American Rifleman - August 2017 - 20
And here's where I begin the
conversation. Guns in the hands of
law-abiding Americans are a force for
good. We should encourage that. We
should make responsible gun ownership as straightforward and accessible
Self-defense is an inalienable human
right. Hunting contributes to the sound
management of natural resources,
strengthens ties within families and
between friends, and instills a love of
nature and the outdoors. The shooting
sports build character, awareness and
the competency necessary for responsible gun ownership.
Guns should be available to rich
people, poor people and everybody in
between. They should be available to
residents of cities, suburbs, rural areas
and small towns.
The only valid basis of discrimination
in determining who should be entitled
to own a gun is distinguishing between
those who would use them for lawful
purposes and those who would use
them to commit crime. In making
this determination, we should always
respect the presumption of innocence
and make the government justify curtailment of rights with due process and
solid evidence. Americans should never
have to justify the exercise of their
We should always sternly punish
those who use guns illegally to harm
others. But we should never punish
someone simply for wanting to exercise
their birthright to keep and bear arms.
These are the principles on which
the NRA's legislative agenda is based.
They're not difficult to understand.
For most people, they're practically
It's no wonder, then, that we continue
to make great progress on that agenda.
As I write this, at least 50 pro-gun
bills have been signed into law at the
state level in 2017, with eight more
awaiting action by governors. Iowa
enacted one of the most significant progun legislative packages in the state's
history, and recently New Hampshire
and North Dakota joined the growing
list of states that recognize the right of
law-abiding residents to carry concealed
handguns without a permit.
And pro-gun bills are proliferating in
Congress, with your NRA working day
and night to ensure that this historic
opportunity to move federal legislation
does not pass us by.
National reciprocity is still our top
legislative priority. Every state now
has some legal mechanism for its own
residents to carry a concealed handgun
for self-defense in public. Some 15
million Americans have concealed-carry
permits, with perhaps tens of thousands more lawfully carrying without
permits in the 12 "constitutional carry"
states that don't require them.
Opponents of the law say dangerous people will be authorized to carry.
But federally "prohibited persons"
(including felons, drug addicts, domestic violence misdemeanants and those
with prior mental health adjudications)
are excluded under the legislation.
And when the opponents claim that
some states have higher permitting
standards than others, what they really
mean is that some states routinely deny
permits to most law-abiding applicants
who cannot demonstrate an extraordinary "need" to have one.
What sort of need qualifies? That's
up to the officials who issue the permits.
But in practice, this means celebrities
like actor Robert DeNiro (who has said
publicly he'd like to punch the president in the face) can get a carry permit
in New York City, but a mild-mannered
tailor or grocer cannot. It also leads to
the sort of corruption that has arisen
repeatedly in New York City, where
licensing officials were recently charged
with accepting bribes to expedite or
That's not how we typically handle
civil rights in America. And it will be
among my proudest professional
accomplishments to consign that elitist,
discriminatory and corrupting doublestandard to the dustbin of history.
In addition to the national reciprocity legislation, we are supporting
a number of other game-changing bills
The Hearing Protection Act would
free suppressor sales from expensive taxes and bureaucratic red tape,
greatly enhancing the accessibility of
technology that protects the health of
shooters and results in a substantially
better shooting experience. Lawful
suppressor ownership has nearly doubled just in the last three years, with
no perceptible increase in their use in
violent crime. There's simply no justification for making eligible Americans
wait nine months or more-as is the
case under the current regime-to purchase suppressors and to enforce taxes
originally designed to put the purchase
of these items out of reach.
The Lawful Purpose and SelfDefense Act would reform the outdated "sporting purposes test" that
currently muddies federal gun control
law. Among other things, this test
governs the importation of rifles and
shotguns, the type of ammunition
exempted from the federal "armorpiercing ammunition" ban, and
whether big-bore rifles and shotguns
are considered "destructive devices"
under the National Firearms Act. It has
been abused by anti-gun administrations since the days of Bill Clinton,
and it ignores the fact that defensive
uses, not "sports," lie at the heart
of the Second Amendment. This act
would ensure that all lawful uses of
firearms and ammunition would have
to be considered in making these legal
The Recreational Lands SelfDefense Act would finally allow for
the carrying of firearms for defensive
purposes on Army Corps of Engineers
water resource development projects,
consistent with the law of the surrounding state.
And other bills would make critical
reforms to the interstate transportation provisions of the Firearm Owner's
Protection Act (FOPA). That law was
originally supposed to protect the interstate transport of unloaded, inaccessible
firearms for lawful purposes, but it has
been defied by anti-gun jurisdictions
and all but nullified by activist courts.
NRA-supported legislation would
reverse this case law, restore FOPA's
original intent and provide remedies for
persons whose rights under the law are
violated so anti-gun jurisdictions could
no longer violate the federal protections
I'm asked all the time whether any of
this legislation will actually become law.
I don't have a crystal ball, but I can
say that your NRA has never been
stronger or more determined. We
have higher approval ratings than the
national media or either major political party and a broad base of support
across the country.
Before 2008's Heller decision, some
had dismissed the Second Amendment
as a relic. But now even mainstream
gun control proponents mouth support
for the right to keep and bear arms.
Then there's you, the American gun
owner. Your passion, your commitment
to your rights and your responsible,
proactive behavior regularly sways the
opinions of lawmakers.
I go to work every day believing in
our chances for success. When it comes
to the "conversation" about guns in
America, I believe now more than ever
the pro-freedom viewpoint will have
the last word.