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Control politicians, not guns

| Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

If laws were enough to deter criminal behavior, prisons would be empty.

The latest effort to “control” guns in America is as likely to deter someone intent on breaking the law as outlawing lust would affect one's libido. What's in a heart can't be controlled by restricting what's in a hand.

Following the Newtown tragedy, President Obama vowed to seek the passage of an assault weapons ban and hastily assembled an administrationwide gun control task force, an effort that amounts to little more than a political act designed to impress what Rush Limbaugh calls “low-information voters.” Government must be seen doing something to keep mad men from shooting children and moviegoers, even if that something will likely prove ineffective.

Someone who is determined to kill with a gun is going to find a way (and a gun) no matter how many laws are passed. Consider Chicago, where numerous anti-gun laws appear to have done little to stop gun deaths.

The loss of liberty always begins at the extremes, but it won't stop there. Radicals won't be satisfied with outlawing one type of gun. In 1995, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told “60 Minutes,” “If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States, for an outright ban, picking up (every gun) ... Mr. and Mrs. America, turn 'em all in, I would have done it.” In 2004, when he was an Illinois state senator, Barack Obama voted against a bill that affirms the right of citizens to defend themselves against home invasions. The bill ultimately passed.

The Sandy Hook shooter reportedly stopped killing children and killed himself when law enforcement officers arrived on the scene. This contains no lesson for the gun control crowd, which mostly opposes armed guards in schools. Neither does it matter to them that recently a Georgia woman, Melinda Herman, shot an intruder when police couldn't get to her home quickly enough, thus defending her life and the lives of her two children. To gun control advocates, guns decide whether they are used for good or evil, not the people who fire them.

If Obama attempts to impose new restrictions on guns by executive order, not Congress, what can individuals do? I asked constitutional attorney John Whitehead of The Rutherford Institute. “Even if the president has the authority to issue the executive order,” Whitehead replied by email, “the order may not violate the Constitution's guarantees to individual liberty. If the order resulted in restrictions on gun ownership or possession that go beyond what is allowed under the Second Amendment, individuals who are harmed by the order could sue to have the order declared unconstitutional.”

We need to hear more stories of how law-abiding gun owners have managed to thwart criminals. As the predictable assault of anti-gun TV ads begins, the National Rifle Association should create its own ads with gun owners telling their stories of self-defense and crime prevention.

The Second Amendment was written to protect citizens from tyrannical government and to preserve our liberties. It's not primarily for the protection of hunters and target shooters, though they are included. Those politicians who wish to ignore the Constitution are the ones who need to be controlled, not law-abiding gun owners.

Cal Thomas is a columnist for USA Today.

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