The pendulum of politics swings widely. We see that today as candidates for the Democratic Party nomination for president clamor for more restrictions on lawful gun owners. What a change from 20 years ago, following the passage of the Clinton gun ban (also known as a ban on so-called “assault weapons”), which resulted in President Bill Clinton’s party losing control of Congress for the first time in 40 years. The president himself, in his 1995 State of the Union Address, said as much: “I don’t think it’s a secret to anybody in this room that several members of the last Congress who voted for that aren’t here tonight because they voted for it.” That gun ban expired 10 years later, and a congressionally required review showed that the law had little or no effect on crime.
Following Al Gore’s loss in 2000, the widespread advice for Democratic candidates was to avoid gun control completely when campaigning. It was a loser, they were told. What changed to prompt Hillary Rodham Clinton to make a new TV commercial, aired last week in Iowa and New Hampshire, where she talks only about gun control?
Simply put, the Great Gun Control Con is running full tilt, aided by a compliant, if not complicit, media shilling a string of lies designed to reshape public knowledge on crime and guns. Is “con” too strong? Only if one “knows” that crime is up, or that “gun crime” has reached the status of an epidemic, that gun shows are somehow immune to gun laws through a loophole, or that “assault weapons” are the preferred tool of murderers. None of those, in fact, is true, but those building blocks of deceit mark the return to a standard premise of the Democrats — that reducing the number of guns results in fewer murders and less crime.
Josh Sugarmann, founder and head of the Violence Policy a gun-ban advocacy group, recognized that the public didn’t know the difference between real military rifles that fire in full-automatic mode (machine guns) and the look-alike versions made for the civilian market that fire only one round per pull of the trigger, the same as all semi-automatic firearms made for the last century. He called these rifles “assault weapons” — a term with no definition, making it infinitely expandable — and set up the plan to use the looks, and not the functionality, to ban them.
“The weapons’ menacing looks, coupled with the public’s confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons — anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun — can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons.”
Media lapped up the pejorative term, with CNN showing misleading video of full-automatic machine guns when discussing the 1994 ban on semi-autos. Even today if you ask someone what an “assault weapon” is, chances are she will say it is a machine gun. The latest information gleaned from the FBI Uniform Crime Reports clarifies that more people are killed with fists and feet than with all rifles, and cosmetically challenged semi-automatic rifles represent a small subset of all rifles. Simply put, this class of firearms is a minor factor in U.S. murder rate, but President Obama and Mrs. Clinton continue to call for banning the sale of this popular rifle used for hunting, competition and for personal protection.
Mrs. Clinton’s latest TV commercial starts with her saying, “This epidemic of gun violence knows no boundaries.” A clever phrase, and a key part of the Great Gun Control Con, “epidemic of gun violence” proclaims a rapid increase in “gun violence” (as though someone robbed, raped or murdered is any less violated if some other tool is used). Never does one see a reporter jump up to challenge this basic premise. In fact, the rate of crimes with guns has declined. Not by 5 or 10 percent, but by nearly half in only 20 years. That should be cause for banner headlines. Millions more guns, millions more gun owners, but crimes committed with guns, and murders overall, are down by nearly half in only 20 years. The “epidemic of gun violence” is a myth created by those who would con the public into believing that “something must be done.” Pew Research documents that even though crime with guns has been cut in half, a majority of the public thinks that crime with guns is increasing. The con is working.
CNN’s Sanjay Gupta jumped onto the “epidemic of gun violence” to call for a renewal of “research” to treat firearms as a virus. Congress withdrew from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) the amount of funding it was using to promote gun control through these directed research grants, finding it inappropriate at best for this health organization to use taxpayer dollars to stack the deck with junk science. At the time, the CDC director said the goal was to treat guns like cigarettes, and to ban them. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has given hundreds of millions of dollars to Johns Hopkins University, much of it directed at producing evidence favoring gun control. Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership said, “The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is one of the old established university gun control advocacy factories.” The media quotes these ginned-up studies as fact, never questioning the source or the strings for the funding.
The famous “gun show loophole” is simply a chimera — a widely-accepted con. All laws outside a gun show apply inside a gun show. Multiple studies confirm that criminals rarely get their firearms from gun shows.
Mrs. Clinton also calls for the repeal of the Protection of Lawful Commerce In Arms Act, which she claims prevents gun companies from being sued. In truth, the act was passed as more than 30 cities were suing gun makers in an openly announced attempt to drive them all out of business through the sheer weight of defending dozens of suits funded by taxpayers. The suits did not claim the manufacturers had made defective products or engaged in illegal activity. They sought to saddle a highly regulated industry with liability for the criminal misuse of their products by third parties. The subsequent law clearly states that gun makers and sellers can be held liable for making a defective or unsafe product, or for criminal acts, but it does protect them from politically motivated lawsuits designed to crush an entire industry. Mrs. Clinton seeks to resurrect this tort lawyer paradise and drive hundreds of American companies into bankruptcy.
To convince the public that America needs even more than the thousands of gun control laws now on the books, baseless claims and outright lies must be repeated to the point where “everyone knows” that gun crimes are up, there is an epidemic of gun violence, that gun makers are exempt from legal liability, and that “assault weapons” are machine guns. Tell a lie enough times, using the echo chamber of an activist media, and you can convince the public that restricting the law-abiding gun owner is only “common sense.”
• Tom Gresham hosts the nationally-syndicated radio talk show “Tom Gresham’s Gun Talk” (guntalkmedia.com).