- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 24, 2000

One "difference between us" that Democratic presidential contender Al Gore did not take pains to elucidate during the three debates with Texas Gov. George W. Bush is his stand on the issue of gun control. Aware that the issue is a political loser that might antagonize undecided and swing voters who value their Second Amendment rights, Mr. Gore has been busy the past few days trying to efface statements made earlier in the campaign in favor of stringent new controls on the sale, possession and use of firearms.

At an event in Massachusetts earlier this year, for example, Mr. Gore announced that "As president, I will do whatever it takes to get the guns away from children and criminals, and close every loophole in our law books. I will fight for a national requirement that every state issue photo licenses for anyone who wants to buy a handgun."

There's more: "Unless you obtain a license and pass a background test and pass a gun safety test, you could not buy a handgun … Not in a gun shop, not at a gun show, not on a street corner, not anywhere in America," the vice president thundered adding that "the gun lobby" is "sure to have a fit" regarding his proposals. Well, so might Americans who have done nothing to warrant these endless, creeping restrictions on their constitutionally guaranteed rights.

But that was then before Mr. Gore flummoxed the three debates with Mr. Bush and came off as a heavy-handed pedant (first debate), a squishy, obsequious toady (second debate), and, finally, a turgid, over-coached Beltway insider (last debate). Now, Mr. Gore has apparently decided it's time to "reinvent" his stand on gun-control. He's now determined to "protect" the rights of "hunters and sportsmen." But the Second Amendment is not about protecting the rights of duck hunters. It was put there specifically to enshrine the right of the people to armed self-defense.

The possession of firearms by the average citizen not for sport, not for target shooting, but for his own protection was deemed by the Founding Fathers the strongest bulwark against an oppressive, tyrannical government. Noah Webster wrote that "The Supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword, because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops." In Federalist Number 46, James Madison wrote that the Constitution's clear statement of the right of the people to possess the means of self-defense "preserves the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation …"

Mr. Gore, like other liberal Democrats, not only believes in the supremacy of the federal government, he has an abiding contempt for the rights and freedoms of the American people. Contrast his approach to that of Gov. Bush, who favors prosecuting and incarcerating those who misuse firearms but who readily acknowledges the right of law-abiding Americans to possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes including self-defense. Mr. Bush, a strong backer of excellent anti-crime measures such as Project Exile, does not believe that more restrictions on the right of peaceable citizens to possess and bear arms will curb crime.

That is a "difference between us" that voters should bear in mind as we head into the final days of this election.

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