from the Congress Action newsletter

The Right Of Law Abiding Citizens

by: Kim Weissman

When Bill Clinton shut down the government in 1995 and managed to blame the republicans, the ploy worked so well that it has become a staple of so-called "governance" by democrats.

It will be recalled that Clinton had demanded a number of budgetary concessions from the Congress, and when the Congress refused to give in, Clinton acted like the spoiled brat on the playground who doesn't get to play the position he wants on the baseball team, and takes his ball and goes home. Clinton vetoed the budget, and left the government unable to operate for a short period of time. Those who depend on the federal government for everything lamented the end of the world. Those who saw the federal government as more of the problem than the solution asked, "So What?" Clinton portrayed the shutdown to the media as entirely the fault of those mean and nasty republicans who refused to give in to his "reasonable" demands.

This has been a tried and true tactic of would-be despots throughout history: issue ludicrous demands and call them "reasonable", and then blame others for any negative consequences when they failed to capitulate to those demands. The media, of course, took the White House line and ran with it. The spin was a smash hit. Republicans were vilified and have been blamed ever since, and it became an article of faith among the left, the media (pardon the redundancy), and the public that the government shutdown was all the fault of those mean ("mean-spirited" entering the lexicon) and nasty republicans.

Just as it has become an article of faith among the left, the media, and the public that republican are all rich, that democrats care about people and not solely about the acquisition of power, and that Clinton's impeachment was all about sex. So stung were republicans by being tagged with the shutdown that when Clinton made new threats in 1998 to shut down the government unless he got his way, the Congress capitulated with hardly a whimper.

Hillary Clinton is even now trying to ride that old horse, unleashing her attacks on her new republican Senatorial opponent Rick Lazio by claiming that he voted with the evil Newt Gingrich to shut down the government -- as though someone actually submitted legislation in the House, which then held a vote to shut down the government. Last week Senate democrats tried to repeat the same gambit, first threatening to shut down the Senate unless Clinton's pending judicial nominees were confirmed immediately, and then threatening to shut down the Senate unless they got a vote on a symbolic gesture commending the "Million Mom March".

Republicans once again capitulated on the substantive issue, pledging a marathon vote on some 41 pending judicial nominees; and last week they acceded to democrat threats and voted on the democrats' non-binding, symbolic bill commending the "Million Mom March". But republicans joined the fun, submitting and voting on their own symbolic bill that affirmed the right -- not the government licensed and circumscribed privilege -- of law abiding citizens to keep and bear firearms. The vote results demonstrate that a larger majority of Senators still respect the Constitution than are swayed by emotionalism and the left's demagoguery about gun control.

The first bill was submitted by democrat Tom Daschle (S.Amdt. 3148), and passed by 50-49. It provided:

"(1) the organizers, sponsors, and participants of the Million Mom March should be commended for rallying to demand sensible gun safety legislation; and

(2) Congress should immediately pass a conference report to accompany H.R. 1501, the Violent and Repeat Juvenile Offender Accountability and Rehabilitation Act, before the Memorial Day Recess, and include the Lautenberg-Kerrey gun show loophole amendment and the other Senate-passed provisions designed to limit access to firearms by juveniles, convicted felons, and other persons prohibited by law from purchasing or possessing firearms."

The second bill was submitted by republican Trent Lott (S.Amdt. 3150), and passed by 69-30. It provided, among other clauses calling for stricter prosecution of criminals, that:

"The right of each law-abiding United States citizen to own a firearm for any legitimate purpose, including self-defense or recreation, should not be infringed."

Democrat Senator Minority Leader Tom Daschle threatened to continuously demagogue the gun issue by reading a list of the names of "gun victims" daily. On May 22, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) began "…it has been more than a year since the Columbine tragedy, and still this Republican Congress refuses to act on sensible gun legislation. Since Columbine, thousands of Americans have been killed by gunfire. Until we act, Democrats in the Senate will read some of the names of those who lost their lives to gun violence in the past year, and we will continue to do so every day that the Senate is in session."

Lest anyone forget, it was Bill Clinton and the democrats who killed the juvenile justice reform bill (H.R.1501) and the 24 hour gun show background check (H.R.2122) last June with a myriad of irrelevant, self-contradictory, oppressive, unconstitutional, and foolish amendments, as well as procedural maneuvers to delay a vote. And democrats were not alone in proposing onerous amendments. Republicans offered some of the most offensive (Coburn # 171 -- prohibiting the possession of firearms by other than police officers, security guards, members of the armed forces or National Guard) and self-contradictory (Doolittle # 158 -- the Second Amendment protects the unalienable right of individuals to keep and use firearms to protect themselves; but Doolittle # 160 -- bans the use of firearms).

H.R.1501 and H.R.2122 would have enacted the sale of mandatory safety locks with the sale of every gun, 24 hour background checks at all gun shows, and a version of the Brady law which would have prevented violent juveniles from owning guns. Eventually the 24 hour gun show background check passed the House 218-211, in a bipartisan vote with 45 democrats joining 173 republicans. But that could not be reconciled with the 72 hour check passed by the Senate and demanded by Clinton, the sole effect of which would have been to destroy gun shows.

Daschle's theatrics deserve to be treated with the same disdain as Al Gore's habit of labeling anything with which he disagrees as a "risky scheme". Daschle and the democrats would contribute more to the debate if they also included the much longer list of the names of people who defended themselves or their families with guns: the battered wife who finally put a stop to beatings that no police or courts could prevent, the would-be rape victim who made her attacker regret his choice of occupation, the mother at home alone with her children who scared off the burglar simply by chambering a shell into her shotgun, the shopkeeper who dissuaded thugs intent on robbery.

These incidents happen every day, although the media prefers to ignore them. Daschle and the rest of the democrats also prefer to ignore these people who refuse to become victims of Daschle's and Clinton's gun control agenda. But it has been truly said that facts can be stubborn things. And the facts, as documented in a report by the National Institute of Justice in 1997, are that private citizens use firearms an average of at least 296 times every day to deter crimes.

A 1994 study by the Clinton-Reno Justice Department was in the same range, finding an average of 227 defensive uses of firearms by private citizens every day. Daschle and the democrats should also be called to account for the many people on his list of "gun victims" who only became victims because the gun controllers took away their ability to defend themselves; or because violent criminals were released from prison early in misplaced shows of leftist "compassion", or because the Clinton-Reno Justice Department refused to put criminals in jail, or refused to enforce existing laws against such criminals.

Criminals such as the 16 year old who shot 7 people at Washington's National Zoo in April, who shouldn't have had a gun at all if gun control laws actually affected criminals, who had a record of armed robberies from the age of 13 and still managed to get a gun on the black market.

Criminals such as the man who shot up the Jewish community center last August, who shouldn't have had any weapons at all if gun control laws actually affected criminals, who had a history of mental illness and still managed to buy, among other weapons, a banned assault weapon, an Uzi submachine gun.

Criminals such as the former Black Panther, who shouldn't have had any weapons at all if gun control laws actually affected criminals, because he had a felony record, and who was charged with shooting a cop in Atlanta with what police described as an assault weapon. (It seems that criminals just aren't obeying the law that banned assault weapons -- imagine that!

The assault weapon ban has also, according to a December 1999 report from the Justice Department's National Institute of Justice, "failed to reduce the average number of victims per gun murder incident or multiple gunshot wound victims" -- the very reasons given by hysterical democrats for the need to enact the ban in the first place.)

And what about the several hundred thousand felons who Clinton himself has boasted were prevented by the Brady law from buying a gun legally, yet who were never even prosecuted for the 10 year felony of trying to do so? What does Bill Clinton think those hundreds of thousands of felons did after being turned down at gun stores? Does he think that those felons just went home and decided to get an honest job and go straight? Or did they simply go to their neighborhood black market gun dealer and buy whatever they wanted?

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out. Even Tom Daschle should be able to figure it out. Criminals don't obey the law. That's why we call them criminals: because they commit crimes. How many of those "gun victims" eulogized and exploited by Daschle were only victims because they were rendered defenseless and helpless by the likes of Tom Daschle, Bill Clinton, Sarah Brady, Rosie O'Donnelll, and all the other advocates of gun control?

LINKS for further information:

"Guns and Crime: Handgun Victimization, Firearm Self-Defense, and Firearm Theft"; Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief; April 1994, NCJ-147003:

"Guns in America: National Survey on Private Ownership and Use of Firearms"; National Institute of Justice Research in Brief; May 1997:

Summary of Amendments to H.R. 1501 (juvenile justice reform bill):

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27 jun 2000