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National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2010

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I think a little bit of history is important for us now. Let me give a quote of what Thomas Jefferson had to say. It is important for us to hear him. We recognize his wisdom in lots of what he did for us as one of the Founders of this country. Here is what he said about guns: Gun control laws disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. Such laws only make worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants. They serve, rather, to encourage rather than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.

Granted, that was in a different day and time, but his words ring true. To those who are opposing this amendment who truly believe we ought to have a total ban on firearms, I recognize that is a legitimate position for some of those people. But what I find both disingenuous and also curious and funny at the same time is the number of my colleagues who now come to the floor to preserve States rights when 95 percent of their votes, in the last Congress and this one and the ones that preceded, voted to take away those very same States rights in every other area of freedom.

We just had a hearing on a Supreme Court Justice. She got it wrong on the second amendment. The second amendment is written into the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Why was the 14th amendment even brought up to Congress? The historical debate shows that during reconstruction, freed Black slaves were losing their right to own a gun simply because they were Black, simply because they were freed slaves. Many Southern States passed laws taking that right away. The due process of the 14th amendment came about so that we could preserve the right of individuals to own arms and defend themselves.

What I find ludicrous in this debate is any discussion of an assault weapons ban or assault weapons. You can't conceal one. That is No. 1. No. 2, we had the Senator from New Jersey mention the Uzi. It is illegal to own an Uzi in this country. So you are already a criminal, you are already a felon, you are already one of those individuals Jefferson was talking about when you claim to say that we are going to step all over State laws.

We had a vote in terms of honoring States rights in terms of the national park bill on guns. Twenty-nine of my colleagues, thirteen of whom now are defending States rights, stepped all over States rights with their vote against the Coburn amendment when it came to allowing people to have supreme their State law in terms of national parks.

Nobody comes to the Senate floor a purist. The vast majority of people who are debating against this amendment on the fundamental principle of stepping on States rights have a voting record that 98 percent of the time they don't care about States rights; they care about the Federal Government.

I have an offer. Any Member who wishes to vote against this amendment, if you will all endorse the Enumerated Powers Act and see that we pass it through Congress, then you can demonstrate your fidelity to the 10th amendment. Except nary a one of those who are opposing this amendment has endorsed the Enumerated Powers Act in this Congress or the last. The arguments ring hollow when we talk about the 10th amendment because the true action would be to recognize the limited powers of the Federal Government to enforce the 10th amendment, and we wouldn't be having this debate.

States rights are convenient only when it comes to something we don't like. They are rarely utilized to truly defend States rights. You have to follow the laws of the State you are in; that is respecting States rights. For every incident and tragedy of somebody who had a concealed carry permit, we can give you 10,000 tragedies of those where gun control allowed the criminals to have guns but the innocents not.

I hope the American people will look at this debate and say: There is a fundamental right in this country, which the Supreme Court will get right in this next session, that is guaranteed to us as part of our liberty. It was inculcated into everything our Founders did. Knowing it to be true, it was written into our Constitution. Many of the rights we have today that we cling to so dearly were never even considered by our Founders but have come about as a result of what the judicial branch has said.

If you are going to use States rights as a position to defend your vote against this bill, I suggest that your constituencies look at your other votes on States rights and see if there isn't some big dissonance with that position. You will find it in every case.

I yield the floor.


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