What was different this year was what was happening in Washington and, to a lesser extent, in Albany, N.Y., where Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed new "gun control" legislation into law Jan. 15. Nearly everyone I spoke with understood that New York's Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act and the 23 directives issued the following day by the president were going to affect their business. The common refrain was: "How is (insert new measure here) going to stop bad people from doing bad things?" These are not cynical questions. They are serious inquiries from serious people who see their businesses -- and the employment of hundreds of thousands of our countrymen -- jeopardized by hasty, ill-conceived regulations that will not achieve the goal of a safer society.
That's not to say there is universal opposition to what the White House announced Jan. 16. In two days here at the SHOT Show, I've had hundreds of conversations with participants. A few observations:
There is widespread support for the NRA's proposal to put police officers in schools. All here endorse the idea of keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals and mentally unstable individuals who pose a danger to others.
The ideas of pursuing and prosecuting "straw purchasers" of firearms and giving longer sentences to those convicted of violent crimes have wide appeal. There were, of course, some who suggested that Attorney General Eric Holder might have to prosecute himself for the straw purchases he authorized in his ill-conceived "Fast and Furious" gunrunning scheme.
The NY SAFE Act requires law-abiding citizens to pass a background check before being able to purchase ammunition of any kind. One retailer points out: "There is no mechanism for making such a check -- no form we can fill out, no way of complying. My lawyers have told us to stop filling catalog and Internet orders from New York ZIP codes until this is clarified. The people who drafted this law spent more time concocting a cute acronym than thinking about how this could put me out of business. Maybe that's their real objective."
At 3-Gun Nation's "Rumble on the Range" -- where competitors are scored on speed and accuracy in firing a shotgun, a handgun and a rifle -- one of the competitors, a U.S. Marine, observed: "This sport cannot happen with small-capacity magazines. Too bad Cuomo and Reid aren't here to explain why this is a bad thing." Citizens of the Empire State must now go elsewhere to practice and participate in three-gun competitions.
And finally, there were numerous complaints that "nobody in politics or the media knows what an 'assault weapon' really is." Perhaps. But there is an organization that does: the National Rifle Association. If the numbers are right, more than 100 million Americans own firearms. Yet only 4.5 million of us are members of the NRA. This would be a good time for law-abiding gun owners to join the organization that will fight for the right to keep them.
Oliver North is the host of "War Stories" on Fox News Channel and the author of the New York Times best-seller "Heroes Proved." To find out more about Oliver North and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.