I believe the Second Amendment is a critical part of our Constitution and our nation’s history, which must be protected. As a board member of the National Rifle Association, I oppose the assault weapon ban and federal registration of guns. In response to recent tragedies, some of my colleagues have introduced legislation in the 113th Congress related to gun violence. Unfortunately, many of these efforts are simply efforts to restrict access to firearms for law abiding American citizens and will not reduce gun violence.
On April 17, 2013, the Senate considered several gun control amendments as part of S. 649, the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013. The amendment which garnered the most attention, offered by Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Senator Patrick Toomey (R-PA), would expand federal background checks to include almost all firearm transactions or transfers. Gun rights advocates argue that a federal gun registry could be established if all firearm transactions or transfers were subject to a federal background check. The Manchin-Toomey amendment received only 54 votes, six short of the 60 needed to clear a threatened filibuster. As a result, S. 649 was pulled from the Senate floor. Senate Democratic leaders have pledged to bring the bill back to the Senate floor for a vote again. To date, no similar legislation has been considered on the House floor.
In response to tragedies involving a firearm, some lawmakers may be tempted to propose or support stricter gun control laws. However, these proposals will likely fail to address the problem. Laws that further restrict gun rights will be broken by those determined to commit evil, just as criminals and mentally ill individuals often do to our current laws. In fact, as we’ve learned from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF)’s Fast and Furious scandal, in some troubling instances our own federal government has permitted violations of existing gun laws.
A study released by Tuesday by Obama Administration’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) found that gun-related homicides dropped by 39% from 1993 to 2011. Another report conducted by the private Pew Research Center saw a steeper decline at 49% over the same time period. However, Pew Research study showed a troubling trend, that 56% of people surveyed believe the number of gun crimes is higher than it was two decades ago. This discrepancy is likely due to the intense publicity generated by shootings.
Effective enforcement of existing gun laws, rather than proposing new laws, should be the primary focus of Congress and the Administration. Therefore, I will oppose legislation designed to reduce the ammunition capacity of weapon magazines or ban what certain lawmakers term “assault weapons.” I will also oppose legislation to dramatically expand the current federal background check system. Instead, it must become the focus of Congress to keep mentally ill individuals from harming themselves or others.
The importance of the Second Amendment cannot be overstated. We must be constantly vigilant against ever-increasing federal control in our daily lives. Whether that control comes through a weapons ban, forced registration of weapons or regulations, or taxes designed to make it impossible to purchase ammunition, I will continue to do everything I can to oppose them and stand up for our rights as Americans. Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “Laws which forbid the carrying of arms disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes.”