U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell delivered the following remarks today at the National Rifle Association Leadership Forum:
“It’s great to be here.
“I’m a proud lifetime member of the NRA.
“And I’ve always appreciated the support you’ve given me over the years.
“I’m proud of my record on the Second Amendment.
“As you know, I come from a state that takes the Second Amendment pretty seriously.
“From the sportsmen and sportswomen who hunt in Kentucky’s public recreation areas, to the many Kentuckians who find comfort in the protection that the Second Amendment guarantees for their homes and their families.
“These men and women understand the value of the Second Amendment — they live it.
“And there are hundreds of Kentucky jobs generated by the firearms industry in my state, too. I hope our vibrant Second Amendment culture results in even more job creation.
“But we’re here to talk about the Constitution. And my message to you today is this: the Bill of Rights does not come a la carte. It’s not a pick and choose menu; despite what some in Washington may think.
“If you believe in the Constitution, you defend all of it — not just the parts that happen to be popular at Washington cocktail parties. That’s the oath we take. That’s the charge we’re entrusted to keep.
“And yet, the current Administration seems to see things differently.
“They’ve tried to curb the rights of those they disagree with, whether it’s your right to bear arms or whether it’s your right to speak up without fear of government intimidation.
“When it comes to your Second Amendment rights, it’s no secret that the President isn’t terribly interested in them.
“He’s made that pretty clear in past campaigns. And he’s made it clear through his actions in Washington. He made it clear when his Administration signed an international arms treaty that fails to meaningfully recognize your right to private, lawful gun ownership. And he makes it clear every single time he tries to appoint another federal official who’s hostile to your Second Amendment freedoms.
“And threats to the Second Amendment don’t just come from Washington. Just look at what we saw in New York a little over a year ago, when a newspaper published an interactive map of government data containing the names and addresses of law-abiding citizens with firearm permits.
“Many feared this data could be used to target or harass them.
“That’s why I supported legislation in the Senate last year that aims to prevent this kind of thing from happening again.
“It’s a measure sponsored by Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming that would sanction any state or local government that publicly releases the personal information of private gun owners. I don’t know if this measure will become law in the current political atmosphere, but you should all know this: if I’m given the opportunity to lead a new Senate majority next year, I will work with Senator Barrasso to advance this important idea.
“Because the privacy of law abiding gun owners needs to be protected.
“But as I said, the Second Amendment isn’t the only amendment under assault these days.
“There’s another amendment the administration doesn’t seem too terribly fond of either.
“It’s the one that allows each of us to speak our minds, to gather peacefully here today, and to organize with friends and neighbors to effect political and social change.
“I’m talking about the First Amendment. It’s under threat. The Obama Administration has shown again and again how determined it is to shut up its critics.
“I haven’t hesitated to call them out on it. Neither have you.
“And we need to keep it up. Because these guys have shown a clear willingness to use the powers of government to shut down anybody who disagrees with them.
“We can’t allow it.
“Over the years, I’ve worked with many allies of the First Amendment — including many friends at the NRA — to push back against government constraints on your right to participate freely in the political process.
“Thankfully, the Supreme Court has shown an increasing willingness to defend this fundamental right.
“But the battle is far from over.
“The IRS targeting scandal showed just how determined the enemies of free speech really are. It was the kind of thing you’d expect from a banana republic, not the freest nation on Earth — which is exactly why people were so shocked by it.
“I mean, here you had one of the largest and most powerful agencies of the government — an agency with access to Americans’ most sensitive personal information — using its resources to target and harass political opponents. For what?
“For the supposed sin of advocating for causes in which they believe …
“For many of them, that simply meant promoting things like the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
“This is the kind of speech that officials in Washington viewed as somehow worthy of government suppression.
“And that should worry all of us.
“It was an outrage. I’m proud to say that I helped lead the fight for answers. And I’m still working to demand accountability and reform to ensure this never happens again. But I have to tell you, the Administration hasn’t given up on the fight. Not by a long shot. And we can’t either.
“As you may know, the White House is now pressuring the new IRS Commissioner to push through a regulation that would, in effect, legalize what had shocked so many to begin with: the attempt by the federal government to curtail the speech of its citizens. I’ve been working to do what I can to see that this regulation never comes into effect. We’ve made progress in recent months. But we need your continued engagement if we’re going to ensure that the constitutional rights of all Americans, including Second Amendment supporters, are protected.
“Some of you have already begun to answer the call, sending the IRS your thoughts on its deeply misguided proposal. You were among the nearly 150,000 Americans who made their voices heard — an unprecedented level of feedback for a regulation like this. Even the IRS Commissioner had to admit he’d never seen anything quite like it.
“This is a fight we can win, and it’s a fight we will win if we keep the pressure up.
“The Obama Administration needs to be made to understand that the American people are serious about protecting their rights.
“And I want you to know something else. No matter what happens, I’m never going to stop standing up for the Constitution — and that means standing up for your Second Amendment rights.
“Daniel Boone reportedly once said that all you need to be happy is a good gun, a good horse, and a good spouse.
“You’re on your own when it comes to Boone’s second two suggestions.
“But this Kentuckian will continue to fight for your right to bear arms. That’s my pledge to you today.
“We know the fight won’t be easy.
“We’ve already seen what government is capable of when it comes to targeting folks it disagrees with.
“We’ve seen it betray a really nasty side.
“Well, that behavior needs to stop.
“And I’m going to keep doing everything I can in the Senate to ensure that it does.
“I appreciate your support in this fight.
“We know we’re on the right side here. So let’s keep fighting for all of our constitutional freedoms — the First Amendment, and the Second Amendment, and the full array of rights and liberties our Constitution guarantees.
“The Founders would expect us to do no less. And I know we’ll ultimately prevail.