This commentary was adapted from a Tuesday address before the annual Weatherby International Hunting and Conservation Awards in Reno, Nev.
In his second inaugural address, President Barack Obama quoted the Declaration of Independence and he talked about “unalienable rights.” His words make a mockery of both.
Consider one line near the end of the president’s speech: “We cannot mistake absolutism for principle.” What is this “absolutism” the president attacks? And what are the so-called “principles” that he wants us to settle for instead?
Obama wants to turn the idea of “absolutism” into a dirty word, just another word for “extremism.” He wants you to accept the idea of “principles” as he sees fit to define them. It’s a way of redefining words so that common sense is turned upside down and nobody knows the difference.
Think about it. As families, when we’re broke and all our credit cards are maxed out, we’re forced to tighten our belts. But when the government is broke and our bond rating is tumbling and the president wants more new social programs, borrowing more money is supposed to be “principled.” And anybody who questions that is a no-good “absolutist” — Obama code for extremist.
We as gun owners face the same kind of false ultimatum. We’re told that to stop insane killers, we must accept less freedom — less than the criminal class and political class keep for themselves.
We’re told that limits on magazine capacity or bans on 100-year-old firearms technology — bans that affect only lawful people — will somehow make us safer.
We’re told that wanting the same technology that the criminals and our leaders keep for themselves is a form of “absolutism” and that accepting less freedom and protection for ourselves is the only “principled” way to live.
Think about what that means. Barack Obama is saying that the only “principled” way to make children safe is to make lawful citizens less safe and violent criminals more safe.
Criminals couldn’t care less about Barack Obama’s so-called “principles.” They don’t have principles — that’s why they’re criminals.
Obama wants you to believe that putting the federal government in the middle of every firearm transaction — except those between criminals — will somehow make us safer.
That means forcing law-abiding people to fork over excessive fees to exercise their rights. Forcing parents to fill out forms to leave a family heirloom to a loved one — standing in line and filling out a bunch of bureaucratic paperwork, just so a grandfather can give a grandson a Christmas gift. He wants to put every private, personal transaction under the thumb of the federal government, and he wants to keep all those names in a massive federal registry.
There are only two reasons for that federal list of gun owners — to tax them or take them. And to anyone who says that’s excessive, Barack Obama says you’re an “absolutist.”
He doesn’t understand you. He doesn’t agree with the freedoms you cherish. If the only way he can force you to give them up is through scorn and ridicule, he’s more than willing to do it — even as he claims the moral high ground.
In the very same sentence that Obama talked about “absolutism” versus “principle,” he scolded his critics for “name-calling.”
Yet he’s more than willing to demonize his opponents, silence his critics and slur the NRA — in the words of Sen. Charles Schumer, as an “extremist fringe group.” And look at how he demonizes Republicans in Congress.
When Barack Obama says, “we cannot mistake absolutism for principle,” what he’s saying is that precision and clarity and exactness in language and law should be abandoned in favor of his nebulous, undefined “principles.”
But absolutes do exist.
Words do have specific meaning, in language and in law.
It’s the basis of all civilization.
It’s why our laws are written — so that the “letter of the law” carries the force of the law.
That’s why our Bill of Rights was written into law, to ensure the fundamental freedoms of a minority could never be denied by a majority. Those are the principles we call unalienable rights.
Without those absolutes, without those protections, democracy decays into nothing more than two wolves and one lamb voting on what to eat for lunch.
Just because Barack Obama wishes words meant something other than what they mean, he doesn’t have the right to define them any way he wants. Because when words can mean anything, they mean nothing.
When “absolutes” are abandoned for “principles,” the Constitution becomes a blank slate for anyone’s graffiti and our rights and freedoms are defaced.
We believe in our country. We believe in our Bill of Rights. And we believe in our Second Amendment, all of our Second Amendment. Because we believe in the freedom and safety that it, and it alone, guarantees — absolutely.
Wayne LaPierre is CEO and executive vice president of the National Rifle Association (home.nra.org).