By Jeff Knox and Chris Knox
Our organization, The Firearms Coalition, is non-partisan, but we're not blind, we're not stupid, and we know how to read. Though the Democrats have made a conscious effort to woo gun voters – or at least to avoid alienating them too badly – over the past few election cycles, their party platform makes it clear that their efforts have no more substance than smoke. In contrast, the Republican Party platform this year is probably the most unambiguously pro-gun statement the party has ever made. The question is whether they will live up to it or are just blowing smoke of their own.
Here's how the Democrats' platform expressed their support for the Second Amendment and the rights of gun owners:
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"Firearms. We recognize that the individual right to bear arms is an important part of the American tradition, and we will preserve Americans' Second Amendment right to own and use firearms. We believe that the right to own firearms is subject to reasonable regulation. We understand the terrible consequences of gun violence; it serves as a reminder that life is fragile, and our time here is limited and precious. We believe in an honest, open national conversation about firearms. We can focus on effective enforcement of existing laws, especially strengthening our background check system, and we can work together to enact commonsense improvements – like reinstating the assault weapons ban and closing the gun show loophole – so that guns do not fall into the hands of those irresponsible, law-breaking few."
Notice that the Democratic platform starts with a claim of support for the Second Amendment, but goes on to emphasize support for restrictions and limitations on the rights the Second Amendment protects. Existing laws are seriously flawed, and their enforcement too often results in prosecution of people like John Shipley and the Reese family, who endeavor to obey existing laws but get caught up in vague language and unreasonable expectations. Unfortunately, the "strengthening" of the background check system Democrats support involves intrusion on citizens' private medical records and permanently penalizing people who have overcome mental-health challenges.
The call for reinstatement of the "assault weapons" ban demonstrates a fundamental ignorance of firearms and a willingness to totally disregard the clear intent of the Second Amendment – as well as support for a policy that proved to be a complete failure at achieving its stated goals. Similarly, the call for "closing the gun show loophole" places misconception over reality. What is referred to as a "loophole" is the fact that private individuals in most states can sell and trade firearms with other private individuals within their state without federal government interference or intrusion – at a gun show or anywhere else. Regulating commercial trade is one thing; interfering with private transactions is a serious intrusion into individual rights.
Finally, the stated goal of keeping guns from falling into the hands of the irresponsible, law-breaking few, acknowledges that the problems lie with only a few law-breakers, but all of their proposals address only the law-abiding vast majority. Shall we ban banks and convenience stores because they attract robbers?
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In contrast, here's what the Republican platform says about the right to arms:
"The Second Amendment: Our Right to Keep and Bear Arms
"We uphold the right of individuals to keep and bear arms, a right which antedated the Constitution and was solemnly confirmed by the Second Amendment. We acknowledge, support, and defend the law-abiding citizen's God-given right of self-defense. We call for the protection of such fundamental individual rights recognized in the Supreme Court's decisions in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago affirming that right, and we recognize the individual responsibility to safely use and store firearms. This also includes the right to obtain and store ammunition without registration. We support the fundamental right to self-defense wherever a law-abiding citizen has a legal right to be, and we support federal legislation that would expand the exercise of that right by allowing those with state-issued carry permits to carry firearms in any state that issues such permits to its own residents. Gun ownership is responsible citizenship, enabling Americans to defend their homes and communities. We condemn frivolous lawsuits against gun manufacturers and oppose federal licensing or registration of law-abiding gun owners. We oppose legislation that is intended to restrict our Second Amendment rights by limiting the capacity of clips or magazines or otherwise restoring the ill-considered Clinton gun ban. We condemn the reckless actions associated with the operation known as 'Fast and Furious,' conducted by the Department of Justice, which resulted in the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol Agent and others on both sides of the border. We applaud the Members of the U.S. House of Representatives in holding the current Administration's Attorney General in contempt of Congress for his refusal to cooperate with their investigation into that debacle. We oppose the improper collection of firearms sales information in the four southern border states, which was imposed without congressional authority."
This platform recognizes the right to arms as a fundamental, individual right – as has been confirmed by the Supreme Court – and endorses actions to shore up and expand opportunities to lawfully exercise that right. The challenge with the Republicans is usually getting them to act on their platform. Some of them think that just saying the right thing is good enough. It's not. Failure to act on this platform, and party support of politicians who openly reject this section of the platform, will result in more distrust of Republicans and more gun voters going hunting instead of voting on Election Day.
Gun voters have proven that we can be the deciding factor in a close race, but activism doesn't end on Election Day. Get involved now, and stay involved all year to keep the politicians on the straight and narrow. A great place to start is GunVoter.org.