Excerpted from the new book Shall Not Be Infringed—The New Assaults On Your Second Amendment by former NRA President David A. Keene and Thomas L. Mason
This feature appears in the January ‘17 issue of NRA America’s 1st Freedom, one of the official journals of the National Rifle Association.
The real goal of the gun control advocacy community and the politicians they support is to change what they like to call the “American gun culture.” They want to make the shooting sports, self-defense and gun ownership as socially unacceptable as smoking. Sometimes they even admit this is their real goal. “What we need to do is change the way in which people think about guns, especially young people, and make it something that’s not cool, that’s not acceptable. It’s not hip to carry a gun anymore, in the way in which we’ve changed our attitudes about cigarettes. – Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder
In 1995, while former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was serving as U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, he spoke to the Women’s National Democratic Club. C-SPAN 2’s tape of this event shows Holder marveling at the change in attitudes toward smoking that has been engineered over the years and urging gun-controllers to learn about how that change occurred. “You know, when I was growing up, people smoked all the time. Both my parents did. But, over time, we changed the way that people thought about smoking, so now we have people who cower outside of buildings and kind of smoke in private and don’t want to admit it.”
Holder said what worked with smokers could work with gun owners, if we “really brainwash people to think about guns in a vastly different way.” He said the goal had to be to make people “ashamed” to own guns. Speaking about a legal activity and as an attorney for the law, the future attorney general asserted, “What we need to do is change the way in which people think about guns, especially young people, and make it something that’s not cool, that’s not acceptable. It’s not hip to carry a gun anymore, in the way in which we’ve changed our attitudes about cigarettes.”
On Dec. 22, 2015, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a leading legislative gun control advocate even before his election as the commonwealth’s attorney general, announced that he was canceling Virginia’s reciprocity agreements with some 25 other states on the grounds that their concealed-carry permit requirements were not as tough as those imposed by the commonwealth. Herring even admitted at the time that this was part of a national effort to find ways to bypass the legislature’s hostility to gun control measures. This change, had it been implemented, would have made it illegal for some 6.3 million citizens from the affected states to visit or travel through Virginia with a concealed firearm. South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming immediately announced, in retaliation, that they would no longer honor Virginia’s 420,000 concealed-carry permits.
At the press conference announcing his decision, Herring was asked by a Washington Post reporter if he or his office could name a single crime committed in Virginia by an out-of-state concealed-carry permit holder that would have been prevented had he acted earlier. The answer: a simple “No.” The commonwealth of Virginia’s top elected law enforcement official was announcing a “solution” to a nonexistent problem and was willing, in the process, to impose a burden on almost 7 million American gun owners. His announcement had far less to do with a concern for the safety of Virginia citizens than it did with his hostility to gun ownership and desire to help “change the culture.”
Herring’s order, had it gone through, would have made Virginia less safe for its residents and visitors. Crimes involving concealed-carry permit holders are extremely rare, as the men and women granted such permits in any state undergo a more thorough background check and gun handling and safety training than anyone without a permit. Every jurisdiction that allows citizens to carry concealed has experienced a drop in violent crime. Reducing the number of good guys with guns reduces, rather than enhances, public safety.
The political backlash and the intervention of the state legislature following Herring’s action led to negotiations to stop the travesty between the Republican Virginia Senate and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, co-chairman of President Bill Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign, and chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. When the smoke cleared in a compromise in early 2016, gun control advocates were outraged that one of their own was forced to back down from another chance to punish and demonize gun owners. When asked, Alcorn said that “setting cultural norms” is more important and “something that laws do.”
The fact that the Herring proposal would have done nothing to reduce gun crime in Virginia did not bother Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety Research Director Ted Alcorn, because reducing crime was never the point. When asked, Alcorn said that “setting cultural norms” is more important and “something that laws do.”
This drive to “change the culture” has led gun control advocates to target gun owners and Second Amendment rights advocates and has destroyed any good will between Second Amendment supporters and government regulators. American firearms enthusiasts have been derided, in recent years, as dumb, reckless and criminal by those who, overwhelmingly, have never been hunting, shot or owned a gun, or even known anyone who has. Many of the most ardent gun-controllers among us have never been to a rifle or shotgun range, often do not like police, and have never visited a national park or been in the woods since childhood, if then. In comparison, Germany, while no hotbed of gun freedoms, has its preschoolers spend one day a month in the woods, vastly unsupervised compared to American children. The German education system, and that of many others, reflects first its country’s culture and then its policies. It should not be hard to connect the dots here and understand that time in the woods for many Americans would go a long way toward supporting the gun community in retaining their freedoms and increasing what should be a curiosity for the truth.
David A. Keene is the opinion editor at The Washington Times and a past president of the National Rifle Association. James L. Mason is an attorney and expert on the U.N. gun control movement who has emerged as the firearm community’s international spokesperson.