By Larry Keane
Chris Cheng outperformed competitors to win History Channel’s Top Shot championship, but his best performance yet may have been on Capitol Hill defending gun rights this week.
The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing titled, “Constitutional and Common Sense Steps to Reduce Gun Violence.” In the wake of the tragic murders in Atlanta and Boulder, Colorado, Cheng was among the witnesses testifying.
There were repeated calls by some senators advocating for “common sense” restrictions to “do something” to limit gun rights and reduce “gun violence.” Among their demands were expanded background checks, instituting red flag and extreme risk protection laws, banning modern sporting rifles and repealing the bipartisan Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA).
Top Shot Performance
Cheng reminded senators that Second Amendment rights are foundational to Americans’ ability to defend themselves. Cheng brought a unique perspective. Aside from being a competitive marksman, Cheng offered the committee the perspective of a member of two communities that have been victimized, he’s a member of both the Asian-American community and the LGBTQ community.
Cheng reminded the committee that Americans, and the Asian-American community in particular, have reason to be skeptical of government overreach on seizing rights. He reminded senators of the Japanese internment camps during World War II that were ordered under the guise of protection and safety. Cheng jumped to more recent examples where the Second Amendment right was crucial.
“We don’t have to look any farther back than the 1992 Los Angeles riots and Koreatown in L.A. was burning,” Cheng began. “They called the LAPD for help and the LAPD was under-resourced and unable to come to the aid of Korean-Americans. So what did they do? Korean-Americans utilized their Second Amendment rights and took their own personal firearms and protected their businesses, their lives and their community.”
Cheng referenced rising incidents of attacks on Asian-Americans today. Those threats of violence are the reasons why Asian-Americans have purchased 42 percent more firearms than they did the previous year.
“The past year-and-a-half or so with COVID-19 has been a pressure cooker…When you couple that with calls to defund the police and taking law enforcement officers off the street…it makes citizens like me less safe,” Cheng said. “If I can’t have law enforcement there, then it is a rational conclusion that individual citizens like myself would opt to utilize my Second Amendment right to purchase a firearm and use that firearm in lawful and legal self-defense.”
Senators defending fundamental Second Amendment rights explained more laws would not have stopped the criminals. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) noted that an amendment he sponsored in 2013 would have possibly prevented the Sutherland Springs, Texas, murders and others like it.
His proposed legislation would have strengthened the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) by requiring federal agencies to accurately submit records to NICS. Sen. Cruz explained the amendment received 52 bipartisan votes but was filibustered by Senate Democrats. He vowed to reintroduce the proposal as a stand alone bill.
As the hearing progressed, it was the witnesses voicing support for the Second Amendment that made the most impact.
Democratic senators voiced support for “red flag” and extreme risk protection laws. Firearm retailer, National African American Gun Association member and African-American woman Geneva Solomon pointed out how these laws disproportionately impact minorities.
“Often times extreme risk and red flag laws affect people more within a minority community who are practicing responsible gun ownership,” Solomon explained. “We hear stories about how costly it would have been to defend yourself in that process, they spend countless amounts of money and a lot of time in court just to get their firearm back two or three years later. We began to price people out of being able to exercise their Second Amendment rights.”
Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation Amy Swearer was asked by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) about the recently House-passed bill, H.R. 8, that would require universal background checks for private firearm transfers. The bill specifically authorizes a national firearm registry. Still, Democrats have stated the proposal would not require a national registry, but Swearer rebuffed that claim.
“The way these laws work is primarily retrospective. A crime is committed and we have law enforcement has the gun, they look at it, they say ‘where did this come from?’ and they backtrack to find out if the gun was purchased legally or through a private sale, etc.,” Swearer explained.
“It would seem to be the case that if the concern is private sales, the best way of retrospectively enforcing that is through a gun registry and the fear is when you have any sort of gun registration system, it is going to be used in the future as a launching pad for the next step and then the next step and so on.”
Through all the questioning and answering during the hearing, observers are watching what President Joe Biden may implement through executive actions or what proposals Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) will place on the Senate floor for a vote. Dr. Suzanna Gratia Hupp also testified before the committee and explained the resistance to proposals that don’t reduce gun violence but do place stricter limits on law-abiding Americans.
“The stat I really think means something is 350 million,” Hupp said. “There are 350 million legally-owned firearms in America and the overwhelming vast majority of those law-abiding gun owners are never involved in crimes of any kind.”
Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.