Gun Rights ‘Distinctly American,’ Advocates Warn of Socialist Agenda


Two gun-control bills passed in the House on March 11 tighten the background check requirements on gun sales, including private ones. David Adams, vice president and legislative director of Virginia Shooting Sports Association (VSSA), described the right to bear arms as “something that’s distinctly American.” He and other gun rights advocates warn that a universal background check is a step toward a means to an end—disarming law-abiding citizens.

Adams told The Epoch Times: “Americans are about individual freedom. That’s what this country was built on. While people owned firearms in Europe at the time of our founding, we are the only ones who have that enshrined in our Constitution as a constitutionally protected right. Canada doesn’t have that. Australia doesn’t have that. We need to understand that this is something that’s part of our culture and our way of life.”

“When the Second Amendment goes, if you think you’ve got a First Amendment, kiss it goodbye. You think you’ve got the fourth amendment? Kiss that goodbye. Because they will be arguing, think about the crimes we could stop if they could just drop into anybody’s house and search. It would go on and on. And pretty soon, you’d be living as they do in a third world country,” said Philip Van Cleave, president of Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), in an interview with The Epoch Times.

Van Cleave added, “Don’t say it couldn’t happen here. I’ve already seen things I thought would never happen here, and they’re already happening. It’s our country. We can either stand up and get the elected government that will represent us and protect our rights. Or we’re going to be in a really tough spot. It’s not going to get better.”

He described gun control as a part of the socialist agenda: “They [progressive democrats] seem to be clearly pushing for either socialism or communism, outright communism. And you can’t have an armed populace and have socialism and communism; it doesn’t work. I think the long-term goal is to have a pliable group of citizens that you can do whatever to them because they have no ability to fight back, except maybe by throwing rocks. We’ve seen how that’s worked out in the past for a lot of countries.”

“They are bidding their time; they are setting it up beautifully,” said Van Cleave. To him, the mix of defunding the police, letting illegal immigrants into the country, and making people angry is “stirring the pot.” He said that the government is waiting for something to happen to declare an emergency or martial law to argue for the need to “temporarily suspend all your rights.”

Adams shared the same concern: “The government knows if they have disarmed law-abiding citizens, then they’ve got free reign to do whatever they want to us. I think the pandemic has shown that Americans are more willing to give up basic rights than I ever thought they would be: your right to go to church or to assemble or go to a theater or restaurant. Everybody wants to be safe. But I think what the government has figured out is that if we scare people enough, they will give up most any right.”

“The goal is to disarm us so they can move forward with their other agendas. So that’s what they’re waiting on. They’re setting it all up. You can see it in motion. There’s no doubt in my mind,” added Van Cleave.

Epoch Times Photo
Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, walked through a gun-rights rally near the Capitol in Richmond, Va., on Jan. 18, 2021. (Ryan M. Kelly/AFP via Getty Images)

An Immigrant’s Warning

Anthony Medina, a northern Virginia resident originally from Nicaragua, said that he lived through how a communist regime took guns away from people.

Having grown up with education from a Spanish Jesuit school, Medina said that his Christian faith helped him resist the socialist ideas which many of his friends were excited about after the Sandinista National Liberation Front (the Sandinistas), a socialist political party, took over Nicaragua with a revolution in 1979.

Shortly before he left his country in his early 20s in 1984, he was told that he would be dispatched to the Amerrisque Mountains to fight the opposition force known as the Contras. Then, he would be sent to Cuba and the Soviet Union to further his engineering education. He was working at a power generation company at the time. He said that even though the regime controlled the media, people still learned that many who had gone into the mountains died shortly afterward.

The communist regime instated an emergency law from 1982 to 1988. During the emergency period, the government first offered a gun buy-back program in the early 1980s. The program was popular because people needed money. According to Medina, some sold their old rifles to the regime or exchanged them for 100 pounds of rice. Then, the regime began confiscating guns. Some people kept their firearms that were used to help the socialist revolution in 1979, but couldn’t use them because the regime monopolized ammunition.

Medina added that the Nicaraguans had to protest with their homemade arms in 2018 and 2019 to demand democracy. He told The Epoch Times that he wanted to share his experience with fellow Americans: “With communism, you have to think two or three steps ahead.”

Epoch Times Photo
A man fires a homemade mortar during a protest against Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega on Sept. 15, 2018. (Inti Ocon/AFP via Getty Images)

Minorities Disproportionally Affected

Economist John R. Lott Jr. said that the tightened background checks affect minorities disproportionally: “People tend to have names similar to others in their racial groups. Thirty-four percent of black males in the United States are legally prohibited from owning a gun because of past criminal history. Whose names are their names most likely to be confused with? Other law-abiding good black males who want to buy a gun to protect themselves and their families.”

Epoch Times Photo
Philip Smith, national president of the National African American Gun Association, sees the two new House bills as an added burden to law-abiding gun owners in his community. (Courtesy of Philip Smith)

Philip Smith, national president of the National African American Gun Association (NAAGA), sees the two new House bills as an added burden to law-abiding gun owners in his community. He founded the association in 2015. It has about 40,000 members now, 125 chapters nationwide, and about a 50-50 women/men composition. Nearly one-third of its members joined in 2020. “The overriding concern is that most people don’t feel as safe in the society as a general rule. They believe having a firearm would add a layer of protection,” said Smith.

In his view, African Americans are “a case study of what not to do when it comes to guns. If you want to make sure that your community is economically unstable, if you want to make sure that you can’t protect each other from domestic terrorists or racists, make sure you don’t have guns. If you want to make sure that your women and your men are left out to be slaughtered, make sure you don’t have guns. If you really want to make sure everything is in total disarray, make sure you don’t have guns.”

He added, “The communities that are very strong and safe America today, as we speak, are the ones that have guns protecting them. It may not be out in the open. But everyone knows if you go across the street and go down in the neighborhoods that have guns, you are going to get handled; you are going to get some opposition. Those are the communities that do well. If you keep promoting a mindset that is doomed for failure, what’s going to happen, your community will continue to fail.”

Rising Concerns of Self-Defense

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association of the firearms industry, estimated that there were 8.4 million new gun owners in the United States in 2020. Women accounted for 40 percent of all sales, and purchases by African Americans increased by 56 percent compared to 2019.

Adams of VSSA said that the new gun owners’ primary purpose is self-defense. “The police are there after something has already happened. When seconds count, the police are usually minutes away. Folks realized that, hey, I need to do something to take responsibility for protecting myself.”

Last year, Virginia tried to pass a bill similar to Senator Feinstein’s Assault Weapon Ban of 2021. The bill (HB961) passed in the House but was voted down in the Senate in 2020. Van Cleave credited the public outcry in Virginia as a primary reason the bill ended in the Senate.

Epoch Times Photo
Thousands of pro-gun supporters gather on the grounds of the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Va., on Jan. 20, 2020. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

Van Cleave said that all gun owners should work together to protect their collective rights. People who don’t own guns can also benefit from neighborhood protection from the law-abiding gun owners. “At this point, we need all hands on deck for every election. We have got to vote locally and vote in every election that you have a chance to vote in and vote for the people that are going to protect our freedom.”

“We have the right to fight for those issues that we think are very important for us. But I think anyone who wants to take away guns is certainly not looking out for my best interest. They’re not looking out for the best interest of my community at all. In fact, they don’t care about my community. They don’t care about the poor black women or the black families that have no protection against thugs and gangsters in their neighborhood. And they don’t care if they get guns or not, but I do. So, I’m going to fight for those people that can’t fight for themselves right now,” said Smith of NAAGA, adding that the background check was “only the initial step” and “the ultimate goal is to take away all firearms.”

“Gun control is really all about controlling people,” said Van Cleave. The 69-year-old gun rights advocate said that he had observed many years ago the gun safety activists started by wanting to take guns away, but rolled out compromised versions because they realized that it wouldn’t work.

He said he still remembered Senator Feinstein’s remarks on CBS’s “60 minutes” in 2014: “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 them all in—I would have done it.”

“The end goal is always the same. It’s ultimately to disarm us,” said Van Cleave, using the boiling frog metaphor to describe his assessment of the current situation: when the heat is slowly turned up, the frog tolerates it and doesn’t jump out of the water until it eventually dies.

“They’ve been doing that for years with gun control; they’ve been doing a little bit here and a little bit there. It was never quite enough, with one exception, the assault weapon ban back in 1994 that Clinton put in, that was an exception to the rule that woke up all. And that cost the Democrats the House and the Senate when they passed that. It was a poison pill for them. After that, they went back to slowly turning up the heat. And now we’re again back where the gun controllers have turned the heat all the way up.”

‘Assault Weapons’: a ‘Focus Group-Tested’ Term

Adams said that the term “assault weapons” is a marketing buzzword of gun control groups. He said that the public is often confused about the difference between semi-automatic firearms and military machine guns. “A semi-automatic firearm expels one round with every pull of the trigger. The military-style is that with one pull the trigger, you can expel multiple rounds without removing your finger from the trigger.”

According to Van Cleave, when the original assault weapon ban in 1994 passed, many people were thinking about machine guns. “The gun-control crowd was happy that there was that confusion. In fact, they bragged about it. What they’re doing is they’re going for the low hanging fruit, semi-automatic rifles.”

Adams added that one couldn’t buy the machine guns without going through a serious government background check and paying a $200 tax to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). And one can only buy such a firearm that was manufactured before 1986. Such guns are collector items and are pretty expensive.

“They [gun control groups] have found focus group-tested language that the American people are just not awake enough, or pay attention enough to, to do a little bit of research. The mainstream media and gun control groups use the same talking points. The mainstream media doesn’t do any fact checks on what they’re saying.”

Epoch Times Photo
VSSA members shot at Crush’n Clays, the longest-running shooting charity that supports the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a few years ago. (Courtesy of the Virginia Sports Shooting Association)

Mass Public Shooting Myth

Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence states on its website: “At its core, the gun lobby cares about selling guns, not keeping Americans safe. They aggressively push the fear-based message that people need a gun to protect themselves when the evidence shows access to a firearm actually increases the risk of suicide and homicide.” As for what evidence it refers to, Giffords didn’t respond to The Epoch Times’ inquiry at the time of publishing.

Lott said that gun control groups such as the Giffords Center “constantly talk about mass shootings and other types of attacks. They’re constantly making incorrect claims that the United States somehow leads the world in terms of mass public shootings.” According to his research, with less than 5 percent of the world population, the United States makes up less than 1 percent of the world’s mass public shootings.

Lott also authored “More Guns, Less Crime,” initially published in 1998 and reprinted in two additional editions. According to Lott, the first edition looked at all counties in the United States for about 20 years and considered many factors such as law enforcement, poverty, unemployment, and 13 different gun control laws. His key finding was that police were critical in reducing crime. People’s self-defense capability due to owning guns also deters criminals.

“In the 2020 federal election, just looking at congressional races, Bloomberg claims that he spent something like $110 million on those races. The NRA [National Rifles Association] spent something like $2.3 million. It’s not just that election cycle, cycle after cycle for at least the four previous election cycles, you see a similar imbalance. The gun control groups talk about the profits and other things for people in the gun industry and how much money they’re buying votes. If spending money was all you needed to do to buy votes, Bloomberg and gun control people would have had everything they ever wanted for years now,” he added.

Next Steps in Gun Control Measures

One of the two bills passed in the House on March 11 requires background checks on private gun sales; the other extends the background period from 3 to 10 business days. On the same day, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Congressman David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.) introduced the Assault Weapons Ban of 2021.

Senator Feinstein was the main author of the original ban in 1994, which expired in 2004. The ban targets semi-automatic weapons “assault weapons,” including the popular AR-15, as well as “high-capacity magazines” defined as more than ten rounds. The bill also includes a buy-back program for semi-automatic firearms. Thirty-four other Democrat Senators, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), co-sponsored the bill.

Lott told The Epoch Times that the future of the two House bills might boil down to the filibuster, which would require 60 votes out of the total 100 senators to end. However, the Senate may bring in the “nuclear option” that will allow it to end the filibuster with a simple majority.

Epoch Times Photo
John R. Lott Jr. (Courtesy of John Lott Jr.)

Lott pointed to Operation Choke Point, a 2013 initiative during the Obama administration, as a sign of future gun control measures. The Operation investigated financial institutions that did business with merchant categories deemed “high-risk,” including firearms and ammunition sales. A 2014 report of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform found that the Operation caused some banks to “terminate relationships with a wide variety of entirely lawful and legitimate merchants.”

Lott said, “It’s the type of actions that the government uses to go after terrorists that they were using to go after law-abiding companies. When Trump became president, he immediately ended that policy and started to put through regulations. The bureaucracy slow-walked the regulatory changes. They’ve had the final rules come out in November. But they had to be published in the Federal Register. They were supposed to be published in early February. And the Biden administration pulled them before they were able to get published. So, they can go back. And maybe they’re already going back.”

BloombergQuint, a joint venture of Bloomberg News and Quintillion Media, reported the pause of the final rule’s publication in January 2021. Senator Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) introduced the Fair Access to Banking Act on March 3 to address the issue left by the pause. On March 10, Representative Andy Barr (R-K.Y.)  introduced the companion legislation in the House.

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