When a voice rises above the political fray with something real, honest and fundamental about America right now, people stop to listen. Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) offers such a voice on the Second Amendment today. She uses an American common-sense approach to point out the flawed thinking of those who argue that infringing on the rights of law-abiding gun owners will somehow talk criminals out of breaking the law.
And it isn’t easy for a member of the U.S. Congress to bust through the din in the lower chamber; after all, there are 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Okay, this isn’t anything compared to the English Parliament’s 650 members, or the French National Assembly’s 577 deputies. But it is numerous enough that few members are recognizable outside of their districts—and, in fact, many can walk down a main street within their own districts without being recognized. Of course, this is part of the brilliance of the Framers’ design. The size of the House of Representatives keeps its members’ politics mostly local, as few are able to gain the name recognition to become nationally known.
This also means that, now and then, members of Congress—if they are representing their constituents and not just selling out to Washington, D.C., power and money—must stand up against the dominance of the federal government.
One thing that makes Rep. Lesko’s stance on the Second Amendment so intriguing is that she began to understand this freedom later in life. She says she actually had to overcome an irrational fear of guns to appreciate what this freedom is all about. This makes her an important spokesperson for the Second Amendment at this moment in time, as her perspective helps her connect with the millions of new gun owners who have also recently discovered the importance of this right.
So we thought we’d ask Rep. Lesko to explain her view and tell us how we can better reach and communicate with America’s millions of new gun owners, many of whom are women.
A1F: As the Biden administration pushes its gun-control policies, what is it like to be a defender of the U.S. Bill of Rights within this Congress?
Rep. Lesko: The Democrats are very radical right now, which is totally opposite of what President Joe Biden (D) said he was going to do. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) controls the agenda in Congress and, with her approval, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) is pushing all kinds of gun-control bills. They don’t trust individual Americans with their freedom; instead, they want to use the federal government to control people by diminishing our freedom. This is why, in 2022, we need to make sure we support candidates who support the Second Amendment, so all of these radical gun-control bills will be stopped in their tracks.
To do so, it’s critical to learn where candidates stand on key issues that are important to you. Here in Congress, it is all about the math. If more politicians who want to pass gun-control laws are elected, then there are going to be more infringements on this basic right passed. It’s that simple.
I do try to work with my Democrat colleagues on issues we can agree on; unfortunately, many of my colleagues across the aisle simply think we have to control guns more, and I just don’t believe that. The trouble isn’t guns, as no gun-control law is going to stop a criminal from simply breaking those laws. What we need to do is target the criminals who commit violent crimes.
A1F: Did you grow up with guns in your home? If not, how did you first learn about this hands-on freedom?
Rep. Lesko: Years ago, I was afraid of guns, so I can relate to people who are afraid of guns. I can understand why some people wrongly think guns are things that lead to or even create violence. I was brought to my senses, I guess you’d say, at a Republican meeting where there was a pro-gun-rights advocate debating a gun-control advocate. The debate really came down to something very simple: The pro-Second Amendment debater argued that people who follow the law will obey the gun laws, whereas the criminals who go around shooting people and killing people will not obey the gun laws. It’s really that simple.
I don’t know why I didn’t see that when I was afraid of guns. But that basic truism clicked. This clear, rational point is something we need to tell our friends and neighbors who are irrationally afraid of guns. The law itself doesn’t stop murderers from killing people unless we find, prosecute and lock up murderers. Laws don’t magically transform behavior. Such is why we need to target criminals, not the peoples’ guns.
Guns are not the enemy. Good people use guns to deter crime all the time. We need to enforce the laws that are already on the books. And we need to make sure that people who need mental-illness help get it.
A1F: What have you done to help people lose their irrational fear of guns?
Rep. Lesko: I have taken both Democrat and Republican women out to Shooter’s World, [a range and store] in Arizona. Some had never shot a gun in their life—both on the Republican and on the Democrat side—and yet everyone had fun.
After instructors helped give everyone a safe, impactful day at the range, we went out to lunch together. I still have a picture of all of us standing in front of a whole bunch of guns for sale at Shooter’s World. That’s what it takes. It takes rational talk and experience to convince people not to be afraid of guns, that guns themselves are not the enemy. As I said, if we change laws to control things, only the law-abiding citizens are going to follow the law. If a criminal is willing to kill somebody, then no gun-control law is going to stop them. Such laws only end up making the people who obey the law more vulnerable.
A1F: Have you been surprised by the tremendous surge in gun ownership in America, especially among women?
Rep. Lesko: No, women need this right. There are so many women who are buying guns now because they know they need to protect themselves. As many on the Left push to defund the police, and as they also let so many prisoners out of jail during the pandemic, you can’t blame people for looking for some security. Combine this with the fact that many on the Left want to take away our gun rights, and you see that the policies coming from the Left would only create a disaster.
As a reaction to this, more and more women like me are going to the gun range and practicing shooting as we learn to defend ourselves. Ultimately, we have to protect ourselves.
A1F: In 2020, you boldly spoke out by tweeting: “The Democrat NY AG is filing an outrageous lawsuit against the @NRA. This is an assault on the Second Amendment and the U.S. Constitution.” Given that there are many millions of new gun owners in America—and many new NRA members—since New York’s attorney general publicly began seeking to disband the NRA, do you foresee a national backlash against these far-Left politics of demonization and control?
Rep. Lesko: It is unfortunate that there are Democrats out there like this AG who are trying to take out an entire association. I think it is corrupt to go after the NRA.
I am just really thankful for the NRA. I mean, it is made up of everyday people who believe in the Constitution and the right to defend ourselves. The NRA is a great organization; that’s why I am a lifetime member. It doesn’t matter if you are a Republican or a Democrat; we need to stand up for the values that have made this nation great, which is, of course, our constitutional rights and freedoms—one of which is the right to bear arms and to defend ourselves.
A1F: In March 2021, you spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives to oppose H.R. 8, a so-called “Universal Background Check” bill, that would curb Second Amendment rights and turn law-abiding citizens into criminals. You said, if passed and signed into law, it would lead to a national gun registry. Can you explain?
Rep. Lesko: “Universal Background Check” legislation is just another attempt to give government more control over individual citizens. These gun-control bills won’t stop crimes. Our cities—the ones with the strictest gun-control laws—have the biggest murder problems. Gun control doesn’t work.
I am a good example. I wasn’t raised with guns. My family didn’t have guns. So, as I said, I had this irrational fear of guns. It didn’t make any sense. It took a very rational person to explain that if you pass these gun-control bills, all it is going to do is take away the rights of the law-abiding citizen. I was afraid to pick up guns, to go to a gun range. But then I learned how to shoot. And so now I am not afraid anymore. It is people who have mental illnesses or ill intent that are a danger, and we do need to enforce the laws on the books to stop or to prevent them from doing harm to themselves or others.
One of the examples I gave when I spoke out against H.R. 8 is that I am a survivor of domestic violence. Women that are survivors of domestic violence may have to defend themselves against an ex-abuser. It is important for us to have the right to defend ourselves.
Let’s take the example of a woman who is in fear for her life and she doesn’t own a gun, but a friend of hers owns a gun; under H.R. 8, that friend wouldn’t be able to loan her a gun without legally transferring the gun to her friend—and so paying fees and more—because if she just loaned her a gun, she would become a criminal. What if there isn’t time for all of that? Why should there be these legal hurdles and costs placed in their way?
Let’s take another example. Let’s say someone has suicidal thoughts and they own a gun. This troubled person contacts a neighbor or a friend and says, ‘Listen, I am not in a good place right now; would you please take my gun?’ Again, H.R. 8 would prevent that. It would make the person giving and the person taking the gun into potential felons.
Also, how in the world would the government enforce H.R. 8? The only way to enforce it would be with a national gun registry, as how else would the government know who had what gun? Even if creating a gun registry were practically possible—and it’s not; in fact, they have failed everywhere they have been tried—we don’t want the government that involved in our lives. I don’t want the government knowing about every gun I have. It only leads to these gun-grabbing people tracking us, and then, at some point, moving to take away our guns. I am so thankful for all of the work the NRA does to prevent things like this.
A1F: How can people follow or find out more about you?
Rep. Lesko: Go to Lesko.House.Gov. I have a weekly newsletter that is a really good source of information. You are not going to get the facts from the mainstream media, but as a member of Congress, I am tuned into things I can share.