The Cheney Glock-n-Spiel

Bush's Veep-in-waiting proved he won't be seduced by mindless gun lobbying.

By Dave Kopel, of the Independence Institute  

7/27/00 10:45 a.m., National Review Online

The gun control spin machine and its media assistants are in full blather over Dick Cheney's vote against banning so-called "plastic guns" which could slip through metal detectors. Unfortunately, the are no mental detectors which can alert television viewers when spinmeisters have not the slightest idea what they're talking about. In fact, Cheney's vote showed that he won't let himself be stampeded by lobbyists or expediency; the vote therefore underscores his moral fitness for high office.

Today, one of the most popular American pistols for police work, for target shooting, and for self-defense is the Glock, which is manufactured in Smyrna, Georgia. The Glock's virtues include being reliable and unlikely to jam, extremely durable even when not cleaned, and much more comfortable to carry than most other handguns. The reason for this last virtue is that the Glock's frame and grip are made from high-tech plastic polymers. The barrel and internal working components of the gun, however, are made from metal.

Glock pistols, in many different calibers, are ubiquitous today, but in the mid-1980s, they were brand new. Then, the company had not opened its Georgia plant — only a few thousand Glocks had been imported from the company's base in Austria. The gun prohibition lobbies know that it's a lot easier to terrify the American people about something unfamiliar. So the lobbies — with the energetic assistance of the Washington Postand Jack Anderson — undertook a publicity campaign to panic everyone over the Glock. They started calling the Glocks "terrorist specials" and pretending that they were designed to sneak through metal detectors.

This was a patent lie. The purpose of the lightweight plastic frame is to make the gun more comfortable to carry for extended periods. That is why the Glock began to catch on for police use very rapidly in the late 1980s. Today it's one of the most popular police firearms.

As for being able to slip through metal detectors, experts testified to Congress that the Glock is readily detectable. They showed Congress photos of a Glock under a metal detector, with the Glock's profile very easily visible. Unfortunately, facts don't matter all that much on Capitol Hill. Having spread the lie about the undetectable plastic gun, the gun prohibition lobbies moved to stage two: the bait and switch. Senators Howard Metzenbaum (D-OH) and Strom Thurmond (R-SC) introduced a bill that outlawed tens of thousands of all metal handguns — everything that had less than eight ounces of steel. For example, the thirteen ounce Raven pistol, which is made of alloys, and therefore has less than eight ounces of pure steel, would have been banned as a "plastic gun" — even though it doesn't have a molecule of plastic.

The Department of Justice under Attorney General Meese (who had fought the NRA for years over the bill that finally became the Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986) was poised to endorse the "plastic" gun ban. Only the timely intervention of Vice President Bush stopped the DOJ. Still, the gun-prohibition lobbies spread enough disinformation — especially on security-conscious Capitol Hill — that many legislators felt a need to "do something." So, in perfect Capitol Hill fashion, they passed a bill which satisfied the bipartisan desire to "do something," and which did not offend anyone because it did not actually do anything.

"Compromise" plastic gun legislation was approved by the National Rifle Association and by the gun prohibition lobbies. The lobbies got to tell their members, correctly, that the lobbies had actually pushed a bill into law. The NRA got to tell its members that nothing had happened. Both groups were right.

The compromise bill banned the future production and sale of firearms with less than four ounces of metal. The bill had no effect on any existing gun, and as far as I can tell, no effect on any gun that anyone has ever wanted to build. The production of mostly-plastic guns continues full throttle. The Glock pistols were followed by the .22-caliber Syntech from Ramline, and now even Smith & Wesson is using plastics. For most in Congress, the plastic gun compromise was like getting an "A" without having to take the final exam. The major lobbies on both sides were happy; Congress looked like it was doing something; and nothing bothersome was done.

Four Representatives voted "no" against this sham legislation. One of them was Dick Cheney of Wyoming. The vote shows that Dick Cheney is a man who doesn't decide what to do simply by gauging how the lobbyists line up. He takes the care to learn the facts — even the facts that can't be found in the Washington Post. His garbage detector is very strong. Too bad all the media talking heads don't have their own garbage detectors, which might lead to some questioning of the plastic gun hoax.  

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