Friday, June 6, 2008

Where do we stand?

During the 2000 presidential campaign, Democratic Party nominee Al Gore made no bones about where he stood on our Constitutional right to keep and bear arms. Both his rhetoric and his record threatened to gut the Second Amendment and disarm law-abiding Americans.

Gun owners needed a rallying cry, and we got it from the late Charlton Heston. Speaking to the National Rifle Association on May 20, 2000, he said this:

"For the next six months, Al Gore is going to smear you as the enemy. He will slander you as gun-toting, knuckle-dragging, bloodthirsty maniacs who stand in the way of a safer America.

"Will you remain silent? I will not remain silent. If we are going to stop this, then it is vital to every law-abiding gun owner in America to register to vote and show up at the polls on election day.

"As we set out this year to defeat the divisive forces that would take freedom away, I want to say those words again for everyone within the sound of my voice to hear and to heed, and especially for you, Mr. Gore: 'From my cold, dead hands!'"

Fortunately, at least on this issue, Mr. Gore was denied the Presidency. And while 1994's Clinton Gun Ban was allowed to sunset ten years later, where do law-abiding gun owners stand today?

Given a choice between the major parties' presumptive nominees, it seems that Sen. Barack Obama represents the greater threat -- but Sen. John McCain is preferable only by default.

Sen. McCain has said that he doesn't own a gun. He hasn't shown himself to be a staunch advocate for Second Amendment rights. And his much-ballyhooed record of "reaching across the aisle" often puts him in league with gun-grabbing legislators.

It may be tempting to favor the Republican candidate, but color me skeptical -- very skeptical.

There are other dynamics to consider. A U.S. President's ability to impose his agenda requires both strong leadership and a sympathetic Congress. In that light, neither candidate is encouraging.

Sen. McCain exerts leadership almost exclusively through collaboration with dissenting interests. Much of Congress already is receptive to some form of gun control. Dangerous compromises would be all but certain.

I predict that Sen. Obama, on the other hand, would lead from the front. As President and de facto leader of his party, he could constitute the final element of a perfect gun-control storm. Against a Pres. Obama and like-minded allies like Sen. Biden (the real engineer of the Clinton Gun Ban), Mr. Gore, Rep. McCarthy, Ms. Brady, the Clintons and assorted Kennedys, our Second Amendment rights could crumble.

With that as a political backdrop, we stand exactly where we stood when Charlton Heston exhorted us eight years ago -- impatient patriots, committed to defending our Constitutional rights, not deferential but defiant.

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