Last month, Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas, introduced the “Sabika Sheikh Firearm Licensing and Registration Act.” The bill, forcing registration and licensing of guns and ammunition, will effectively criminalize the private ownership of firearms. The proposed federal law would create a bureaucratic nightmare with citizens self-reporting and registering all weapons with the government, a tangled web of requirements to get a license to possess them, outrageous taxes for each gun, strict bans on ownership by people with certain medical or family histories, bans on most modern firearms as “military-style weapons” and a separate license for the display of antique firearms. Even if all requirements are met, the resulting federal license to own a primitive firearm will result in gun owners being put on a sex offender-style registry for use by law enforcement agencies and the military. If passed, Ms. Jackson-Lee’s bill will effectively nullify the Second Amendment.
Surely nothing like this could ever be enacted into law, right?
Well … probably not all at once. But the American left has mastered the art of incrementalism, the practice of making outrageous demands, settling for achieving a small part and then returning to get the rest of their demands later. You may be familiar with the analogy of a frog being slowly boiled, or the observation that freedom is rarely lost all at once. There are several examples from the past few decades where governments enacted laws in a piecemeal manner to achieve a result they could never attain if the people were not groomed into accepting a premise under the guise of a tiny concession – a concession that, while sold as inconsequential or only applying to some small group, opened the door to further restrictions, limitations and loss of freedoms.
The 16th Amendment authorizing federal income taxes began this way. When originally proposed, it was viewed by many as an outrageous government intrusion into people’s personal financial lives. It was sold as something that would be only for the wealthy. As we know, though, the left loves subjective words like “wealthy” to assuage political opponents before changing the meaning to anything they want and doing something they could never have gotten passed if they had been more specific about their plans. We see this all the time with liberal catchphrases like “pay their fair share,” “common-sense gun control,” “adequate school funding,” etc. The latest generic leftist buzzwords are “extremism” and “disinformation.”
Liberals love words and phrases that sound like they mean something specific, but actually provide them with a blank check to do anything they want. When a liberal friend starts tossing out these or similar words or phrases, take the opportunity to make him explain specifically what he is demanding. They will try to sidestep, dodge or just rephrase the ambiguous demands with other squish words. Ultimately, they will not be specific. Not only does specificity provide limits, but it also gives a way to measure success or failure. Their tactic is effective, especially when they heap on an emotional plea and scream their demands.
In debates on the income tax proposal, a cap of 10% was shouted down over the very idea that the government would ever take so much of a wealthy citizen’s income. It was believed that including such a limit would suggest to future generations that such a confiscatory amount was acceptable. As always, once unleashed, the federal government increased the rate and scope of taxation beyond anything to which Americans would have agreed had they known the door they were opening. Incrementalism, with a heaping dose of bait-and-switch.
If a castaway stranded on a deserted island since the 1970s would be rescued and brought back to America today, he would be stunned by the government control over the minutiae of people’s lives compared to what he remembered. Non-smoking sections on airplanes have morphed into wide-ranging bans on tobacco use. Seat belt and traffic cameras sold as limited safety measures are now intrusive cash cows. The multitude of colossal federal health care bureaucracies such as Medicare, Medicaid, COBRA and HIPAA – to say nothing of Obamacare, which was designed to fail – were sold as solving desperate health care problems, but now are used to bolster the argument for socialized medicine. The solution to the problems of a massive bureaucracy is, they now argue, more and bigger bureaucracies. The Patriot Act, rushed through without being read, was sold as an emergency surveillance law to save Americans from foreign terrorists, but is now being turned against American veterans and law enforcement.
The Sabika Sheikh Firearm Licensing and Registration Act will likely not be enacted. At least not in its present form. But it provides us a preview of future liberal demands once they are able to pretend to compromise and settle for a stripped-down version of the bill, knowing they will come back later to cast those parts they negotiate away as “loopholes” in the law and demand they be closed. These incremental, grooming and bait-and-switch methods of arm-twisting Americans into surrendering freedoms has worked surprisingly well for over 100 years. The political class is setting the stage to use their tried and true techniques for an assault on the Second Amendment.
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