“They are coming to take your guns away!” That was the message from this past weekend’s annual NRA Convention. In fact, it’s the same message we have heard for years from the NRA. And just as it has been in the past, as it was this weekend, that message is a lie.
No one in the Obama administration or any Democratic administration has ever tried to take law-abiding citizens guns away. Even when President Bill Clinton signed into law the assault weapons ban in 1994, which expired in 2004, it “grandfathered in weapons and ammo clips produced or purchased before the enactment of the ban.”
There are now nearly 300 million guns in the United States. It would be impossible to take even a fraction of those guns away from people. And more importantly, the government can’t, because the United States Supreme Court in 2008 interpreted the Second Amendment as bestowing a personal constitutional right to own a firearm.
The NRA knows all this. But still, look at the scare tactics it employed this weekend at its convention in Nashville.
For starters, the motto for this year’s convention was: “If they can ban one, they can ban them all.” So fear was the very slogan. Then, the NRA’s Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre upped the fear factor by telling the attendees: “There's no telling how far President Obama will go to dismantle our freedoms and reshape America into an America that you and I will not even recognize.” Now even assuming Obama wanted to somehow “dismantle our freedoms,” as LaPierre claims, how could Obama do that in the final 18 months of his presidency when the Republicans control the Senate, the House, and the Supreme Court?
He can’t, and the NRA knows that. But facts don’t matter when you are trying to scare people (and get their money). In fact, they often get in the way.
Now scaring people (aka lying) about Obama is nothing new for the NRA. It started even before he took office. While Obama was campaigning for president in 2008 he stated that the Second Amendment bestowed a personal right to own guns and that he “will protect the rights of hunters and other law-abiding Americans to purchase, own, transport, and use guns.”
Pretty clear, right? But the NRA publicly claimed that Obama wanted to “ban use of firearms for home self defense” and “ban the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns.” That was simply and utterly a fabrication by the NRA.
Unsurprisingly after Obama was elected, we saw a massive spike in gun sales. As one gun store owner put it shortly after Obama won, “I have been in business for 12 years, and I was here for Y2K, September 11, Katrina... we did notice a spike in business, but nothing on the order of what we are seeing right now.”
And the NRA’s lies about Obama continued. For example, in 2011 the NRA claimed that Obama’s “true intention is to destroy the Second Amendment in our country.” And during Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012, the NRA sent out a fundraising letter that claimed Obama’s re-election would result in the “confiscation of our firearms.”
Does the NRA lie in an effort to help gun manufacturers sell firearms? After all, estimates are that gun manufactures have ponied up between$20 million and $50 million in contributions to the NRA since 2005. Or is it because the NRA needs an enemy to rally its supporters behind? Or a little of both?
Regardless of the reason, the NRA is now pivoting from Obama to Hillary Clinton. LaPierre stated at this weekend’s convention that Clinton “has been coming after us for decades...Hillary Clinton hasn’t met a gun control bill that she couldn’t support.”
LaPierre then warned, in Game of Thrones-esque terms, that “Hillary Rodham Clinton will bring a permanent darkness of deceit and despair forced upon the American people to endure.” After hearing that, I almost want to buy a gun. And no doubt we can expect even more outlandish rhetoric and unabashed lies from LaPierre directed at Clinton as the 2016 race heats up.
Not to be left out, Ted Cruz joined the fear mongering with his statement to the NRA attendees that “if Hillary Clinton is going to join with Barack Obama and the gun grabbers and come after our guns, then what I say is come and take it.”
Just the concept of “gun grabbing” makes me laugh. After all, Congress couldn’t even muster the votes needed in 2013 to pass universal background checks for gun purchasers and that had the support of 90 percent of Americans. And that bill failed only a few months after the horrific shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 26 dead, including 20 children.
The reality is that while LaPierre and his cronies have been weaving fabulous tales of impeding gun grabbing, Republican-controlled state legislatures have been weakening gun safety laws. For example, just last year, Republicans in Georgia passed the “guns everywhere bill” that makes it legal to carry guns in bars, school zones, and parts of airports. And 11 states in recent years even passed laws intended to nullify federal gun safety laws under the guise of “firearm freedom.” (Think “religious liberty” but for guns.)
No mention of that truth by LaPierre. Or worse, no mention of the truth that every day 30 Americans are murdered by gun violence and 53 Americans uses guns to commit suicide.
You would think the NRA would make it a priority to reduce the number of Americans killed by firearms. Instead, it appears that the NRA’s priority is lying.