Charlton Heston
By Charlton Heston

April 2000

The American firearms industry is now under the most concerted, cynical legal attack in the history of American jurisprudence. This doesn't just endanger your Second Amendment right--it also threatens to dismantle the checks and balances that uphold our democracy and could ultimately cost innocent lives.

At this writing, 30 municipalities have filed lawsuits against more than 40 foreign and American firearms manufacturers, but that's just the beginning. Now, the Clinton-Gore Administration's Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has announced plans to organize a class-action lawsuit against the industry.

Before you weigh the dangers, consider how cynical and dishonest that is.

Firearms are among the most regulated of any product. From the manufacturer to the importer, wholesaler, retailer and ultimate consumer, the federal government already licenses, taxes, regulates and inspects the U.S. firearms industry more than almost any other. Yet now, after putting their stamp of approval on that industry for most of a century, federal officials want to file lawsuits based on the politically motivated claim that gunmakers are responsible for crime. How absurd!

HUD has a horrendous history of mismanagement and inefficiency and can't even keep light bulbs in stairwells, much less keep residents safe. Yet now it has the temerity to force local housing authorities to wage their political gambit--and squander your taxes on lawsuits instead of law enforcement. It's a sham.

And it amounts to a bald-faced power grab. Forget checks and balances between the three branches of government. Because if the Clinton-Gore Administration and its litigation mercenaries have their way, the executive and judicial branches will commandeer the legislative branch at will.

For the first time ever, lawyers and judges seem willing to "make" law at the command of the White House. That means there's no need for lawmakers, no use for voters, and no voice for ordinary citizens like you and me in the national debate. As the judges who have thrown some of these cases out of court have said, the judicial system has no authority to legislate--that's what lawmakers are elected to do. Even former Labor Secretary Robert Reich blasted the Clinton-Gore Administration's HUD gambit, warning that even if it's successful, it'll be "at the cost of making our frail democracy even weaker."

Yet still the lawyers press on, no doubt envisioning big cash settlements with which to wage their next act of piracy against distillers, automakers or some other American industry. In the end, you pay the price.

Already, lawsuits against the gun industry have driven some manufacturers out of business. Others are phasing out handgun production, pulling out of the civilian market, or closing U.S. operations altogether. Insurance companies are warning gunmakers that they won't cover the costs of their legal defense.

Any companies that survive will surely be forced to charge you more. Maybe you can afford a $100 box of shells. Maybe you don't mind giving up an occasional Saturday at the shooting range. But for the poor, urban single mother, price hikes could make self-defense unaffordable. And if HUD goes through with its plan to sue the industry, self-protection in public housing would take on added life-or-death urgency.

Why? Because while the ambulance-chasing attorneys of "Dewey, Fleasom & Howe" grow rich on the legal fees of HUD-driven lawsuits, public housing authorities would be forced to pay those lawyers themselves. Which means they'd have less in their budgets to afford police. Which means more crime, more victims and more demands for more anti-gun laws.

In 1999, NRA's Institute for Legislative Action helped pass laws in 14 states that prohibit cities from filing such lawsuits without the authority of their state legislatures. But the danger is far from over.

That's why this year's elections are so crucial to your rights. Anti-gun Democrats nationwide vow to make November 7, 2000, a referendum on their anti-gun proposals--everything from gun registration and owner licensing with photo-ID cards, to one-gun-a-month gimmicks and blanket bans on entire classes of firearms.

So don't sit this one out! Register and vote. Find everyone you know who believes in Second Amendment freedom--or any freedom whatsoever--and get them to register and vote to defend freedom.

This election will be the most important contest in the last 100 years. We must win it ... there's too much at stake. We must fight for every state, every legislature with all our might. As Benjamin Franklin once said, "We must all hang together, or most assuredly, we shall all hang separately."




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