Gun laws: why so little federal enforcement?
Recently, the Clinton/Gore Administration opened verbal fire on the National Rifle Association (NRA). Desperate to establish some kind of positive legacy in his last few months in office, Mr. Clinton has been needling the NRA by trying to hold it responsible for gun crimes against children. Eventually, NRA executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, had enough and, on a national TV Sunday talk show, gave voice to what many Americans have been thinking.
Mr. LaPierre raised the issue of why the Clinton/Gore Administration has a seven-year history of failing to enforce existing gun legislation against known felons and others who, by law, are not supposed to be able to purchase or possess firearms in the first place?
Immediately after his first inauguration, Bill Clinton fired all of the U.S. Attorneys in all 50 states and installed his own. Following that, an order may have gone from Bill Clinton through Attorney General Janet Reno to the U.S. Attorneys to not enforce federal gun laws. How else does one explain an almost total failure to file charges against people with criminal records who are known to local police to be in illegal possession of fire arms? How else does one explain an almost total failure of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) to confiscate the licenses of gun dealers who are known to be in violation of dozens of existing gun laws?
Over 95 percent of the firearms involved in crimes are sold by less than one percent of the federally-licensed gun dealers. Why those dealers have not been shut down demands an answer the Clinton/Gore Administration refuses to provide.
In Colorado, for example, the BATF renewed a new firearms license for a Lakewood gun dealer even though the dealer repeatedly sold handguns to people who failed background checks and he even had a convicted felon waiting on customers. In Delta, Colorado, federal officials allowed a man imprisoned three times on kidnapping and weapons charges to continue to sell firearms by using his wife and son as a front. Astonishingly, after this was discovered, the federal authorities failed to file charges.
It is this monumental failure of the Clinton/Gore Administration to enforce existing gun laws that provoked Mr. LaPierre to suggest that Mr. Clinton wants a certain level of gun violence in order to move his anti-gun agenda forward. While it would be a bit of a stretch to suggest that Bill Clinton wakes up each morning and wishes for another Columbine, it is a fact of practical politics that each headline-grabbing tragedy involving firearms brings on a renewed demand for more anti-gun legislation.
Equally galling to the NRA is that virtually all the anti-gun legislation proposed by the Clinton/Gore Administration is aimed, not at the criminals who commit the vast majority of gun violence, but at law-abiding NRA members whose record of illegal activity is virtually nil. Combine that with the abject failure of the Clinton/Gore Administration to enforce laws aimed at keeping known criminals away from guns and one might understand why the NRA has gotten a little intemperate in its speech with regard to Bill Clinton and Al Gore.
Although a long-time member, this observer sometimes finds fault with the NRA. For example, I would like to see the NRA back tighter controls at gun shows.
But if you have ever lived, as I have, inside and next door to totalitarian societies where private gun ownership is banned, you gain an appreciation of the value of our Second Amendment – the right of private citizens to keep and bear arms.
Bill Clinton, whose proven disrespect for the law may soon cost him his license to practice law, is not going to create a positive historical legacy by trying to make a villain out of the NRA –- our nation’s oldest civil-rights organization. Bill Clinton and Al Gore should go after criminals with guns, not law-abiding citizens with guns.
William Hamilton is a nationally syndicated columnist and a featured commentator for USA Today.