"President Donald Trump will be in Dallas this week to speak at the National Rifle Association's convention," NBC 5 Dallas/Fort Worth reported Sunday. "Vice President Mike Pence will speak at the NRA Institute for Legislative Action leadership forum also on Friday."
That's all it took for the antis to go mouth-foaming wild and scream about the "hypocrisy" of the NRA's annual meeting being "gun-free," which, of course is not true. Still, the media was happy to run with it like it was (and which even prompted a rare retraction from the Associated Press). Attendees may lawfully bear arms throughout the convention, except for appearances where security is controlled by the Secret Service (and at a concert that will take place in a different venue, where carry is banned by state law).
"You came through big for me, and I am going to come through for you," The Washington Post recalls Trump telling attendees at the 2017 annual meeting. "The eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end."
Really? Shall we test that?
Setting the Stage
I remember taking a bit of heat back in 2012, for suggesting Donald Trump could be a great friend of the Second Amendment if newly-articulated enthusiasm turned out to be real. It was prompted by an interview he gave to Emily Miller that suggested he had evolved on an issue on which he was previously a mixed bag.
Trump was a connected member of the elites with a rare New York City concealed-carry permit, but also someone who has supported bans on semi-automatic firearms, waiting periods of up to 72 hours, and background checks (meaning no private sales), as well as a critic of "Republicans walk[ing] the NRA line and refus[ing] even limited restrictions." Still, it looked like he was seeing the light and had the potential to show leadership for "our" side, like Michael Bloomberg and other billionaires have for the gun-grabbers.
But "The Donald" had also been a generous donor to the likes of Charles Schumer, Frank Lautenberg, Ted Kennedy, Harry Reid and Charlie Rangel, to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and to John Kerry in his 2004 presidential bid. And his substantial donation to the Clinton Foundation -- reported just three years ago -- doesn't add to gun owner confidence levels.
It's funny. Back when I was suggesting Trump could grow into a friend, one comment counseled he was "an opportunistic, self dealing, finger in the wind jackass who manages to turn one strategic bankruptcy after another into bigger and bigger fortune. Don't believe a word he says."
But recently, when I questioned President Trump's nomination of an anti-gun judge to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, some took umbrage and called it "eating our own." I've had others get hot and resort to the "f" word for declaring some of the president's words and actions following Parkland were objectionable for hard-core gun-owner rights advocates.
You can't please everybody.
There are some so vested in having faith in the man that anything seeming like a betrayal of campaign promises to some is explained away by others as "genius three dimensional chess" that we lesser mortals just don't understand. There's a bizarre "Emperor's New Clothes" disincentive going on, pressuring critics to stifle themselves or be lumped in with turncoats.
Let's Look at Those Clothes
"Take the guns first, go through due process second" was a big red flag the president waved for those of us who aren't even convinced that taking the guns second provides due process equivalent to a jury trial. Likewise, 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.
The president has since retreated on minimum age after the National Rifle Association squawked and pulled him back, and that gives us a strong indication of who he turns to for counsel on all things gun-related -- no matter if some administration initiatives are objectionable to the "no compromise" segment of the "gun lobby." So, when he advances the "Fix NICS" background check enhancement, or so-called "protection orders" or the pending "bump stock" rule, he's getting a green light from NRA.
They were the ones "calling on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) to immediately review whether these devices comply with federal law. The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations."
Doing it that way protects their "A"-rated congressmen and senators from having to vote on an infringement. But in protecting them, something of more concern to the rest of us is threatened: This is a power-grab by the executive branch that will set the tone (for this and future administrations!) to arbitrarily change "legal" definitions for purely political ends, to impose bans with destruction/surrender orders for lawfully-owned property, and to turn non-compliant citizens into felons, all while bypassing Congress.
More "three dimensional chess" being played by gamesmen setting up a scenario, they think they can win in a legal challenge, or a dumb, wholly unnecessary and craven cave-in? Either way, our rights aren't the lobbyists' to play with or surrender. But they have the president's ear, and he's going to perceive listening to NRA as the move with the most backup.
State of the States
Since Parkland, what they can't win at the national level, the gun-grabbers are going for in the states and especially in the "blue" ones, where Democrats in safe districts are advancing all kinds of infringements and bans. And in some instances, Republican quislings are leading the charge.
That's the case in Florida, where Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed off on raising the minimum age to 21, imposing a mandatory three-day waiting period and banning "bump stocks." Ditto for Vermont, where Republican Gov. Phil Scott betrayed his supporters and signed a host of infringements into law:
"Two of the new laws empower authorities to remove guns from people at "extreme risk" of violence or people who have been arrested on suspicion of domestic violence. The final bill expands gun background checks, limits magazine capacity, bans bump stocks and requires people under 21 years old to take a hunter safety course before they can buy a gun."
New Jersey is advancing Democrat bills "reducing the number of rounds allowed in a magazine from 15 to 10, banning armor-piercing bullets, strictly defining that residents must show a 'justifiable need' to obtain a permit to carry a handgun, expanding background checks for private gun sales, and making it easier to seize weapons from people deemed to pose a threat to themselves or others."
Oregon is trying to ban semiautomatic firearms and magazines via a petition being fronted by "interfaith groups," useful idiots and children. Who's backing it financially and how much is being planned to finance a media campaign in unknown outside of inner circles at this writing, but it should come as no surprise to find Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, Inc., with a New York principal address, registered with the Oregon Secretary of State Corporation Division.
In Rhode Island, Democrat Gov. Gina Raimondo issued an executive order to "encourage taking guns from 'red flag' individuals."
All of Which Raises the Question: Where is President Trump?
No one is expecting the president to exceed his authority or the proper bounds of federalism, but the office does come with a bully pulpit and, depending on your point of view, the man is either famous or notorious for issuing public statements through Twitter. If we're to believe the "assault on [our] Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end," what kind of statements would it be reasonable to expect when states are infringing on a right articulated in "the supreme Law of the Land"?
"Rather than push for the comprehensive gun legislation he urged Congress to pass just last month, Trump now wants state and local officials to take the lead in setting age limits and other issues," the Los Angeles Times reported after the president backed off raising the minimum age nationally.
"States are making this decision," The Times quoted President Trump.
Just for the Second Amendment, or are the others also up for grabs?
Other Countries Heard From
The fact is, the way many states are infringing on the right of the people to keep and bear arms, there are countries where citizens can own firearms being increasingly denied to denizens of the land of the Second Amendment. True, these countries have their own infringements, restrictions and permit requirements, but a few years back, Guns & Ammo identified some where citizens can own guns that might surprise you.
Did you know, with said permits, they can own semiautomatic rifles in the Czech Republic? Or Panama (where they also have permitless concealed carry)? Or in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Italy, Ukraine, Germany, Poland, Costa Rica, and Honduras? And there are many others.
Did you know that "In France, private possession of semi-automatic assault weapons is permitted under license"?
Something Must Be Done!
The gun-grabbers always say that every time they do a blood dance, meaning they can offer nothing that will actually work, but they're not about to let an opportunity go to waste. In this case, I'm talking about President Trump doing something more than mouthing platitudes scripted by Fairfax to deliver to adoring NRA "true believers."
Unfortunately, that means getting his ear away from his gun-issue handlers, who would never let him be publicly exposed to questions that are hardly controversial, except they don't really lend themselves to the type of equivocation professional weasel-worders excel at crafting.
- What did the founders mean by "A well regulated militia"?
- What did the founders mean by "being necessary to the security of a free State"?
- What did the founders mean by "the right of the people to keep and bear arms"?
- What did the founders mean by "shall not be infringed"?
- How can past Supreme Court opinion specifying protected arms as those being "in common use at the time" not apply to the types of firearms needed for militia service?
If the president is really serious about the right to keep and bear arms, he'd be able to answer all of those correctly and straightforwardly. He would use that as his guide in appointing federal judges and other officials. And he would direct Attorney General Sessions (per NRA "a true defender of our freedom") to use the law and existing precedents to do something the federal government has never done before, despite past pleas for them to live up to all the fine (yet based on results, insincere) promises to gun owners: enforce the Second Amendment.
As ambitious as that sounds, that's the easy option. That's because, assuming a critical mass of gun owners are serious, there's only one other thing that can bring the "assault on ... Second Amendment freedoms ... to a crashing end."
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 field editor/columnist at GUNS Magazine, a featured contributor to AmmoLand, contributor to Firearms News website and magazine, and associate editor for Oath Keepers, he blogs at "The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance" and posts on Twitter: @dcodrea and Facebook.