By Erich Pratt
It was a story that made the "weird and bizarre crooks" file.
Larry Riddell of McIntosh, Alabama, wanted his wife dead. He planned the entire murder.
He thought of every detail, even going to the trouble of engraving a tombstone with his wife's name ahead of time.
This past April marked the 10-year anniversary of Larry's failed plan to kill his wife -- a plan which failed for one simple reason.
Larry's wife had a gun.
His wife, Linda, was driving home one day when she was forced to slow down to remove an obstacle in the road -- an obstacle that was apparently placed there by her husband.
Seizing the moment, Larry ambushed his wife and tried to drag her out of the car.
But Linda's seatbelt got in the way, preventing Larry from pulling her out of her vehicle. Linda then reached for a handgun that was kept in the car and fatally shot her husband.
Authorities determined that Linda acted in self-defense against a husband intent upon killing her.
That Larry harbored such intent became all too clear after authorities found in his car the tombstone engraved with Linda's name on it.
Like Linda Riddell, about seventy-five percent of wives who kill spouses are not even charged because a determination of self-defense is made.1
But a far-reaching gun ban is making it increasingly difficult for Americans, like Linda Riddell, to defend themselves.
In 1996, President Bill Clinton enacted into law what has become known as the Lautenberg gun ban. This onerous piece of legislation, named after retired Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, has disarmed millions of people for life.
Americans who have committed very minor offenses that include pushing, shoving or, in some cases, even yelling at a family member have discovered that they can no longer own a firearm for self-defense.
Consider Judy of Fairfax County, Virginia.
The slight tearing of her husband's pocket during an argument was enough to cart her off to the police station -- even though her husband refused to press charges.
The husband, Tom, stated he had only called the police to get "documentation in a custody dispute."
When Tom insisted he didn't want to press charges, he was told that "pressing charges is not [your] decision, it is the decision of the commonwealth of Virginia."
Unfortunately, Virginia's "zero tolerance" requires police to press charges in such cases. Even though people like Judy plea-bargain to a misdemeanor and pay a minimal fine, they still lose their Second Amendment rights forever as a result of Lautenberg.
A growing number of people are taking notice of how oppressive this gun ban is. It targets truly average people who, in many cases, have done nothing more than engage in a family squabble.
As a result, some in Congress would like to completely strip this law from the federal law books.
Rep. Virgil Goode (I-VA) told The Gun Owners that, "I have probably heard more about the Lautenberg gun ban from people in my district than any other issue."
"[This] ban runs roughshod over the rights of states and disarms ordinary people who are not criminals by any stretch of the imagination."
To this end, Rep. Goode has introduced H.R. 1455, the States' Rights and Second and Tenth Amendment Restoration Act of 2001.
The title is almost longer than the actual repeal language itself.
Quite simply, the bill repeals the entire gun ban and will restore the Second Amendment rights to millions of decent Americans.
Yes, the language of the Lautenberg gun ban is quite expansive. So much so that unsuspecting parents have been disarmed for simply using legitimate corporal punishment.
One GOA member traveled to Washington, D.C. shortly after the law was enacted to tell his story to Congressmen and their staff.
This father had given his child a swat on the rear. But because he was going through an ugly divorce, his estranged wife, with the encouragement of her mother, reported the man to the police for child abuse.
The father had spanked his daughter with an open hand on the buttocks. After a nasty court battle, the man finally accepted a domestic violence misdemeanor conviction.
Now he is disarmed for life by the Lautenberg gun ban, simply because he spanked his child.
Upon learning of the Lautenberg gun ban, this GOA member, seeking to be in compliance with the law, sold his collection of firearms. He has forfeited his Second Amendment rights, for simply spanking his own daughter.
This lifetime gun ban can be imposed for mere misdemeanors and, in certain circumstances, can be imposed without a trial by jury.
Many misdemeanors do not guarantee a jury trial, and the law does not require that a jury must try a person before he or she loses their gun rights.
Many offenders are now shocked to learn that a minor infraction from years ago is preventing them from owning a gun for life.
One Virginia gun owner had to dump his $100,000 collection because of the Lautenberg gun ban.
Years ago, an argument with his wife resulted in a $10 fine. No jury. No trial. He simply plea bargained to a misdemeanor and went on his way.
He has lived an exemplary life since then and has been married to the same woman for more than 30 years.
But Lautenberg has made him a prohibited person. Because of his "record," he can no longer own a gun to defend his wife or himself.
This highlights one of the many problems inherent to Lautenberg. The law violates the constitutional ban on ex post facto laws, as it disarms people for actions committed well before the ban was enacted.2
The Lautenberg ban does allow people a couple of options in getting their rights restored. However, both options are impractical for most Americans.
The law provides that the Lautenberg ban will not apply to a person if their conviction has been "expunged or set aside," or if it is an offense for which the person has been "pardoned or has had [his or her] civil rights restored."
Getting the governor of a state to fulfill any of these options would be almost impossible, unless the affected person were famous or very well connected.
Some people have managed to "purchase" their pardons by heavily contributing to political campaigns. But most people do not have such connections, and thus, the Lautenberg exceptions are simply not within the reach of most people.
Short of a judicial decision holding the Lautenberg ban unconstitutional -- which to date has not happened -- the best chance that average gun owners have to throw this yoke off their necks is to support the Goode bill.
Gun owners should ask their Congressmen to cosponsor H.R. 1455. Then, they should ask their Senators to introduce a companion version in the Senate.
by John Velleco
Washington, D.C. -- The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has effectively ended the agencies participation in lawsuits against gun manufacturers initiated under the Clinton Administration.
Secretary Mel Martinez announced in late May that HUD will "no longer participate" in the effort to force manufacturers to accept certain forms of gun control, including mandatory trigger locks for all new firearms.
Former HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo established the Communities for Safer Guns Coalition, designed to assist cities and localities across the country in bringing lawsuits against gun makers.
Pro-gun Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN) wrote a letter, cosigned by 99 other representatives, to Secretary Martinez urging that HUD drop the lawsuits.
"This initiative is the coercive mechanism by which HUD urges states, counties and cities to show preference in buying guns for law enforcement to manufacturers who enter into settlement agreements, such as in the case of Smith & Wesson," Rep. Hostettler wrote.
The letter continued, "HUD's mission should not include activities that will, among other issues, result in our law enforcement officers' weapon selection being based on political concerns rather than merit."
Gun Owners of America members were instrumental in garnering the 99 cosigners of the Hostettler letter. Beginning in March, GOA issued a series of email and fax alerts to activists, urging them to contact their representatives.
The response was so great that GOA headquarters received calls from many congressional offices in an effort to get the group to let up the pressure.
After one GOA alert, Rep. Hostettler had to extend the original deadline for submitting the letter to accommodate a flurry of calls from Representatives who also wanted to sign on. In the end, 90 Republicans and 10 Democrats signed the letter.
Secretary Martinez responded to Rep. Hostettler, in a letter obtained by Gun Owners of America, stating, "HUD no longer participates in the Coalition or supports its efforts."
Rep. Hostettler applauded the efforts of the new HUD chief. "I'm pleased that Secretary Martinez has returned HUD to its core mission," he said. "Secretary Martinez is to be commended for his responsible handling of this issue."
by Michael E. Hammond
At a time when even anti-gun pollsters are encouraging liberal Democrats to "lay low" on gun control until after the 2002 elections, there is one public figure who is working hard to fan the flames of anti-gun fervor: Arizona Senator John McCain.
Last year, McCain went into both Oregon and Colorado to promote anti-gun ballot issues in those states.
Three months ago, McCain pushed legislation on the Senate floor, S. 27, which would prohibit groups like GOA from mentioning the anti-gun records of incumbents on TV or radio within 60 days of an election.
Now, McCain is on movie screens nationwide, pushing an anti-gun message that urges moviegoers to disable their firearms, thereby making them unavailable for defense of business, family or home.
But these efforts to become America's most anti-gun politician have apparently been insufficient for McCain's monumental ego.
Now, McCain has joined with Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman to introduce S. 890, a bill which would effectively outlaw gun shows.
The McCain-Lieberman bill would:
* Require licensure for gun show promoters -- and registration of dealers (public or private), desiring to sell guns, ammunition, or even books at gun shows;
* Outlaw the private sale of guns at a gun show without a government-approved Instantcheck, even if only a small part of the transaction -- such as writing down a phone number -- took place at the gun show;
* Allow gun shows to be regulated and inspected virtually without limit.
Incidentally, this open-ended regulatory authority could be used to impose the same sorts of requirements which were contained in the infamous Smith & Wesson agreement: imposing training requirements for all gun buyers, one-gun-a-month purchase limitations, and requirements that sellers investigate the background of gun buyers.
But these admittedly draconian provisions are not even the worst aspect of the McCain-Lieberman package.
The worst provision is a section, borrowed from Bill Clinton's 1999 proposal, which would allow every board member of an organization sponsoring a gun show to be imprisoned for up to five years if the organization failed to notify EVERY gun show attendee of his obligations under the Brady law.
Thus, if the employee assigned to hand Brady Law pamphlets to all gun show attendees went on a fifteen-minute coffee break, every member of the sponsoring board could go to prison for five years under the McCain-Lieberman bill.
Particularly after the first high-profile prosecution, it is difficult to see that many pro-gun organizations would be willing to put their existence in jeopardy by sponsoring gun shows.
In fact, it is hard to see how this provision would not make gun shows an anachronism.
The good news is that McCain, who ran for the Senate as a pro-gun supporter, has now aggressively identified himself as an enemy of the Second Amendment. Pro-gun groups need no longer wonder about McCain's motivation.
And, given the demonstrable ability of the Second Amendment community to defeat anti-gunners whom we can identify, perhaps this is a blessing after all.
by Larry Pratt
Marilyn Lapidus is a Second Amendment Sister (SAS) and does not mind if the whole world knows it.
Marilyn wears a big SAS sticker everywhere she goes that reads: "Of course I own a gun, don't you?" Pro-gunners talk to her about it, anti-gunners step back from her as soon as their eyes get to the word "gun."
Marilyn's store, Framing by Marilyn, is plastered with pro-gun posters and stickers. At the store she looks for way to encourage women to go shooting if they do not already do so. She finds that most people are interested and rather cordial about her consuming interest.
Marilyn is not doing this is a known bastion of Second Amendment support. Marilyn's store is located in Chester, NJ. Rather than hurting business, Marilyn has had to move to a larger space for her store. For Marilyn, being pro-gun is good business -- even in New Jersey.
For those women who are interested in a chance to learn how to shoot, Marilyn invites them to the Shongum Sportsmen's Association in Hackettstown, NJ on the last Wednesday of each month. The club has turned over the range to Marilyn for that time.
I recently interviewed Marilyn Lapidus on my weekly radio show, Live Fire which can be heard on the internet by going to the GOA web page at http://www.gunowners.org and scrolling to the Live Fire archives.
by Jim Burns
The United Nations General Assembly [in May] approved a gun control treaty that calls on all nations to work together "to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, their parts and components, and ammunition."
The treaty is supposed to make it easier to crack down on illegal gun trafficking by helping authorities trace the global movement of all new weapons. It must be signed and ratified by at least 40 countries before it becomes international law.
The signing period runs from July 1 through Dec. 12, 2002.
Under terms of the treaty, all new firearms would have to be marked with a serial number and the place of manufacture; nations would have to set up import-export licensing procedures; and they would also be required to keep records on all guns, parts, and ammunition made within their borders for ten years.
The treaty also calls on nations to pass laws making the illicit manufacture and sale of firearms a criminal offense. Press reports said numerous countries have concerns about the treaty, which raises questions about whether it will ever take effect.
National Rifle Association Executive Director Wayne LaPierre was unavailable for comment Friday, according to an NRA spokesperson.
However, the Gun Owners of America isn't surprised at the U.N. action, according to spokesman Erich Pratt.
"This comes as no surprise because the U.N. is very much against the right of self defense. What they are doing now in terms of tracing has not been effective in curbing crime. It has not even been effective in helping authorities find the perpetrators of crime. Anywhere you look, gun control has failed to cut crime," Pratt said.
"But one thing that gun control has been effective at," Pratt said, "is registering law abiding gun owners, and that seems to be what this treaty is aimed at encouraging governments to do is to register gun owners and being able to track law abiding gun owners," he said.
"That, of course, concerns us very much, since, historically, registration has been a first step to confiscation of firearms," Pratt added.
Handgun Control, Incorporated had no comment.
Jim Burns is a Senior Staff Writer for CNSNews.com.
by Larry Pratt
General Laney is a GOA member from Detroit. As a firearms dealer and shooting range owner, he had been facing criminal charges for months for supposedly selling a gun illegally.
It is great to report that the Wayne County, Michigan Court has thrown out the case.
Laney, according to the recordings made by the police themselves, had scrupulously complied with the law. Appropriately, the county's case against Laney was dismissed.
The county was hoping to use findings from this case for their malicious prosecution in civil court alleging that Laney's sales are a public nuisance. This lawsuit is part of the national plague of actions that local governments are bringing against firearms dealers and manufacturers.
Of course, Wayne county had no case against Laney, but officials were hoping to drain Laney and drive him out of business by bankrupting him.
Gun Owners Foundation has contributed to defray Laney's legal expenses.
Meanwhile, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts continues its jihad against peaceful gun owners.
Doug Burns, a professional calligrapher, has had his life turned upside down after using his handgun to save himself from an assault by a man literally twice his size. Burns was licensed to carry a concealed handgun in Massachusetts.
The assailant has led a charmed life with no convictions following a long list of earlier arrests for violent crimes. It turns out that the assailant is well connected in local and state police circles.
The 911 tapes that at one point existed have disappeared. They contained the record of the half-dozen calls made by eyewitnesses reporting that Burns was holding off an assailant on the streets of Boston. Witnesses that came up to the cops just after the incident were told to go away, and their information was not put in the situation report.
A series of incompetent attorneys could not prevent Burns from being acquitted of assault and battery, but there was a mistrial on the charge of assault with a deadly weapon.
A subsequent trial was conducted before a judge who said, "No one should have a gun. I think they should all be melted down." Not surprisingly, Burns was convicted.
The result of all this: Burns is now a convicted felon and has lost many business opportunities as a result. He is working with a private investigator to dig up the information covered up by the police before his trial.
Growing up in Massachusetts, Alec Costerus became a licensed firearm owner with a permit to carry a concealed handgun. His career led him out of state for a time, but he later returned.
All the while, his Firearms Identification (FID) card was valid. But before his return, the legislature changed the law, requiring a licensee to renew on one's birth date. However, the law had still not gone into effect when Costerus returned.
Costerus went to the police station to find out what, if anything, he had to do since he had moved back to the state. He was arrested, booked, and kept overnight. During that time his home was invaded by the police without a warrant and his firearms were illegally removed.
The police also stole Costerus' still valid FID card, but he was able later to subpoena a copy of the permit from the state firearms certification bureau. When he was finally able to produce the permit, the Commonwealth dropped the charges which would have put him in jail for a minimum of one year.
So, Costerus got his guns back, right? No, not in Massacusetts. Handgun permits are discretionary in Massachusetts. So once the new law went into effect, state officials decided not to renew his permit, and therefore, not to return his guns.
The only silver lining in this whole ordeal is the fact that long gun licenses are not discretionary. Because of that, Costerus has been able to get a long gun permit.
Costerus is in court suing the police and the prosecutor for their outrageously illegal conduct.
We want to help these courageous gun owners who are fighting back. Please let them know they are not alone -- be as generous as you can.
by Erich Pratt
The inhabitants of Bradyville are up in arms these days.
Bradyville is the land of make-believe, where guns are thought to have magical powers. They are considered so evil that children have even been punished for waving a thumb and finger in the air -- forming the shape of a gun -- and saying "bang."
Yes, the inhabitants of Bradyville don't want guns in their town. And they have crafted all kinds of constitutional and legal theories to get them out of your town, too.
Well, New York's top court handed down a verdict on April 26 that has sent shockwaves rippling throughout the land. The court ruled that gun makers can't be held liable when a bad guy uses one of their guns to kill someone.
That should be a no-brainer. After all, we don't hold General Motors liable when a wacko uses a Cadillac to intentionally run over children at a day-care center.
A situation like that actually happened in California two years ago. To date, no one in the media or in Congress has called upon the courts to stick it to the car industry. Yet, that is exactly what gun grabbers in Bradyville are trying to do to gun makers.
The recent ruling out of New York, however, comes as a huge blow. Sarah Brady's foundation in the nation's capitol -- which helped bring the lawsuit -- declared the verdict a "setback."
Oh, but this was more than just a setback. The inhabitants of Bradyville have spent countless hours and untold dollars in courtrooms all across the nation to make this legal argument stick.
Nevertheless, they have suffered an almost complete string of losses. They are losing the suits that private individuals are bringing against gun manufacturers. They are losing the taxpayer-funded suits that 31 city and county governments have launched.
They have lost in states which are somewhat conservative -- like Florida. And they have now lost in liberal courts like those in New York state.
So you have to wonder: if an extremely liberal New York court will not swallow the legal arguments coming from gun haters, then why should anyone else?
The judges from the Empire State warned that we should be cautious in imposing "novel" theories of law.
Still, the lawyers from Bradyville march on, spending thousands -- perhaps millions -- of dollars pursuing untried, novel theories. Why?
Quite simply, because they are not worried about losing in court.
What they really want is to financially cripple the dozens upon dozens of American businessmen who make a living selling a constitutionally protected item.
Edward Rendell lives in Bradyville. As the former mayor of Philadelphia and a previous head of the Democratic National Committee, he speaks for many of Bradyville's residents.
"The impact of so many cities filing suit all at once would be monumental for gun manufacturers," Rendell said. "They don't have the deep pockets of the tobacco industry, and it could bring them to the negotiating table a lot sooner."
You see, that's what they really want in Bradyville. They want to put a gun to the head of the gun makers, so to speak, and threaten them with extinction if they don't agree to negotiate... if they don't agree to preemptively swallow a vast gun control agenda.
Thus, their "novel" theory doesn't have to win in court. It only needs to bully the gun makers into submission.
So here's the $10 million question: if gun grabbers are willing to use "novel" legal theories to sink the American gun industry, what makes us think they aren't using "novel" theories when it comes to attacking the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms?
What makes us think they don't skew the truth in order to sell us on gun bans, licensing and registration?
In Bradyville, they tell us the Constitution only protects firearms for those in the militia. They tell us guns are only for the National Guard. You and I don't have a constitutional right to keep arms for protection, they say.
But that's not what the Founding Fathers believed. Nor is it what a majority of the courts have stated over our more than 200-year history.
For example, James Madison -- known as the Father of the Constitution -- said in Federalist Paper 46 that the Constitution preserves "the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation... [where] the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms."
And more recently, the U.S. Supreme Court stated (in 1990) that the "people" mentioned in the Second Amendment are the same "people" mentioned elsewhere in the Bill of Rights.
This means that the right of the "people" to keep and bear arms is a freedom that belongs not just to a select group of government-appointed bureaucrats, but to all Americans.
Well, this need not strike fear into the hearts of Bradyville denizens. Guns are used more often to save lives than to take lives. And besides, guns really don't have magical powers. They are simply a tool, and on their own, can't walk down the street and shoot someone.
Eight years after the government's lethal assault on the Branch Davidians at Waco, the country still waits for justice to be rendered.
The whole reason for the initial BATF raid upon the inhabitants at Waco was the alleged existence of machineguns that were supposedly unregistered. According to the feds, none of the residents at Mount Carmel were registered as title II firearms owners.
However, BATF agents themselves have admitted their records are in disarray.
In 1995, Thomas A. Busey was Chief of the National Firarms Act Branch of the BATF (The official custodian of Title II records.) He testified during a training meeting that the agency's registration records are less than fifty percent accurate.
Gun Owners of America has video footage of this meeting where Busey not only admits their records are a mess, but confesses that the BATF routinely testifies (falsely) in court that their records are 100 percent accurate.
Despite the fact their records are incomplete and inaccurate, the BATF raided the Davidian's home in Waco in an attempt to "enforce the laws on the books." This is the kind of action that Project Exile could easily lead to in the name of enforcing existing gun laws.
Well, two months after the seige began upon the Davidians, more than 80 men, women, and children died during a second assault upon their home.
David Hardy, a Tucson, Arizona attorney, has now authored This Is Not an Assault which is a fascinating account of his efforts to find out what really happened at Waco.
Hardy has filed a series of FOIA requests in an effort to get to the bottom of the Waco tragedy. (FOIA stands for Freedom of Information Act and is pronounced "foya" inside the Beltway).
What he has uncovered is very damaging to the government's insistence that, except for a few honest mistakes, BATF and FBI agents did nothing wrong at Waco.
Hardy has an eye for detail, and it was the BATF and FBI Waco reports, plus the 1995 hearings in the House of Representatives, that led Hardy to believe the government's account of what happened at Waco did not add up.
For example, photos of one of the victims of the fire that ended the siege of the Davidians were curious. The victim, Jimmy Riddle, had been photographed amidst the ashes of the fire, yet most of his body and clothes were not burned. Had his body been moved? And why?
The information Hardy pried out of officials' hands progressively revealed government perjury. The BATF denied that Koresh could have been arrested by nabbing him in town even though plenty of witnesses saw him off the Davidian's property. Well, the FOIA's revealed that BATF agents had gone shooting with Koresh nine days before the assault.
Audio tapes made on the first day of the assault revealed the sound of shots being fired from helicopters that buzzed the Davidians. Sifting through the disclosures made to Hardy enabled him to state categorically that the Davidians did not ambush the BATF attackers, and that the BATF fired first.
Forward Looking Infra Red (FLIR) tapes were pried out of the government grudgingly. Denials that tapes existed were finally given up when Hardy was able to show that the government referred elsewhere to their existence. These tapes were made on the last day -- the day of the fatal fire.
Some twelve tons of evidence had been stored by the Texas Rangers. When an examination of some of that evidence revealed that, contrary to repeated FBI denials, pyrotechnic rounds had been fired into the Davidians, the Justice Department sent Federal Marshals to the FBI's facility at Quantico, Virginia.
The Marshals took possession of FLIR tapes made from approximately 6:00 a.m. to 10:42 a.m. -- tapes that an FBI official had told Hardy in writing and under oath did not exist.
Hardy was able to piece together a picture of two FBI's -- one, represented by the negotiators during the siege and the other represented by the paramilitary Hostage Rescue Team (HRT).
On at least three occasions the negotiators got the Davidians to agree to leave their building and surrender. Each time, the HRT foiled a peaceful solution by aggressive, offensive and -- finally -- fatal behavior.
Hardy's FOIA disclosures included recordings of the monitoring devices during the last night the Davidians were alive. They picked up their preparations to pack and leave the next day -- the day of the fatal fire. The FBI assault precluded that departure.
The Waco siege ended in tragedy, Hardy found, because the FBI's HRT had run amuck.
Related to Hardy's book is the FLIR Project documentary produced by Mike McNulty. McNulty has benefited a great deal from the FOIA disclosures resulting from Hardy's tenacious efforts to get to the truth.
His video demonstrates the falsity of the Danforth Commission's finding that the FBI did not fire into the Davidians' building during the last day of the seige.
Now, Danforth himself is critical of the FBI, blasting them for having been recalcitrant and not forthcoming with information. Danforth recently stated in an early June news conference that he had to threaten the FBI with subpoenas to get what information he did get from them.
One of the government officials involved in the Danforth Commission test, U.S. Postal Service Inspector Robert Stewart, has told the media that the test did not use the same kind of rifles and ammo used by the FBI on April 19, 1993.