by Karen Mehall Phillips - Monday, March 4, 2019
It is always an honor to meet the distinguished and articulate people who use their voices in Washington, D.C., to stand with the NRA and all-American gun owners as fellow hunters, shooters and supporters of the Second Amendment. This weekend’s annual meeting of the Texas State Rifle Association (TSRA) in Georgetown, Texas, not only marked the group’s 100th anniversary—for which the Texas House of Representatives passed H.R. 612 commemorating its centennial—but it delivered two of those distinguished people: Texas’ U.S. senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. The senators were there to take part in a Q&A session moderated by NRA past president Sandy Froman, who filled in for NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox as he delivered a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor., Md.
For background, Sen. Cornyn sits on the Senate’s Finance, Intelligence and Judiciary committees. Prior to that, he served as a Texas district judge, a member of the Texas Supreme Court and as Texas attorney general. Sen. Cruz is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; the Judiciary Committee; the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation; the Joint Economic Committee; and the Committee on Rules and Administration. A law clerk for former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, former Texas solicitor general and 2016 U.S. Presidential candidate, Sen. Cruz has argued nine cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and authored 39 legislative measures that were signed into law.
Question No. 1 addressed the future of the U.S. Supreme Court as it relates to the Second Amendment. Considering the landmark Heller and McDonald Supreme Court cases were decided by slim five-to-four margins, there was no longer a Supreme Court majority protecting the right to own a firearm when Justice Antonin Scalia passed away in February 2016. Since then, both senators voted to confirm justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. The question: With the addition of these two new Supreme Court justices, do you see the basic right to own a firearm as “secure,” and what is the future of the Supreme Court regarding the Second Amendment?
“I think this will be one of this administration’s most important legacies,” Cornyn said, noting the impact the two justices will have for years to come. “And the Senate went on to confirm 90 additional federal judges, which is important as the Supreme Court maybe hears 80 cases per year.”
Explaining that if not for the 2016 Supreme Court vacancy, Hilary Clinton now might be president, Cruz said, “Millions of Americans like me voted because of a desire to protect civil liberties such as the Second Amendment,” he said. Worth noting, Justice Gorsuch already joined Justice Clarence Thomas in a dissent for denial (regarding Peruta v. California) in June 2017 when he wrote: “For those of us who work in marbled halls, guarded constantly by a vigilant and dedicated police force, the guarantees of the Second Amendment might seem antiquated and superfluous. But the Framers made a clear choice: They reserved to all Americans the right to bear arms for self-defense. I do not think we should stand by idly while a State denies its citizens that right, particularly when their very lives may depend on it.”
Question No. 2 covered the renewed fight in Congress to pass gun bans as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and others push to eradicate certain classes of semi-automatic firearms. As NRA President Col. Oliver North (the TSRA’s keynote speaker that evening) has warned repeatedly, those against freedom purposely and inaccurately define these guns as “assault weapons.” And while there was a ban on these firearms from 1994-2004, subsequent studies showed it had no effect on crime. Froman’s question: How do you feel about Senate gun ban bill S.B. 66 recently introduced by Sen. Feinstein?
“It’s not going to pass,” Cornyn said. Some want to ban guns based on how they look … and Washington, D.C. is expert at passing legislation that doesn’t solve the problem.” He warned how those against firearms remain “determined to restrict our freedoms, grow the federal government and run our lives—the opposite approach of the Founding Fathers—on an incremental basis.”
In summing up the other side’s mindset, Cruz cited this line from Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”—“Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” He said the last time Sen. Feinstein tried to push such legislation was during 2013 when the two had an exchange in his freshman year. “I said, ‘Your bill lists a series of guns you want to ban, but the Second Amendment protects the right of the people and also the First Amendment right to free speech.” When he added he didn’t see the First Amendment on her list, she said, “I am not a sixth grader.” His response? “I didn’t think you were—a sixth grader would not know Constitutional law. I thought you were a U.S. senator proposing unconstitutional legislation on the Senate Judiciary Committee.”
In step with the NRA and reports from this website, Cruz pointed to the growing threat from banking institutions as they “weaponize” their power. Of course, these are the same banks that just a few years ago came to Congress, hat in hand, asking for taxpayers to bail them out. In sharing how misinformed the other side is, Cruz told the story of a bank lender who asked to visit his office and share why an “assault weapons” ban was reasonable. “So I asked her to tell me what an ‘assault weapon’ was,” Cruz said. “She said a machine gun. I said no, that’s a fully automatic firearm” but she’d learned from Feinstein to define things by cosmetic features. “She had no idea and yet this was the person crafting bank policy. It took my breath away.”
The final question addressed concealed carry reciprocity, which NRA-ILA Institute has worked to pass for years. Currently gun owners face a patchwork of laws from state to state that could—and in some cases have—turned otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals. As an Arizona resident with a concealed carry permit, Froman said, “It is crazy to think that if I have a concealed carry permit … and I cross into California that I immediately surrender my right to self-defense or else become a criminal. Wouldn’t we all be better off if we treated our CCW permit as a driver’s license?” Noting that during the last Congress the U.S. House passed the strongest right-to-carry legislation to date but that the Senate didn’t act on it, Froman posed this question: What are the prospects of passing such legislation in the Senate this Congress?
Cornyn, who introduced the legislation, which Cruz co-sponsored, replied, “I will get [Mitch] McConnell [Senate majority leader] to set it for a vote, to take this narrative of the Left—that guns are inherently dangerous—and expose it to the bright light of reason,” a surefire way to know who really supports the Second Amendment. However, Cruz said reciprocity has no chance of passing in the House or in the Senate as long as 60 Senate votes are needed. “But that doesn’t mean we should not debate the issue and fight,” and expose the voting record of the other side.”
Considering Cruz just went through a hard-fought re-election in 2018 and Cornyn is headed into what is expected to be a tough election in 2020, the final question was: What can gun owners and Second Amendment supporters do to help you in the future?
“Thank you,” said Cruz. For Texans who take their firearms freedoms for granted, Cruz pointed to an astounding truth: His 2018 opponent, Beto O’Rourke, raised $80 million for his campaign, outraising Cruz by three to one. “My camp had 18 full-time staff, and Beto O’Rourke had 805 staff,” Cruz said. “For students of the Alamo, those numbers are worse than the Alamo. … If you’re comfortable, then you’re not looking at the numbers. The Left is angry. In 2020, it will be even more angry. ... The only way to win will be to vote, get your friends to vote and speak out. You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t motivated to defend your liberties that remain only if you stand and fight.” Chris Cox could not have said it any better.
In closing, Cornyn left the crowd with an eye-opener, an unsettling remark about the 80 million O’Rourke raised in the hope of taking down Cruz. “Of that $80 million,” he said, “$50 million came from outside the state”–from those against freedom who view Texas as the state to beat to advance their agenda. “If we lose Texas, then it’s over,” said Cruz. The overriding message: No one—whether in Texas or elsewhere—should underestimate the work and money it will take to win in 2020.
About the Moderator: NRA past president, NRA Benefactor Life member and TSRA Life member Sandy Froman became a pro-gun activist after a burglar tried to break into her home. An NRA Board member since 1992, she co-founded the NRA’s National Firearms Law Seminar that trains attorneys on legal and policy issues relating to the Second Amendment, firearms, hunting and conservation. Froman regularly speaks on the Second Amendment, Constitutional law, women in leadership, the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary. A member of the Federalist Society, she helped to pass multiple Arizona pro-gun laws, including right-to-carry and firearms preemption. An NRA Certified Instructor, she also assisted with the development of the NRA’s Refuse to Be a Victim and Women on Target programs.
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