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News & Editorials

Starting to Wonder about Mr. Bush.

by Thornwell Simons

George Bush has finally done something I cannot support. He has unveiled " Project Safe ," a new bit of "kindler,gentler" anti-gun policy. Primarily, it's a big government spending program, but since it's spending on new district attorneys and policemen and the like I can for the most part accept that. A lot of it goes to expand the ATF and FBI, too, which doesn't exactly make me Mr. Happy Face either; but, as a law abiding citizen, I can accept that too. I'm a reasonable man. I don't have to like every part of every bill to like a President. But the part of "Project Safe" that really brought me up short was this:

"In addition to strict enforcement of existing gun laws, the President supports expanding instant background checks to close the gun show loophole and banning the importation of high-capacity ammunition clips."

When Bush first said he supported closing the "gun show loophole," my small little voice acquiesced. The "loophole," of course, is not a serious problem -- any licensed firearms dealer who sells a gun at a gun show is just as bound by background-check laws as anyone else is. The only people affected by the "gun show loophole" are individuals selling off their own, private firearms -- "closing the gun show loophole" is essentially code for "making sure you can't sell your own gun to a friend without a government license." But, hell, we've lost that one; I can accept that, it's too controversial now, fine. When Bush said, during the campaign, that he supported mandating the sale of trigger locks, I thought "fine. It'll raise the overall price of firearms, but not too much. I can deal."

There is, however, no excuse for banning the importation of "high-capacity" ammunition clips. "But Wait!" you say. "No one needs those hundred-round magazines! Those are only for gangsters and hooligans! Nobody needs that much ammunition!"

Yet "high capacity" magazines under current law are basically just magazines that hold more than ten rounds. So who's most likely to need a magazine that holds, say, fifteen or twenty rounds? It's not the police -- they've undergone schooling in marksmanship and have been prepared to deal with violence and surprise attacks. It's not the military -- they're going to be even better trained that policemen, as well as likely to have numerous, pre-loaded magazines on them as part of their standard equipment. The person who's going to need "high-capacity" magazines of fifteen or more rounds is the person who is neither a skilled marksman nor specially trained to deal with situations of sudden violence and assault -- the average citizen who's carrying a firearm for self-defense. Most people aren't going to carry more than one magazine, even if they actually own a second or third. Considering that it often takes more than one hit to stop an attacker, and that there's no rule saying muggers have to approach their victim in single file, either, the advantage of high-capacity magazines is obvious and twofold: convenience and safety.

Now, reason's never mattered in the gun debate; there's no particular reason it should now. (Such magazines are already banned from domestic production for civilian use.) But what makes this particular ban galling is that there was no especial push for it in the media, no special catch-phrase hype getting drummed into our ears over this by Rather or CNN. There just wasn't a need for Bush to include this. Even beyond that, it's questionable whether there's any need for further gun control legislation at all, even in attempts at "triangulation" -- the gun-control movement has never been potentially closer to death, right now, than at any time since the 1934 ban on fully automatic weapons. The so-called "million mom march" mustered a bare two hundred this year at its Washington, D.C., demonstration. Meanwhile, NRA membership is at a record-high four million, and Bill Clinton openly acknowledged in a recent interview that the NRA cost Al Gore the election. Now is the time for Bush to be proposing rollbacks in some of the existing, overly-oppressive gun laws, not further caving in to a gun control movement that's in the process of evaporating. (If nothing else, I think we should all watch very closely when the 'sunset clause' on the assault weapons ban comes up a few years from now.)

This is simply not the time for Bush to be proposing new anti-self-defense legislation. American gun owners put George W. Bush in the White House; we want something back. I encourage any of my readers who agree with me to write Dubya at, and perhaps even to go a little further and write Republican National Committee chairman Jim Gilmore at There are eighty million gun owners in this country; we gave this man the White House. He owes us, and he's not repaying what he owes.


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