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by Dr. Michael S. Brown


Much has been made of Al Gore's decision to downplay the gun control issue in the final weeks before the election. This could be a cold political calculation involving the number of gun owners who are angered by his position, but it may have resulted from an ideological split in the anti-gun lobby.

The Violence Policy Center is one of the most virulent anti-gun organizations in existence, and VPC Director Josh Sugarmann is one of the most talented propagandists of our time. He is credited with taking the rarely used and illegitimate term "assault weapon" and turning it into a household word to bash gun rights. You may recall some of his other inventions, such as calling gun shows: "Tupperware parties for criminals" and labeling Eddie Eagle as: "Joe Camel with feathers".

His attitude is demonstrated by cynical quotes like this one from Newsweek:

"Americans are ready to hate somebody -- and it's going to be the gun industry."

He is not afraid to exploit ignorance and mislead the public, as shown in this quote from a VPC study:

"Assault weapons - just like armor-piercing bullets, machine guns, and plastic firearms - are a new topic. The weapons' menacing looks, coupled with the public's confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons - anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun - can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons."

Sugarmann and his small team of associates are funded by enormous grants from liberal foundations. They have repaid their benefactors many times over by providing ammunition to the Clinton-Gore camp and various anti-gun groups. Their infamous "studies" are well known for twisting facts to create highly memorable sound bites that are perfect for political use and have caused untold damage to gun rights.

Given this partisan reputation, observers of the gun control debate were surprised when the VPC recently published one of their studies that contradicts the position of the Clinton-Gore Democrats and their closely associated anti-gun organizations.

The backbone of the Democrats' anti-gun platform is a call for licensing of gun owners and registration of guns. The VPC now says, in effect, that this plan is totally useless.

The study, which is available on the VPC web site, is titled: "Handgun Licensing and Registration - What it Can and Cannot Do". It lays out a list of reasons why licensing and registration simply will not work in this country. The example of the Canadian Gun Registry is used to show the "staggering" costs that would turn a federal licensing and registration scheme into a "money pit". They also make the excellent points that gun laws "can't control human nature" and that attempting to pass such legislation would be "a political nightmare".

VPC addressed the tired old comparison with licensing drivers in this way:

"Systems to license drivers have been in place since 1903. Yet they had little or no bearing on the sharp reductions we have seen in motor vehicle death and injury over the last 30 years."

Their conclusion:

"A careful analysis of the potential for licensing and registration to significantly reduce gun death and injury -- recognizing the true nature of firearms violence in the United States -- reveals that its effect would be limited. For such limited gain, implementation of a new licensing and registration system would exact extremely high financial and political costs."

It is unlikely that the VPC suddenly had a change of heart and decided that honesty is the best policy. The study still contains many errors and myths popular with gun haters. Their real point is that guns must be eliminated, not controlled. Exactly how such draconian laws could be enforced effectively and how they would reduce crime or suicide is not really examined.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, the VPC is one of their favorite think tanks and this new position is very much at odds with the platform of the Democratic Party and their surrogates such as the Million Mom March, who are constantly saying "We don't want to take your guns away."  [Editor's note: The so-called Million Mom March just pushed for a total gun ban in an Illinois town - and failed - proving their "we don't want to take your guns away" to be another in a list of lies they tell to further their disarmament agenda.]

This may be one reason why the Gore campaign has chosen to de-emphasize the gun issue so late in the election process. They must be angry and embarrassed that their gun control position has been blatantly contradicted by one of their closest and most influential allies.

Dr. Michael S. Brown is an optometrist and member of Doctors for Sensible Gun Laws.  He is also the Director of Second Amendment Advocates of SW Washington. He may be reached at


  • "Americans are ready to hate somebody, and it's going to be the gun industry." ---Josh Sugarmann of the Violence Policy Center, May 16, 1994 issue of Newsweek Magazine.
  • "The word 'hate' is a very carefully chosen word. There's got to be a real sense of revulsion and disgust. People are looking for someone to blame, someone who's the cause of their problems, and it should be the gun industry." --- Josh Sugarmann of the Violence Policy Center, June 13, 1994 issue of The New American Magazine.
  • Violence Policy Center: Handgun Licensing and Registration - What it Can and Cannot Do - 2000
  • VPC- Assault Weapons and Accessories in America - 1998
  • Doctors for Sensible Gun Laws