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January 26, 2009

What Chris Matthews Should Have Said On ‘Hardball’ About Firearms Issues

On "Hardball" last Thursday evening, Chris Matthews' comments about the appointment of Kirsten Gillibrand to the U.S. Senate, the Tiahrt Amendment and the Supreme's Court ruling in the Heller case last summer prompted this response from NSSF:

Dear Mr. Matthews:

A few of your comments regarding Kirsten Gillibrand’s appointment to the U.S. Senate show an unfortunate lack of understanding regarding Rep. Gillibrand’s votes on firearms issues.

You stated that she “voted to make it impossible for law enforcement to trace guns and stop gun trafficking.” This is incorrect. The Tiahrt Amendment, which Rep. Gillibrand voted for, specifically permits law enforcement to trace firearms and to share such data with any other law enforcement agency for the purpose of law enforcement investigations, including prosecutions for firearms law violations by individuals and dealers. And they do so. There isn’t a single law enforcement agency in the United States that has been denied trace information by ATF.

The amendment prohibits public release of such law enforcement-sensitive data, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives—the federal agency which enforces gun laws—specifically supports this amendment.

Rather than stating that Rep. Gillibrand was “voting with the NRA,” you could have—and should have—stated that she voted with the ATF and law enforcement.

You then stated that she voted against the Washington, D.C., gun ban and signed on to a brief supporting the Supreme Court’s striking it down. And again, you characterized that brief as being “with the NRA.”

As you know, a majority of Congress on both sides of the aisle, including the majority leader, supported this challenge to a law which the highest court in the United States invalidated as being unconstitutional.

So you could have—and should have—more accurately characterized this action as being on the same side as the U.S. Constitution and Sen. Harry Reid.

You finished with repeated statements that these positions have nothing to do with hunting. True enough. But the Constitution and laws which underpin these and other issues involving firearms ownership also do not reference hunting. Our individual right to keep and bear arms under the Constitution is much broader than that one purpose, just as the right to free press applies to more than just news programs.

These items are matters of public record and can readily be fact checked. Thank you for your attention to this topic, which is so important to many of your viewers.


Stephen L. Sanetti
President and CEO
National Shooting Sports Foundation

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