What mattered was the messaging war. That is all that ever matters in such agendas, and the problem with most of the right is that its members are either unwilling or unable to confront the disinformation of the left with the most effective defense possible: the truth.
In 1997, the Justice Department conducted a survey of some 18,000 incarcerated criminals, and found that a whopping 0.7% of those criminals procured their firearms at gun shows. A stunning 1% purchased their firearms at flea markets. 3.8% armed themselves at pawn shops. Another 8.3% found their artillery at retail outlets. In total, universal background checks would have worked on less than 15% of those surveyed, because close to 80% of those surveyed got their firearms from a friend or family member (39.6%) or through illegal transactions (39.2%) on the street.
Though laws are already in effect to cover such illegal firearms purchases, the gun control lobby in this country would have you believe that we need stricter gun control laws. According to a 2003 report from Americans for Gun Safety, 20 out of 22 federal gun laws are simply not enforced, with only 2% of federal gun crimes being prosecuted. 85% of those federal gun crimes involve illegal possession. Laws don't do any good if you won't prosecute violations, and the fact that the federal government isn't prosecuting such violations belies their stated purpose of preventing illegal gun possession or trafficking.
What the federal government is actually trying to restrict is not illegal gun ownership by convicted criminals; instead, what the federal government wants to do is restrict legal gun ownership by people without any criminal background or mental health issues at all. The issue is and has always been legal gun ownership.
It is this reality that has led the gun control lobby to engage in the most vitriolic and defamatory campaign of disinformation imaginable, whereby legal gun owners are said to equal the likes of Adam Lanza and James Holmes. For starters, Adam Lanza failed to legally procure a single firearm he used. He attempted to buy guns at a Dick's Sporting Goods, and was deterred by the background check and subsequent delay. He then murdered the legal owner of the firearms he used in his attack at Sandy Hook Elementary. James Holmes violated various state and local gun control laws throughout his attack in Aurora, Colorado.
While the institutional left accomplished much good by gradually changing the country's mind about gays and lesbians, it will not accomplish anything good by unfairly vilifying law-abiding citizens over their choices in firearms. What the institutional left will accomplish, if they are allowed to succeed, is the wholesale disarmament of American citizens of those weapons that might enable ordinary Americans to check the advance of a federal government that increasingly seems unhinged from reality, what with its assertions that it can kill Americans for the "crime" of free speech without due process, as our government did with Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen.
While al-Awlaki's use of speech was loathsome, there is no evidence that he ever picked up a gun on behalf of al-Qaeda, let alone planned a single operation of al-Qaeda. Moreover, speech is not a crime, and it certainly is not a capital crime. Finally, Anwar al-Awlaki and his seventeen year old son were both American citizens, and American citizens get the benefit of due process before we execute them. There are requirements like evidence of an actual crime, a trial before an impartial judge and/or jury, and our Bill of Rights is supposed to serve as a limitation upon government by explicitly defining rights are sacrosanct.
Our government regards such rights as inconveniences, inefficiencies to be disposed of in order to enable its purposes, no matter what those purposes may be. No right that we have is more of an inconvenience to a federal government that seeks to arrogate for itself the power to execute Americans without evidence of a crime or any trial before an impartial body than the right to bear arms. As a practical matter, assault weapons afford ordinary American citizens some tactical advantages that mere pistols and shotguns do not. When we exist in a world where the mere fiat declaration of our Secretary of State can render someone a terrorist, the right to bear arms, including assault weapons, is vital and necessary to the defense of our liberties from government overreach.
As our federal government increasingly militarizes local police departments through grants and surplus items from the Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon, we must remain skeptical of the motivations of such a government, given its prior history. As gun control advocates zero in on assault weapons, we must mobilize and reply in a stentorian chorus with fact-based rebuttals. The fact of the matter is that assault weapons account for less than 1% of all gun crimes, with violent crimes involving assault weapons coming in at one-fifth of one percent.
To say, then, that assault weapons are the source of a violent crime epidemic, is to lie. What assault weapons are for legal gun owners is a means of leveling the playing field with a government that asserts for itself the right to suspend their civil rights and liberties, to indefinitely incarcerate or even execute "terrorists" without trial, when those "terrorists" are terrorists solely by virtue of the declaration of the Secretary of State.
There was a time in this country when the commonly accepted purpose of government was to secure the rights of men, and not to erode those rights in total in the name of some false security, but that time has long since passed us by. Our government has evolved a purpose for itself that is mutually exclusive to our rights, our liberties, and our interests. It has its own agenda apart from any of those concerns, and it is precisely for this reason that our government wishes to disarm us of assault weapons and to mischaracterize and defame those individuals who legally own and possess certain types of firearms.
If we don't fight this messaging war effectively, and if we tire over the timeframe that this war is being prosecuted against us, we deserve the fate that will befall us. Let us not be diplomatic in our approach, but let us realize that we need to sound the alarm about this government and to stress that every American that can own an assault weapon legally should own an assault weapon. We should not be relegated to the hindsight of Martin Niemöller:
"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--Because I was not a Socialist.Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--Because I was not a Trade Unionist.Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--Because I was not a Jew.Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me."
Ladies and gentlemen, they are coming, and if we do not meet them head on, there will be no one left to speak for us, and they will write our place in history for us.