by Robert Golomb
NEW YORK – President Trump’s announcement on February 28, two weeks to the day after the February 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneham High School in Parkland, Florida, that he supported comprehensive gun control legislation stunned the National Rifle Association which for decades has opposed almost every firearm safety bill. Trump’s announcement also became worrisome for Republican lawmakers, many of whom have long been willing beneficiaries of the NRA’s support.
In truth, the NRA had the right to feel stunned, even betrayed by President Trump. Without the 30.3 million dollars it had spent on his behalf in 2016, and without the thousands of television and radio ads advancing Trump as the pro-gun candidate, paid for and produced by the NRA in the key battleground Southern and Midwestern “gun belt states”, Trump would likely never have been elected president.
Equally truthful, Republican lawmakers had the right to feel worried about Trump’s sudden dispute with the NRA: Over the past three election cycles approximately 80% of Republican House and Senate candidates the NRA had supported through its huge fundraising networks had won their races. The Republicans have owed similar debts of gratitude to the NRA as far back as the election cycle of 1994; that year the gun rights organization’s support of House and Senate Republican candidates running against Democrat incumbents who had supported the assault- rifle ban pushed at the time by then President Clinton led directly, few political pundits disagreed, to the GOP winning majorities in both houses of Congress.
Thus, even some of his harshest critics admitted back on February 28, the President’s standing up to the NRA took a great deal of political and moral courage. Since that time, however, the President’s courage seems to have withered. Over the past few weeks, he has made a series of statements softening his previously stated support of universal background checks and raising the age requirement of purchasing an assault weapon from 18 to 21- both measures long deemed vital by gun control advocates.
All of which has left Americans confused. If President Trump wants to end that confusion and at the same time prove that he truly is unafraid of the NRA and wants to end the plague of gun violence in America, the following is the speech I took the liberty of writing, hoping that he will give to the people our great nation:
My fellow Americans, tonight I am here to pay homage to the 17 Americans – 14 students and three staff members- who were slaughtered February 14, 2018, now more than just a month ago, while they were in what should have been the impenetrably safe home of their school, Marjory Stoneham High School. I am also here to explain the measures being planned to prevent such a tragedy from occurring in the future.
But before I begin, I would like to dispel the frequently stated accusation that the National Rifle Association, commonly known as the NRA, will use its political influence to interfere with my efforts to end gun violence in America- both with hand-guns and rifles, the weapons used to end the lives – by murder or suicide- of more than 30,000 men, women, girls and boys across the fifty states of our nation every year. So let me begin by stating it is probably true that without the support of the NRA, I would not have been elected to the presidency in 2016. For that support, I will forever be appreciative, but never beholden, for I was elected to serve and protect you, the people of America, not to serve and protect the NRA.
It is also probably true that without the support of the NRA in the 2020 presidential election, my chances of winning a second term will be far more challenging, but this is a challenge I accept, for no president now or in the future, should, for political calculations, ever sell the safety and security of the citizens of our great nation for the support of special interest groups.
Thus, I am announcing that my administration will work closely with both sides of the aisle in Congress for the passage of 6 bills, five already pending and a sixth, soon to be formulated. I believe when these bills become the law of the land, American fathers and mothers will once again be able to feel safe when they send their children off to school every morning.
The first is the Assault Weapons Ban of 2017. This bill will do just what the words say: Ban the sale of military style assault weapons- such as the one used to commit the slaughter in Marjory Stoneham High School. The 2017 law was written to renew a similar law which was passed back in 1993, but required a renewal every ten years. That renewal was not to come when it was due in 2004. Rather Congress allowed the law to expire. This failure to renew the law occurred despite research proving it had reduced homicides; despite its support from most fraternal police organizations; despite polls showing its support by the overwhelming majority of Americans of both political parties; and despite then President Bush’s pledge to sign the bill into law if Congress passed it.
Why then did Congress not renew the ban? The answer can be found in one word and three letters, the NRA, which threatened to use its vast financial and political resources to defeat any congressional member it had endorsed in the past who supported the law’s renewal. It is my sincere hope that Congress will be more courageous today and quickly pass The Assault Weapons Ban of 2017.
However, in the unfortunate event the Assault Weapons bill doesn’t quickly get through Congress, there is a recently introduced bill known as the “21 Act”, the second bill I will support. While not as comprehensive as the Assault Weapons Ban of 2017, the “21 Act” at least raises the minimum age from 18-21 for the purchase of military style weapons, including the AR-15 as well as all other assault type firearms. Yet here again, the NRA again flexed its political muscle, voicing to frightened federal and state legislators their total opposition to this sensible proposed law. That under such a law Nikolas Cruz, the nineteen-year-old barbarian who committed the slaughter at Marjory Stoneham High School, would have been legally prevented from purchasing the AR-15 he used to commit the carnage appears irrelevant to the NRA. Nor does it appear relevant to the NRA that the AR-15 and other similar assault weapons have been used in many other mass shootings, including those in Newtown, Las Vegas and Orlando. Rather the NRA calls raising the age from 18-21 for purchasing such deadly weapons to be “unconstitutional”. Tonight to quell the constitutional concerns of the NRA, I will quote Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson who wrote in a 1949 free speech case, “The Constitution is not a suicide pact”. Those famous seven words, the NRA should know, have served as the foundation of the fundamental conservative law and order argument over the past 69 years since Jackson first wrote it.
The third is the Fix Gun Check Act of 2015, which was written to strengthen the Brady Law. Allow me to explain why this is necessary. First signed into law by President Clinton in 1993, the Brady Law requires that before a prospective customer can purchase a firearm of any type from a licensed gun shop, its owner or employees are required to contact the FBI. The FBI then conducts a background check on the prospective buyer. All gun violence research has proven that the Brady Law has worked. In fact, a recently released FBI study found that since Brady’s enactment, approximately three million potentially lethal would be fire arm buyers – felons, domestic abusers and people with serious psychological disorders – have been prevented through the FBI background checks from purchasing firearms.
However, there remains a fatal flaw in the law which passing the Fix Gun Act would remedy. The Brady Law exempts unlicensed gun dealers selling firearms over the internet or at local gun shows. This deadly flaw, commonly known as the Brady Bill Loophole, has proven to be a windfall for convicted felons, who, studies indicate, comprise 40% of the buyers and sellers at unlicensed gun shows. This loophole had once caught the attention of Adam Gadahn, a terrorist scoundrel aptly nicknamed “ Jihad Joe”. In a video this disgusting animal produced for al Queda in 2011, a vast armament of weapons is seen on display at a gun show, while the voice of the vile “Jihad Joe” is heard prodding his fellow jihadists, “ You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle without a background check, most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?”
The Fix Gun Show Act corrects this loophole by applying the provisions of the Brady Law to gun shows and on- line gun purchases; in addition, the bill requires gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms to local police –an obvious common sense safety measure. To its discredit, however, the House has not yet passed this bill. The reason? The same reason why many federal legislators opposed the assault weapons ban: The NRA has warned, mainly GOP lawmakers, I must admit, that if they do not oppose the bill, they will face the organization’s wrath in the next election.
There is, though, a surprising side note here which I will point out to any skeptical Congressional member. In the wake of the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School which took 13 lives, Wayne La Pierre, the executive vice president and chief executive officer of the NRA for over the past twenty six years stated, “We support instant check [for] every gun show, no loopholes period.” Since those words were spoken, however, the NRA has opposed all legislation which would have done just that.
The fourth is the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorist Act of 2017. The bill was designed to prevent people on the FBI’s Terrorist Watch list from purchasing firearms. Presently the Watch list contains the names of approximately 700,000 both nationals and foreigners currently living in America, who federal intelligence agencies have identified as potential terrorists. But because the Act still languishes in Congress, as I speak this very moment, each and every one of these suspected terrorists can legally purchase a firearm.
Let me add that there was a similar bill introduced to Congress in 2015. But that legislation died in Committee in Congress, suffering the same fate as several other comparable bills introduced since 2007; all such bills were written with same and sole intention: to save potentially countless Americans lives by preventing suspected terrorists from purchasing weapons.
Here again the reason such life-saving bills have never become law can be attributed to the hold that the NRA has on many GOP law makers, or as Republican Congressman King, who introduced both bills recently commented, “The National Rifle Association is strongly opposed to it and the fact is we have only a handful of Republican co-sponsors”.
The fifth is the Gun Violence Restraining Order Act of 2017. The bill offers federal grants to help subsidize states which pass “ red flag laws”. Such laws empower law enforcement agencies to temporarily impound weapons from people who have been identified by their own family members or local police as presenting imminent public danger. Five states – Connecticut, Washington, Indiana, California and Oregon- have already passed “red flag laws”. According to all public and private research, the results speak for themselves: since the enactment of these laws the rates of suicides and homicides has significantly decreased in each one of these five states.
Let me add that legislators from these states passed “red flag laws” after individuals, whose own family members had earlier reported their dangerous behavior patterns to the police used legally owned weapons to commit murder. Had red flag laws been in effect, these legislators were to realize, those murders could have been prevented. Similar avoidable tragedies have occurred in every state in our great nation. Which is why another 18 states are currently in the process of passing their own “red flag laws”. And which is why after the act becomes federal law, I will call upon every state in the nation to use the subsidies the federal government will provide to implement it.
Sadly again, the NRA has long opposed all federal and state proposed “red flag laws”. In the words of the NRA, under such laws, “A person’s rights disappear merely on the say – so of someone else.” One of those person’s whose rights The NRA fears would have disappeared was that of Nikolas Cruz, whose step mother recently informed the media that prior to the massacre she had made three phone calls to the police pleading with them to confiscate her son’s weapons, only to be told that law enforcement authorities did not possess the legal right to take such a preemptive action. To recount, we see how the NRA triply protected the constitutional rights of Nikolas Cruz: First by fighting against the ban of the AR-15 type weapon that he used in the Marjory Stoneham slaughter; secondly by protecting his right as a person under the age of 21 to purchase such a weapon; thirdly by defending his right from being red flagged by his family. If only the NRA possessed the same concern about the rights of all Americans to be protected from the likes of Nikolas Cruz.
The sixth and final bill, when completed, will call for the banning the sale of all bump stock devices. When rifles are equipped with such equipment, a shooter can fire off a hundred rounds within seconds; such modified rifles were part of the arsenal used by the Las Vegas gunman, as he murdered 58 people and injured more than 850 this past October. In late February in the absence of the finalization of pending legislation to ban such devices, I called upon the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives- the ATF- to pass regulations banning them. However, I have since come to the realization that due to bureaucratic complexities such a ban is becoming increasingly difficult to implement. Thus, tonight I am announcing that based upon ATF Acting Director Thomas Brandon’s recommendation that banning bump stock devices requires nothing less than comprehensive legislative action, I am calling upon Congress to get back to work and send to my desk for my signature a finalized bill banning these deadly devices.
Here let me speak directly to those Congressional members who live their political lives in fear of the NRA: I can happily inform you that as of this moment the NRA has remained almost silent on this ban. So here, at least for today, your constitutional obligation to serve and protect the American people does not conflict with your political interests. So as my final comment, allow me to say to my fellow Americans that the legislative actions I outlined tonight will help make America great again because it will help make all Americans safe again.
God bless you. And God bless America.
Robert Golomb is a nationally and internationally published columnist. Mail him at MrBob347@aol.com and follow him on Twitter@RobertGolomb. Feature photo: President Donald Trump delivers first State of the Union address, Jan, 2018. Credit: PBS News.