Here is a summary of the top stories brought to you in 2018 via the NRA-ILA Grassroots Alert. 2019 is certain to be a critically important year as new anti-gun leadership in the U.S. House and in many states will come after the Second Amendment with renewed zeal. As we move into 2019, we must continue to ensure we’re prepared to meet the great challenges before us…not only in the coming year, but with an eye toward the all-important 2020 election cycle! To that end, we will continue to provide you with information in future Alerts to ensure you have the information necessary to protect and advance your rights.
• In yet another embarrassment for the gun control lobby, a government investigation of online gun sales designed to determine “whether private sellers would knowingly sell a firearm to an individual prohibited from possessing one” determined that … no, actually, they would not. In 72 attempts undertaken over 2 ½ years, undercover agents trying to buy guns through readily-accessible Internet sites failed exactly 100% of the time to complete a sale when the seller had reason to believe the buyer was prohibited or lived in another state.
• Searching for a standard-bearer in the 2020 presidential election, Democrats gushed over the prospect of long-time entertainment, media, and publishing figure Oprah Winfrey, following a speech Winfrey gave at a televised Hollywood extravaganza. Winfrey received wide acclaim for her remarks, but amidst the #oprah2020 mania that followed, questions arose over what Winfrey actually stands for politically, and whether she has the desire and skill-set to lead the free world. Some of those questions remain unanswered, but for gun owners, one thing is crystal clear: Oprah Winfrey embraces the staunchly anti-gun posture of contemporary Hollywood.
• Even as the nation was grieving the terrible loss of life in Parkland, Fla., gun control activists were doing what they do best: exploiting tragedy to advance their political agenda. Gun control activists pushed a message that NRA and law-abiding gun owners are somehow to blame for the criminal violence that took place in Florida. They attempted to capitalize on this tragedy to convince members of Congress to vote for their gun control wish list. Proposals to ban the most popular rifles in America, arbitrarily limit magazine capacity, require a waiting period on all firearm sales, and restrict the right of law-abiding young adults to acquire rifles and shotguns were suggested as “solutions” by those who wish to curtail the rights of law-abiding gun owners. Rather than address our broken mental health system, our inability to provide proper school security, or numerous failings by law enforcement and others to identify and stop a clearly dangerous individual–all solutions that NRA supports–their response is tired and ineffective: blame NRA, its nearly six million members, and America’s 120 million law-abiding gun owners.
• Hoping to capitalize on tragedy, ignorance, and hysteria, 174 opportunistic anti-gun Democrats – led by Rep. David N. Cicillinie (RI) – introduced legislation proposing perhaps the most sweeping gun ban in U.S. history. The bill, H.R. 5087, was dubbed the “Assault Weapons Ban of 2018.” Yet its scope was so vast, and its drafting so poorly executed, that the only semi-automatic firearms it clearly didn’t reach are those listed in an appendix of what the authors consider permissible guns (many of which would be unknown or unavailable to the average consumer, if they were available at all).
• In what amounted to a decision that would alienate a large swath of the American public in order to appease anti-gun extremists, Dick’s Sporting Goods CEO and Chairman Ed Stack issued an open letter in which he announced several changes to the company’s firearms sales policies. According to the missive, Dick’s will no longer sell some configurations of commonly-owned semi-automatic rifles and certain types of magazines. The company will also refuse to sell firearms to adults ages 18 to 20.
• NRA expressed disappointment regarding the gun control provisions contained in a bill that was signed into law in Florida. The new law strips law-abiding adults aged 18-20 of their Second Amendment right to obtain firearms and imposes unnecessary delays on all firearm purchases. “This bill punishes law-abiding gun owners for the criminal acts of a deranged individual,” said Chris W. Cox, NRA-ILA Executive Director. “Securing our schools and protecting the constitutional rights of Americans are not mutually exclusive. Instead of looking to the root cause of this premeditated violence, the gun control provisions in this law wrongly blame millions of Floridians who safely and responsibly exercise their right to self-defense.”
• NRA-ILA’s Chris Cox released the following statement regarding YouTube’s announcement that it would prohibit certain content depicting legal firearm-related activity: “YouTube is now in the business of political posturing and censorship. Millions of Americans watch YouTube videos every day to learn more about the safe and responsible use of firearms, and those videos show law-abiding gun owners participating in lawful behavior. By banning this content, YouTube is engaging in politically motivated censorship and alienating the millions of people who turn to the website for education and training. Currently, anyone can go to YouTube and watch a video to learn how to make a bomb, yet the company wants to ban videos depicting lawful gun use? It’s absurd. This new policy runs counter to the American traditions of open dialogue and tolerance for diverse opinions and firmly plants YouTube, and its parent company Google, against the freedoms so many Americans hold dear.”
• Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens dropped the pretense of paying any lip service to the Second Amendment at all, arguing in a New York Times editorial that the concerns which underlie the amendment are a “relic of the 18th century” and that it should be repealed in its entirety.
• Dick’s Sporting Goods took their campaign to alienate law-abiding gun owners to extraordinary new depths, as the beleaguered retailer announced that in addition to removing certain types of semi-automatic rifles from their stores, the company would destroy its stock of these commonly-owned firearms along with any accessories for the guns.
• Citigroup and Bank of America announced changes to their corporate guidelines aimed at preventing law-abiding Americans from exercising their constitutional rights. According to Citigroup’s new policy, the nation’s fourth largest bank will withhold business from firearm-related companies that fail to adhere to a code of conduct that bans various types of legal firearm-related commerce, basically imposing gun control via financial extortion.
• Another group of anti-gun celebrities working to eradicate the rights of law-abiding gun owners was formed. Branded as NoRA, the name implies that the organization’s goal is to get rid of the oldest and largest civil rights organization in America, your NRA. As we have noted before, a recent Zogby poll indicates that when celebrities start promoting gun control, Americans tend to start opposing it. As Zogby noted, “Hollywood interjecting itself into the (gun control) debate makes even the Democratic base want to bear arms.”
• NRA saluted “the Gunny” and mourned the passing of an American patriot. America, and the NRA, lost a true friend and a staunch defender of freedom with the passing of R. Lee Ermey—an NRA board member and volunteer spokesman for the NRA Freedom Action Foundation—on April 15 from complications of pneumonia. He was 74 years old.
• NRA-ILA announced that Vice President Mike Pence will keynote the annual NRA-ILA Leadership Forum during NRA’s Annual Meetings & Exhibits in Dallas, Texas.
• For the first time in the organization’s history, a sitting U.S. president and U.S. vice president both addressed NRA members at the 147th Annual Meetings in Dallas during the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum. That marked the second year in a row that President Trump visited NRA members at the association’s annual meeting. Last year, he became the first sitting president to attend the Annual Meetings in more than three decades when he spoke at the 2017 Leadership Forum in Atlanta. The last president to attend the NRA Annual Meetings prior to President Trump was Ronald Reagan in 1983.
• The Federalist reported that Dick’s Sporting Goods hired three new federal lobbyists to promote gun control in Congress. Evidently, Dick’s had cut ties with a lobbying firm it had used for a number of years to protect its business interests on issues like tax reform, cybersecurity, and patent litigation reform. Registration documents indicated the new lobbyists were hired for “[l]obbying related to gun control.”
• NRA announced that it filed a lawsuit against the New York State Department of Financial Services (“DFS”), New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and DFS Superintendent Maria T. Vullo alleging violations of the NRA’s First Amendment rights. Filed on May 11, 2018, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York, the lawsuit claims that Cuomo, Vullo, and DFS engaged in a “campaign of selective prosecution, backroom exhortations, and public threats” designed to coerce banks and insurance companies to withhold services from the NRA. The NRA argues that such tactics vastly overstepped DFS’s regulatory mandate, and sought to suppress the speech of Second Amendment supporters and retaliate against the NRA and others for their political advocacy. The lawsuit seeks to block the unconstitutional censorship and recoup millions of dollars in damages to redress harms inflicted by the DFS campaign.
• Anti-gun U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) advocated in the media for legislation to ban an unspecified class of semi-automatic firearms and to “go after resisters” who refuse to relinquish their lawfully-acquired guns.
•Washington State’s would-be oligarchs once again attempted to buy Evergreen Staters’ rights. Four years after West Coast elites dumped $10 million into the campaign for Initiative 594, which criminalized the private transfer of firearms, some of the same plutocrats spent big bucks to back I-1639, an even more restrictive anti-gun ballot measure that would impose new burdens on all Washington gun owners and severely curtail access to some of America’s most popular firearms.
• The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (a recent combination of Americans for Responsible Solutions and the Legal Community Against Violence) honored Hillary Clinton with their Courageous Leadership Award at their 25th anniversary dinner in San Francisco. According to a press release from the group, the dinner “honors the exceptional efforts of key individuals who have shown outstanding leadership in the gun violence prevention movement.” Along with the awards presentation, the gathered gun control advocates were treated to a speech from the failed 2016 presidential candidate. As is her custom, Clinton used the opportunity to attack NRA.
• The United States held the line during discussions on the U.N.’s Gun Control Programme of Action as the two week long Third Review Conference (RevCon3) of the United Nation’s Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (PoA) began. The PoA is a political instrument, purporting to combat the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons through unanimous consensus, but in reality just promoting a laundry list of United Nations’ initiatives being employed in their effort to eradicate the civilian possession of small arms.
• Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced that he is retiring. The move signaled the end of Kennedy’s 30-year career on the nation’s highest court, which bore witness to its most important decisions concerning the Second Amendment. It also created the opportunity for President Trump to appoint a replacement who will help reinvigorate the stalled progress in Second Amendment jurisprudence.
• June 26 marked the 10-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s most significant pronouncement on the Second Amendment, District of Columbia v. Heller. While that decision changed the terms of the debate over the right to keep and bear arms, the battle to expand legal protection for the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans continues.
•Fired FBI Director James Comey’s self-aggrandizement tour continued apace. Momentarily turning his attention from attacking President Trump, Comey used the occasion of a trip to the largely-disarmed United Kingdom as an opportunity to advocate for stricter U.S. gun laws and to level barbs at the NRA.
• The two week long Third Review Conference (RevCon3) on the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (PoA) came to an end. Adding ammunition into the PoA had been at the top of the anti-gunners’ agenda since the PoA’s inception in 2001, as that step opens the door for calls to mark, trace, limit and require global registration of ammunition users. Ammunition was the real issue at RevCon3, and its incorporation into the PoA would mark an even more significant step forward in the anti-firearm agenda of the U.N. than the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).
• NRA filed comments in support of Trump Administration’s export reform effort. The public comment period closed on a pair of rulemakings that could finally free American gun owners and small businesses from being trapped in a minefield of federal regulations designed for exporters of sophisticated military technology.
• NRA applauded the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. “President Trump has made another outstanding choice in nominating Brett Kavanaugh for the U.S. Supreme Court. He has an impressive record that demonstrates his strong support for the Second Amendment,” said Chris W. Cox, NRA-ILA’s Executive Director.
• Gun control advocates undoubtedly awoke with a piercing headache as the news sunk in that the U.S. appellate court for America’s largest circuit — the Ninth Circuit — recognized that the Second Amendment protects a right to openly carry loaded firearms in public for self-defense. The ruling came in the case of Young v. State of Hawaii.
• Over 300 media outlets joined in a coordinated effort to push back against President Donald Trump. That hardly came as a shock to many Americans, as it seems mainstream news organizations have done little else throughout his tenure in the White House. Indeed, the stunt was perhaps the most vivid and explicit demonstration to date of the mass groupthink, negative Trump obsession, and narrative of victimhood that characterize the modern media landscape.
• It’s sometimes said that insanity can be defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. The website Vox.com took this tendency to new depths by using a double-murder/suicide that took place at a video game competition in Jacksonville, Florida, to re-run nearly word-for-word an article the outlet had published in May after a firearm-related crime in Santa Fe, Texas. In both cases, the author used his limited propaganda window to express opinions that gun control advocates usually shun in the calm, cold light of reasoned debate. “What America likely needs,” he wrote, “is something … like Australia’s mandatory buyback program — essentially, a gun confiscation scheme — paired with a serious ban on specific firearms (including, potentially, all semiautomatic weapons).”
• The Fourth Conference of States Parties (CSP) to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) concluded after yet another week of discussions on little more than administrative procedures and bureaucratic policies. Almost four years after the ATT entered into force, its proponents continue to try to expand it and trumpet its relevance, despite the agreement lacking membership of major arms exporters China and Russia, importers such as India, and having a body composed of States Parties either unwilling or unable to comply with its most basic obligations.
• The nation was subjected to an embarrassing and undignified spectacle of obstructionist partisan politics surrounding the confirmation hearings of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. Understanding that Judge Kavanaugh is an eminently qualified jurist with an upstanding reputation and that the votes likely existed to confirm him, the Senate Democrats on the Judiciary Committee abandoned the norms of the Senate and of civility and resorted to childish and temperamental theatrics. This included talking out of order and over their colleagues, including Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley; encouraging disruptive and illegal protests in the gallery; and holding up large posters to distract the Judge as he answered committee members’ questions. But the more serious affront arose from committee members who were either too ignorant or too dishonest to accurately articulate the law and the facts in their exchanges with Judge Kavanaugh. Such was the case with arch anti-gun Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who ludicrously claimed that semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 – long heralded as “America’s Rifle” – are not “in common use.” The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the firearm industry trade association, has calculated the number of semi-automatic rifles, including AR and AK pattern rifles, produced (minus those exported) and imported in the U.S. on an annual basis between 1990 and 2016, totals approximately 16,069,000—hardly uncommon.
• On September 4th, Levi Strauss & Co. CEO Chip Bergh announced that the San Francisco-based clothing manufacturer (which also owns Dockers) would openly advocate for gun control. As part of this campaign, the company will donate more than $1 million to radical anti-gun groups, including Michael Bloomberg’s front group (Everytown for Gun Safety) and Giffords (formerly Americans for Responsible Solutions and the Legal Community Against Violence). The company will also match employee donations to these groups and is encouraging its staff to devote their time to anti-gun activism.
• Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) is no fan of the Second Amendment. Yet an investigation by NBC4 TV in Los Angeles indicated that Harris was much more open-minded about guns when it comes to her own security. According to the report, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) provided Sen. Harris with armed security not just while she was in the city, but on trips throughout California, all courtesy of the city’s taxpayers. A retired senior LAPD official characterized Harris’s security arrangement as “unprecedented” in its scope.
•The NRA applauded the U.S. Senate’s confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to serve as an associate justice on the United States Supreme Court. “On behalf of our nearly six million members, the NRA congratulates Brett Kavanaugh on his confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director, NRA-ILA. “Kavanaugh is an eminently qualified jurist who will interpret the Constitution as the framers intended. He respects our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms for self-defense.”
• In what observers have pegged as a preparatory step for a presidential run in 2020, billionaire gun control financier and former-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg registered as a Democrat. Bloomberg ran as a Republican in his 2001 and 2005 mayoral campaigns. In 2009, Bloomberg ran for reelection as an independent. Despite having spent the better portion of the last two decades working to dismantle various freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, the would-be oligarch claimed he rejoined the Democrats to stand “as a bulwark against those who threaten our Constitution.”
• Gallup released the results of a poll which included a finding that Americans oppose a ban on AR-15s and similar semi-automatic firearms by robust a margin of 17%. Meanwhile, current support for such a ban is 7% lower than the historical trend dating back to 1996, when Gallup first began polling on the issue. In other words, Americans appear not to have been swayed by the intense media editorializing, celebrity pontificating, and youthful activism of the past year aimed at prohibiting what are by all accounts the most popular types of rifles in the country.
• Missouri voters across the political spectrum didn’t like what they were shown this month. Hidden camera video from journalist James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas showed Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and her staff misled Missourians on her support for severe gun controls and for impeaching President Donald Trump.
• Midterm elections offered motivation to continue the fight for our rights. Democrats, as expected, retook control of the U.S. House of Representatives. This portends a renewed push for federal gun control. They also picked up about half a dozen governorships, leaving statehouses across the country nearly evenly split between red and blue chief executives. But the more important story is that Republicans not only held, but also increased, their pro-gun majority in the U.S. Senate. In the end, 80% of NRA-PVF- endorsed candidates won their U.S. House races, and 85% of NRA-PVF-endorsed candidates won at the state level.
• House Democrats outlined their aggressive gun control agenda for 116th Congress, which will be bolstered by a slew of anti-gun House Democrats in leadership positions. When the new Congress convenes in January, virtually all Democrat leadership positions are likely to be filled by long-time anti-gun zealots, led by Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as Speaker and key committees chaired by extremists with long histories of supporting any and all legislation designed to diminish the rights of law-abiding gun owners. At the top of their agenda will be banning semi-automatic firearms—to include not only America’s most popular rifle, the AR15, but all other semi-automatic rifles as well. The standard magazines that come with these rifles, as well as any that are sold separately that are deemed “too big,” will also be the target of bans. Many semi-automatic handguns and shotguns could be swept into these bans as well.
• U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) raised the specter of unleashing a nuclear attack against fellow Americans to demonstrate just how darned committed he is to mass firearm confiscation. Swalwell gained some headlines for himself earlier in the year when he proposed banning various semiautomatic firearms, forcing current owners to surrender them to the government, and “go[ing] after” resisters. In November, he made it clear in a Twitter exchange that he meant what he said. Responding to another Twitter user who commented that an attempt to repeal the Second Amendment and ban and seize guns would provoke a war, Swallwell stated: “And it would be a short war my friend. The government has nukes. Too many of them. But they’re legit.” He added, “I’m sure if we talked we could find common ground to protect our families and communities.”
• Retired anti-gun Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote a lengthy dissent to the landmark decisions of Heller and to its follow-up, McDonald v. Chicago, continued to advocate against those cases in a book proposing amendments to the Constitution and in a high-profile editorial published in the New York Times urging repeal of the Second Amendment. In November, Stevens announced he is publishing a memoir and revealed what were by his own account extraordinary efforts to try to thwart the outcome of the Heller decision, or at least to limit the scope of the Second Amendment’s guarantee of an individual right.
• Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto held a press conference to propose a trio of anti-gun city ordinances that, if enacted, would constitute a direct violation of Pennsylvania’s state firearm preemption law and Pennsylvania Supreme Court precedent. At the event, Peduto was joined by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, who benefitted from $500,000 in spending from Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety during his 2018 re-election bid, and City Council members Corey O’Connor and Erika Strassburger.
• A Washington Post story on former NYC mayor and billionaire nanny-stater, Michael Bloomberg’s potential presidential race in 2020 highlighted what it called his “disturbing attitude toward the First Amendment,” which safeguards, among other things, freedom of speech and freedom of the press from government interference. Mr. Bloomberg, the founder of the eponymous Bloomberg L.P., a privately-held financial information and media company that operates Bloomberg News, indicated in a radio interview, that, “[q]uite honestly, I don’t want the reporters I’m paying to write a bad story about me… I don’t want them to be independent.” To ensure that the coverage from his own news outlet would be consistent with these expectations, he added that, should he run for president, one option would be to eliminate any political reporting by his employees. Kathy Kiely, who wrote the Post story, is herself the former politics editor at Bloomberg News who resigned in 2016 over concerns that the media company could not cover its owner’s possible presidential run in the same way that it reported on other candidates.
• Leaving no doubt over House Democrats’ plans to push a gun control agenda, Nancy Pelosi “vowed to fight” for “bipartisan, common sense” gun control and announced gun control “will be a priority” even before she had secured the Speaker’s gavel. The eagerness to curtail our rights isn’t limited to Nancy Pelosi, as Representative Mike Thompson (D-CA), head of the Democrats’ “gun violence prevention task force” and incoming Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Representative Jerry Nadler (D-NY), are both on record confirming they’ll push for gun control early in 2019 as well.
• The Department of Justice released its final rule classifying “bump-stock-type-devices” as “machineguns” under the National Firearms Act. These devices came to national attention in October 2017, after the horrific attack in Las Vegas. As multiple media accounts correctly pointed to at the time, there was overwhelming legislative support for proposals that went far beyond these specific devices and some that could have potentially jeopardized all semi-automatic firearms. Rather than sit back and watch a legislative over-reaction, NRA asked Congress to let ATF review its prior determinations on bump fire stocks. Some have used our October 2017 statement to claim that NRA supports ATF’s final rule, but as NRA-ILA’s Executive Director Chris Cox noted only days after our statement was issued, “We don’t believe that bans have ever worked on anything.” We also made this clear in our comments to ATF on the proposed rule earlier this year. In our comments, we further advised that ATF should, at a minimum, allow for an amnesty period for law-abiding gun owners who purchased their bump fire stocks in good faith reliance on prior ATF determinations. We continue to pursue the availability of a period of amnesty with the administration.
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