In the grand scheme of gun-control politics, there is one constant: If anti-gun activists can cloak their intentions not in reason, but in “reasonableness”—not in facts, but in what they deem “common sense”—then, just maybe, they can sway a majority of Americans to vote away their hard-won freedom. This tactic is even more effective, their reasoning goes, when they can also hide their infringements on the Second Amendment behind a group of victims we all have genuine compassion for.
This is what former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, calculated when they started their latest gun-control group, the Veterans Coalition for Common Sense.
Giffords was the victim of an assassination attempt at a supermarket near Tucson where she was meeting with voters on Jan. 8, 2011. She was critically injured by a gunshot wound to her head. Six other people lost their lives. Heroic bystanders wrestled the murderer, Jared Lee Loughner, to the ground. Loughner would later plead guilty to avoid a death sentence for himself—such is the selfish nature of the evil we must sometimes face.
Giffords and Kelly chose to face such evil by starting Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS), a non-profit organization and super PAC with the single goal of passing more restrictive gun-control laws. Their motivations might be admirable, but their solutions don’t focus on the real problems. Instead they concentrate on treating law-abiding gun owners as if they are a problem that needs to be solved.
Giffords’ and Kelly’s group ARS wants to pass “universal” background check laws (“universal” is in quotes because it can’t be universal when criminals by definition won’t submit themselves to it); they want to ban gun magazines of certain sizes; they want to ban AR-15-type rifles; and they want to add government black lists, such as the no-fly list, to the National Instant Background Check System (NICS)—thereby taking away citizens’ Second Amendment rights without due process.
To achieve these goals, their political expenditures have been very one-sided. ARS reported spending $6.9 million in the 2014 cycle, $2 million of it for Democrats and $4.2 million against Republicans.
They also see the NRA’s membership as their biggest obstacle.Instead they concentrate on treating law-abiding gun owners as if they are a problem that needs to be solved.
In their book Enough, Giffords and Kelly wrote, “Instead of protecting the interests of the law-abiding gun owners who dominate their membership rolls, NRA leadership increasingly sound as if they’re advocating turning our country into an armed camp.” They later write: “The NRA has, in essence, turned the tables on the Declaration of Independence. Forget about a government designed to protect ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ Most of us trust our government … [b]ut to hear the NRA tell it, once federal or state governments start to pass laws to reduce gun violence in any way, shape or form, it’s a ‘slippery slope.’”
This is the politics of the demagogue.
They don’t explain that the NRA backs laws that focus on catching and prosecuting criminals, as well as those that prevent criminals from getting guns. They also don’t explain that the NRA tends to resist laws that simply criminalize law-abiding behavior and that treats law-abiding Americans as if they are the problem.
Now Giffords and Kelly have launched Veterans Coalition for Common Sense. (This group shouldn’t be confused with Veterans for Common Sense, which is a group “incorporated in 2003 to collect, analyze and disseminate information relevant to U.S. foreign and military policy for the use of the public in better decision making.”)
Giffords’ Veterans Coalition for Common Sense says it wants to strengthen gun background check laws and to help prevent veterans from committing suicide. How passing “universal” background check laws would help troubled veterans isn’t clear. Presumably, veterans could still pass the background check. So to achieve this goal, is Giffords hoping to add these veterans’ private medical records to NICS? That would be a massive disincentive for veterans to seek help. It would literally mean that the men and women who fought for freedom abroad—and who protected us at home with guns—would lose their Second Amendment freedoms, likely for life, because they sought help. Surely, government policy can be smarter than creating that constitutional and human-rights conundrum.
Surely, our veterans are in need of help. Too many commit suicide, and our government is failing them in this regard. And this group has attracted the support, via an “Advisory Committee,” that includes notable people such as retired Four-Star Gen. David Petraeus, retired Four-Star Gen. Stanley McChrystal and former NSA Director Michael Hayden.
Will Giffords and Kelly simply use the popularity of veterans as a cynical smokescreen to try to gain support for their restrictive gun-control proposals—much like Michael Bloomberg did with moms and mayors? Will they attempt to soften the blow of their supposedly common-sense proposals—which would only affect law-abiding citizens, since criminals don’t obey the law—by hiding behind supposed patriotism?
Hopefully, the aforementioned politics of Giffords and Kelly won’t completely obliterate the good that such a group of advisors might achieve for our veterans. As this organization gets started, we’ll keep watch and let you know.