Opinion

Newt gets bum rap on gun rights

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Bob Barr
Former Congressman (R-GA)
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      Bob Barr

      Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He was known as a staunch advocate for limited government and individual liberty --- passions which continue to be the hallmark of his post-congressional work as a practicing lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia, and as a widely-read and listened to public speaker and columnist. His reputation in support of individual privacy earned him the moniker “Mr. Privacy” from the late New York Times columnist William Safire. Bob has published three books, including one that recounts his leadership in the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton, “The Meaning of Is.” Bob also teaches a course on constitutional law and public policy at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School and serves as Chairman of Liberty Guard, Inc. a non-profit and non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting individual liberty.

One of my favorite Christmas movies is “A Christmas Story,” the 1983 classic that centers on young Ralphie’s machinations to have Santa Claus bring him a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Ralphie’s mother, of course, fears he would “shoot his eye out” if this occurred.

Watching the movie recently brought to mind the manner in which GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is being blasted by some of his Republican opponents and by certain firearms organizations for being insufficiently supportive of the Second Amendment. As a strong supporter of that provision in our Bill of Rights and a long-time board member of the National Rifle Association, I am always sensitive to claims that candidates aren’t supportive of the Second Amendment.

In this instance, the claims that Gingrich doesn’t support the Second Amendment are, at best, mistaken and, at worst, intentionally deceptive. In either event, the claims and the simplistic manner in which they are being bandied about do an injustice to both Gingrich and the Second Amendment.

Allow me to give an example that illustrates Gingrich’s fundamental support for firearms rights and his willingness to put that support into actual legislative action.

In 1995, my first year in the House of Representatives (and the first year of Gingrich’s speakership), Newt formed a Firearms Legislation Task Force. The principal mission of this task force was to repeal the so-called “Clinton Gun Ban,” which had been enacted the prior year. Newt appointed me to chair it.

Newt helped marshal support for the task force’s bill, which would have repealed the Clinton Gun Ban, and saw to it that the bill was brought to the floor of the House for a vote. The bill passed the House. Unfortunately, when the legislation arrived in the Senate, then-Majority Leader Bob Dole refused to act on it (despite earlier vows to bring it to a vote), and it died.

My point is that when he was in a position to lead in the Congress on a highly controversial firearms-rights issue, Gingrich exercised the power necessary to get the job done in support of the Second Amendment.

Has Gingrich always voted the way that I would have on Second Amendment issues? No. However, the same could be said of most GOP presidential candidates, past or present. But to make a quantum leap and claim that Gingrich doesn’t support our fundamental right to keep and bear arms or that he would not actively support measures to protect that right as president is disingenuous and flat-out wrong.

Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He provides regular commentary to Daily Caller readers.