Heller to Press Club: Learn About Guns Before You Write About Them
The man who took on D.C.'s gun ban resulting in the landmark 2008 Supreme Court ruling that affirmed the right to bear arms for self-defense told the National Press Club today "the real truth is not being reported…that gun freedom equals safety."
"I have examples of firearms being used to save lives today, legislators whimsically choosing how many bullets we need for our guns and our self-defense, that gun-free zones rarely are, and the First Amendment and the Second Amendment are co-dependent within the Bill of Rights," he said.
Army vet Dick Heller, who lives on Capitol Hill and is now the treasurer of the District of Columbia Libertarian Party, moved to Washington in 1976 and worked in law enforcement. He bought his first firearm a month later to protect his home. Two months later, the D.C. city council enacted the district's gun ban.
"I voted Democrat in 1977, for Jimmy Carter, but after two bullet holes came into my house, at two different times, one through the living room window, and one through my front door, my perspective, as you might imagine, on politics, D.C., and gun control measures, changed," said Heller.
"Back then, in '76, it was the wild, wild West in D.C., while at the same time, having the strictest gun control laws in the country. It didn't make any sense. Sometimes it felt -- it felt like living in a war zone, and with all the violence that we saw on TV, on the evening news, D.C. residents were brainwashed into being terrified, and we need government to protect us."
Twenty-five years later, he said, he learned of the millions of firearms uses each year "by good guy citizens that defend their households."
"I can only conclude that many reporters are willfully biased by mainly reporting stories associated with illegal or inappropriate firearms usage only, which results in a negative portrayal of both the Second Amendment, and any American citizens that choose to exercise that right, even if in a responsible manner," Heller told the Press Club.
"For instance, think about the firearm spokesman for the administration, Vice President Joe Biden. How many reporters of the media have explained to your readers or viewers that this glib, double-barreled shotgun philosophy of self-defense, two blasts off the balcony, or through the door, would get one thrown in jail, or an innocent person dead? His advice violates key rules, all the key rules of gun safety. I never heard an admonishment at all from the press for that," he continued.
Stating that media covering gun-control legislation could use a crash course in gun safety, Heller proceeded to give a "condensed version": "One, treat every gun as if it's always loaded, so keep your finger off the trigger. Number two, know your target and what's beyond the target, before putting your cotton-picking finger on the trigger. And number three, don't point a gun at anything that you're not willing to see destroyed, living or not living."
Heller shifted to the debate about limits on ammunition capacity, noting "even the various states cannot agree on how many rounds are enough or too many."
"Colorado just said 15 rounds is enough. D.C. says it's 10. New York law now says seven rounds are enough in your magazine, and past governor Manchin said, well three are enough for a rifle," he said. "Question, do you really believe the New York cops think they would only need seven rounds if they find themselves facing a lethal threat as second responders to a scene? Shouldn't the first responders, the victims, be as well-armed as the second responders?"
The man whose name will always be associated with gun rights in U.S. history then took aim at gun-free zones as leaving teachers at Sandy Hook and other victims powerless to fight back against a madman.
"So does a gun-free zone keep criminals out? Some continue to play ostrich, but intelligent and rational people now understand the true meaning of gun-free zone. A, it isn't. B, the true nomenclature should be DVZ, that's called designated victim zone, or mass-murder empowerment zone," said Heller. "Yet some tyrants in waiting think all of America should be a complete gun-free zone, or mass-murder empowerment zone."
Heller lauded Students for Concealed Carry for persuading six state legislatures and 200 colleges nationwide to allow firearms on campus, and brought up a 2002 case where a student upset over his grades killed three at Appalachian School of Law before two students raced to their cars and retrieved their handguns.
"In one newspaper clipping that I saved, the student guns were not even mentioned in the story. Some just love to leave that part out of the story. Was that honest and unbiased coverage? In fact, the students didn't even have to shoot their guns. They merely brandished their firearms, then tackled the killer. That is courageous and responsible gun ownership," he said.
"I think one of the problems is that many in government and media don't know much about using guns for self- defense, and many aren't particularly keen to learn. It's easier to be spoon-fed quotes and false science by anti-gun lobbyists and politicians than to be a real fact-checker. That gets people killed. Is that a responsible standard for media to follow?" Heller continued, encouraging the media to learn about guns before writing about them. "You can be armed if you want to, but be trained in case you need to be."
In the face of today's "gentle tyranny," according to Heller, "the brown shirts have invaded the privacy and sanctity, or sacredness, of our free press which affects some people in this room."
"So now, perhaps, our position on the Second Amendment, may not seem so extreme as it did before," he said. "…The pen is mightier than the sword, but right now, I think the press is in more danger than the Second Amendment."
"A war on the First Amendment is truly a war on the Second Amendment, and vice versa. I appreciate being able to read six newspapers every morning, and seven on Friday. What the press does on a daily basis, for the sake of freedom, is the most important task of all. I'm concerned that the new harassment of journalists is merely the camel's nose under the tent, so I hope we can move forward together, not only to protect both of them, but to assure that newsworthy events associated with firearms, and their use, are given fair coverage by the media."
In his indictment of media coverage on gun ownership, Heller also noted that reporters "always pick Bubba to answer to an interview, instead of talking to people around that might be wearing suits and ties and packing a gun, that are concealed carry, that might be a little bit more intelligent."
"So that gives us a real bad image. I'm not a Bubba, and I left my gun at home today," he added.
Heller also challenged gun-control advocates' use of a poll noting 90 percent of Americans want gun background checks.
"I gotta tell you, I would bet half a paycheck that not 50 percent of the citizenry on the street, if asked in a fair, unbiased poll, if they would even know what a universal background check is, number one, and number two, I've never seen 90 percent of Americans agree on anything, except after Pearl Harbor, and 9/11," he said.
"There might be some appropriateness to it, but the challenge is that whenever you have a universal background check, you cannot trust government, it will generate a list, and the list can be used, not today. We have Fourth Amendment, reasonable Supreme Court, but 10, 20, 30 years from now, who knows what use that list might have to another government."
Heller II, a case challenging 16 regulations or controls on D.C. gun ownership, has been "slow-walked through the court system" by the government since 2008, he noted.
"And we've reached the end of discovery, so I think we'll start seeing a little faster pace now, as that progresses through the court system, upwards and onwards," Heller said.
On the Hill this week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters that he'd spoken to Biden about regrouping for the next stab at gun-control legislation.
"He and I are gonna get together in the next week. I've spoken to Senator [Joe] Manchin today. We're going to get together this week and talk about this," Reid said.
"You know, I'm not going to bring up a vote just to have a vote. I want to bring up this vote again if we can accomplish something that seems pretty common sense to me: If you have severe mental problems or you're a criminal, you shouldn't be able to buy a gun," the majority leader added. "That's what -- I agree with 90 percent of the American people, we should get this done."