My family and I have always proudly counted ourselves among the tens of millions of law-abiding American gun owners. My brother and I grew up shooting, and both of us are avid, lifelong sportsmen. We are not the type of family that buys shotgun shells by the box; we buy by the case and pallet. We are also the kind people who reload for calibers from the most obscure .14 wildcats to the biggest double rifles. If we are not working, we are shooting—it is who we are, and is deeply ingrained in our DNA. We are not phonies who champion gun rights for political advantage; we are active participants in every aspect of the shooting sports.
As you may imagine, this is a far cry from the norm in New York City. We grew up unconventionally in an environment full of gun-hating types. We spent summers with my mother’s family in communist and post-communist Czechoslovakia. My grandfather took us in the woods, bought us our first BB guns and later our first .22s. The greatest Christmas present Don and I received in those days was the “milk carton” of Crosman Copperhead BB’s—we shot them by the thousands. The experience taught us responsibility, discipline and helped forge the bond of brotherhood between us. Don and I are best friends to this day.
Growing up amidst such starkly contrasting worldviews, both as a New Yorker and as a person who saw communism and post-communism firsthand through my grandparents, I came to understand just how special the American right to keep and bear arms—and the culture and traditions that come with it—truly is.
I’ve long since lost track of how many of my childhood friends sunk into serious drug or alcohol problems that landed them in rehab or worse. My brother and I never went down that road. I credit much of that to my father’s warnings about the dangers of substance abuse, but it’s also hard for me to imagine that drugs could even remotely compare with our infinitely more rewarding hobby. Looking back, I can credit our immersion in the outdoors and the shooting sports with protecting me and my brother from the excesses of the very culture in which we grew up.
Like all gun owners, I’ve long been keenly aware that metropolitan elitists in places such as New York City are committed to stamping out our freedom and criminalizing our way of life. Some are not bad people; they just have little understanding of the sport and tradition that we grew up to love. They have egos the size of the ivory towers in which they live. Many are uninformed. They see a lifestyle that is unfamiliar to them; they fear it and they want the government to get rid of it for them due to misconceptions largely fueled by the mainstream media and Hollywood. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve converted people from those viewpoints just by having them shoot a round of skeet or having them plink steel.
Among the ignorant, unfortunately, are many uninformed politicians and elected officials ranting about “ghost guns” that shoot “thirty magazine clips in half a second,” as California State Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) said, or calling for “high-capacity magazine” bans that would make many revolvers illegal. The front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, Joe Biden, is firmly in this camp. Biden has proposed bans on magazines that hold “multiple bullets” (i.e., all of them) and been seen berating voters on the campaign trail about how he only wants to take away their “AR-14s.”
Worse still is the stunning degree of dishonesty from these politicians and anti-gun activists. “No one is coming for your guns,” Biden tells the very Americans who his former boss, Barack Obama, famously said “cling to guns and religion.” Despite that statement, the man “Sleepy Joe” announced is “going to take care of the gun problem” and “be the one that leads this effort” is Beto “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47” O’Rourke. I don’t have to use my imagination to know what’s in store for this country if these people wind up back in the White House.
My home state was the site of a perfect confluence of this ignorance, culminating in the ultimate blueprint for anti-gun inanity: the NY SAFE Act. In 2013, Democrat mega-donor and failed presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg’s coalition of front groups, including “Mayors Against Illegal Guns,” exerted so much pressure on New York politicians that they rushed the NY SAFE Act through so quickly, they didn’t even realize their magazine restriction banned virtually every police officer’s sidearm.
Bloomberg just snapped his fingers and lawmakers passed arguably the most-restrictive gun-control package in American history—which included banning some of the most popular rifles and handguns—without even bothering to consider unintended consequences. Ruger 10-22s, which chamber the very .22 LRs that were used to teach so many Americans to shoot safely (including Don and me), became illegal overnight if they included a thumbhole stock; now they would be classified as “assault rifles.” Also, virtually every semi-automatic handgun in the state became legally suspect, as they weren’t manufactured with “seven-round magazines—seven being the arbitrary number set for how many rounds of ammunition New York would allow you to have in your firearm. Such little thought was put into the law that much of it had to be changed, clarified and amended—including at the direction of the courts.
As always, their real target wasn’t guns, but gun owners. Gun control, as it always has been, is about stigmatizing and destroying a culture and a way of life that some can neither understand nor easily control.
Make no mistake, gun control is about discouraging parents from teaching their children to shoot and hunt. It’s about making the shooting sports more expensive and less accessible. It’s about stigmatizing gun ownership on social media and in Hollywood until it falls forever out of the realm of “mainstream acceptability.” At the same time, they do everything they can to close shooting ranges and access to public lands, and encourage boycotts of pro-second amendment businesses. They propose punitive ammunition taxes and everything else they can think of to make it more difficult to own, possess, use, carry and shoot recreationally.
Today, some of the CEOs of America’s largest corporations are either giving in to, or working in concert with, anti-gun politicians and activists who wish to deprive Americans of their Second Amendment rights through the back door of business—Walmart, and other major American companies have already caved to these politicians’ and activists’ pressure by instituting policies designed to stigmatize gun owners, to alienate shooting-sports enthusiasts and to dredge personal defense from the American mainstream. Dick’s Sporting Goods and several financial institutions seem to be helping nurture the anti-gun policies.
The left is engaged in a ceaseless campaign to subject the Second Amendment and America’s centuries-old tradition to death by a thousand regulations. That spiteful spirit has only been bolstered by an anti-gun zeal to punish gun owners for what they see as the unforgivable crime of electing Donald Trump. The good news, however, is if gun owners work together, that death will never happen.
But it won’t be easy. Just because Bloomberg, one of the richest men on Earth, couldn’t buy the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination (despite shelling out a billion dollars) doesn’t mean he’s not going to throw millions, tens-of millions, or even hundreds-of-millions more against my father and what he and his ilk so mockingly term America’s “gun culture.”
Any illusions that this anti-gun insanity will remain confined to states such as New York, under a hypothetical Democratic administration were thoroughly debunked by the 2019 elections in Virginia. The home of James Madison, George Mason and Thomas Jefferson—the men who enshrined the right to keep and bear arms in our Constitution—is now on the front lines of the fight to protect that right from being lost forever. The moment the Democrat Party secured a razor-thin majority in both houses of Virginia’s legislature, paid for, in part, by Bloomberg and his anti-gun network, it set out to implement a radical gun-control agenda.
The worst of these efforts stalled, at least for the time being, because Virginia’s gun owners and groups like the NRA stepped up to the threat. The vast majority of Virginia’s counties and municipalities declared themselves to be Second Amendment “sanctuaries” in which potential gun bans will not be enforced. Ordinary gun owners made their voices heard at committee meetings and public hearings, and tens of thousands peacefully converged on Richmond for the biggest pro-Second Amendment gathering outside of an NRA Annual Meeting.
But make no mistake, our freedom still hangs by a thread. If we want to avoid replicating the situation in Virginia at the federal level, we must elect pro-Constitution lawmakers to both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, and, more importantly, we must secure my father a second term as president of the United States.
The only surefire way to check the overreach of this new generation of rabid anti-Second Amendment activists in the state legislatures is through the federal court system. My father has made an absolute priority of nominating true constitutional originalists who are committed to upholding the actual meaning of the Second Amendment, and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made it his personal mission to get as many of them as possible confirmed to the federal bench. In just over three years, President Trump has gotten two outstanding U.S. Supreme Court Justices, 51 appellate court judges and 138 district judges confirmed by the U.S. Senate. There have been few presidents in American history who have done so much to shape the judicial bench of the U.S. These honest judges will blunt the efforts to chip away at the Second Amendment through litigation for decades to come, while also serving as a safeguard against legislative overreach by the states.
Still, the left’s hostility toward gun ownership would become completely unrestrained if Joe Biden were to win the White House in November. A President Biden would set the tone for a concerted, nationwide assault on our Second Amendment rights. Biden’s mere presence in the Oval Office would give the hyenas of the mainstream media license to declare open season on gun owners. They would use the bully pulpit to browbeat the cowards of the corporate boardroom into instituting outrageous anti-gun policies and would embolden activist judges across the country to wage war against the Second Amendment. Moreover, in the next four years, there could potentially be three vacancies on the U.S. Supreme Court.
The time for any Second Amendment supporter to sit on the sidelines has passed. Our post-Heller vacation is over, and the next few years will see the most ferocious fight over the future of our constitutional birthright of our lifetimes. We cannot win that battle unless we give President Donald J. Trump another four years to secure our liberties for the next generation. We must make it clear that the right to keep and bear arms is not negotiable—not for ourselves and not, as James Madison put it, for our posterity.
To do that, the NRA, my father and I will need your help—now and in November. (Eric Trump (@EricTrump) is executive vice president of The Trump Organization and the second-oldest son of President Trump.)