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
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
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."
"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
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
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