Regulation of the Internet Hurts Gun Owners

With the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, the potential for reversing our progress on gun rights is significant.  Barack Obama and (heaven-help-us) his potential successor, Hillary Clinton, have never had a better opportunity to use a compliant judiciary to rubber-stamp their efforts to rip the Second Amendment to shreds.

At the core of these efforts will be attempts to seize guns by regulating the Internet. A few obvious examples include:

  • Section 107 of the sentencing bill “compromise” (S. 2123), which would create a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for communicating “how-to” information on the Internet with respect to guns on the Munitions List;
  • The Manchin-Toomey provisions to regulate and require background checks for INTRAstate gun sales on the Internet;
  • Recent regulatory and statutory efforts to use and amend “plastic gun” laws in order to require a federal license for 3-D gun programs.

The question of whether the  government can regulate the Internet will be central to the question of whether the government can regulate guns.  And, in some respects, the expanding federal control over content on the Internet is an indivisible one.

Enter billionaire Sheldon Adelson — a man who is probably not an evil person, but is a person who believes that money can buy government action favorable to his financial interests.

Adelson, the casino magnate who once invested a million dollars into a failed online gaming venture, is currently lobbying Congress to place a federal ban on the “immoral” industry.

Translation: in an effort to protect his own self interests, the conservative wants to set a grueling anti-states’ rights precedent that the court will almost certainly use to sabotage our gun rights.

In a recent hearing, Congressman Mick Mulvaney detailed how banning internet-based gambling through Adelson’s Restoration of the American Wire Act (RAWA) would lead to further restrictions on the purchase of firearms and ammunition. “That’s what I’m worried about,” he argued, “That we’re going to go through regulation and expand the role of the federal government as opposed to limit it.”

Mulvaney’s concern is valid, especially since federal bureaucrats have, in recent years, been so aggressive in their attempts to ban guns and ammunition from the internet.

The State Department has been attempting to limit free speech online with regards to the Second Amendment for years. In 2013, U.S. officials ordered Cody Wilson, a founder of Defense Distributed and the creator of a 3-D plastic handgun, to take down his blueprints from the internet. “This is just the beginning of the attempt to regulate these distributed technologies,” remarked a  dispirited Wilson.

In hindsight, Wilson was right — it was just the beginning. Last year, the State Department sent a letter to Defense Distributed confirming that the group must obtain government permission before publishing its files online.  And, in a separate filing with the federal register, the State Department noted that it will require approval for the publishing of any  “technical data” that would facilitate the creation of weapons.

And section 107 of S. 2123, the sentencing bill “compromise version” would subject people who post “technical data” on guns in violation of that edict to a five-year MANDATORY MINIMUM prison sentence, even as the same bill is releasing thousands of drug traffickers on the street.

Defense Distributed is currently suing the State Department on the grounds of a First Amendment rights violation. But tell me: what will it do to the chances for their success if Adelson succeeds in circumventing the Tenth Amendment with respect to online gambling? The court will argue that the federal government has the power to regulate intrastate commerce  — and, thanks to Adelson, the precedent will be there to justify their decision.

Worse, the passage of Adelson’s bill won’t just facilitate the elimination of free speech with respect to guns — it will also help to completely eliminate the online sale of gun ammunition. The House’s Online Ammunition Sales Act was written to essentially ban all online gun ammo sales, requiring purchasers to present a photo I.D.in-person in order to complete such transactions. If passed, this bill would also require ammunition sellers to report the names of high quantity purchasers to the U.S. attorney general.

Again, what would it do to our efforts to block Internet ammunition sales if the principle that the government regulates the Internet is firmly established?

That’s why it’s so important that conservatives stand firmly against Adelson’s bill. Republicans would be displaying a fatal inconsistency by railing against online gambling — clearly a state issue as per the Tenth Amendment — and yet, in the same breath, calling to protect guns on the grounds of the Second Amendment

Thus far, most conservatives have recognized this point. Adelson’s anti-online gaming bill, the Restoration of the American Wire Act (RAWA), failed to pass last year because a Republican-controlled Congress is still squeamish about inserting the heavy hand of government regulation into online communications.

But now, with the help of Senator Lindsey Graham, Adelson is attempting to get the bill passed through the back door. Graham, whose failed presidential campaign was partially bankrolled by the casino mogul, stuck the RAWA language into a giant appropriations bill. The bill is scheduled to receive a vote early next week in Congressman John Culberson’s CJS Appropriations committee.

Will it be easier to pass RAWA this way? You bet. Will the power of Culberson and his Republican counterparts’ integrity overshadow the power of Sheldon Adelson’s checkbook? That’s anyone’s guess, but for the sake of the Second Amendment, one can only hope so.