20, 2002 1:10 p.m.
for the Leadership
Bill Frist becomes the next Senate Majority Leader, the Second Amendment
will be slightly worse off than if an undamaged Trent Lott had been Majority
Leader. But given Lott's recent flip-flops on other issues, Frist will
probably be more protective of the Second Amendment than the 2003 version
a House Republican whip, Trent Lott was a very helpful leader of pro-gun
forces in Congress. This was smart politics for Lott, since Mississippi
is one of the most pro-gun of all the states. But Lott did more than merely
vote right; he used his leadership position to actively promote Second
But given Lott's recent endorsement of government-ordered racial discrimination
against whites and Asians, there is no reason to believe that he would
have continued to support the Second Amendment, if racialist identity
groups and their media supporters generated enough pressure on the issue.
Lott and Frist have voted together on gun issues, but when there has been
a split, it has been because Frist took the more antigun position. The
Gun Owners of America website reports
some key congressional votes in firearms rights in recent years.
In reverse chronological order, here are the votes from past Congresses,
in which Lott and Frist voted on the same side:
a resolution praising the "Million"
Mom March, a political organization founded on shrill opposition to
of a proposal by Lott calling for better enforcement of existing gun laws,
rather than new antigun laws.
instructing Senate conferees to bring out Orrin Hatch's juvenile crime
bill, which was laden with antigun amendments.
a Charles Schumer amendment to prevent gun makers victimized
by abusive lawsuits from declaring bankruptcy.
To end Bob
Smith's filibuster against the Hatch bill, to which many anti-gun provisions
had been added. This was a major antigun vote. That both Frist and Lott
voted wrong on this suggests that when an important Republican badly wants
to move legislation, they will support him, even if the Second Amendment
extreme restrictions on gun shows which would allow federal regulators
to ban them entirely.
of a 1999 amendment by Orrin Hatch and Herbert Kohl to require that a
every handgun be sold with a trigger lock--even if the gun owner already
has a gun safe. Lott and Frist had voted against a 1998 Boxer amendment
to require that all guns sold by gun dealers come with a lock.
an amendment by Charles Schumer to restrict firearms sales over the Internet
(which are already subject to the same restrictions as all other gun sales).
of extending federal restrictions on handgun possession by people under
18 to also include "assault weapons."
a Lautenberg proposal to impose special restrictions on gun shows.
of accepting a 1998 conference report on an omnibus appropriations bill.
The conferees had gutted a provision inserted in the Senate's version
by Bob Smith, which would have ended Janet Reno's turning the National
Instant Check System into a gun owner registration system. This vote demonstrates
that neither Lott nor Frist would let Second Amendment considerations
derail major spending legislation.
a proposal by Dick Durbin mandating the homeowners lock up their guns,
thus rendering them useless against sudden criminal invasions.
of the original Smith Amendment, which they later allowed to be gutted
Margaret Morrow, an antigun activist, to the federal bench.
Frist and Lott split on these issues:
while Lott opposed, an amendment by Jim Jeffords requiring people who
retrieve their own gun from a firearms repair shop to undergo a federal
background check, under which the gun would be registered by the FBI.
while Lott opposed, a 1999 amendment by Dianne Feinstein to ban the import
of magazines manufactured before 1994 which hold more than 10 rounds.
Frist switched positions from his vote on the same issue in 1998.
Frist's divergence from Lott occurred a few weeks after the Columbine
murders. The votes were all in the context of amendments to Orrin Hatch's
bill to federalize juvenile crime, which Lott had showed very poor
judgment in bringing to the floor during a period of hysteria.
Compared to Frist, Mitch McConnell would be about equal in Second Amendment
support. Don Nickles would be superior.
As a doctor, Frist has a unique opportunity to educate the public about
the falsity of the antigun
junk science being peddled by gun prohibitionists in some medical
organizations. Frist has made a major cause of promoting American health
and longevity by encouraging people to exercise more often. He can also
promote health and longevity by using his bully pulpit to explain to the
American people how guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens lead to
wonderful "health outcomes": less murder, mayhem, rape, and
injury for good people, and more occupational risks for violent predators.
Kopel is a contributing editor of NRO.