Loyal readers know that I have been calling attention to a range of Second Amendment issues in the past week. In last week's column here, I wrote about the scandals and illegitimate regulations emanating from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives. In another outlet, I documented the threat to our rights that is posed by the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty.
In response, I have heard from many readers who are understandably outraged. They want our federal law enforcement agencies to respect the law, not break it. They want our negotiators at the U.N. to protect our unique constitutional rights – not surrender them to some utopian vision of global harmony. And they feel powerless. With apologies to the late Bill Buckley, my readers feel powerless to climb athwart the federal leviathan and yell "stop."
Those two issues are just the tip of the iceberg. Two landmark Second Amendment cases have been decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, as currently constituted. The first established that the Second Amendment is indeed an individual right to keep and bear arms, and a restraint against the federal government. The second case applied that finding to state and local governments as well. Both cases invalidated draconian handgun bans. Both were decided by the razor-thin majority of 5 to 4. But neither case established a precise boundary of regulation that the Court might find acceptable.
Now, lawsuits have been filed across the country seeking to invalidate long-standing state and local restrictions. The NRA is coordinating a nationwide legal strategy to fulfill the promise of the recent Supreme Court decisions. These cases are bubbling up in different federal circuits, testing different limitations. Some of the cases are filed by choice, and some are by necessity. They are all expensive, and they are all important. The Court will inevitably accept one or more of these cases, once a split between circuits becomes established. That much is virtually certain.
The unknown quantity is what that Court will look like. Will it be the same 5 to 4 majority that has finally recognized our fundamental Second Amendment rights? Or will it be a new majority, perhaps 4 to 5 the other way – seeking to not only uphold state and local gun restrictions, but to effectively reverse the two recent decisions with death by a thousand cuts?
That question will be answered by the president, with the advice and consent of the Senate. We are one heartbeat away from giving that decision to this president. We are one election away from virtually guaranteeing that the next president will answer that question, whomever that may be. And we are one election away from making sure that there are enough pro-gun senators to give him the right advice – if not consent.
The pro-gun majority in this Congress is doing what it can. The House recently voted to withhold funding from two of BATFE's illegitimate regulations. The first is the detailed reporting and registration requirement for the purchase of more than one semiautomatic rifle, discussed in last week's column. The second is yet another outlandish proposal to ban the importation of shotguns that are not designed solely for trap and skeet. Defensive shotguns are compact and maneuverable by design, but in the eyes of BATFE, that makes the prime fodder for a sweeping import ban. I don't know where they get these bizarre ideas, folks, but the sad part is they're spending our tax dollars to do it.
While the House has made a strong statement by defunding these regulations, the Senate remains largely dysfunctional. It probably won't even be able to pass the individual spending bills that contain the funding limits, and the restrictions will be lost in the inevitable rush to pass another "omnibus" or "continuing resolution" just to keep the government operating. So the House actions, while strong, may be destined for defeat on grounds that are institutional, not on the merits.
So – what do we do? As I tell my readers, we all have the power to remedy these issues and more through a singular action. But we do not hold it as individuals – it will only work if we use it collectively. That simple action is to register to vote, and then cast an informed ballot.
Too many gun owners and hunters aren't registered to vote. I know you're out there, and I've heard all the excuses. That's all they are, and they're not worth the paper to print them. We stand one short year away from the high campaign season in which voters will select our next president, 33 senators and all 435 members of the U.S. House. The Senate could change leadership with a swing of just four seats. And this could be another presidential election decided by a scant few hundred votes in a single key state. I've identified nine key states that will be important in both the presidential and Senate elections. As honorary chairman of the NRA's "Trigger the Vote" voter registration campaign, I will be doing everything in my power to identify, locate and register gun owners and hunters in these states. No, I won't tell you which states they are, because I don't want you to think your state isn't important. It is – they all are. And every election matters, for all the reasons laid our above.
If you're not registered to vote, then just do it. Visit our website at TriggertheVote.org for all the information you need to fill out the form, print it off and put it in the mail. It's just that simple. And if you are registered to vote already, then find someone who isn't. Show them this column. Tell them that I know they're not registered to vote – and I'm not happy about it.