As Executive Director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action and Chairman of NRA’s Political Victory Fund, I sometimes face tough judgment calls. But the candidates running to be the Democrat nominee for the presidency seem hard-pressed to make my decision for who to endorse in 2020 an easy one.
President Donald Trump is a proven champion of the right to keep and bear arms. The entire Democrat primary field, meanwhile, treats law-abiding gun owners as America’s enemies.
Two episodes underscore the difference.
In February, President Trump used his State of the Union address to reassert his support for America’s gun owners.
“Just as we believe in the First Amendment, we believe in another Constitutional right that is under siege all across our country. So long as I am president, I will always protect your Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms,” he said. Congressional Republicans stood and cheered. Congressional Democrats, with few exceptions, sat angry and stone-faced.
Which other president has made a point of using his highest-profile speech to emphasize the Second Amendment’s importance before the entire nation, including his loyal opposition?
The other episode concerned Michael Bloomberg, whose effort to secure the Democrat presidential nomination hinges on opposing President Trump generally and Americans’ access to firearms specifically.
During a public appearance in his first New York City mayoral campaign in 2001, someone asked Bloomberg, “What do you think of the Second Amendment?”
The New York Daily News documented his answer: “And that one is?”
What other would-be president began his political career not even knowing the U.S. Constitution protects the peoples’ right to keep and bear arms?
Make no mistake: anti-gun politicians seek to extinguish your right to protect yourself and your loved ones with the firearm of your choice.
But President Trump isn’t afraid to stand up for our right to keep and bear arms.
As he said at the Values Voter Summit last October, “They’re coming after me because I’m fighting for you.” He also correctly stated that if his opponents have their way, “your Second Amendment is in serious, serious trouble.”
The Democrats have yet to settle on a clear frontrunner. But the candidates are divided on guns only by style and emphasis, not substance.
The Democrat primary field has no gun-policy moderates. They have become so extreme on this issue that anyone who hasn’t made a point of repeatedly calling for outright firearm confiscation can claim to be more “centrist” than the most strident voices in the party.
But don’t think that just because confiscation absolutists like Eric “The Government Has Nukes” Swalwell or Beto “Hell, Yes, We’re Going to Take Your AR-15” O’Rourke have dropped out of the race that your guns are safe.
Every remaining Democrat contender, for example, still endorses a ban on what they misleadingly call “assault weapons” and “large-capacity” magazines.
Consider what those terms mean to the candidates themselves.
In every case, “assault weapon” applies to the AR-15, the most popular center-fire rifle in America. It is also not coincidentally the most demonized by anti-gun activists, even though it is underrepresented in firearm-related crime and has been repeatedly used by heroes to stop mass violence by criminals.
“Large capacity” applies to the magazines that currently come standard with the AR-15 and with most self-defense pistols.
America’s most popular and effective defensive firearms, in other words, are exactly what they mean.
Yet, some candidates talk as if they want to ban semi-automatic firearms altogether.
In 2012, after Bloomberg started a gun-control group for big city mayors, an ABC reporter asked how he would define the “assault weapons” the group wanted Congress to ban. Bloomberg replied, “Well, if it can fire a lot of bullets very quickly, that’s a good place to start, okay?”
Pressed by the reporter, Bloomberg continued impatiently, “Let’s pick it. Let’s say three. If you haven’t hit the deer with three shots, you’re a pretty lousy shot.”
Bloomberg later called the idea that a homeowner might need a gun for defensive use “one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard.”
He himself, of course, is constantly surrounded by armed guards who are almost certainly armed with semi-automatics that hold more than three rounds.
Joe Biden is just as extreme, saying on the campaign trail last September that “the idea we don’t have elimination of assault-type weapons, magazines that can have, hold multiple bullets in them is absolutely mindless.”
Both Bloomberg and Biden dislike firearms capable of multiple shots. But three rounds? Two rounds? Where is the line, and when will a revolver or over/under shotgun eventually cross it?
The two leading “centrists” in the Democrat field obviously don’t need to understand anything about firearms to know they want to ban whatever guns possible without regard to our right to self-defense. Their views combine moral smugness with rank ignorance.
Another policy on which the Democrat candidates agree is repeal of The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). This law, they claim, gives gun companies “unprecedented” or “extraordinary” immunity for harms supposedly caused by their products.
In truth, the PLCAA was passed to prevent destruction of the American firearms industry by claims that sought to blame lawful businesses for the actions of criminal. That’s why it passed both chambers of Congress in 2005 with broad bi-partisan support. Fourteen Democrats and one Independent voted for the legislation in the Senate; 59 Democrats and one Independent voted for it in the House.
Our law for hundreds of years has imposed no legal liability for a crime committed by a third party. This is common sense. The criminal bears sole responsibility for the crime.
The PLCAA resulted from a coordinated series of lawsuits launched by anti-gun activists in and out of government that sought to establish a different rule in the case of firearm manufacturers and sellers. These activists wanted gun companies to be liable for criminal misuse of their products, even when the gun company had no relationship with the criminal or crime victim.
Through these lawsuits, the plaintiffs hoped to bankrupt gun companies or force them into settlements that would require the companies to adopt restrictive sales and manufacturing policies.
The courts rejected most of the claims that went the distance. But winning wasn’t necessary for the plaintiffs to achieve their goals. They only needed to keep the gun companies tied up in court until they were financially drained.
Thirty-four states already had similar laws to protect gun companies against baseless lawsuits by the time the PLCAA was enacted. But it was still necessary to provide nationwide protection to avert an existential crisis for the U.S. firearms industry.
That is exactly why the Democrat candidates want to repeal the PLCAA—to use mass litigation as a tool to cut off the supply of products and services necessary for Americans to exercise their Second Amendment rights. An army of politically and financially motivated trial lawyers dragging gun companies before activist judges could more efficiently destroy the right to keep and bear arms than an army of federal agents seizing guns by going house to house.
Destroying the U.S. firearms industry would also have seriously hampered our own military’s ability to procure small arms. Without a strong domestic firearms industry, the United States would need to rely on France or Germany to arm our own troops. But, even damaging our national security isn’t enough of a side effect to deter the current crop of Democrat candidates in their crusade against our rights.
Even Bernie Sanders, who voted in favor of the PLCAA in 2005, has been intimidated by the Democrat party into supporting its repeal—going so far as to co-sponsor a bill for that purpose.
But banning popular rifles and magazines, and dealing a legal death blow to the gun industry isn’t all the Democrat contenders have in store for America’s firearm owners.
They also seek to inject government fees, red tape and paper trails into every circumstance in which a firearm changes hands—even between trusted friends and neighbors—if not within families themselves. Besides discouraging ordinary and harmless lending, trading and gifting of firearms among law-abiding people, this creates the infrastructure for a comprehensive federal firearms registry. Gun-control activists consider that a win-win.
But even if your own gun isn’t banned—and even if your local gun shop isn’t shuttered by litigation—the Democrat candidates still have a plan for you because most support federal funding for state laws that would empower anti-gun officials and aggrieved relatives to seek a court order for seizure of your guns, including before you’ve appeared in court to answer their accusations.
These are just some of the worst gun-control plans the candidates have in common. Others would go considerably further, including with firearm-owner-licensing schemes favored by Biden, Bloomberg, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg.
The Democrat candidates are uniformly and rabidly anti-gun, and the “solutions” they propose target law-abiding gun owners, not criminals.
President Donald Trump, on the other hand, has a strong pro-gun record, one I’ll be discussing in coming months. Suffice to say, he has made protecting your Second Amendment rights a higher priority than any president in my lifetime.
He’s also faced down more opposition to those rights, including from political opponents, well-funded special interests, the media, academia, Hollywood and a growing chorus of self-proclaimed “experts.”
The bottom line is that if we want to preserve a strong Second Amendment, now and in the future, the choice for president is clear.