Special Report: Senator McCain on Guns
Friday, May 16, 2008
My support for the 2nd Amendment
By John McCain
Glenn Beck fans, gun rights are an important issue, and I wanted to share with you some highlights of the speech I will deliver today at the National Rifle Association annual meeting. I think they will give you some good insight into my strong belief in the Second Amendment.
"When I first ran for Congress in 1982, I was proud to have the support of gun owners. For more than two decades, I've opposed efforts to ban guns, ban ammunition, ban magazines, and dismiss gun owners as some kind of fringe group unwelcome in "modern" America. The Second Amendment isn't some archaic custom that matters only to rural Americans, who find solace in firearms out of frustration with their economic circumstances. The Second Amendment is unique in the world. It guarantees an individual right to keep and bear arms. To argue anything else is to reject the clear meaning of our Founding Fathers.
"Self-reliance is the ethic that made America great, and our Founders understood that. They knew there would be circumstances where Americans might need to use firearms to protect themselves and their families. Some Second Amendment detractors think this is a mere abstraction, or a relic of America's distant past. But Americans exercise their Second Amendment rights every day to protect themselves from criminals, as happened in Scottsdale, Arizona where earlier this year, a 74-year-old woman defended her home from a man who repeatedly attempted to break in, extort money and threatened to set fire to her garage. The Second Amendment - and its guarantee of an individual right to keep and bear arms - is certainly not an abstraction.
"But the clear meaning of the Second Amendment has not stopped those who want to punish firearms owners - and those who make and sell firearms - for the actions of criminals. It seems like every time there is a particularly violent crime, the anti-gun activists demand yet another restriction on the Second Amendment. I opposed the ban on so-called 'assault weapons,' which was first proposed after a California schoolyard shooting. It makes no sense to ban a class of firearms based on cosmetic features. I have opposed waiting periods for gun purchases."
"Like your members, I am a committed conservationist. I have long supported multiple uses for public lands that ensure they are available for this and future generations to hunt, fish and explore. Over 12 million hunters in the United States contribute $25 billion to the economy, much of it in rural areas. Hunters pay billions of dollars in federal revenue through license and other fees. Here in Kentucky, hunters spend over $400 million and support thousands of jobs."
"Over the years, I haven't agreed with the NRA on every issue. I have supported efforts to have NICS background checks apply to gun sales at gun shows. I recognize that gun shows are enjoyed by millions of law-abiding Americans. I do not support efforts by those who seek to regulate them out of existence. But I believe an accurate, fair and instant background check at guns shows is a reasonable requirement. I also oppose efforts to require federal regulation of all private sales such as the transfer between a father and son or husband and wife. I supported campaign finance reform because I strongly believed our system of financing campaigns was influencing elected officials to put the interests of "soft money" donors ahead of the public interest. It is neither my purpose nor the purpose of the legislation to prevent gun owners or any other group of citizens from making their voices heard in the legislative process.
"Those disagreements do not detract from my long record of support for the Second Amendment and the work we have done together to protect the rights of gun owners from the political attitudes of the moment in Washington that view the Second Amendment as a once quaint custom that must now yield to the judgment of modern enlightened opinion. We have real differences with the Democratic candidates for President. They have learned something since 2000. They don't talk about their plans for gun control. They claim to support hunters and gun owners. But just because they don't talk about gun control doesn't mean they won't support gun control. Let's be clear. If either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama is elected President, the rights of law-abiding gun owners will be at risk. They have both voted as Senators to ban guns or ban ammunition or to allow gun makers to be sued out of existence.
"It seems every election, politicians who support restrictions on the Second Amendment dress up in camouflage and pose with guns to demonstrate they care about hunters, even though few gun owners fall for such obvious political theater. After Senator Obama made his unfortunate comment that Pennsylvanians 'cling to guns and religion' out of bitterness, Senator Clinton quickly affirmed her support for the Second Amendment. That drew Senator Obama's derision. 'She's running around talking about how this is an insult to sportsmen, how she values the Second Amendment,' he said. 'Like she's on the duck blind every Sunday, . . . packin' a six shooter!' Someone should tell Senator Obama that ducks are usually hunted with shotguns.
"Senator Obama hopes he can get away with having it both ways. He says he believes that the Second Amendment confers an individual right to bear arms. But when he had a chance to weigh in on the most important Second Amendment case before the U.S. Supreme Court in decades, District of Columbia v. Heller, Senator Obama dodged the question by claiming, 'I don't like taking a stand on pending cases.' He refused to sign the amicus brief signed by a bipartisan group of 55 Senators arguing that the Supreme Court should overturn the DC gun ban in the Heller case. When he was running for the State Senate in Illinois, his campaign filled out a questionnaire asking whether he supported legislation to ban the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns with simple, 'Yes.'
"The Heller case should be decided soon. But however that case is decided, the federal judiciary will continue to be an important forum for protecting Second Amendment rights. The next President will appoint literally hundreds of federal judges, and is likely to have the opportunity to nominate one or more Supreme Court justices."
"Quite rightly, the proper role of the judiciary has become one of the defining issues of this presidential election. It will fall to the next president to nominate qualified men and women to the federal courts, and the choices we make will reach far into the future. My two prospective opponents and I have very different ideas about the nature and proper exercise of judicial power. We would nominate judges of a different kind, a different caliber, a different understanding of judicial authority and its limits. And the people of America - voters in both parties whose wishes and convictions are so often disregarded by unelected judges - are entitled to know what those differences are."
"The decisions of our Supreme Court in particular can be as close to permanent as anything government does. And in the presidential selection of those who will write those decisions, a hunch, a hope, and a good first impression are not enough. I will not seek the confidence of the American people in my nominees until my own confidence is complete - until I am certain of my nominee's ability, wisdom, and demonstrated fidelity to the Constitution."
"But I would like to close my remarks with an issue that I know is much on the mind of Americans - the war in Iraq. Senator Obama has said, if elected, he will withdraw Americans from Iraq quickly no matter what the situation on the ground is and no matter what U.S. military commanders advise. But if we withdraw prematurely from Iraq, al Qaeda in Iraq will survive, proclaim victory and continue to provoke sectarian tensions that, while they have been subdued by the success of the surge, still exist, and are ripe for provocation by al Qaeda. Civil war in Iraq could easily descend into genocide, and destabilize the entire region as neighboring powers come to the aid of their favored factions. A reckless and premature withdrawal would be a terrible defeat for our security interests and our values. Iran will view it as a victory, and the biggest state supporter of terrorists, a country with nuclear ambitions and a stated desire to destroy the State of Israel, will see its influence in the Middle East grow significantly.
The consequences of our defeat would threaten us for years, and those who argue for premature withdrawal, as both Senators Obama and Clinton do, are arguing for a course that would eventually draw us into a wider and more difficult war that would entail far greater dangers and sacrifices than we have suffered to date. Thanks to the counterinsurgency instigated by General Petreaus, after four years of terribly costly mistakes, we have a realistic chance to succeed in helping the forces of political reconciliation prevail in Iraq, and the democratically elected Iraqi Government, with a professional and competent Iraqi army, impose its authority throughout the country and defend its borders. We have a realistic chance of denying al Qaeda any sanctuary in Iraq. We have a realistic chance of leaving behind in Iraq a force for stability and peace in the region, and not a cause for a wider and far more dangerous war. I do not argue against withdrawal because I am indifferent to war and the suffering it inflicts on too many American families. I hold my position because I hate war, and I know very well and very personally how grievous its wages are. But I know, too, that we must sometimes pay those wages to avoid paying even higher ones later. I want our soldiers home, too, just as quickly as we can bring them back without risking everything they suffered for, and burdening them with greater sacrifices in the years ahead. That I will not do. I have spent my life in service to my country, and I will never, never, never risk her security for the sake of my own ambitions. I will defend her, and all her freedoms, so help me God. And I ask you to help me in that good cause. Thank you, and God bless you."
Special Report: 2nd Amendment Under Fire
Thursday, May 15, 2008
'Safe Homes' or diminished liberty?
By Bob Barr
Most police officers with whom I have worked over the years, whether as a United States attorney, a lawyer in private practice, or a member of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, are men and women of integrity and commitment to the communities they serve. The vast majority of those officers have a sincere respect for the constitutional rights of the citizenry. But then again, I've not worked with the Boston Police Department.
The police department in that Massachusetts city launched an initiative recently that exhibits a cynical disregard for the rights of the citizenry, even as it cleverly cloaks the program in language pretending to protect the people toward whom it is directed. I refer to the "Safe Homes Initiative," with its slick brochures and smooth rhetoric.
On the surface, as with virtually all government actions diminishing liberty, the initiative appears benign. The program is "designed" to help parents who have so little control over their children that they cannot, or do not want to, search their rooms to discover if their young charges are hiding firearms in their homes. Boston's police chief graciously has agreed to fill this parental void by sending teams of officers to the homes of parents with children the police or other "community members" believe might be harboring hidden firearms. The "search teams" would then ask the parent or "other responsible adult" (whomever that might be) at the home for consent to search for guns.
The program is problematic on several levels. First, of course, is the fact that three police officers showing up on your doorstep makes it very difficult for a parent or "other responsible adult" to say no when asked to consent to a search. This works a serious injustice to the notion that a person's home is and should remain free from government searches absent a warrant based on probable cause that a crime has been committed. While true, voluntary "consent" can validate an otherwise unlawful, warrantless search, consent born of the sort of police presence contemplated in this Boston initiative would not appear to constitute such grounds.
While the police in Boston promise that any firearm found during such searches will not lead to criminal charges based solely on the possession of that firearm, they cleverly leave open the possibility that if the firearm was used in a crime, charges may be brought.
Interestingly also, literature describing the initiative states that while the searching officers will do their dead level best not to damage property or create an "unnecessary mess" in the searches, there is no guarantee against that. Moreover, if other illegal items are found or seen during the search, this may lead to a resident's arrest. And while the police in Boston promise they will not "automatically notify schools or public housing" authorities if firearms have been found, they will not rule out notifying them. This could lead to families being evicted from public housing (even if the firearm was in the home for personal protection) or to children being expelled from school, both results hardly designed to improve the quality of life or education of persons living in the poorer neighborhoods targeted by this initiative.
The bottom line is, if the police in Boston or any other city have probable cause to believe illegal firearms or other evidence of unlawful activity is located in a home, they ought to investigate and, if armed with a warrant based on probable cause, search that home. But to go through this charade of searching without securing warrants, under the guise of obtaining "consent" of persons who may or may not be the parents of a child, under the transparently false premise that nothing will happen to them if they refuse or if something unlawful is found, is unfair and constitutionally deficient.
There's a reason such programs have not been instituted in other cities (a similar program was launched in St. Louis in the 1990s, with very mixed results before it was terminated). Boston's program is at best disingenuous and clearly corrupting of the Fourth Amendment's guarantees against warrantless searches. Let's not just hope programs like these 'get terminated' on their own. Be vigilant and stand up for your constitutional rights when they are intentionally (or unintentionally) threatened.
Bob Barr is an attorney and former Congressman who led the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton. He is currently running for President as a Libertarian.
Special Report: I am the NRA
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
I am the NRA
By Ted Nugent
I like guns. I cherish freedom. That is why I am a proud life member and on the Board of Directors of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
This coming weekend tens of thousands of like-minded Americans will come to Louisville to celebrate the 2nd Amendment guarantee to our right to self defense and all the various freedoms we as Americans uniquely enjoy.
The NRA stands with all freedom-loving Americans. Indeed, our focus is on the 2nd Amendment, but the NRA members realize that the other freedoms contained in our sacred US Constitution and Bill of Rights are also worthy of our watchful eye and protection. Just like the NRA will not support gun-control, we also won't support freedom-control.
The NRA understands the toll of freedom is responsibility, which is why we adamantly support mandatory sentences for those individuals who violate the freedoms of others with a gun. The NRA has always advocated tougher sentences for criminals. Interestingly, our most vehement adversaries are typically those individuals and organizations who advocate lighter sentences for criminals and other policies that weaken the fabric of our criminal justice system, thereby putting you and me at risk.
Not only does the NRA believe you have a Constitutional right to own and posses a gun, but we also believe you have God-given right and duty to defend yourselves and your loved ones. A cursory review of the statements of our founding fathers regarding why the 2nd Amendment was included in the Bill of Rights will indicate that they believed this too. The 2nd Amendment has nothing to do with duck hunting.
Let me be very clear: the NRA believes, supports and fights for the rights of Americans to carry a concealed weapon. Various misinformed or anti-gun media ideologues will attempt to convince you that concealed carry will lead to carnage in your streets. But that hasn't happened with the hundreds of thousands of Americans that legally carry a concealed weapon. In fact, just the opposite is true, but the facts, however interesting, are routinely ignored by media. How convenient.
Law-abiding citizens with guns thwart criminals well over a million times a year. While our brave men and women of law enforcement do their best, they can't be everywhere to protect you and me. The protection of our loved ones is ultimately our individual responsibility. Without a gun, those Americans who otherwise thwart crime with a gun each year almost certainly would have been a victim of a crime. Instead, they prevented crime. More than likely you didn't know that because our media hasn't been honest with us. The number of anti-gun news stories dwarfs the amount of pro-gun stories covered by American media.
Having conducted thousands of pro-gun radio, print and television interviews, I am continually appalled at the attempts by anti-gun adherents to spin, slant and overtly lie about guns, law abiding gun owners, crime and the NRA. There are misinformed people who actually believe the NRA is responsible for crime instead of working hard to prevent it. Once exposed, they are typically the same people who believe you and me aren't taxed enough.
At over four million members, the NRA's ranks are composed of teachers, cops, farmers, lawyers, welders, hero military veterans and at least one gonzo guitar player who is not afraid to speak his mind and stand up for what he believes in. NRA members believe it is our responsibility as Americans to participate in this experiment in self-government.
I personally invite you to come to the Kentucky Expo Center this weekend to celebrate freedom with tens of thousands of other like-minded Americans. You will encounter courteous, polite and gregarious Americans who believe freedom is worth fighting for. We are the NRA.
Ted Nugent has consistently received more votes to the NRA Board than any other nominee, with the exception of the late, great Charlton Heston. Nugent continues to set attendance records at every NRA seminar and book signing event he hosts. For more information on all things Nugent, please visit www.tednugent.com.
Special Report: 2nd Amendment Under Fire
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
By Wayne Lapierre
As the Supreme Court deliberates whether or not the District of Columbia's 30-year-old gun ban is unconstitutional under the Second Amendment, a deep background look is critical to understanding what is at stake in terms of our personal liberties and the rights that ensure them. This case�District of Columbia v. Heller�is about whether the Second Amendment is an individual right. And it is about whether such an individual right can be abrogated by government to render it meaningless in word and in practice for individual Americans. If peaceable citizens are disarmed of firearms, do they still possess a right?
For Americans who believe in the Second Amendment�especially for District of Columbia residents�the day of reckoning before the United States Supreme Court has been 30 years in the making. The story of the plight of disarmed d.c. residents really begins on the night of March 16, 1975, when three women, sharing a townhouse, were awakened by the sound of their door being kicked in. This was no ordinary burglary or home invasion; this was a horrific, unspeakable crime. Two of the three roommates had rooms upstairs. They were awakened by the screaming of their friend downstairs who was being beaten, raped and sodomized by two men. Carolyn Warren called the police and was told help was on the way. She and her other upstairs roommate watched in horror as a police car passed their home, merely slowing down. They called the police a second time. This time, there was no response at all. After an hour, hearing no sounds from the floor below, they called down to their friend, but merely alerted the rapists to their presence. After that, all three women were forced to endure 14 unspeakable hours of sexual torture. The women sued the District of Columbia and after two years�during which time d.c. instituted its gun ban�they lost.
The case is Warren v. District of Columbia. The d.c. Superior Court ruled, " ... a government and its agents are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any particular individual citizen." (Emphasis added.) Thus the rule that the District had no duty to protect its individual citizens was in place when, in July 1976, the d.c. City Council enacted its draconian gun ban. If the lower court ruling in Ms. Warren's case was devastating to her and every law-abiding resident of the District of Columbia, the ruling of the d.c. Court of Appeals, 444 a.2d 1(d.c App. 1981) was worse: "The duty to provide public services is owed to the public at large, and, absent a special relationship between the police and an individual, no specific legal duty exists." (Emphasis added.) It begs the basic question: If the police have no duty to protect individuals in their homes, who does? The individual does. You and I do. Average citizens.
That is why the Second Amendment has such deep relevance in modern times. There is nothing archaic and outmoded in the notion that people must have the means to defend themselves against violent criminal predators. Self-defense is a basic human right. It is the fundamental reason that countless tens of millions of Americans own firearms. The protection of that bedrock human right�eviscerated by a tyrannical government�lies at the heart of the historic challenge to d.c.'s gun ban supported by a host of civil liberties groups including the nra, the oldest such organization in the nation. Yet in the District of Columbia that right�for 30 years�has been denied to its law-abiding residents. It is clear that the d.c. gun ban law denies that most fundamental basic human right of self-defense by criminalizing possession of handguns by peaceable citizens, and criminalizing armed defense in the home with any legally possessed, operable and ready firearm. Think about this. A disassembled or disabled gun is no gun at all, and that is what d.c. residents are "allowed" to possess in their own homes. The d.c. gun ban is, in essence and in fact, a ban on armed self-defense. Under the d.c. law, registered long guns (and the few remaining legal handguns) must be broken down, unassembled, trigger-locked or otherwise kept inoperable at all times in the home. It is a crime to keep any firearm loaded. As for handguns, the d.c. ban, in reality, banned compliance with the long-existing gun registration law. Under that ban, owners of registered handguns were allowed tore-register their arms by an absolute deadline�September 24, 1976. Thereafter, no handguns could be registered by honest citizens. Thus, by shutting the door on registration, new legal possession of handguns was banned.
During the short time when d.c.'s law-abiding handgun owners could re-register their arms, many citizens believed the law was open for them to register their handguns for the first time. They were turned away and told they would not be allowed to comply and that their guns would become contraband. If they kept those unregisterable guns, they could be tracked down and prosecuted. But there is something else that made the d.c. ban even more evil: The d.c. gun registration law itself�under a 1968 u.s. Supreme Court ruling�Haynes v. u.s. (390 u.s. 85, 1968)�arguably exempted criminals. So, those under federal law prohibited from owning guns were exempt, while ordinary citizens could be punished for owning an unregistered gun. Under that decision�which many top legal experts tell me still applies in the District of Columbia�the court ruled: "We hold that a proper claim of the constitutional privilege against selfincrimination provides a full defense to prosecutions either for failure to register a firearm ... or for possession of an unregistered firearm ..."(Emphasis added.) On top of all this, in 1994, the City Council made it a criminal act for anyone to carry a handgun in the home without a license. The d.c. registration law and the ban made potential criminals out of peaceable citizens, whose only relationship to criminal violence was being thrust into the role of unarmed innocent victims in their own homes. Equally insane is the fact that, in the ensuing 30 years of evermetastasizing criminal violence, d.c. officials have totally ignored the truly effective anti-criminal tools at hand. As violent crime by armed criminals has steadily escalated over the 30 years since the d.c. ban, District officials and the media have blamed what they have called the "lax" laws in neighboring states. Let me put that another way: They blame freedom of others for the failure of their tyranny.
As for d.c.'s armed criminal predators, as any nra member knows, federal firearm law�then and now�provides harsh penalties for possession, acquisition, use and interstate transportation of any firearm by violent felons and fugitives. However, the District has utterly failed to use that law to arrest, prosecute and jail armed predators. As a result, illegally armed criminals have continued to prey on the disarmed, innocent citizenry of our nation's capital. But such prudent action by city officials would have destroyed their anti-Second Amendment agenda. We�the large community of pro-gun rights activists�have been preparing for the moment that is at hand. Whatever its outcome, American gun owners need to keep in mind that when we elect the next president, we will be shaping a Supreme Court that could reach 50 years into the future, and in that future hangs all the freedoms we hold dear.
Wayne Lapierre is Executive Vice President of the NRA