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ROTN 17-17 1981 John Snyder Interview

ROTN 17-17 1981 John Snyder Interview

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Interview With The Chief Lobbyist For The Citizens Committee For The Right To Keep And Bear Arms by John Rees
• JOHN M. SNYDER has been a reg­

Advocate Of Self-Defense

istered lobbyist in the fight to preserve the Second Amendment right of Americans to keep and bear arms lon­ ger than any other man. Snyder, who earned his A.B. and M.A. degrees in political science from Georgetown University, is the Director of Publica­ tions and Public Affairs and chief lobbyist for the Citizens Committee
The Review Of The NEWS, April 29, 1 98 1

for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. He is editor of its monthly Point

In addition, Mr. Snyder is treasurer of the Second Amendment Founda­ tion and an advisor to the Right to Keep and Bear Arms Political Victory Fund. A life member of the National Rifle Association and former associ­ ate editor of the N . R . A . ' s official

monthly, The American Rifleman, John Snyder has testified on many occasions before ' Congressional. Com­ mittees and has represented gun own­ ers in oral and written arguments in both the Justice and Treasury Depart­ ments. Two· years ago Mr. Snyder won a significant victory over Washing­ ton's most powerful and vehement gun-control advocate, Senator Edward Kennedy, when the Senat.e Ethics Committee ruled unanimously that Kennedy acted improperly in writing fundraising letters on his official sta­ tionery for the two leading groups seeking to ban handguns.
Q. Mr. Snyder, have the anti-gun organizations increased their activ­ ities since the recent attempt to as­ sassinate President Reagan? A. Yes, the spokesmen for the anti-gun groups have seized the oppor­ tunity provided them by certain seg­ ments of the media in the usual ef­ fort to enlist support from Americans reacting emotionally to the attempted assassination. If it were not for such heinous crimes the position of the gun-control lobby would be at the point of collapse. Over the past several years there has been increasing evidence in fed­ eral elections that gun owners are a significant and growing political force in our country. By contrast, the hand­ gun-control lobby continues to be 'sup­ ported by certain sections of the me­ dia which have not yet gotten the mes­ sage Americans are sending on this issue. The American people want crim­ inal control, not gun control.
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Q . So the battle i s joined. What arguments do the gun-control lob­ bies use? A. One of the main arguments of our opponents is that since there are many handguns in the United States, and many murders with handguns, their confiscation would eliminate or sharply reduce the incidence of mur­ der. If we take the statistics offered by the gun-control groups we find that for the past 15 years there have been approximately 10,000 murders per year in the United States committed by people using handguns. But during that time, again by their own statis­ tics, the number of handguns private­ ly owned in this country has increased from 40 million to nearly 60 m illion . . So while the number of murders com ­ mitted each year with handguns re­ mains c onstant, there are a third more of those hated handguns in the hands of private citizens. This means that the percentage of handguns owned by private citizens and being used in criminal acts and murders is actually decreasing. The percentag.e of handguns used in crimes has become so miniscule that to talk about them as a causal factor is absolutely ridiculous. Q. One out of every 6,000 is in­ deed a very small percentage. But what is the principal reason for own­ ing a handgun - the sport of marks­ manship? A. I think the basic reason is the right to self-defense. My reason for believing that is a philosophic one. In

the United States we have a tradition of freedom which makes the funda­ mental human right the right to life . This is a right given to us by God, not by some government. The govern­ ment was created by the people to car­ ry out certain functions, and the chief function of government is to p rotect life and property. The right to life implies a right to the means to preserve it if someone tries illegitimately to take it away from you, and a handgun is one of those means by which we preserve our safety.
Q. Then the primary purpose of handguns is self-defense? A. That to me is the primary argu­ ment: the right to self-defense, the right to defend one's home and dwell­ ing. Of course, in addition, handguns can be used for recreational target shooting, marksmanship, hunting, and so forth. Q. In the Old West, the gun was called the equalizer, and no one mugged an old "man or woman who . might be carrying a pistol. A. That's true, and it's one of the m aj or reasons .people are arming themselves in greater numbers now than ever before. The "equalizer" concept can be applied especially to women. More and more women are working in stores, offices, hospitals, and other jobs at night. Every one of them is a potential victim of rapists or muggers. I think you will remember that only about a year ago there was such an epidemic of rapes and assaults that
The Review Of The NEWS, April 29, 1 981

some police departments started of­ fering courses for women in how to use a gun. The courses were well pub­ licized on television to make sure that muggers and potential muggers under­ stood the risks of continuing such " careers. The result where this was done was a substantial .reduction in street crime. The knowledge that there were large numbers of armed women walking around - all competent in the use of their handguns - had a chilling ef­ fect on the desire of criminals to commit mayhem. Criminals under­ stood that they might not be preying on som!! poor little pussycat since there was now a good chance she had a tiger in her handbag.
Q. Does the gun�control lobby really claim that the Constitution doesn't recognize our right privately to keep and bear arms? A. That's what they claim ; how­ ever, the Second Amendment to the Constitution recognizes the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms for legitimate purposes. Since the militia is mentioned in the lan­ guage of the Second Amendment, op­ ponents of private gun ownership have claimed that- the Amendment only ap­ plies to the carrying of arms or their use in connection with an organized militia. But that is false since the actual establishment and maintenance of the militia has already been dis­ cussed in the main body of the Con­ stitution, in Article I, Section 8, Para­ graphs 15 and 16. At the time the Bill of Rights was framed the militia was

all private citizens who owned guns. Period. George Mason, considered the father of the Bill of Rights, made this clear in the Fairfax County Mili­ tia Plan. He provided flatly that citi­ zens individually armed at their own expense would be called as the militia. Q. And they already owned their
guns before joining? A. Exactly the point. The recogni­ tion of the right of individual citizens to own guns and to keep them in good condition was a precondition for the existence of a militia. The gun-control lobby wants to put the cart before the horse by saying, first you apply to join the militia, the National Guard, or reg­ ular Army, and if accepted the gov­ ernment will issue you a weapon for use on active duty. But the militia was the whole body of free men who owned their own guns and brought them as they assembled at a central point to form the militia. It was not the other way around as the gun-control groups would have us be­ lieve. Q. What is behind the efforts to disarm law-abiding Americans? A. There are a number of elements involved, so it's not an easy answer. First, to be charitable, there are peo­ ple who despite logic and the best American evidence genuinely believe that reduction in the number of hand­ guns will reduce violence. Another group is composed of what I would call Leftist political ideologues. It is part of the Leftist mentality that be­ lieves government interference in, and
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control over, the lives of individuals is a good thing. To reduce this philoso­ phy to its simplest terms, they feel that government is good and individu­ als are bad, and that it is the func­ tion of government to control the lives of individuals for their own good . It's a vacuous ideology and one which has been rejected by large segments of the American public in recent popular elections. Q. Have the anti-gun politicians
been falling by the wayside? A. There certainly aren't too many left in the Senate; but the leaders of this group still have power. They in­ clude Senator Edward Kennedy; Rep­ resentative Jonathan Bingham (D.­ New York ) ; and, Representative Peter Rodino (D.-New Jersey), the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. But there is another category in this gun-control movement - the profes­ sionals of the anti-handgun lobbies working for such groups as the Na­ tional Coalition to Ban Handguns and Handgun Control, Inc . They are really part of the general Leftist movement, but their function in the game is to work for gun control. Q. What sort of anti-handgun legislation has been introduced? A. One is the so-called Kennedy­ Rodino Bill, which masquerades as a measure to curb crime committed with handguns, but which really is a bill against handguns themselves. It was introduced in the last Congress when Kennedy was still Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Even then, Senator Kennedy couldn't get a

single member of his own Judiciary Committee to agree to co-sponsor the legislation. What is particularly interesting is that at the same time a gun bill was introduced by Senator James McClure (R. -Idaho) and Representative Harold Volkmer ( D . - Missouri) . This one, which had the support of pro-gun groups, won 59 co-sponsors in the last Senate - including a majority of the members of Kennedy's own Judiciary Committee. I believe it was his com­ plete embarrassment at this which prompted him to relinquish his posi­ tion as minority leader of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Q. What about the new Senators, most of whom are Conservatives? A. Many anti-gun Senators were retired from office in the November election. The new Senate includes five who as Congressmen were members of our Citizens Committee National Ad­ visory Council. So if anything the Sen­ ate is much less inclined than pre­ viously to listen to the "ban the hand­ gun " crowd. Q. What is the situation in the state legislatures where there are continuing moves to enact draconian ' la ws banning private ownership of handguns, restricting the purchase of ammunition, and so on? A. Once the handgun-control lobby realized that it did not have any real chance in Congress, it decided to con­ centrate its energies on passing restric­ tive or prohibitory legislation in state legislatures, in city councils, and other local bodies.
The Review Of The NEWS, April 29, 1 981

Q . As you are aware, in a number of these moves the anti-gun groups have enlisted the support of local chiefs of police. Why would they sup­ port stringent gun-control legisla­ tion? A. First, many of these movements to restrict ownership of guns by law­ abiding citizens are initiated in juris­ dictions with strong "Liberal " leader­ ship. The police officials are respon­ sible for their jobs to these "Liberal " political leaders. When these chiefs of police take a position on a public issue, they reflect the position of the "Lib­ eral " political leadership rather than that of their b rother officers. In gen­ eral, police officers support the right of . law-abiding citizens to be armed for self-defense. Q. How does your organization go about combatting the gun-control lobby? A. As a pro-gun lobbyist, my Num­ ber One weapon is the truth. W e try to be open with everyone, including Members of Congress and the media, and work on the basis that they are interested in the truth and in gain­ ing a real understanding of this issue. We work on that basis until there is evidence to the contrary. We also publish a monthly newslet­ ter, Point Blank, in which we discuss current issues and legislation, and alert as well as inform our members. Q. But we still hear more from the media about controlling hand­ guns than we do about controlling criminals. Why is this? A. The answer lies with the pe47

culiar commitments of the political Left. The purpose of the law is to provide sure, swift, and firm punish­ ment to those who endanger the lives and property of members of the com­ munity. The knowledge that you will be punished if you commit a crime is supposed to deter individuals from committing criminal acts. That has been grievously undermined by the at­ titude that criminals are merely mal­ adjusted individuals whose criminality is the fault of society in general and who require not ,punishment but soci­ ety's care and attention. Police officials and prosecutors now estimate that for each street crime of which a felon is convicted, he got away with a minimum of 10 others.
Q. Have severe laws against owning guns ever cut crime? A. Look at the State of New York. In June 1980 the State Assembly en­ acted the toughest state gun law in history. It demanded a mandatory one­ year imprisonment for merely carry­ ing a handgun without a license. Get­ ting a permit lawfully to own a hand­ gun, let alone to carry one legally, is virtually an impossibility. Did the law cut crime in New York? The New York City Police Department recently released its report on crime in 1980. There were 210,700 burglaries, 249 , 421 thefts, 100, 550 robberies, 100, 478 auto thefts, 43,476 assaults, 3,711 rapes, and 1,814 murders. The 1980 homicide rate was 4.7 percent higher than the terrible 1979 record of 1,773.
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When N e w York City Mayor Ed­ ward I. Koch, one of the strongest supporters of that bill, saw these sta­ tistics - he attacked the judges for not impartially imposing the manda­ tory gun-possession' penalties. He ig­ nored the fact that the new law had made sitting ducks of householders . In my opinion, the New York anti­ gun law has marked the year of the worst crime in the history of New York City. And I have personal ex­ perience that stringent laws against guns, rather than against criminals, are useless.
Q. Will you tell us about that? A. As you know, Washington, D . C . ,

has a draconian gun law that even re­ quires annual registration of hunting shotguns. As of the date that the law was enacted, no handgun may legally be brought into the District of Co­ lumbia by any private citizen. Dis­ armed, I was , robbed at knife point in downtown Washington outside the headquarters of the National Geo­ graphic Society on February 27th. It wasn't late, only 8: 00 in the evening. Two years earlier, Representative Thomas Kindness of Ohio, an advisor to the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, was robbed at gunpoint as he left his Washington, D . C . , apartment house to attend the State of the Union Ad­ dress at the Capitol.
Q. How do you feel about being a victim of an armed street criminal? A. The most galling thing is that, because of the present stupid District of Columbia gun law, it is impossible

without becoming. a lawbreaker even to acquire, let alone carry, a handgun for self-defense. By prohibitin,g this, the statute forces all of us who wish to obey the law to become defenseless victims of criminal violence whenever and wherever an armed criminal de­ cides to carry out an attack.
Q. Can the D.C. City Council jus­ tify its law on the grounds that it has cut crime? A. In the five years since Washing­ ton enacted this law, and despite a decrease in the District's population, murder has . increased by 18 percent; robbery is up by 24 percent; and,ag­ gravated assault is up by 34 percent. I see a correlation between the 1976 handgun ban on private acquisition or importation of handguns and the reign of terror to which the people living here are being subjected by criminals because they are prevented by law from taking effective self­ defense measures. The criminals know that the odds are overwhelming that any citizen of Washington they single out will be unarmed and unable to de­ fend herself or himself in any effec­ tive way. The anti-handgun laws are important criminal assets.

ered. I n February, Representative Jim Collins (R.-Texas) introduced H.R. 1803 to amend Title 18 of the U.S. Code to increase the minimum addi­ tional penalty for commission of a federal felony with a firearm. As it stands now, the minimum additional penalty for the first offense is one year, and for the second offense is two years. The Collins bill would in­ crease the penalties to a more realis­ tic five and ten years respectively.
Q. How do you feel about stricter controls that would reduce the num­ ber of those owning guns in order to keep them out of the hands of crazies and criminals?

A. The man who killed John Len­ non bought his weapon legally in Ha­ waii, a state with one of the most severe gun-control laws. In a spectacu­ lar case we just had in Washington,a professional burglar was convicted of shooting to death Dr. Michael Halber­ starn, brother of the famous writer. The doctor came home, found his house being ransacked, and fought with the burglar - who shot him with a gun he had stolen from the home of . an F.B.I. agent. Does this mean we should disarm F.B.I. agents so their Q. What do you think about en­ guns cannot be stolen? acting laws that add an additional We should go after the criminal mandatory prison sentence to the who uses a weapon in the commission sentences of felons who are found ·to of a criminal act, not the ability of have used a gun in a burglary or citizens to defend themselves. Q. Why are there so many differ­ ent organizations on both the pro­ gun and anti-gun sides? A. There are some 50 miUiop gun owners in America, and there are many

robbery or other crime? A. That's an idea that gets tossed

back and forth in state legislatures and traditionally goes nowhere. Which is not to say it shouldn't be considThe Review Of The NEWS, April 29, 1 98 1

others interested in the issue. With such a large group the situation is a ' little like in the military where you have many ways of approaching a sit­ uation and can deploy the ' Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Special Forces to carry out the will of the country in a conflict situation. People just naturally have different ' ideas on how to approach the issue, and some are better equipped for one way than another. For their part the anti-gun groups search about trying to find ways of drawing in new people. The most open of these organizations is the National Coalition to Ban Handguns. Their peo­ ple say exactly what they intend to do. But you also get groups like Handgun Control, which says in its promotional literature that it's only for licensing gun owners and registering handguns. But its chairman, Pete Shields, gave it all away on CBS's "60 Minutes " by declaring: "Yes, I'm for an outright ban. " Q. Which are the allied groups on
the Conservative side in the fight to keep arms for self-defense? A. The largest and oldest. of the gun-owners groups is the National Ri­ fle Association, which in addition to trying to defend the rights of gun owners also provides many services such as the Hunters S afety Program, training in competitive shooting and marksmanship, and so forth. Q . Then you are on excellent terms with the ·N.R.A.? A. I am a life member of the Na­ tional Rifle Association. I spent more

than eight years working in the publi­ cations office of the N.R.A. and was at one time an associate editor of The American Rifleman. I have great ad­ m iration for my former editor, Ashley Halsey Jr. , . and great friendship with many of the people at N .R.A. Q. What are your differences in
approach? A. To go back to a military anal­ ogy, the N .R.A. is like the force that holds the ground. The Citizens Com­ mittee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, of which I was a founder, is more like the Marine Corps of our movement - taking the point, on the cutting edge. Then there is the Second Amend­ ment Foundation, whose activities are directed into the legal field, and into research, the development of scholarly reports and papers, and so forth. The Foundation is more or less the logistics end of our fighting force. Then there is Larry Pratt's group, Gun Owners of America, which I understand has moved into running pro-gun candi­ dates for office. So it is more like our Special .Forces, going behind the lines to exert pressure and attack the leadership of the other side. I honestly feel that although we are not all m arching to the beat of the same drummer, we are moving togeth­ er in the right direction. In any case, if your readers would like to know more about our Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, they can reach us at 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E., Suite 205, Washington, D . C . 20003. • •
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