Gun Laws & Legislation

NRA-ILA Executive Director, Chris Cox: You can’t afford to sit out this fight

NRA ILA Contributor
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By NRA-ILA’s Chris Cox

Every January, most state legislators return to their respective capitals to start a new legislative session. For gun owners, this means we have to be ready to make our voices heard in support of our Second Amendment rights.

Last year, we faced unprecedented attacks at every level. But thanks to the hard work and dedication of millions of NRA members, we beat back most of these attacks. Anti-gun legislation was defeated in the United States Senate in April, as well as throughout the year in many state legislatures.

That truth is very important for gun owners to remember. Even in the face of the most strident anti-gun attacks from the media, President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a host of other radical opponents of liberty, we won far more battles than we lost. In addition, pro-gun bills were passed in 30 states, with many jurisdictions enacting multiple pro-gun measures.

Unfortunately, we did not win all our battles. But even as the NRA and gun owners were attacked and maligned across the country, only nine states passed laws restricting our freedoms. In each of those states, NRA was in the trenches with our members fighting to stop those bills. And in the coming year we will continue to fight to undo the damage wherever possible.

We know who the leaders of the anti-gun movement are at the national level. They include Obama and Biden, along with Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. And of course there is former Mayor Bloomberg. Now that he is out of office, Bloomberg has even more time to use his billions to influence elections and the legislative process in Congress and every state capital. He has made it clear that he will spend whatever it takes to win passage of laws that strip away our rights. And he has a lot of local anti-gun politicians lined up to do his bidding. It is vital that NRA members know who is coming after our rights in the state legislatures and what they are trying to accomplish. That is the only way they can be stopped.

Much of the anti-gunners’ focus will continue to be on so-called “universal” background checks—their code for criminalizing many private firearm transfers and creating the foundation for firearm registries. That proposal was defeated at the federal level last April, but they will try again, and they are looking at state legislatures to take similar action. We expect to see efforts in many states to pass expansions of background check laws. Even in states that have generally pro-gun legislatures, gun owners should be ready to fight against these bills.

The fact is, expanded background checks wouldn’t have prevented the tragedies we’ve seen committed by madmen. Nor will they deter criminals from committing the violence that occurs in our cities every day. We know this, and so do our opponents.

The opposition’s zeal for this concept instead derives from the fact that background checks are a major step toward the creation of a national gun registry. The Department of Justice itself has admitted that without registration, expanded checks are meaningless and unenforceable. Passage of these laws in more states sets the stage to achieve the goal of gun registration.

We need solutions that actually work. We need serious changes to the way we identify and treat the mentally ill. We need to take steps to protect our children in their schools. And we need to redouble our efforts to get violent criminals off our streets. The NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) will continue to urge our friends to focus their efforts in these areas, including action at the state level to make sure that the records used by the current background check system are complete and accurate.

More gun control laws won’t achieve any of these goals. And we will never see any improvements in these areas as long as anti-gun politicians are fixated on blaming gun owners rather than finding real solutions.

While criminalizing the transfer of a firearm to a friend or relative without government permission may be their top priority, banning the mythic semi-automatic “assault weapon” is also high on the anti-gun agenda. As with expanded background checks, their goal in this regard is not crime control but a long-term prohibition strategy. The idea is to divide gun owners against each other and condition the public to view some guns as “bad,” while continually expanding the types of firearms that fit under that umbrella.

We saw a few states last year move to enact gun bans and magazine restrictions. We know that anti-gun politicians will try to spread these laws to new states. NRA-ILA is working in every state to arm our pro-gun allies with the information they need to push back against the gun banners.

It is also important to note that such laws have had severe economic consequences in states like New York and Colorado. Firearm-related businesses are moving elsewhere. Perhaps the potential loss of jobs will give pause to some on-the-fence legislators in other states.

Of further concern are unilateral actions President Obama might take to attack the Second Amendment. Now that Secretary of State John Kerry has signed the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, we have to make sure that it is never ratified by the current, or a future, Senate. Equally important is the threat of regulatory and executive actions to implement parts of the treaty that the Obama administration believes they can legally pursue without Senate action. NRA-ILA will monitor the actions in this area very closely and keep all our members informed of any effort to side-step the Constitution and implement any part of the treaty without Senate ratification.

In the face of these threats, our job is to get involved and stay involved. All gun owners should continue to contact their senators and congressmen. Both our allies and our opponents need to know that there are tens of millions of gun owners who will not stand idly by while our rights are dismantled.

Last September, gun owners in Colorado sent a resounding message by recalling two senators who voted for the anti-gun bills in that state. NRA members in every state can reinforce that message by letting their lawmakers know that they, too, could face similar career consequences unless they protect our rights. It is also important that NRA members let pro-gun legislators know that gun owners will stand with them as long as they keep up the fight to preserve our liberties.

And while we will be working hard in the states, we cannot forget that what our opponents really want are new federal gun control laws. We can count on Sen. Feinstein to try to pass her semi-auto ban again, and there are still more than 50 votes in the U.S. Senate to mandate “universal” background checks.

But there is also a bright side to a new legislative season. We have the opportunity to work with our allies to improve our laws and strengthen our rights. In many states, NRA-ILA will be working to pass reforms to carry laws and make them fairer and less restrictive. NRA-ILA will also work to expand Right-to-Carry reciprocity between the states, with a goal of passing universal recognition statutes nationwide, as well as federal Right-to-Carry reciprocity legislation. Other pro-rights reforms such as castle doctrine protections will be pursued in states where those measures have not yet been enacted. And NRA-ILA will fight to roll back the new laws that were passed last year in places such as Maryland, New York and Colorado. These efforts will be undertaken not just in the legislatures, but also in the courts.

As NRA-ILA has for decades, we will also continue to fight to protect our great American hunting heritage. This will include protecting the use of traditional ammunition from attacks by radical environmental and animal “rights” groups. NRA is also working with our allies to eliminate the antiquated restrictions on Sunday hunting that are on the books in 10 eastern states. Finding time to hunt is getting more and more difficult, and the Sunday hunting bans are a serious obstacle for many sportsmen and for bringing youth still attending school into our hunting tradition.

The other thing hunters need is places to hunt. NRA-ILA will continue to support reforms that make public land, whether federal, state or local, open to hunters wherever possible. Additionally, we are working to expand programs that encourage private landowners to make their lands available to sportsmen.

These are just some of the threats and opportunities we face. With the help of millions of NRA members, NRA-ILA will be on the front line in every state to fight to protect our rights this coming year. As the legislative sessions advance, NRA-ILA will keep every gun owner informed at www.nraila.orgabout any action in the legislatures or in Congress that threatens our liberties.

No gun owner can afford to sit out this fight. If you belong to the NRA, consider extending your membership and enlisting friends and family members to join you. If you are not a member, know that the need for voices and numbers in our ranks has never been greater. The NRA’s real strength and influence comes not from media-concocted Washington power brokers but from millions of ordinary, everyday Americans devoted to the concept of freedom and all pulling in the same direction to achieve it.

Together, we will prevail in 2014 and beyond, but we can’t do it without you.

Chris Cox’s column appears in NRA publications American Rifleman, American Hunter and American’s First Freedom. Join the NRA with a $10 discount on your annual membership click here.