Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton says on her website that she wants a new “assault weapons ban” and wants to repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA)—legislation that stops frivolous lawsuits that attempt to hold gun makers responsible for the actions of criminals. In fact, her husband’s administration passed the 1994 Assault Weapons ban and, while she was in the Senate, she voted against the PLCAA.
Yet there is a long list of other things she says she wants that we already have in place. Why would she promote the passage of things that are already in the law? Let’s take a look and see.
1. Hillary says she would “Revoke the licenses of bad-actor dealers.” Her official explanation for this is: “Hillary believes we must do more to crack down on gun stores that flood our communities with illegal guns. As president, she will provide funding to increase inspections and aggressively enforce current law by revoking the licenses of dealers that knowingly supply straw purchasers and traffickers.”
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is already tasked with this. As I noted in a previous column, although Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel has made a habit of blaming Second Amendment-protected freedom outside of Chicago for gang warfare in the city, Thomas Ahern, public information officer for the Chicago Field Division of the ATF, told me, “In our experience, licensed gun dealers are not the problem.”
When asked if gun dealers help to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, Ahern said, “Gun dealers are typically allies in this fight. Our agents maintain close relationships with gun dealers and we instruct them not to sell to anyone they suspect might be a straw purchaser. We also ask that they contact our agents if they suspect a criminal is attempting to purchase guns from them. They mostly do this.”
Also, when I visited the ATF’s National Tracing Center in Martinsburg, W.Va., Neil Troppman, a program manager with the ATF, showed me hallways and even tractor-trailer-sized metal containers filled with gun sales records from gun dealers that went out of business. So I asked Troppman if any of the records had come from gun stores the ATF put out of business for making illegal sales. He said, “Those records would come through the same way.Why would she promote the passage of things that are already in the law?
That was a dodge, so I asked, “Given that there are 140,000 FFLs in the U.S., and given that ATF agents are tasked with policing them, and given that some politicians, such as the mayor of Chicago, have accused gun stores of arming criminal gangs, can you show me records that have come in from busted gun stores?”
He wasn’t able to show me any and he “explained” that it is very hard to bust a gun store owner for breaking the law.
Clearly, gun stores are not the problem. So why does Hillary want to regulate them even more? Could this be politics related to her desire to repeal the PLCAA? Does she, through frivolous lawsuits and direct government intimidation, want to drive gun stores and manufacturers out of business?
Why isn’t she more interested in busting and prosecuting the people who do break our gun laws? Wouldn’t Hillary’s emphasis on law-abiding gun stores and manufacturers take even more resources away from busting and prosecuting criminals?
Clearly, her chief concern is a certain type of gun-control politics.
2. Hillary says she supports legislation to stop domestic abusers from buying and possessing guns. But right now, federal law already does prohibit domestic abusers from purchasing or possessing firearms. So then, is she unhappy that this only applies to people who have had due process in a court of law?
The thing is, these crimes can already be adjudicated in federal court.Instead of giving people their day in court, what Hillary really wants is to allow people’s Second Amendment rights to be taken away on the word of any other citizen (even an anonymous one).
If she were, instead, arguing that we need to improve the process for revoking someone’s ability to own or buy guns through a court of law that protects everyone’s rights and lives, then she’d be perhaps moving us toward a nonpartisan and more effective solution. But she isn’t doing that. Instead, she is arguing that we need to take away peoples’ Second and Fifth Amendment rights.
She isn’t enhancing women’s rights with this position, as a woman’s rights could theoretically be taken away just as easily as a man’s. Instead, she is taking a political position based on emotion, ignorance and government-knows-best paternalism. If she really wanted to enhance women’s rights, she’d be trying to make sure all law-abiding citizens can quickly get self-defense arms if they need them.
3. Hillary wants to make straw purchasing (in other words, a person who can pass a background check buying a gun for someone who can’t) a federal crime. The thing is, these crimes can already be adjudicated in federal court. Some are. Often federal and local prosecutors talk about these cases and decide where to take them to court. Joseph D. Fitzpatrick, an assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago, for example, told me they have monthly meetings with city, state and other officials to discuss particular cases as they decide which has a better chance for a stiffer sentence, state or federal court.
The main trouble with straw purchasing is that people are rarely prosecuted for this crime. If Hillary really wanted to help, she’d be saying that the first thing she’d do would be to tell her attorney general to make the Department of Justice aggressively prosecute straw purchasers or anyone else they bust for gun-related crimes.
When asked about prosecuting people for such crimes, Vice President Joe Biden was once quoted saying, “[R]egarding the lack of prosecutions on lying on Form 4473s, we simply don’t have the time or manpower to prosecute everybody who lies on a form, that checks a wrong box, that answers a question inaccurately.”
We don’t need more of this attitude in the White House. We need people who will leave law-abiding citizens alone with their freedom and who will, at the same time, aggressively arrest and prosecute those who break our laws.