Gun Laws & Legislation

Disarmament Cloaked As “Common Sense”

Chris Cox Executive Director, NRA's Institute for Legislative Action
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Gun control advocates have been at their civilian-disarmament campaign for so long that astute observers will notice the same tactics and approaches returning time and again to the political landscape. When the American public rejects gun control schemes, anti-gun groups simply repackage their old material and strategies of attack. In recent years, such groups have taken to labeling any proposed restriction, no matter how onerous or ineffective, as “common sense.”

“Common sense” is a somewhat subjective term, but the gun control movement’s obvious intent is to portray their proposals as popular, reasonable and benign. Alternatively, gun rights positions are to be considered extreme and out of touch. In reality, this is just a flimsy attempt to veil the oppressive consequences of their proposals.

Everytown for Gun Safety’s materials are replete with appeals for “common-sense” gun laws. Everytown’s website asks visitors to become “gun sense voters,” people who “will fight for common-sense laws to reduce gun violence.” The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence has teamed up with the gun control group Americans for Responsible Solutions to issue “Commonsense Solutions” toolkits for policymakers.

On Jan. 5, when Barack Obama announced his executive actions on gun control, he used “common sense” five times during his speech. Only two days later, he used the term again to describe his anti-gun agenda during a CNN “town hall.” Then on Jan. 20, Attorney General Loretta Lynch defended the president’s unilateral actions as “common-sense” steps to promote public safety.

Does all this sound familiar? It should. The “common-sense” attack has been routine among anti-gunners for decades. In promotional materials from the late 1970s, handgun prohibitionist group Handgun Control Inc. (now the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence) presented its litany of anti-gun proposals as “common sense.” Of course, this is the same group that fought for a 1976 Massachusetts referendum to completely ban handguns in the state.

President Bill Clinton was also fond of the “common sense” argument. In 2000, he labeled those opposed to a federal gun “buy back” program as “opponents of common-sense gun safety.” This was despite the fact that Clinton’s own Department of Justice determined two years earlier that “buy back” programs were useless, something many of the most prominent anti-gun researchers also concluded in the years to come.

We need to look no further than California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom to show where these “common-sense” proposals lead. On Oct. 15, 2015, Newsom announced that he would be pushing a ballot initiative to force a litany of new restrictions on law-abiding Californians, all in the name of “common sense.” In a press release for the cleverly named “Safety for All Act of 2016,” the referendum campaign described it as “a package of common-sense gun reforms.”

California is already home to some of the most oppressive gun laws in the nation, including many measures that gun control advocates sold as “common sense” when pushing for their enactment. California gun owners are subject to “universal” background checks for all but the most limited firearm transfers, as well as gun registration, gun owner licensing, and a ban on popular semi-automatic rifles and magazines. That’s enough “common sense” to choke the Second Amendment into oblivion.

However, this level of control isn’t enough for Newsom and his followers, so more “common-sense” measures are required. The referendum includes a total ban on possession of previously grandfathered magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds, mandatory reporting of lost or stolen firearms, and a requirement that ammunition purchases be conducted pursuant to background checks and record keeping. The fact that New York recently found a similar ammunition scheme entirely unworkable suggests that such restrictions are, if anything, completely devoid of “common sense.”

Gun control advocates know full well that the American public does not embrace their ultimate goal of civilian disarmament. However, they are convinced this goal can be reached by gradually diminishing our rights over time, all the while purporting that each successive step is simply “common sense.” It is up to gun rights supporters to educate the American people about the ways in which gun control supporters deliberately conceal their true agenda to eliminate our freedom.

This feature appears in the May ’16 issue of the official journals of the National Rifle Association. Click here to become a member of the National Rifle Association.