Guns, Politics, and Freedom
January 7, 1997

A Gentle Mask For Gun Control

By F. Paul Valone


This is the column The Charlotte Observer ran, on January 7, 1997, to kick off my first stint as an “Observer Community Columnist.” Under the title “Same old gun control agenda lurks behind gentle mask” (how do editors find such uniformly horrible titles?), I’m happy to say it drew the wrath of Sarah Brady herself.



Sarah: "The gun lobby likes to say that Jim and I are trying to take guns away from hunters and sportsmen.  The gun lobby is wrong.  To the hunters and sportsmen of America we say: keep your guns.  But just give us the laws that we need to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and out of the hands of children...We can eliminate random gun violence...But don't do it for Sarah and Jim Brady."


Jim: "Do it for all our children."  [Sarah and Jim Brady at the Democratic National Convention]


Meet Sarah Brady, leader of the new, less confrontational Handgun Control, Inc.  Lacking Congressional support for gun control, she disguises herself as a children's advocate.


Of course, no Brady speech is complete without her dubious claim the Brady Law has kept 100,000 "felons" from obtaining handguns.  (In a recent survey, 85% of Chiefs of Police disagreed).  But lately, Sarah avoids the words "gun control."


H.C.I.'s allegedly limited goals contrast with the heady days of 1994 when it proposed "Brady II," which included gun bans, licensing, registration, and even warrantless searches of the homes of collectors brash enough to own twenty firearms.  Describing the Brady Law as "the nose of the camel under the tent," H.C.I. dubbed Brady II "the rest of the camel."


But according to Bill Clinton himself, support for gun control cost Democrats at least 20 congressional seats in the 1994 elections.  Congress has avoided gun control like the plague ever since, and those opposed to gun ownership realize they overplayed their hand. 


Last year, H.C.I.'s shift to a politically bulletproof anti-violence posture paid off: Congress passed the Lautenberg Amendment, which purports to combat domestic violence but which actually, for the first time, bars people convicted of certain misdemeanors - not felonies - from owning guns.


Wouldn't you expect anti-violence advocates to welcome laws which reduce murder, rape, and assault?  Think again.  When University of Chicago professor John Lott completed a comprehensive, unbiased study of concealed handgun laws by concluding they do precisely that, H.C.I. and its minions treated him like a pariah, first refusing to critique his paper, then trying unsuccessfully to link him with gun manufacturers.


Gun control groups now camouflage themselves.  Brady, for example, rarely mentions  Handgun Control, Inc., instead promoting H.C.I.'s "Center to Prevent Handgun Violence."  Consider also the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, the Violence Policy Center, and a host of other groups getting max mileage from "the V word."


In our own back yard, Lisa Price, wife of Congressman David Price, has been running a Chapel Hill group called "North Carolinians For Gun Control" - until last year, that is, when it became "North Carolinians Against Gun Violence."


Knowing children can be used to advantage, gun control proponents assign them prominent roles in their melodramas.  Consider, for instance, a clever bit of street theater staged by Price's group in Raleigh last year using 11-year-olds carrying signs inscribed with subtle witticisms like "GUNS: DEATH." 


"CEASE FIRE In the War Against Children," a project of The Children's Defense Fund,  tugs at our heart strings by informing us: "Between 1979 and 1991, nearly 50,000 children were killed by firearms."  Failing to mention the source of its unlikely numbers, it eventually reveals a self-described agenda for " control the manufacture, sale, and possession of non-sporting firearms and ammunition."


Fraudulent children's advocates inflate their claims using voodoo science, often supported by  the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control which last year lost $2.6 million in funding for pursuing anti-gun advocacy and whose director, Mark Rosenburg, admits wanting to create a public perception of guns as "dirty, deadly...and banned."


In truth, among children under 15, accidental gun deaths over the last three decades have declined by 58%.  Among gun-owning households, the odds of a child experiencing a gun accident are about 1 in 58,000.  And except for a tragically high murder rate among blacks, homicides among teenagers remain infrequent.


The coming year will see more of the same charade as H.C.I. launches "The Safe America Campaign," under which it will quietly pursue a nationwide one-gun-a-month law and national handgun licensing and registration.


So when Sarah & Co. demand "sensible gun laws for the children," ask what they're really after.  When Sarah says, as she did at Elon College, "We don't want to take guns from sportsman - we just want to keep them out of the wrong hands," realize the "wrong hands" could be your hands. 


And finally, understand that although an old cliché calls patriotism the last refuge of scoundrels, the scoundrels behind gun control hide in schoolyards.