National Rifle Association President David Keene tells Newsmax that President Obama could be violating the Constitution if he circumvents Congress and imposes gun control by executive order — and his presidency will be “at risk” if he proceeds.
Keene also says gun control advocates will ultimately fail in their efforts to ban assault weapons, despite Obama’s “rabid advisers” who will push the ban.
And he asserts that the administration is asking the “wrong questions” in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shootings and is instead seeking to politicize the tragedy.
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Keene assumed the presidency of the NRA and its 4-million-plus members in May 2011. Previously he served as chairman of the American Conservative Union from 1984 to 1991.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV on Tuesday, Keene reacts to the president’s warning on Monday that he would take “executive action” to impose gun control.
“Our concern is the same that most Americans should have whenever a president tries to circumvent Congress, because what the president is really saying is ‘I’m going to do these things myself, and I’m not going to submit them to the representatives of the people.’
“We don’t know what he’s going to try to do by executive order. There are obviously some things he can’t do and there are some things he shouldn’t be doing, but in order to implement these various changes he’s going to have to go to Congress to get the money to fund it. So there are going to be votes on these things, there is going to be a debate in Congress, and our members and other gun owners, and believers of the Second Amendment, are going to have the right to be heard.”
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Former attorney general Edwin Meese told Newsmax on Monday that the president risks impeachment if he uses executive orders for gun control.
Keene comments: “The fact of the matter is we have a Constitution, we have divided responsibilities, we have separation of powers, and we have checks and balances, and a president who ignores all of that is at risk.
“Congress, regardless of the issue, whether it’s firearms regulation or anything else, should be very jealous of its own prerogative and I expect this Congress will probably take action against the president. You don’t have to go as far as impeachment. You could cut off the funds to implement these kinds of things. You can take congressional action to reverse what he does in any instances.”
As for what actions the NRA could take if Obama seeks to restrict Second Amendment rights, Keene explains: “We could go to court. We could ask our friends to go to court, and we could certainly ask our friends in Congress to take action to reverse what the president does.
“The NRA is viewed by the president and others as the roadblock standing in the way of his violating the Constitution in these instances. It’s not the NRA, it’s the people we represent. They keep talking about how powerful we are. It’s not us, it’s the people of this country who understand the Constitution, value the Second Amendment, and are very jealous of the right that they have.”
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Despite any presidential efforts, Keene believes a ban on assault weapons won’t pass Congress.
He tells Newsmax: “The fact is that right now the American people are smarter than their politicians. The Gallup Poll and others show that they don’t support a so-called assault weapons ban. They know we had one, and they know it didn’t work.
“Right now I don’t see the Congress passing an assault weapons ban, which is why the president is sort of seen to be backing from that. His more rabid advisers want to proceed regardless, but it’s going to depend on how much of his political capital he’s willing to spend in such a fight.
“The president says these are assault weapons designed to wreak havoc in battle. The AR-15 is not an assault weapon designed to wreak havoc in battle. It’s a semi-automatic commercial rifle. If we equipped our Army with it, we would lose to every third-world, tin-pot dictator because military assault weapons are full automatic machine guns.
“So what happens is you create a caricature and then you sell it and pretty soon even people who think they’re being fair accept it and you’re dealing in mythology rather than reality.”
The battle shaping up in Congress is being described as the biggest congressional fight on gun control in almost 20 years, but Keene contends that there are ideas and solutions that both sides can agree upon.
“One reason we’re having the battle is that following the tragedy in Connecticut the administration really asked the wrong question,” he tells Newsmax.
“The question they asked was not how do we protect our kids, what do we do to prevent or minimize the chances of this happening again. The question they asked was what can we do about guns, because that’s what they wanted to do and have wanted to do for some time.
“On the question of how do we protect tour kids, there is area for common ground. One thing, since the 1960s we have been concerned – and it was in the 1960s that the mental health system in this country began to collapse – about the violently mentally ill getting their hands on firearms.
“If you go back to one of the most famous early mass shootings, it was the fellow who climbed onto the clock tower at the University of Texas after telling his psychiatrist what he was going to do: climb up onto the clock tower and shoot students. And we said at that time that we need to be looking at this and finding ways to prevent these people from getting their hands on firearms.
“We have proposed over time that those who’ve been adjudicated to be potentially violently mentally ill should be included on the list that are checked when someone tries to buy a gun so that they will be prohibited from buying one. At one point, some years ago, Chuck Schumer on national television shook hands with Wayne LaPierre, our executive vice president, and said, ‘I’ll help you do that.’ It hasn’t been done. Nothing’s been done.
“We can also agree on trying to do something to improve the mental health care system in this country so that these people receive the treatment that they need. Almost every one of these mass shootings have involved not a criminal, but somebody who’s literally crazy, somebody who’s a violent schizophrenic, somebody who’s been noticed by others and has fallen through the cracks of the mental healthcare system. That’s what we need to fix in the long term.
“In the short term what we need to do is provide security in the schools because the people that do this are essentially looking for some place where they are not going to be challenged, where they can go in and simply kill people.
“These are cowards, these are people that are sick, these are people that are crazy, and they need to be prevented from having both firearms and from walking the streets as dangerous as they are.”
Asked if the Obama administration is politicizing the tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Keene responds: “Of course they are. The entire anti-Second Amendment network in this country, led by politicians and funded by [New York City Mayor] Michael Bloomberg, was just waiting for an opportunity to pursue the agenda that they’ve wanted to pursue for some time.
“Sandy Hook gave them that opportunity and they swung into action. This is a president who long before he ran for office was an anti-Second Amendment activist. This is a president who before he was re-elected told Sarah Brady, the head of one of the leading anti-Second Amendment groups in this country, that he had to operate, at that time, under the radar. This is a president who’s doing what he’s always wanted to do and it has less to do with gun violence than it has to do with pursuing an ideological agenda.”
He adds: “We have a system now where if you want to buy a firearm in a gun shop or at a gun show from a licensed firearm dealer, you go through the Instant Check System. Last year, something like 77,000 people who tried to buy firearms were denied the purchase because they were in prohibited categories, felons and the like. Attempting to buy a firearm, if you’re in one of those prohibited groups, is in itself a crime.
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“I believe the government has prosecuted 47 or 48 of those 77,000 people. And when we raised that question, we were told the government doesn’t have time to be doing all of this; we have more important things to do. Well, if the laws that we have are not enforced because the government just doesn’t have the time to do it, why would they go out and seek more laws? It’s not because they’re trying to solve a problem. It’s because they don’t believe Americans should have the right to own and use firearms.
“But I’m convinced that we’ll be able as a united community, not just the NRA but the millions and millions of Americans who care about the Second Amendment, who are hunters, who are shooters, who use firearms for self-defense, who collect firearms, or who simply believe in the values that the Second Amendment represents, we’re going to prevail. We’ve prevailed in the past and we will this time as well.”
In his Newsmax interview, Keene also explains why membership in the NRA has surged following the shootings in Newtown.
Editor's Note: Read the excerpt of the Newsmax interview with David Keene
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