- - Wednesday, May 25, 2016


To suggest that President Obama and his managers downplayed the president’s lifelong hostility to the private ownership of firearms during his 2012 re-election campaign is an understatement. His campaign went so far as to air ads in firearms-friendly areas featuring the president arguing that he was a lifelong supporter of Second Amendment rights and pledging that he would not “take” your shotgun, rifle or pistol. A sycophantic media horde supported him on this with Chris Matthews declaring that the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre was “clinically insane” if he actually believed Mr. Obama would go after the Second Amendment.

None of it was true, but it worked. I was serving as president of the NRA during the 2012 cycle and received hundreds of letters from NRA members who had seen the ads and heard the pundits’ constant reassurance that the president was not only a supporter of the Second Amendment, but that his first-term refusal to make guns a front-burner issue was proof that he posed no threat to their rights. Many of those writing were traditional Democrats eager to believe what they were hearing and thus ripe for the disinformation campaign targeting them. Most of those writing parroted the ads and suggested, as Mr. Obama’s supporters were charging, that the NRA was pushing a false narrative to “raise money.”

I didn’t answer the letters as they came in, but they sat on the corner of my desk in the days following the Newtown, Conn., school shooting as the president, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and the usual suspects in Congress and the media launched a full-throated assault on private gun ownership. Then I answered them, suggesting that perhaps they should reassess their earlier skepticism. Those who wrote back acknowledged that they had been taken in, but promised it would never happen again.

This year as Hillary Clinton prepares to run, it’s beginning to feel like deja vu all over again. It seems that she and her managers are going to try to do exactly what Mr. Obama did to at least partially “defuse” the gun issue until after the election. She hyped her opposition to firearms in her debates with Vermont’s Bernie Sanders because it was the one issue that she believed allowed her to get around him on the left. Mr. Sanders, as a Vermont senator, has always been more pro-gun than many of his Democratic colleagues because, as he’s said, he tries to represent the views of his constituents, who are apparently well-armed socialists.

With the general election looming, however, Mrs. Clinton is taking a page or two from the Obama playbook in the hope that what worked for him will work once again. She’s attacking her Republican opponent for alleging that she is anti-Second Amendment and opposed to the private ownership of firearms for self-defense or any other purpose. She and her supporters claim this is a bald-faced lie; that she supports the Second Amendment, but, like Mr. Obama, favors “common-sense” restrictions on guns to curtail crime and violence. This view is already being echoed in media accounts on her position.

She is, however, on the record saying that she believes the Heller case, decided by the Supreme Court in 2010, was “wrongly decided.” There was only one real question before the court in that case: whether the Second Amendment does or does not protect an individual right to “keep and bear arms.” The court found that it does; the other side argued that no such right exists and that the government has the power to regulate or deny the right of anyone to possess or use a firearm to defend home and family.

If a future court reverses Heller, that right will vanish and Mrs. Clinton can pursue the sort of policies put in place some years ago in Australia, where the government instituted a “buy-back” program that forced gun owners to turn in their firearms or go to prison. Australia specifically rejects the notion that anyone has a right to protect themselves, their family or their home from violent criminals, and those who try to do so with or without a gun face prosecution.

That’s the future Mrs. Clinton sees for this country. As secretary of state, she was instrumental in the negotiation of an international treaty which, like the Australian government, rejects the very idea that individuals have a right to protect themselves.

The men and women who swallowed the assurances of Mr. Obama four years ago are less likely to accept them today from Mrs. Clinton and her friends both because of what she has actually said and her traditional willingness to treat he truth as just another option.

David A. Keene is Opinion editor at The Washington Times and the former president of the National Rifle Association.

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