IT IS AUGUST IN WASHINGTON AND EVERYONE FLEES THE CITY: Congress has left until Labor Day, President Bush has gone to Texas, and most everyone else is on vacation. It’s time to assess George W. Bush’s presidency from the gun owners’ perspective.
On the surface it looks as if gun owners have had a very good six months. In the closing days of July, as Congress prepared to recess, both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate voted in favor of gun owner rights. The vote in the House was on an amendment sponsored by Congressman Jim Moran, (D-VA) which would have required records of approved NICS purchases to be kept at least 90 days. An overwhelmingly bi-partisan majority voted 161 aye to 266 nay to defeat Moran’s proposal. It was a vote of confidence for Attorney General Ashcroft, who announced at the beginning of July that he was reversing the Clinton Administration’s policy of keeping National Instant Check Systems (NICS) records for 90 days.
In fact, Ashcroft has been changing administration policy on firearms quickly and decisively. A Wall Street Journal article on July 11, 2001, which was corroborated by the Justice Department, stated, “the Bush administration is drafting a legal finding that asserts individuals have a constitutional right to possess firearms.” This would contradict a 1973 Department of Justice opinion that stated, “In light of the constitutional history, it must be considered as settled that there is no personal constitutional right, under the Second Amendment, to own or to use a gun.”
Then in late July the Bush Department of Housing and Urban Affairs (HUD) announced that it was “terminating” the Clinton administration’s funding for “gun buy-back schemes” by public housing authorities. This program was initiated on September 8, 1999 when President Clinton and then HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo announced a $15-million national gun “buy-back” program. Then on April 28, 2000 they announced a $300,000 Washington D.C. program. HUD touted that the DC police would “purchase an estimated 7,000 guns in the largest gun buyback program in Washington's history.” Yet only 1,787 firearms were purchased at a cost of $141,000. Even the liberal anti-gun Washington Post opined, “Studies show that lawbreakers rarely surrender their weapons to buyback programs and than many people who sell their guns have other firearms at home, or soon buy new ones.”
The Bush Administration reasoned that less than ten percent of the local housing groups would apply for the government money, recovered guns are not criminal firearms, and the program was not essential to HUD’s mission. Way to go, President Bush!
Yet, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) thought otherwise. Associated Press reported, “By a 65-33 vote, the Senate rejected a proposal by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., to provide $15 million for Buyback America.” Since the House version of this bill contained no money for Buyback America, thankfully the program will be terminated.
With all these legislative and regulatory successes and the Bush Administration’s tough line at the UN conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons, gun owners appear to have become less vulnerable. It may seem that we have not only found the light at the end of the tunnel, but have arrived into the sunlight.
Yet, it is much too early to celebrate. According to Lawrence Auster, former U.S. Congressman Charles Pashayan made the following statement at the conclusion of negotiations over the final report of the UN conference, “This is not the end. This is the opening skirmish of a war.” Less than a week later the nation of Columbia, which has taken over the Presidency of the UN Security Council for the month of August, announced that it would move to reopen the debate on small arms. Of course, Secretary General Kofi Annan applauded Columbia’s efforts and stated, "The illicit trade in small arms and light weapons is conspicuous for its lack of such a framework of binding norms and standards."
Although gun owners have won several skirmishes, the war still rages on: at the UN, in the U.S. Congress, in the state legislatures, in the judiciary, and most importantly in the court of public opinion. Yes, some of Clinton’s most egregious policies have been eliminated, but there is much more to change. Gun owners must remain vigilant. Our opponents – The Brady bunch, et. al. – are dedicated, rarely rest, and never miss an opportunity to put forth their propaganda. We may deserve a summer vacation, but the war against freedom goes on.