Editor Denny Hansen has a policy of not printing the names of villains in S.W.A.T. Magazine. In this column, that applies in particular to people whose actions end up threatening the rights of honest gun owners.
Thus, the names of the Sandy Hook school shooter, the madman who blasted Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and that pair of creeps from Columbine High School will never appear here. Naming them gives them publicity and encourages wannabes.
In that tradition, I’m going to omit the name of the villain of today’s piece (even though I’m not sure Denny would even agree that this person is a villain). This villain didn’t kill anybody. But he did try to eliminate one fundamental aspect of gun rights—and he’ll likely try again. In my book his deeds are all the more heinous because he’s one of the country’s best-known gun-rights activists!
After the Sandy Hook tragedy, when anti-gunners were once again in full cry, believing that this time they could sweep away our right to acquire selfdefense weapons without government permission, this man actually stepped forward (first in his home base of Washington state, then in the other Washington) to try to help them do it.
Let’s get some terminology straight. The gun-banners’ cry was for “universal background checks.” He joined them in their demand for that. But that very term is deceptive in several ways.
First, background checks mean seeking permission from government before being “allowed” to buy firearms. Permission can be denied or delayed for arbitrary reasons (and we all know that, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “a right delayed is a right denied”). Even when background-check rules state, as they do now, that sales can proceed if the permission-granting system is unavailable, gun sellers are too petrified of the ATF and FBI to sell in that case.
Imagine if the National Instant- Check System (NICS) went offline and no firearm transaction, even a private one, could proceed. Imagine if some politician or bureaucrat decided that could be an amazingly useful thing “for the duration” of some real or invented emergency. Or just because.
Second, background checks also inevitably mean gun (or at least gun-owner) registration. I don’t care how many promises legislators or bureaucrats make about not keeping databases. I don’t care how many lawyerly passages declare that gun-purchase databases would be a crime. I don’t care how many weasels or useful idiots soothingly assure us that government would never, ever, ever keep a database on us and our guns. Universal background checks mean universal registration—if not on the day a law is signed, then a year or two years or five years later.
Anyone who believes otherwise is incredibly naive.
Background checks are also expensive and often result in false denials. John Lott recently estimated that anywhere from 94 to 99% of denials are actually due to errors in the NICS system. If there are even 1/10th that many errors, it should be a national scandal.
Above all, universal registration enables confiscation—if not now, then five or 10 years from now, after the next evil bastard has made a name for himself via mass murder.
Yet a man who represents himself as one of the nation’s top gun-rights activists tried to help the enemies of the Second Amendment impose all that on us.
In Washington state in March, he proposed a “compromise” on a Democrat- sponsored “universal background check” bill. He said if lawmakers would just destroy existing records of handgun buyers (a database few state gun owners even knew existed), then he would happily support this bill (HB-1588) that would inevitably create a database of all Washington state gun buyers.
He would have exempted a few classes (those who had already put their names into state databases, identifying themselves as gun owners), but basically the only people who would be “allowed” to escape government databases would be those who received firearms from relatives.
Fortunately, the bill failed in the Democrat-controlled state House and most likely wouldn’t have passed the Republican-controlled Senate in any case. Though he faced a tsunami of rage for trying to help the Democrats pass their state bill, this activist turned right around and tried to get a Charles Schumer-sponsored “universal background check” bill passed in the U.S. Senate!
Once again, he operated in the name of “compromise.” This time, he collaborated with Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania to work out an amendment to Schumer’s bill (S.AMDT.715 to S.649). He advocated imposing background checks on the whole nation. His “compromise” was to add a few provisions that more serious gun-rights activists called “trinkets” or “spoonfuls of sugar”—privileges that could be revoked as readily as they were granted.
When it came out that he had actually helped write the amendment, the entire gun-blogosphere arose in one cry of fury. Furthermore, this man made public statements that misrepresented both current law and the bill’s provisions. He even boasted at a public dinner that he had managed to get “secret” provisions into the bill and that he was sure the votes were there to pass it into law, “secret” provisions and all.
A few days later, he withdrew his support, stating that his support had always been conditional and that antigun Democrats were refusing to go along with parts of his wish list of sweeteners (apparently the “secrets” he had boasted about).
It’s vital to understand that, at both the state and federal levels, this socalled gun-rights activist attempted to trade a basic right—the ability to buy a defensive weapon without government permission—for a handful of easily revocable government-granted privileges. That’s no compromise. It’s a sell-out.
In the end, of course, Toomey- Schumer-Manchin and everything else the gun-haters wanted went down in flames. At least temporarily.
The man I regard as the villain of this piece is very intelligent. He’s also got decades of experience in politics, so his seeming naiveté (his shock that antigun politicians would actually break the terms of their “compromise” with him) is jarring.
He has defenders. They say that a man so smart wouldn’t screw up so badly. They say we should trust him even if we have doubts about his strategy, because he’s a leader. They say that maybe he was actually trying to kill the bills, and that his “compromises” were mere ruses—very, very clever pro-gun strategies to rouse opposition and keep the bills from passing.
The bills did get torpedoed (or at least temporarily tabled in the U.S. Senate). But I’ve been watching this man’s work for a long time. Nothing in his statements or his entire body of work indicates that he would take the risk of supporting gun-control bills as a strategy for defeating them. In my view, he’s a chronic compromiser who wouldn’t recognize a fundamental principle of freedom if it bit him on his backside.
And I hope our rights do bite him, right where it hurts.
Of course, some compromise is necessary. Life would be damned difficult if we were all bullheads who had to have our own way 100% of the time. Politics would be impossible.
But there is a difference between compromise and collaboration with an enemy. There’s a difference between mutually beneficial agreements and simply selling out rights in the vain hope of getting along with people who hate you and will hurt you in the end, by hook or by crook.
To people without a sound grasp of fundamental rights and principles, it’s not always obvious which is which. But not perceiving the difference can deprive you of every right you thought you possessed.