The announcement this week that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has at least temporarily abandoned plans to ban ammunition was welcome news not just to the more than 4 million Americans who own and use the AR-15 and rifles like it, but to the rest of us as well. Charlton Heston, who back in the day used to tell us that the Second Amendment isn’t just about guns, but about freedom, apparently never got through to the boys and girls at the ATF, but he sure got through to me.
As a member of a family filled with a long line of patriots, guns have always been a part of my life. One of my grandfathers served in World War I; the other in World War II. My father served proudly as a Green Beret in Vietnam. And I spent four years in the Navy, where I trained to be a SEAL.
I may live a pretty crazy life but it’s one allowed by the sacrifices of the generations prior to me. Long before I walked the streets of Hollywood, stirred up Instagram and played poker on national TV, my family taught me to respect the freedoms placed in the Constitution. And that includes the Second Amendment right to bear arms — a right many of my friends in Hollywood misunderstand.
The Founding Fathers didn’t write the Second Amendment into the Bill of Rights because they thought one day we’d need to hunt food. They did so because they understood an armed citizenry would be empowered to stand up to tyranny. They believed the right to bear arms was an essential protection to liberty itself.
That’s why the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ recent efforts to ban certain ammunition troubles me. Frankly, I don’t care much for the M855 ammunition the ATF sought to ban. It’s a bullet that in my experience doesn’t perform well. But the principle of allowing the government to dictate which ammunition I can buy does matter to me. And that’s why I’m opposed to the latest effort to restrict our gun rights.
Giving them an inch in this issue, eventually means losing a yard of liberty down the road. That’s because an ever-expanding government doesn’t appreciate when it should stop. It keeps taking little bites of your sandwich until your entire lunch of freedom is consumed.
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And the argument many of my Hollywood friends make in favor of such restrictions — that this will give greater protection to everyone — is hogwash. Bad guys don’t care about the law when they plan on going on a crime spree.
But meanwhile, law-abiding, gun-loving people like myself can and do get caught up in the ever-changing gun regulations that Washington spits out. One recent example was an occasion when the ATF had declared in the past that the SIG Brace, a device used to help a shooter stabilize a handgun, is perfectly legally to own and use. Many like myself have bought the device.
Now the same agency has issued a new warning in January that a SIG Brace could be considered illegal if it is used to shoulder a gun, essentially turning it into a short barrel rifle, in the government’s mind. How can a device become both legal and illegal? And how is a guy in Idaho to keep track of all these changing definitions to avoid keeping himself out of prison?
All of a sudden, a so-called effort at protection becomes a license to turn a law-abiding citizen into a convicted criminal. And that is the danger of an overreaching government that doesn’t know the limits of its own power. Our Founding Fathers understood this well, that’s why they made the right to bear arms so clear. They could have placed limits on the size, scope, quantity or type of guns or ammunition a person can own. But they didn’t. And this far less enlightened generation of federal bureaucrats shouldn’t, either.
• Dan Bilzerian is a professional poker player, actor and social media sensation.