Sen. Craig, U.S. Senate, 6/6/00
- Well Worth Reading
Sen. Craig, U.S. Senate, June 6, 2000
Mr. President, I appear on the floor to speak about a provision
of the Constitution of our country that has been under nearly
constant attack for 8 years. In fact, we heard on the floor this
morning two Senators speak about provisions in law that would
alter a constitutional right.
The provision I am talking about is part of our Bill of Rights--
the first 10 amendments to our Constitution--which protect our
most basic rights from being stripped away by an overly zealous
government, including rights that all Americans hold dear:
The freedom to worship according to one's conscience;
The freedom to speak or to write whatever we might think;
The freedom to criticize our Government;
And, the freedom to assemble peacefully.
Among the safeguards of these fundamental rights, we find the
Second Amendment. Let me read it clearly:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a
free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall
not be infringed.
I want to repeat that.
The second amendment of our Constitution says very clearly that
'A well regulated Militia' is 'necessary' for the 'security of a
free State,' and that 'the right of the people to keep and bear
Arms, shall not be infringed.'
What we heard this morning was an effort to infringe upon that
Some--even of my colleagues--will read what I have just quoted
from our Constitution quite differently. They might read 'A well
regulated Militia,' and stop there and declare that 'the right of
the people to keep and bear Arms' actually means that it is a
right of our Government to keep and bear arms because they
associate the militia with the government. Yet, under this
standard, the Bill of Rights would protect only the right of a
government to speak, or the right of a government to criticize
itself, if you were taking that same argument and transposing it
over the first amendment. In fact, the Bill of Rights protects
the rights of people from being infringed upon by Government--not
the other way around.
Of course, we know that our Founding Fathers in their effort to
ratify the Constitution could not convince the citizens to accept
it until the Bill of Rights was established to assure the
citizenry that we were protecting the citizens from Government
instead of government from the citizens.
Others say that the Second Amendment merely protects hunting and
sport shooting. They see shooting competitions and hunting for
food as the only legitimate uses of guns, and, therefore,
conclude that the Second Amendment is no impediment to
restricting gun use to those purposes.
You can hear it in the way President Clinton assures hunters that
his gun control proposals that will not trample on recreation--
though his proposals certainly walk all over their rights.
In fact, the Second Amendment does not merely protect sport
shooting and hunting, though it certainly does that.
Nor does the second amendment exist to protect the government's
right to bear arms.
The framers of our Constitution wrote the Second Amendment with a
They made the Second Amendment the law of the land because it has
something very particular to say about the rights of every man
and every woman, and about the relationship of every man and
every woman to his or her Government.
That is: The first right of every human being, the right of
Let me repeat that: The first right of every human being is the
right of self-defense. Without that right, all other rights are
meaningless. The right of self-defense is not something the
government bestows upon its citizens. It is an inalienable right,
older than the Constitution itself. It existed prior to
government and prior to the social contract of our Constitution.
It is the right that government did not create and therefore it
is a right that under our Constitution the government simply
cannot take away. The framers of our Constitution understood this
clearly. Therefore, they did not merely acknowledge that the
right exists. They denied Congress the power to infringe upon
Under the social contract that is the Constitution of the United
States, the American people have told Congress explicitly that we
do not have the authority to abolish the American people's right
to defend themselves. Further, the framers said not only does the
Congress not have the power to abolish that right, but Congress
may not even infringe upon that right. That is what our
Constitution says. That is what the Second Amendment clearly lays
out. Our Founding Fathers wrote the Second Amendment to tell us
that a free state cannot exist if the people are denied the right
or the means to defend themselves.
Let me repeat that because it is so fundamental to our freedom. A
free state cannot exist, our free state of the United States
collectively, cannot exist without the right of the people to
defend themselves. This is the meaning of the Second Amendment.
Over the years a lot of our citizens and many politicians have
tried to nudge that definition around. But contrary to what the
media and the President say, the right to keep and bear arms is
as important today as it was 200 years ago.
Every day in this country thousands of peaceful, law-abiding
Americans use guns to defend themselves, their families, and
their property. Oftentimes, complete strangers are protected by
that citizen who steps up and stops the thief or the stalker or
the rapist or the murderer from going at that citizen.
According to the FBI, criminals used guns in 1998 380,000 times
across America. Yet research indicates that peaceful, law-
abiding Americans, using their constitutional right, used a gun
to prevent 2.5 million crimes in America that year and nearly
every year. In fact, I believe the benefits of protecting the
people's right to keep and bear arms far outweighs the
destruction wrought by criminals and firearms accidents. The
Centers for Disease Control report 32,000 Americans died from
firearm injuries in 1997; under any estimate, that is a tragedy.
Unfortunately, the Centers for Disease Control do not keep data
on the number of lives that were saved when guns were used in a
Yet if we were to survey the public every year, we would find
400,000 Americans report they used a gun in a way that almost
certainly saved either their life or someone else's. Is that
estimate too high? Perhaps. I hope it is, because every time a
life is saved from violence, that means that someone was
threatening a life with violence. But that number would have to
be over 13 times too high for our opponents to be correct when
they say that guns are used to kill more often than they are used
to protect. What they have been saying here and across America
simply isn't true and the facts bear that out.
We are not debating the tragedy. We are debating facts at this
moment. They cannot come up with 2.5 million gun crimes. But
clearly, through surveys, we can come up with 2.5 million crimes
thwarted every year when someone used a gun in defense of
themselves or their property. In many cases, armed citizens not
only thwarted crime, but they held the suspect until the
authorities arrived and placed that person in custody.
Stories of people defending themselves with guns do not make the
nightly news. It just simply isn't news in America. It isn't hot.
It isn't exciting. It is American. Sometimes when people act in
an American way, it simply isn't reportable in our country
anymore. So the national news media doesn't follow it.
Yet two of the school shootings that have brought gun issues to
the forefront in the last year, in Pearl, MS, and Edinboro, PA,
were stopped by peaceful gun owners using their weapons to subdue
the killer until the police arrived. How did that get missed in
the story? It was mentioned once, in passing, and then ignored as
people ran to the floor of the Senate to talk about the tragedy
of the killing. Of course the killing was a tragedy, but it was
also heroic that someone used their constitutional right to save
lives in the process.
A third school shooting in Springfield, OR, was stopped because
some parents took time to teach their child the wise use of guns.
So when that young man heard a particular sound coming from the
gun, he was able to rush the shooter, because he knew that gun
had run out of ammunition. He was used to guns. He was around
them. He subdued the shooter and saved potentially many other
lives. We have recognized him nationally for that heroic act,
that young high school student of Springfield, OR.
For some reason, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle
never want to tell these stories. They only want to say, after a
crisis such as this, 'Pass a new gun control law and call 9-1-1.'
Yet these stories are essential to our understanding of the right
of people to keep and bear arms.
I will share a few of these stories right now. Shawnra Pence, a
29-year-old mother from Sequim, WA, home alone with one of her
children, heard an intruder break into the house. She took her .9
mm, took her child to the bedroom, and when the 18-year-old
criminal broke into the bedroom, she said, 'Get out of my house,
I have a gun, get out now.' He left and the police caught him.
She saved her life and her child's life. It made one brief story
in the Peninsula Daily news in Sequim, WA.
We have to talk about these stories because it is time America
heard the other side of this debate. There are 2.5 million
Americans out there defending themselves and their property by
the use of their constitutional right.
In Cumberland, TN, a 28-year-old Jason McCulley broke into the
home of Stanley Horn and his wife, tied up the couple at knife-
point, and demanded to know where the couple kept some cash.
While Mrs. Horn was directing the robber, Mr. Horn wriggled free
from his restraints, retrieved his handgun, shot the intruder,
and then called the police. The intruder, Jason McCulley,
subsequently died. If some Senators on the other side of the
aisle had their way, perhaps the Horns would have been killed and
Jason McCulley would have walked away.
Earlier today, we heard the Senator from Illinios and the Senator
from California read the names people killed by guns in America.
Some day they may read the name Jason McCulley. I doubt they will
tell you how he died, however, because it doesn't advance their
goal of destroying the Second Amendment. But As Paul Harvey might
say: Now you know the rest of the story.
Every 13 seconds this story is repeated across America. Every 13
seconds in America someone uses a gun to stop a crime. Why do our
opponents never tell these stories? Why do the enemies of the
right to keep and bear arms ignore this reality that is relived
by 2.5 million Americans every year? Why is it that all we hear
from them is, 'Pass a new gun control law, and, by the way, call
I encourage all listening today, if you have heard of someone
using their Second Amendment rights to prevent a crime, to save a
life, to protect another life, then send us your story. There are
people here who desperately need to hear this in Washington,
right here on Capitol Hill. This is a story that should be played
out every day in the press but isn't.
So let's play it out, right here on the floor of the Senate. Send
me those stories from your local newspapers about that law-
abiding citizen who used his constitutional right of self-
defense. Send that story to me, Senator Larry Craig, Washington,
DC, 20510, or send it to your own Senator. Let him or her know
the rest of the story of America's constitutional rights.
Having said all of this, let there be no mistake. Guns are not
for everyone. We restrict children's access to guns and we
restrict criminals' access to guns, but we must not tolerate
politicians who tell us that the Second Amendment only protects
the right to hunt. We must not tolerate politicians who infringe
upon our right to defend ourselves from thieves and stalkers and
rapists and murderers. And we must not tolerate the politician
who simply says: 'Pass another gun control law and call 9-1-1.'
I yield the floor.
Published in the Jun. 12, 2000 issue of The Washington Weekly
Copyright 2000 The Washington Weekly. Now Free Access to All Stories at http://www.federal.com