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MILLER: Senate showdown over guns

Theatrics and partisanship that took center stage must give way to reality

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The battle over gun rights is on. The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday held the first congressional hearing on the issue since President Obama declared new gun-control laws one of his top priorities for the year.

The sides were predictably drawn along party lines. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, insisted, "We can't have a totally armed society." She and her colleagues admitted the "assault weapons" ban and related proposals are the same items they've been trying to pass for years. It's just the horrific shooting of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., created the opportunity to grab attention.

Hundreds lined the hall of the Hart Senate Office Building for a chance to watch the hearing, but the anti-gun groups appeared to get the drop on the first 100 public seats. The unruly bunch cheered every time a Democratic senator attacked National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre.

For instance, Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, asked Mr. LaPierre whether he supported background checks at gun shows. When Mr. LaPierre tried to shift the answer to legitimate issues related to gun safety (criminals don't get their weapons from gun shows), Mr. Leahy said he didn't answer the questions.

The audience, wearing green ribbons or yellow stickers that say "Stop Gun Violence NOW," loudly demonstrated their approval. Mr. LaPierre's point was the need to focus on policies that work. "My problems with background checks is you're never going to get the criminals to go through background checks," he had a chance to say later.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, asked Mr. LaPierre whether he really believed the Second Amendment was meant to prevent government tyranny. Mr. LaPierre stuck to his guns, and said, indeed, that was the Founding Fathers' intent. Mr. Durbin then turned to Baltimore County Police Chief James W. Johnson and asked how he felt for law enforcement going into someone's house not knowing "what is behind that door." The chief said it was "scary" and "creepy."

Republicans tried to counter these cheap theatrics. As freshman Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas explained, "Emotions in Washington often lead to bad policy," and the Senate often "operates in a fact-free zone." Mr. Cruz and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina wanted to bring actual firearms to the hearing to demonstrate the absurdity of the laws currently being proposed.

Unlike Mrs. Feinstein, who had four local and federal law enforcement agencies aid her bringing rifles that are banned in the District to her Senate news conference, the Republicans were not able to do so.

So Mr. Cruz used a photo of a standard wooden hunting rifle and held up a plastic pistol grip to demonstrate how one irrelevant part transformed the item into a scary and creepy "assault weapon" under Mrs. Feinstein's definition.

Day One in the legislative battle over the nation's firearms laws ended with proof liberals will say or do anything to gut the Second Amendment.

Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.

 

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