President Obama outlined several major legislative initiatives that he claims will reduce gun-related violence, but representatives at Gun Owners of America say the proposals will assault Americans' right to keep and bear arms and do nothing to prevent senseless killings.
The Obama legislative agenda includes several controversial items, starting with universal background checks to make sure guns are not purchased by felons or "someone legally prohibited from buying" a firearm.
Mike Hammond has served in the offices of three U.S. senators and is now general counsel at Gun Owners of America. He said this provision should be opposed on two grounds. His first concern centers around the people Obama thinks should be prohibited from buying guns.
"In about 150,000 cases, we're talking about veterans who came back from Baghdad or Kabul, perhaps sought counseling for a traumatic experience and, as a result, the Veteran's Administration appointed a fiduciary to supervise their financial affairs and then sent their names to this secret list in West Virginia that prohibits people from owning guns," Hammond said. "These people didn't do anything wrong. They served their country honorably, and there's no reason they should lose their constitutional rights because they sought someone to counsel them."
While Hammond fears law-abiding Americans could easily be blocked from exercising their Second Amendment rights, he also claims involving the government in each firearm transaction sets the stage for more heavy-handed actions from Uncle Sam.
"It's increasingly clear to us that the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are using these secret lists to begin to compile the beginnings of a national gun registry," Hammond said. "I personally drafted the Smith Amendment, which would prohibit them from using the Brady Check in order to create a national gun registry. But when senators have recently asked the FBI, 'How are you complying with the Smith Amendment and how long are you keeping the names?' they're told to go take a long walk off a short pier. There is a danger that the Obama administration wants to create this gun registry using this universal check. There is no way in heaven's name that we are going to consider anything like that."
Hammond said a national gun registry is a slippery slope to government confiscation of weapons once the government knows where they are. He uses recent events in New York state as an example, since Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed new gun-control legislation and then alluded to confiscating firearms that are now deemed illegal.
In pushing for the background check, Obama contended that 40 percent of gun sales have no background checks. Hammond said that statistic is pure fiction.
"They asked the FBI about that and basically the FBI said that the gun-control advocates, for lack of a better term, just pulled that statistic out of their ear," he said. "I mean they just made that statistic up."
The biggest congressional fight will likely center around Obama's call for a ban on assault weapons and his demand that magazines carry a limit of 10 bullets. The president said weapons used in a theater of war should not be brought into a movie theater.
"That is a lie. When I was in the military, I had a weapon that was designed for the theater of war. It was called an M-16 rifle," Hammond said. "It was a fully automatic rifle. Unless you get a special license from the FBI, you can't own one of those guns in America. That is an absolute lie."
"What the AR-15 is is a gun that is designed cosmetically to look like a full automatic but operates nothing like it," he said.
Hammond also rejects the proposed limit on bullets in a magazine, saying shooters like the ones in Connecticut and Colorado could just as easily have brought multiple guns and multiple magazines and achieved the same horrific response.
Looking at the big picture of the debate, Hammond believes that Obama reached too far in this agenda.
"Obama, in this case, has dramatically overshot. I think he has overshot in a way that is going to destroy his entire gun-control package," argued Hammond, who said Obama initially leaned toward restoring the ban on semi-automatic weapons that was in effect between 1994-2004. He said that ban didn't address some of the more recent cosmetic features on guns, like the one used in the Sandy Hook massacre, so the scope of this legislation got much bigger.
"So he began adding more guns and more guns and more guns," Hammond said. "The people who know what guns are out there tell us that the resulting legislation now will ban probably about 50 percent of the long guns currently in circulation and about 80 percent of the handguns in current circulation. Let me state that again. Barack Obama and his proposals would ban most guns currently in circulation."
Hammond also rejected the president's 23 executive actions, particularly the ones that encourage doctors to ask patients about guns and share that information with the government.
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