By Alan Gottlieb and Dave Workman
After two years filled with pontifications, photo-op pheasant hunts, visits to gun ranges and shooting events, leading Democrats who have been insisting that they support the rights of gun owners have pretty much put an end to that lie.
During two days of debate and two hours of voting on legislation that would have protected lawful gun makers from frivolous lawsuits, Democrats returned to their old habit of demonizing guns and the people who own them.
Debate over the now-defunct Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act — a tort reform bill that may have alarmed anti-gun rights trial lawyers hoping to cash in on nuisance municipal lawsuits against legitimate firearms manufacturers for the misuse of their products by criminals — still provided Americans with something valuable in this election year.
It highlighted the anti-gun extremism that Democrats have been furiously trying to camouflage in their efforts to woo gun owners. From the attempts by California’s Dianne Feinstein to extend the ban on semi-automatic firearms to the hysterics of Edward M. Kennedy calling for a ban on most hunting ammunition, and the egregiously misleading remarks from Rhode Islander Jack Reed, gun owners who were glued to coverage of the debate on CSPAN (and millions were) quickly realized that Democrats never abandoned their anti-gun rights agenda. They just re-packaged it in rhetoric.
While a handful of Republicans supported the amendments, the vote counts show they were overwhelmingly pushed by Democrats who want to abolish gun shows and demonize sport utility rifles as “assault weapons.” These same Democrats will be campaigning back home this fall, swearing they “support the Second Amendment rights of citizens to own guns for hunting.” Such remarks demonstrate they know nothing about the Second Amendment, and even less about the intelligence of firearms owners whose votes they covet.
Even John Kerry, who portrays himself as a hunter, albeit an elitist one, darted back to the Senate chambers from where he has been absent without leave, missing 70 percent of the votes cast during the 108th Congress. His brief appearance, to support the anti-gun amendments, seemed more like a campaign stop to appeal to the extremist left.
Kerry and fellow Democrat John Edwards both supported the gun ban legislation. Dianne Feinstein revealed perhaps more than she should have when she admitted, “We would have lost without them. They were vital.”
And if there were any question about how far Democrats can be trusted on the gun rights issue, look at South Dakota’s Tom Daschle. He belatedly signed on as a sponsor of the bill, then supported every poison pill amendment that came along, in order to kill it.
Democrats did not want this bill to pass, even though some co-sponsored it, because they clearly like the notion that lawful gun makers should be litigated into bankruptcy. That they now claim victory shows just how short-sighted they are in their efforts to appeal to gun owners.
Their hysterical words and votes on onerous gun control amendments to the lawsuit protection legislation are public record. If there is one thing Democrats should have learned about gun owners is that they have long memories.
It’s not just the anti-gun pattern of Congressional Democrats that sharpens gun owner wariness. In Wisconsin and Missouri, Democrats led the charge to defeat licensed carry laws for personal protection. They succeeded in Wisconsin when one Democrat switched his vote to protect his party’s governor and the power of his party’s minority caucus. They failed in Missouri only because of a veto override that has now been upheld by the Missouri Supreme Court.
Gun owners see this and conclude that Democrats are still social bigots, with nothing but contempt for people who own firearms.
Kerry, Daschle, Feinstein and other Democrats, and their cheerleaders in the press, think that by killing the gun lawsuit protection bill after loading it with anti-gun amendments, they won something. Perhaps, but in so doing, they sacrificed any credibility they may have built with gun owners over the past couple of years.
What kind of victory is it, when all it accomplished was to further divide and polarize our nation at a time when we should be joining together in common defense?
Mr. Gottlieb is chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. Mr. Workman is senior editor of Gun Week, a publication owned by the Second Amendment Foundation.