Second Amendment support was on full display at the 2021 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) as thousands gathered in Orlando, Florida. Gun rights heavy-hitters discussed the legislative landscape and how politics have changed with historic numbers of Americans buying a gun over the past year.
U.S. Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) and Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and former Georgia state Democratic representative-turned Republican Vernon Jones were the special guests with nationally syndicated radio host Dana Loesch.
Last year was unlike any other year for firearm sales. Shutdowns from the coronavirus led to economic anxiety and safety concerns. Blue state governors shuttered gun retailers even as community violence, riots and looting escalated through the summer. Add the reverberating calls by politicians to “defund the police” and the result was 21 million background checks for the sale of a firearm in 2020.
More than 8.4 million were to first-time buyers and gun buyers shattered stereotypes, increasingly diverse with women and African Americans leading the charge. Throw in a presidential campaign built on strict gun control and Loesch’s panel had plenty to say.
Ms. Boebert Goes to Washington
Rep. Boebert described her path to becoming a gun rights advocate. She owns a restaurant in Rifle, Colo., and there was a parking lot altercation. She worried for her safety and that of her staff. Rep. Boebert studied Colorado’s gun laws, obtained her concealed carry permit and hasn’t looked back since.
In 2020’s election, Rep. Boebert, before she announced her own run for office, heard presidential candidate Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke’s infamous “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15” declaration. She learned he had an upcoming rally in Colorado and had a response of her own.
“I drove down to his presidential rally with my GLOCK on my hip and told him, “Hell no, you’re not!” O’Rourke soon dropped out of the race and Rep. Boebert is now in Congress.
Vernon Jones echoed why Rep. Boebert’s safety message resonates across political, racial and societal demographics. “We have to protect the Second Amendment,” Jones explained. “We have laws in place and law-abiding people who want to protect their property and protect themselves, they use their guns responsibly.”
President Joe Biden took office with a stack of gun control plans, but voters had other ideas. House Democrats lost several seats yielding a razor-slim majority. The Senate is deadlocked at 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking any ties. With the filibuster in place, it makes gun control a heavy lift.
Loesch summarized the Catch-22 for gun owners. “The Biden administration, they promised gun control. Fortunately, Biden doesn’t have the muscle in Congress to make that happen,” she said. “But that’s not stopping him from looking at regulatory enactment of gun control.”
Gun control groups like Everytown for Gun Safety mapped out this path. They wrote a playbook on executive actions for the Biden administration, going around Congress. Rep. Boebert, who Loesch described as a “Second Amendment firestarter,” called out this approach.
“At the end of the day, this is all about taking control, and I am there to defend your Second Amendment rights,” Rep. Boebert explained. “I will stand up for your God-given rights every single day.”
Punish the Law-Abiding, Ignore Criminals
Loesch referenced President Biden’s go-to ideas, including banning so-called “ghost guns” and standard capacity magazines, repealing the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) and banning so-called modern sporting rifles (MSRs), which he mislabels as “assault weapons.”
Loesch clarified gun control uses the term “ghost gun” to bogeyman something that’s been legal since the founding of the country. It would turn hobbyists and gunsmiths into criminals, but not reduce criminal misuse of firearms.
Repealing the bipartisan PLCAA would bankrupt firearm manufacturers through a new tidal wave of frivolous lawsuits over the criminal misuse of legal products. It would be akin to car manufacturers being sued because of drunk drivers.
These lawsuits would also be a means for gun control groups to impose crushing litigation expenses on the industry and force it to its knees and accept, through court ordered settlements, gun control regulation that Congress has repeatedly rejected and not supported by Americans. President Clinton’s Treasury Secretary Robert Reich famously called this tactic “regulation through litigation.”
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) explained Congress’ role in preventing executive overreach. “We have got to not just work within the procedures, but we’ve got to throw down every speed stick we possibly can. And we have to rely on the states and governors as well.”
Loesch thanked the panel for their contributions to the fight to ensure the Second Amendment. “The Constitution offers an extreme protection of our Second Amendment rights and we need to make sure it stays that way.”
Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.