SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Sen. Mike Lee suggested Tuesday that “aggressive” gun control policies, including universal background checks and increased waiting periods to buy a firearm, disproportionately harm minority and LGBTQ communities.
During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on steps to reduce gun violence, Lee asked Chris Cheng, who won the History Channel’s Top Shot in 2012, to elaborate on his testimony about the “racist roots” of gun control.
Cheng said gun control laws are well-intentioned and everyone wants to see violence in the country reduced. He cited an executive order under the guise of public safety and national security that unconstitutionally put Japanese Americans into internment camps during World War II.
“Whether it’s Japanese Americans or any other Asian Americans or LGBTQ Americans, it’s us today, but it’s going to be someone else tomorrow,” said Cheng, an expert in firearms and culture and their role in American history.
“When there are gun control bills under consideration, it threatens every single American’s right to defend themselves from real imminent threats, and that’s what frightens me about the gun control legislation in front of this body today,” Cheng said.
Tuesday’s hearing came a day after a gunman killed 10 people at a Boulder, Colorado, grocery story, including the first police officer responding to the scene. Last week, a series of shootings at three Atlanta area spas left eight people dead, six of whom were Asian American women.
President Joe Biden called on Congress to ban assault weapons, and for the Senate to immediately approve two House bills that close loopholes on background checks.
Committee Chairman Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said he could ask for a moment of silence to open the committee hearing for all the mass shooting in the country this year, but “in addition to a moment of silence, I would like to ask for a moment of action, a moment of real caring.”
He called gun violence in the U.S. a “public health crisis.”
Democrats and Republicans disagree on how to prevent mass shootings. Democrats in the hearing talked about expanding background checks and banning assault rifles, while Republicans focused on stopping criminals from gaining access to guns.
In his written testimony, Cheng said he was appalled to discover how gun control has been used to discriminate against and control people in the United States going back more than 100 years. While Black Americans have possibly suffered the most at the hands of the U.S. government, Asian Americans have not escaped racism, either.
Poorly thought-out gun control policies will negatively impact Americans of all walks of life, all races, genders and sexual orientations, he said.
“I am a gay American and have been happily married to my husband of five and a half years,” Cheng said. “Today we see a rise in attacks against Asian Americans, but tomorrow I might be back here talking about the persistent, ongoing violence against LGBTQ Americans.”
Lee said it’s rarely the empowered, the wealthy or those with political connections who have their rights interfered with going back centuries. In 1671, King Charles II took away the gun rights of commoners in England. William and Mary 17 years later protected gun rights for commoners but applied it only to Protestants.
Those who are disenfranchised, those who are not among the wealthy elite or the most well connected are usually the ones whose rights aren’t most seriously restricted, he said.
2/2 We should protect the constitutional right of all law-abiding Americans—including those in low-income communities—to protect themselves and their families.— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) March 23, 2021
Lee also questioned Suzanna Gratia Hupp, a former Texas state legislator who survived a mass shooting at a Lubbock restaurant in which her parents were killed in 1991. After the shooting, she became an advocate of an individual’s right to carry a concealed firearm.
The senator noted that Utah recently became the 17th state to pass a constitutional carry law allowing those over 21 to have a concealed weapon without a permit.
“Why is it in the public interest to allow all law-abiding Americans to carry firearms?” Lee asked.
Hupp said it prevents future despotic actions.
“It makes it very difficult for someone to come in and do bad things to groups of people when they can fight back,” she said. “As individuals, I think we see so many people who are in persecuted classes. ... I think those persecuted classes are particularly in need of protection, personal protection. I think it’s important that the bad guys don’t know where the guns are.”
Mass shootings, Hupp said, are happening in places such as schools, where people aren’t allowed to protect themselves.
“I think the more good people that are armed, the better,” she said.
Lee said if people didn’t have gun rights, the government would have a certain monopoly on the use of force.
“If you live in a neighborhood that’s well secured, that’s behind a gate, if you can afford your own private security or if you’re in a neighborhood for one reason or another the police monitor regularly, this might have a very different set of implications if you don’t live in one of those communities,” he said.
Hupp agreed, and said she has noticed that many people who support gun control have their own security details.
“Charles II and William and Mary certainly had their own,” Lee said in closing.