not a one of which mentioned the right to keep and bear arms.
So, what is this a hit piece on Trump and the Advisory Board? Do I want Biden to win?
Sorry, I had to get that out of the way because I know it’ll come up on the message boards. There’s no shortage of gun owners who jump to unfounded conclusions and assume the worst. But no, of course not, to both questions.
I want the advisory board to be everything its name implies. I want them to be influencers. I want the president to be able to call them out by their first names, and to heed what they have to say. And I also want the questions and concerns I raised about how they’re picked, how they operate, how they communicate and how gun owners can communicate to them addressed.
President Trump desperately needs competent advisors who will not hesitate to tell him the truth and to tell him where he’s wandering off message and why. That’s because, even though he appears to have come a long way from some of his earlier anti-gun positions when he was for an “assault weapon” ban and waiting periods, he’s not really a “gun person” and in many cases forms kneejerk opinions based on the dangerous combination of being misinformed and headstrong.
A position paper from his earlier Second Amendment Coalition makes the reasons why evident.
“The Second Amendment guarantees a fundamental right that belongs to all law-abiding Americans,” it asserts. “The Constitution doesn’t create that right– it ensures that the government can’t take it away.”
What’s wrong with that? It is correct in theory if not in practice.
The problem is, despite those words, The White House website, in its explanation of the Constitution says “The Second Amendment gives citizens the right to bear arms.” That, of course, is exactly wrong. Privileges are granted. The Founders recognized “rights are endowed by our Creator.” The Second Amendment didn’t create a right to keep and bear arms — it acknowledged a right that was already assumed and accepted at the time of ratification. Nobody in government gave us that right, so it’s not theirs to take away. And this has even been recognized by the Supreme Court in Heller, citing the earlier Cruikshank case when the court acknowledged “This is not a right granted by the Constitution. Neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence.”
Writing an article asking the White House to correct that, starting a petition, and approaching the president and various administration departments via online contact forms and social media have all been ignored. Someone who could mention it to him in person could have it changed in five minutes.
Then there are matters of fundamental philosophical and legal differences between gun advocates reflected in the position paper that show why membership on an effective board would have to be transparent and open to dissenting views.
“Enforce the laws on the books,” the paper asserted. “Several years ago there was a tremendous program in Richmond, Virginia called Project Exile. It said that if a violent felon uses a gun to commit a crime, you will be prosecuted in federal court and go to prison for five years – no parole or early release.”
Some of us hold the opinion that Exile wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, both in terms of crime reduction results and in terms of the potential to not just impact the “violent,” but also be used by hostile administrations against gun owners whose only “crime” was to defy infringements. NRA had supported all kinds of “gun laws” for which members could run afoul, as documented by a KeepAndBearArms.com exclusive citing the March, 1968 issue of American Rifleman.
“The NRA supported The National Firearms Act of 1934 which taxes and requires registration of such firearms as machine guns, sawed-off rifles and sawed-off shotguns,” the article “WHERE THE NRA STANDS ON GUN LEGISLATION -- 97-year record shows positive approach to workable gun laws” affirmed. “The NRA supported The Federal Firearms Act of 1938, which regulates interstate and foreign commerce in firearms and pistol or revolver ammunition… "NRA supported the original 'Dodd Bill' to amend the Federal Firearms Act..."
How is it in the interest of gun owners to advance the grabber lie that “gun control” works when we know that it doesn’t? And some of us don’t see much difference between us saying “Enforce existing gun laws” and American colonists saying “Enforce exiting Intolerable Acts.”
As flawed as Donald Trump has proven to be, Alan Gottlieb is correct when he reminds us of the importance of federal court appointments (as flawed as that process is, but that’s an article for another day). The reality is if the president loses in November, a Joe Biden/Kamala Harris White House will set about eviscerating the Second Amendment, forcing each of us to make the terrible decision to surrender in shame or to defy edicts and be destroyed if we are caught.
The question for gun owners isn’t so much “Will most vote for him?” as “How can we get more from him than pandering lip service while he still needs us?” Because if he does win a second term, who is to say what he’ll do when he no longer needs us and decides new events and incentives make our interests expendable?
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 News and AmmoLand Shooting Sports News, he blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,” and posts on Twitter: @dcodrea and Facebook.
For the poll below: During President Trump’s first term in office, over a dozen states have severely restricted the 2ndAmendment rights of citizens without much response from the Whitehouse or its staff. President Trump banned bump stocks, stated that he does not like sound suppressors, stated that he is not afraid of the NRA, and supported state gun control such as red flag laws, rapid fire device bans, and over 21 gun purchases.