On Tuesday, CNN’s Chris Cillizza argued that the “gun lobby,” read, the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other groups that support the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, have convinced people that Democrats want to confiscate guns. And that, he reasoned, is the reason Congress hasn’t enacted the type of gun control liberals want to see.
In an article he posted at CNN’s website, Cillizza even said such claims are “conspiracy theories.” Naturally, he got hammered hard on Twitter for making his claim.
“Congress doesn’t act on gun measures because the gun lobby has convinced people Democrats want to seize their guns,” he tweeted.
— Chris Cillizza (@CillizzaCNN) October 3, 2017
Typically, on issues where nine in 10 Americans agree, Congress find a way to act. After all, the job of members of Congress, broadly speaking, is to represent the interests of their constituents. And, in raw political terms, doing something that 90%+ of the public wants is a smart move.
So, why has no major — or, really, even minor — gun control passed Congress since the assault weapons ban in the mid-1990s? And why, in the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016, did Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy’s legislation to close the gun show loophole and ban firearms sales over the Internet fail — with all but one Republican opposing it and three Democrats also voting against it?
The most-common answer is the National Rifle Association. There’s no question that the NRA has built a very powerful lobbying and political machine in Washington — and shown a willingness to support those who support them and go after those who don’t.
But it’s not just lobbying done by the NRA or other pro-gun groups, he argued, blaming rhetoric from Republicans who campaign against anti-gun Democrats.
“It’s the broader idea — which the NRA and lots of Republican elected officials push — that, at root, any attempt to make gun laws stricter amounts to the first step on a slippery slope that eventually leads to liberals coming to your house and confiscating your guns,” he wrote.
He dismissed, for example, “Obama’s expressed disdain in a private setting for those who ‘cling to guns,‘” and, “audio of Clinton’s comments at a private fundraiser in which she said that the Supreme Court was “wrong” on the 2nd Amendment. He excused this by saying that “Clinton was referring to a specific case in which Washington’s handgun ban was struck down.”
Calling such concerns by supporters of the Second Amendment “conspiracy theories” and “irrational fears,” he added:
While these comments are surely sentiments with which gun rights supporters disagree, they don’t amount to any sort of broad-scale conspiracy within the Democratic Party to round up all the guns in the country. (Aside from the lack of actual evidence of this plan, the sheer logistics of such an effort would be mind-bogglingly complex.) But, conspiracy theories are not built on rational evidence. They are built on irrational fear.
Fear, of course, is a hugely powerful political motivator. The idea of roving bands of liberals grabbing for your guns and robbing you of a fundamental freedom is scary to lots of people. And so, when a group or a politician suggests that any attempt to restrict gun rights or close loopholes is the first step in the execution of the broader gun-collection plan they have always warned you about, it’s easy to see why so many gun rights supporters react the way they do.
But conspiracy theories aren’t facts. And the facts make clear that the idea of some sort of national gun seizure isn’t something any politician is interesting in.
But there’s only one small problem with Cillizza’s screed. Democrats have actually advocated seizing guns.
In January 2016, AWR Hawkins wrote:
Increased, unvarnished calls for all-out bans on semiautomatic weapons. The Washington Post’s Eugene Volokh explained, “These aren’t calls for restricting supposedly narrow categories of guns that are allegedly used predominantly by criminals. These are calls for banning the sorts of guns that tens of millions of law-abiding Americans have in their homes.” Volokh explains the progression–from seeking a ban on “Saturday Night Specials” in the 1970s to a ban on “assault weapons” in the 1990s and 2000s to seeking an all-out ban on the possession of semiautomatic weapons now.
Confiscation is already underway in California. FrontPage reports that “California Attorney General and anti-gun extremist Kamala Harris recently announced that over the last two years her Department had ‘doubled the average number of guns seized annually.’”
It should also be noted that California goes about confiscation by using many of the tools Democrats are putting in place at the federal level–such as incrementally expanding the list of what it means to be prohibited from gun possession, then using those expansions to trigger the confiscatory policies that allow law enforcement to visit homes and round up firearms.
The “legal groundwork” for confiscation is already in place. This last point overlaps the previous one somewhat. But the California example serves as a blueprint for Democrats at the federal level, who have long been looking for ways to confiscate firearms.
A 2015 post at the Political Insider offered up no less than five specific times Democrats sought gun confiscation.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, for example, once said: “Confiscation could be an option. Mandatory sale to the state could be an option. Permitting could be an option — keep your gun but permit it.“
And how about this nugget from Democrats in New Jersey: “We needed a bill that was going to confiscate, confiscate, confiscate.”
You can hear that at about the :20 seond mark in the following video:
And there’s this from the Political Insider, citing a post at Mental Recession:
This is the granddaddy of them all.
During debate of New York’s Second Amendment-infringing Safe Act legislation, Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin introduced a wish list for Senate Democrats that included plans to confiscate so-called “assault weapons,” confiscate ten-round clips, and set up a database for every gun in the state.
During the debate (seen below), one Democrat requested that McLaughlin not reveal the wish list as it could “dampen the enthusiasm of compromise.”
McLaughlin replied, “It absolutely has the ability to dampen a compromise” when we’re talking “about the confiscation” of guns.
But those are all conservative or pro-gun sites, you argue. Fair enough. Let’s take a look at this from the Daily Beast, hardly a bastion of conservative thought:
In 2015, James Kirchick wrote (Emphasis added):
For the gun-control side, the unspoken belief is that nothing short of all out confiscation will have an appreciable effect on decreasing gun deaths. Then again, it’s not that unspoken—gun-control advocates just prefer tergiversation to clarity. Democratic candidates, officeholders, and liberal websites frequently invoke the example of Australia, for example. After a 1996 shooting rampage killed 35 people, the Australian government outlawed an array of firearms and instituted a compulsory buyback program that effectively eliminated private gun ownership. Since then, gun violence has dropped precipitously.
But there’s more. Kirchick referenced some of the same statements Cillizza did, noting:
Rarely in American gun-control advocates’ references to the Australian policy, however, do they acknowledge that the program amounted to confiscation. “When Australia had a mass killing—I think it was in Tasmania—about 25 years ago, it was just so shocking, the entire country said, ‘Well, we’re going to completely change our gun laws,’ and they did,” Obama said after a June shooting in a Charleston church killed nine people. Curiously, the president omitted just what “change” the people of Australia decided to implement.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton told an audience in New Hampshire last month that “Australia is a good example” of gun-control laws, so much so that it “would be worth considering” the Antipodean solution here in the United States. She, too, neglected to mention the obligatory nature of the gun buyback scheme.
A 2015 article at U.S. News and World Report also says that yes, Democrats want gun confiscation.
It would seem that Cillizza is the one peddling conspiracy theories, not the NRA and gun owners.
Twitter users educated Cillizza on the issue:
What part of UNALIENABLE don't you comprehend. 2nd amendment is unalienable…take illegal guns off streets. Left is begging for unrest.
— Geri Ricci (@RicciGeri) October 4, 2017
The gun lobby didn't convince me that Democrats want to take my guns, the Democrats did.
— DES-JAX (@desjax) October 4, 2017
I know, right? What would make people think that Democrats want to ban all guns? https://t.co/FYJ1D7fYcF
— Joseph Daher (@joedah87) October 4, 2017
One person cited a now-infamous quote by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who is very well-known for her desire to shred gun rights:
the nra didn't have to pic.twitter.com/oJzo6P2FP4
— Scott (@WmScottBlair) October 4, 2017
A 2013 post at Forbes noted:
First, while she now contends that her intent is simply to restrict certain “bad” guns (based upon totally arbitrary criteria her staff has established), that claim doesn’t jibe with what she told CBS’s 60 Minutes. Upon seeing her Clinton gun ban enacted in 1994, she said: “If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them . . . ‘Mr. and Mrs. America, turn ’em all in,’ I would have done it.”
Feinstein told the Associated Press on November 18, 1993 that: “Banning guns addresses a fundamental right of all Americans to feel safe”. Yet referring to a time when she believed she was the target of a terrorist group, the senator expressed a very different viewpoint to colleagues during April 1995 Senate hearings on terrorism. She said: “And, I know the sense of helplessness that people feel. I know the urge to arm yourself, because that’s what I did. I was trained in firearms. I’d walk to the hospital when my husband was sick. I carried a concealed weapon. I made the determination that if somebody was going to try to take me out, I was going to take them with me.”
There are two possibilities. Either (1) Cillizza just decided not to do any research on the subject, or (2) he did some research and simply chose to ignore the statements that didn’t fit his narrative.
Either way, Cillizza is clearly wrong in his assertion that people are concerned about gun confiscation only because the NRA says so. They’re concerned because of what Democrats have actually said.
Incidents like this, by the way, are partly the reason many now view CNN as the least trusted name in network news, according to the results of a study published by the Washington Free Beacon back in January.
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