A leading gun rights attorney spoke to Human Events about his experiences inside the Jan. 10 White House meeting with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., and members of Biden’s task force on restricting gun rights created by President Barack Obama in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shootings.
“Part of me expected a lecture about gun control, but thankfully that did not happen,” said Richard Feldman, the president of the Independent Firearm Owners Association and one of the six advocates for restoring gun rights invited to the at a round table discussion at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, also known as the Old Executive Office Building.
Feldman said Biden, who authored the 1994 crime bill that included the 10-year ban on so-called assault rifles, was very sophisticated in his remarks and his questions.
Before the meeting started, the vice-president was joking with James J. Baker, the National Rifle Association’s federal affairs director, and the mood of the meeting was professional and cordial, he said.
After the vice-president opened the meeting with his own remarks, each of the six gun rights advocates made spoke for three to five minutes, and then Biden would bring up a topic and go around the table for individuals to weigh in, he said.
Clearly there was a gulf between how the gun rights advocates want to fight gun violence and how the vice-president wants to fight gun violence, he said.
“Our point of contention is focus,” said Feldman, the author of “Ricochet: Confessions of a gun lobbyist” and a former staffer in the Reagan White House.
“We would like to focus on the good guys verses the bad guys. They would like to focus on the good guns verses the bad guns,” he said.
“Criminals hurt people everyday. Victims and their families deserve action, not rhetoric, not sloganeering and certainly not senseless and counterproductive infringements on the freedoms all lawful gun owners and a majority of Americans cherish,” Feldman said he told Biden.
“I do not think anyone’s minds were changed,” Feldman said. “They have their point of view. We have ours.”
Biden, Atty. Gen. Eric J. Holder Jr., and Secret Service Director Mark J. Sullivan and the others seemed to be engaged, he said. “They sat there quietly and listened to our side of the story.”
One of the other points Feldman said he made was that it is difficult to have a conversation when each side assigns different meanings to the same words or phases.
The gun rights attorney said he told Biden “gun control” means seizing all guns to some people, it means restricting gun rights of certain individuals to others.
Later, Biden echoed Feldman’s point and said it is important that people use the correct terminlogy and make sure everyone shares the same definations, he said.
Feldman, who before joining IFOA was a regional political director for the National Rifle Association, said there was no back-and-forth between the two sides, but there were some areas of agreement, he said.
“We are in complete agreement that we must keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals and the mentally disturbed,” he said.
There was also a broad consensus that there are problems with civil commitment laws, lax or ineffective gun trafficking provisions, and a lack of properly identifying and notifying law enforcement of mentally unstable individuals before they lose control, he said.
Feldman said there was also general agreement that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, also know by its legacy initials “ATF,” should be given the resources and technology to link and cross-reference data in the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network system for crimes, guns and for tracing guns used in crimes. “If we ask them to do a job, we should at least give them the tools to do the job.”
Although the vice president said after the meeting he was not ready to regulate video games and other forms of entertainment, the feeling in the room was that there was agreement that violence in the media acts as a stepping stone to violent behavior, he said.
When the meeting was over, participants lingered in the room for about 15 minutes with their own conversations, but not all of them were strictly business, he said. Feldman, a former police officer, struck up a conversation with Secret Service’s Sullivan about their home state of New Hampshire.
Feldman said when he left the meeting the feeling among the six gun rights advocates was that the disagreements should distract Congress and the president from enacting measures that have wide support, such as keeping gun out of the hands of violent criminals and the mentally ill.
There is little Obama can do on his own, he said.
“The president is not a dictator,” he said. Absent execution of emergency executive powers, the Obama cannot mandate gun control laws.
The Congress can propose and pass laws, but the courts will determine what is legally sufficient, he said.
Obama clearly wants to bring back the assault weapons ban, he said. But, in 1994, the Democrats had trouble passing Biden’s crime bill when they controlled both chambers of Congress, and this time then only control the Senate.
“Gun owners have to let their elected officials know that this vote for or against a so-called assault weapons ban will be remembered 22 months from now when it’s time for re-election,” he said.