There was so much that was so wrong about President Barack Obama’s gun control press conference held in the East Room of the White House last week. One appropriate way to describe it is “cringe-worthy.” It would have been embarrassing to watch a hormonally-imbalanced college freshman who was the perennial runner-up in high school debate club make the same claims at a keg party. This was coming from the guy who holds the most powerful office on the planet. I’m still not sure how I managed to suffer through the entire thing.
Putting the announcement of the dangerous policy sham aside, I want to focus on a few of the most offensive moments of the three-ring circus. The focus is the hard thing since there are so many examples of absurdity and intellectual dishonesty. What he said can’t be chalked up to any simple mistake, because at least some of his hundreds of staffers must know better even if he doesn’t. I guess it really is proof that Obama believes that everything NRA does is terrible, even when it comes to helping stamp out the remnants of our racist past.
One of the more troubling moments was when the president lamented the NRA-led 2007 repeal of Missouri’s racist permit-to-purchase-a-handgun law. I guess it really is proof that Obama believes that everything NRA does is terrible, even when it comes to helping stamp out the remnants of our racist past.
The Missouri law was first adopted by white men in order to ensure that a white official (the sheriff in this case) was there to stop black men from buying handguns to protect themselves and their families from violence. After all, it’s always easier to keep certain people in their “place” if they’re defenseless. The law required all prospective buyers of a handgun to first acquire a permit from the sheriff. The sheriff was able to unilaterally deny the permit for cause, or for no reason at all. Our country is supposed to be a nation of laws, not of men, and no single government official should ever be allowed to wield that much power over the citizen.
During the 2007 legislative session, I testified to the Senate Committee at the Missouri State Capitol regarding, among other things, the racist roots of the law. When I returned to my seat in the audience, a particularly anti-gun senator took the floor and argued that he knew better. He scoffed at the claim that racism had inspired the passage of the law. The senator was white. That’s when an older, black gentleman from the audience stepped to the microphone to testify. What he said left the elected official with the big ego uncharacteristically quiet.
He told the story of how he wanted to buy a handgun to protect himself and his family during the turbulent times of the mid-’60s. He had no kind of record whatsoever, not even a speeding ticket. When he went to the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office for permission to exercise his God-given right as the law unjustly required, he was flatly denied. Meanwhile, all of the white men there at the same time walked out with their permit papers in hand. He stared into the senator’s eyes, and told him that the only possible reason for his denial was the color of his skin. It was a powerful and memorable moment, to be sure.
At his press conference, the president referenced some Cracker Jack-box “research” that claimed that Missouri’s murder rate increase after 2007 was due to the repeal of the racist law. The truth is that the murder rate in the state was increasing before the law was repealed; the result-pursuing, sorry-excuse-for-researchers cherry-picked their data and took advantage of the continuing trend. They are as much of a disgrace to the scientific field as the pompous, condescending president is to his office. As John Lott points out, FBI data shows that the growth in Missouri’s murder rate actually slowed dramatically after the repeal of the law. I don’t know a single person in the country who would ever explain their appreciation of any of our rights by saying that they’re right “there on the paper.”
The NRA has been helping repeal dozens of gun control laws like the one in the Show-Me State all around the country, every single year, for decades. Meanwhile, America’s violent crime rate has been steadily plummeting since the all-time high experienced in 1991. Since that terrible year, it has decreased an astounding 51 percent.
If President Obama is going to blindly blame all that is bad in Missouri on the repeal of the racist permit-to-purchase law, when can we expect him to “blame” all of this crime-reduction goodness across the nation on the more than 300 million guns in the hands of good Americans and the dramatic reduction in anti-gun laws thanks to the NRA’s tireless work? Of course, the answer is never, because none of this fits into his twisted view of the world gained primarily through his time serving as a community organizer on the corrupt streets of Chicago.
Other particularly unbearable moments during the press conference involved Obama’s discussion of the Constitution, the Second Amendment and our other individual rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. He started all of it by reassuring the listener that he believes in the Second Amendment. After all, it’s “written there on the paper.” The whole thing was awkward in the kind of way one experiences when watching a young boy ask a girl on a date for the first time. Nothing about it was comfortable.
I don’t know a single person in the country who would ever explain their appreciation of any of our rights by saying that they’re right “there on the paper.” Our freedoms should be something so much bigger. Our forefathers fought and died to secure them. We should jealously guard them as our most cherished possessions—goods we would sacrifice everything we have in order to keep.
The president tried to explain how anyone who doubted his devotion to the Second Amendment had no basis whatsoever for their hesitation to believe him. It’s interesting during all of this that he never mentioned anything about an “individual” right. This is in keeping with his refusal as a U.S. senator to sign a Heller brief making the case for an individual right interpretation, something 55 of his colleagues did.
It’s also consistent with the fact that the two justices he appointed to the Supreme Court held that the Right to Arms is the single collective right protected in the Bill of Rights. But no one should ever question whether his devotion to Right to Arms has any real meaning at all! It is apparently what he says, not what he does, that is important. The guy is a con man, plain and simple. Are we simply supposed to forget that he is constantly touting Australia’s enormous gun confiscation scheme as the model that will lead us to peace in America?
President Obama explained how he once was a constitutional law teacher, just to be sure everyone listening knew that he was the expert. All I could think about at that moment is how much I pitied his students for having been cheated of their education. He proceeded to embarrass himself by using one of the silliest arguments ever used by any gun-control advocate anywhere—his sophomoric attempt to explain that our rights are never “absolute” and that gun owners must get with the game and accept many more restrictions for the good of the whole.
He used the old “You can’t yell fire in a crowded theater” garbage to argue that there are restrictions on the First Amendment, so gun owners just need to stand down and accept more infringement of their Second Amendment rights. Well, sure, I guess there is some modest limit on free speech, professor. It’s just that enacting gun control to supposedly prevent violence is like requiring everyone attending a movie to strap on a muzzle before entering the theater to ensure they don’t yell “fire!”
We don’t do that, professor. We punish those who yell “fire.” If you’re dedicated to the message in your cheesy example, you stand with what the NRA has argued all along—respect firearm freedoms in our country and punish the exceptional minority who actually abuse that freedom. If someone discharges a gun in a theater to create a scare, throw them in the clink. In the meantime, leave me and the guns I choose to own as a free man well enough alone! President Obama explained how he used to teach constitutional law, just to be sure everyone listening knew that he was the expert. All I could think about at that moment is how much I pitied his students for having been cheated of their education.
Later in the press conference, the president took another stab at trying to prove to the world that he doesn’t know more than a fifth grader about how the Constitution works. I’m sure Jeff Foxworthy was having a good laugh. The president raised his voice for effect and went on a rant about how mass murderers have recently violated the right of citizens to worship freely and “safely,” and to peacefully assemble in movie theaters.
Sadly, the professor doesn’t understand that madmen not affiliated with the government cannot violate anyone’s constitutional rights. The Constitution, as amended, limits the power of the government over the people. If I put duct tape over the mouth of a public debate participant, I’m not violating his First Amendment rights. I could probably be arrested for assault, though.
A policeman or state bureaucrat acting in his official capacity doing the same thing is another matter. Abusing the application of the Constitution in this fashion diminishes its proper role in the past, present and future. To anyone who appreciates history and believes in American exceptionalism, it’s appalling behavior on the part of any president.
In a further effort to exploit the evil acts of a few madmen in order to erode the rights of millions of good Americans, Obama loudly pronounced that recent school shooters denied students and children their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Again, this is gratuitous abuse of the Constitution. The bigger point for self-reliant Americans, though, is that the gun is the ultimate protector of this particular right. Disarming the good among us only makes us more vulnerable to madmen and abuse by government. History everywhere proves this.
So, the press conference was primarily about announcing more dangerous abuse of executive power; but it was also just one more example of the fact that the president has absolutely no shame. He will say and do anything to appeal to emotion. He couldn’t care less about history, the facts or the harm he does to people’s understanding of how our system works. The circus is in town for another year, and I simply cannot wait for it to load up and move out.