Sadly, modern history is full of instances where the anti-gun left tries to capitalize on tragedy and fear to push their agenda.
Sometimes the push is immediate, while at other times they lay in wait gathering strength until an opportune time, like the evil Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter novels.
Those who support the Bill of Rights need to be aware of these tactics so we can fight to protect our civil liberties when terrible events unfold.
One such event happened on March 30, 1981.
The anti-gun left had hit a brick wall in the 1970s. Ever since Harlon Carter had taken the reins as CEO of the NRA in 1977, re-establishing the NRA's political lobbying arm and mobilizing a national grass-roots opposition campaign to anti-gun legislation, gun control efforts had virtually stopped dead in their tracks. It took the anti-gun left several years to retool their political machine to try to combat the organized efforts of the NRA to protect the right to keep and bear arms.
In fact, the only significant defeat for pro-Second Amendment forces in the 1970s was the confirmation of Abner Mikva as a federal appeals judge to the D.C. Circuit. Rep. Mikva was a congressman from Illinois and one of the leading gun control advocates in America. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is regarded as the second-most important court in the nation. President Jimmy Carter nominated Mikva to the D.C. Circuit. Though the NRA and gun rights community strongly opposed the nomination, it had no experience with judicial appointments, and a Democrat-controlled Senate confirmed Mikva to the court, where he served until 1994. Aside from that, there had been no major victories for the anti-gun crowd.
That changed just two months into the Reagan presidency. On March 30, 1981, President Reagan gave a lunchtime speech to the AFL-CIO at the Hilton in Washington, D.C. As he was leaving, he stopped beside the open door of his limousine to wave to the friendly crowd. Suddenly, as the president was waving, gunshots rang out. A Secret Service agent pushed the president into the limo, which rushed off surrounded by police cars, sirens wailing.
Another agent tackled the shooter, John Hinckley, to the ground. Additional agents grabbed Hinckley's gun, while still more agents had weapons drawn in combat crouches as they secured the scene.
The country soon learned that one of Hinckley's shots had seriously wounded President Reagan, who almost died following emergency surgery. Secret Service Agent Tim McCarthy had been shot in the stomach, and Police Officer Tom Delahanty had been shot in the neck.
One other man was shot that day during the attempted assassination. James Brady, the White House press secretary, lay on the ground with a bullet hole in his head. A bullet had lodged in his brain. While Brady survived his injury (as did President Reagan and the other two men), he was left permanently handicapped.
The left saw a renewed opportunity to go after firearms. The assassination attempt became a rallying cry for anti-gun activists. If only people could not get guns, they argued, such violence would not occur. Anti-gun activists starting laying the groundwork for major gun control legislation. Though nothing came immediately from this incident, the rationale had been established for a new gun control push.
Meanwhile, the NRA had been working since the late '70s to pass what became the McClure-Volkmer Firearms Owners Protection Act. Designed to eliminate the most onerous provisions of the 1968 Gun Control Act, McClure-Volkmer was eventually signed into law in 1986, a tremendous victory for pro-Second Amendment forces (and the subject of a future column of its own.)
But Sarah Brady and her cohorts were hard at work. And in 1987 the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act was introduced in Congress. Ignoring the fact that a lone crazed individual trying to assassinate a head of state is not something a gun law is likely to stop, opponents of the Second Amendment made the incident look like a tragedy that could befall any person walking the streets of America, and offered gun control as the solution.
Ronald Reagan, however, was an NRA Life Member who respected the Second Amendment. As long as Reagan was president, no gun control law would be passed. Facing a sure presidential veto, the bill never reached the White House during the Reagan years, or even during President Bush Sr.'s term.
Meanwhile, Jim Brady and his wife, Sarah, became active in anti-gun circles. Sarah Brady became chairperson of Handgun Control Inc., and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence was created as a permanent source of anti-gun material.
Legislation like the Brady Bill ignores the fact that violence unfortunately has been a fact of life long before firearms were invented. Outlawing guns does not prevent violence, but it does prevent smaller, older, disabled or less powerful persons from effectively defending themselves against larger and stronger attackers.
And although groups like the Brady Campaign say they just want "reasonable" restrictions on gun ownership, by their own logic they cannot completely stop "gun violence" without outlawing all private gun ownership, no exceptions.
Once the anti-gun left has a cause or celebrity to rally around, rational thought goes out the window as they push their proposed legislation.
The Brady Bill, which became H.R.1025, was signed into law by President Bill Clinton Nov. 30, 1993. Though it has not been shown to have had any impact on preventing the criminal misuse of guns (and parts of it were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1997 case of Printz v. United States), it is still touted by anti-gun activists as a first step to ending what they see as the scourge of private gun ownership in America.
Sarah Brady is still a leading figure in the anti-gun movement. Jim Brady is still an advertisement for gun control.
And the Clintons still oppose your constitutional right to keep and bear arms. Hillary Clinton has praised her husband for enacting this unconstitutional measure, and continues to support it today.
We need to remind ourselves of these things, and of the left's tactic of capitalizing on tragedy, as the Clintons seek to retake the White House in 2008.