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Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senator since 1992, recently told an audience in San Francisco that the gun lobby is mounting an intimidation campaign and would attempt to unseat various senators if they support the restrictions she is pushing against so-called “assault weapons” and high-capacity magazines. “A fear has set in,” Feinstein said, “that if they vote for the bill they won’t be re-elected. It’s that plain, it’s that simple.”
In other words, those Americans who disagree with Feinstein’s gun-control legislation will vote against her and her supporters, and spend money to encourage others to do likewise. That sounds a lot like the normal democratic process, not the real campaign of fear and intimidation Feinstein faced as a San Francisco supervisor during the 1970s. The New World Liberation Front, a violent left-wing group, wanted San Francisco to spend more money spent on jails and put out a death warrant on Feinstein. The NWLF planted a bomb at Feinstein’s house and shot out the windows of her vacation home.
Supervisor Feinstein responded by buying a .38 revolver, learning how to shoot it, and keeping the handgun on her person. She took the measures she believed necessary to protect herself but as a senator has supported measures to prevent others from doing likewise. As professor Edward Erler notes, the semi-automatic weapons Feinstein decries are “extremely well-adapted for home defense—especially against a crime that is becoming more and more popular among criminals, the home invasion.”
Law-abiding Americans fearful of being disarmed might recall the government’s “Fast and Furious” sting operation, which took place on Feinstein’s watch. The federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms pressured gun-store owners into looking the other way at illegal weapons purchases. The incompetent ATF then lost track of the guns, which wound up in the hands of violent criminals in Mexico and the United States.
Americans who feel intimidated by criminals and unsafe in their own homes might dare to vote against those who support that kind of policy and seek to restrict the way citizens can protect themselves. But that would be democracy at work, not an intimidation campaign. Americans retain the right to vote and Senate seats, contrary to what Dianne Feinstein appears to believe, are not for life.