“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Full disclosure right up front: I’m a proud life member of the National Rifle Association. I am on the NRA’s board of directors and serve as chairman of the organization’s Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee. I have owned and used firearms most of my life, and I can read. Unlike some in Washington, I don’t believe that the 27 words above — the Second Amendment of our Constitution — have anything to do with “gun rights.” Guns don’t have rights. I do. So do you.
Fifty-two years ago, like tens of millions of people before and since, I raised my right hand and took an oath of enlistment in our armed forces, pledging to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” I promised I would “bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” Notably, the words promise loyalty not to a political party or a particular individual but to the Constitution, which enshrines our liberties and the limits and responsibilities of those who govern us like no other foundational document on earth.
Unfortunately, in the aftermath of recent carnage in a Colorado movie theater and a rampage at an elementary school in Connecticut, some now insist that “We the People” must accept some alterations in how we interpret the “archaic” language contained in our Constitution. On Jan. 9, after a meeting with “gun safety advocates” and “victims groups,” Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., head of the “White House task force on gun violence,” said the Obama administration is “determined to take action” and then added: “The president is going to act. There are executive orders, executive action that can be taken. We haven’t decided what that is yet.”
Those words, “executive orders, executive action,” used in conjunction with constitutionally protected rights and liberties, ought to alarm us all. They used to frighten Barack Obama. On Oct. 2, 2007, then-Sen. Obama railed against what he called the abuse of executive powers purportedly perpetrated by President George W. Bush in his administration’s efforts to protect the American people from acts of terror by radical Islamists. Apparently, the current occupant of the Oval Office has overcome his early concerns about chief executives exceeding their authority.
When the Biden task force was announced three weeks ago, the president claimed that no policy proposals would be “prejudged.” Yet after the Jan. 10 White House meeting with firearms manufacturers, firearms retailers, sportsmen and a representative of the NRA, neither Mr. Biden nor Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. even mentioned the NRA’s call for increased prosecution of violent criminals and those who break existing federal firearms laws.
While the meeting was under way in the Cabinet Room, a teenager carrying a 12-gauge shotgun walked into a high-school classroom in Taft, Calif., and opened fire, wounding a classmate. Remarkably, neither the vice president nor any member of his task force mentioned the NRA’s call for placing armed police officers in America’s public schools.
Instead, Mr. Biden talked about growing public support for new “gun control measures.” As yet, they haven’t publicly addressed steps the O-Team may take to cut firearms imports through onerous United Nations treaties and conventions. We are told by administration defenders, pundits, commentators of the left and “gun control advocates” that the American people want new restrictions on firearm design, limits on ammunition capacity and types, and universal background checks to regulate possession.
Hard evidence of public support for new restrictions on firearms ownership by law-abiding citizens is hard to find. A recent poll shows that 62 percent of the American people support the NRA’s measure to have police protect schools. The city of Los Angeles isn’t waiting for executive action or new legislation. Starting this week, at least one armed police officer will visit every public elementary school in the city.
More broadly, talk of new government restrictions has created a record-setting spike in gun sales across the country. Nearly every state has reported “traffic jams” in background check systems as tens of thousands of Americans line up to purchase firearms at gun stores.
The constitutional controversy created by the Obama administration also has backfired for those who sought to demonize the NRA as an extremist, fringe organization. Since the Biden task force was formed, more than 100,000 of our fellow citizens have joined the NRA, bringing membership to more than 4.2 million.
That’s a good sign. The NRA is our nation’s leader in firearms education, training and safety. It’s also an effective, fervent advocate for our civil liberties. When the Biden task force delivers its “recommendations” Jan. 15, you can count on NRA members to defend our Constitution’s Second Amendment. If you haven’t joined us already, now is the time.
Oliver North is host of “War Stories” on the Fox News Channel and author of the new novel “Heroes Proved” (Threshold Editions, 2012).