“I say to you, forget the extremists! It’s simple: no one hunts with an assault rifle! No one needs 10 bullets to kill a deer! Too many innocent people have died already! End this madness now!”
-- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his State of the State address.
“I grew up in the hunting culture, but this is nuts. Why does anybody need a 30 round clip for a gun? Why does anybody need one of those things that carries 100 bullets? The guy in Colorado had one of those.”
-- Former President Bill Clinton in a speech at an electronics tradeshow in Las Vegas.
Power Play has not yet found any mentions of deer or geese or squirrels or “varmints” in the Constitution, but invariably, when the discussion turns to guns and gun control, supporters of restrictions start talking about hunting.
Gun-control proponents in politics will go to great lengths to show their enthusiasm as sportsmen, dutifully donning their blaze orange to blast away at whatever innocent creatures are placed before them. Untold numbers of unsuspecting geese, grouse, pheasant and deer have been sacrificed on the altar of political ambition.
These creatures have died in part because hunting shows that candidates who are not regular guys enjoy the same manly pursuits as the voters they are trying to woo. John Kerry’s Ohio goose hunt of 2004 stands out as the most epic example, but seeking “likability” through blood sport is a bipartisan proposition, like a visit to a NASCAR track or a local tavern.
But the real reason for all of the hunting is that those who favor restrictions on firearms want to show that they are ok with certain uses of guns – that they embrace the tradition and sport of hunting and do not wish to deprive any Joe Six-packs of their November deer hunts. In fact, the politicians find it all rather rustic and thrilling.
President Obama is not one of these people. This political note does not know whether the president has ever fired a weapon or killed anything larger than the fly he swatted during an interview with NBC, but Obama doesn’t do dead-goose photo-ops.
This is because he understands the reality of the debate. It is not about hunting and target practice. It is not even about self-defense. It is about the power of government and its relationship to the citizenry.
In the recording of Obama at a Bay Area fundraiser talking about why small-town Pennsylvania voters preferred Hillary Clinton to him in the commonwealth’s 2008 Democratic primary the then-senator explained that it was social issues that kept them away from him.
Obama placed guns on par with faith in God as things that these voters “cling to.” He did not say that they cling to deer hunting but the guns themselves.
Obama understands this debate in a way that former President Bill Clinton and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo apparently do not. Both Clinton and Cuomo talked on Wednesday about how weapons not useful in hunting should be banned.
But the Second Amendment doesn’t say anything about hobbyists and sportsmen. It explains that in order to maintain a militia, like the ones that fought the British, the government is not allowed to infringe on the rights of citizens to own and bear arms.
This complicates things. If the Founders had said that in order to kill geese or protect their homes or win the Iowa Caucuses, citizens are allowed to have guns it would be much simpler. But instead James Madison and the boys, fresh off an anti-tyranny kind of insurrection, said that in order to protect the nation and, thereby, the rest of the liberties enshrined in the Constitution, the government can’t keep people from having guns.
The amendment doesn’t permit anyone to do anything. It prohibits the government from doing something.
When Clinton and Cuomo suggest that people should be allowed to have guns to go hunting, they are talking past the people who enshrine the Second Amendment in the way that left enshrines the First. Both amendments make life more difficult in America and make the country harder to govern and both, it has been argued, make the citizenry less safe. Those difficulties are presumably why the Founders went to the trouble of spelling them out at the top of the Bill of Rights.
There are always good and logical reasons for a government to prevent people from saying whatever they wish, gathering with whomever they choose, joining any religion they like or owning guns. That’s why the British restricted those very things. It was not just because they were uncool old wig heads. Clinton, Cuomo and most in the gun control lobby talk about practical restrictions while gun proponents talk about the need to preserve rights, even when impractical.
This ideological chasm is exactly why we have not yet obtained what are so often called “commonsense” reforms. Like they are now doing with the debt limit, liberals wave away the Second Amendment as anachronistic and harmful, thereby short-circuiting any meaningful dialogue.
As Americans wonder why we are drifting farther from consensus as the days pass since the Sandy Hook nightmare it is because of this: The two sides aren’t even speaking the same language, let alone having a dialogue.
And Now, A Word From Charles
“And the point of having a government, as in the Declaration, is to secure the rights. In Britain, you have no such right; the government will control gun ownership. So unless you are willing to confiscate -- which would be unconstitutional and would cause insurrection in the country -- as Australia did, these things will not have an effect, except at the margins.”
-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com. Catch Chris Live online daily at 11:30amET at http:live.foxnews.com.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.