by Larry Pratt
The 1997 Congress will not go on record as one of the most pro-gun Congresses to ever convene. Nevertheless, gun owners can take satisfaction in knowing that things could have been much worse if they had not been active in the legislative process.
There is no doubt that mail from GOA members is having an impact on legislation. One letter by itself might go unnoticed in a Congressional office. But when that one letter is joined by hundreds of other letters and postcards, legislators have to take notice.
Over the years, making politicians "feel the heat" has become the foundation upon which Gun Owners of America has built its successful lobbying organization. Making politicians "feel the heat" has allowed GOA to bring about positive legislative changes and still maintain a "no compromise" defense of the Second Amendment.
And 1997 was no exception. Pro-gun Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) noted earlier this year that "Gun Owners of America is the only no compromise gun lobby in Washington."
Because of your generous support, Gun Owners of America has remained on the front lines in 1997 while defending your gun rights in an uncompromising manner. In many battles, GOA has remained virtually alone at the national level.
GOA leading charge to repeal the Lautenberg Gun Ban
Gun Owners of America made the repeal of the Lautenberg gun ban a priority in 1997. This ban disarms gun owners for minor misdemeanors committed in the home -- "offenses" as slight as spanking a child or grabbing a spouse. Just as outrageous is the fact that this lifetime gun ban can even disarm people who did not receive a jury trial.
Last year, GOA was the only national organization warning the grassroots about every aspect of this ban before it passed. (See Senate Gun Votes) This year, GOA has been the leader in pushing for a full repeal.
Early in the year, a compromise repeal bill was introduced by Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) -- a bill which would only repeal the retroactive enforcement of the ban. But GOA refused to compromise and settle for the half-baked repeal which would still leave the gun ban in the federal code for the future.
GOA began a postcard campaign to get a full repeal introduced. Soon afterward, Rep. Helen Chenoweth's office told GOA that they had received "lots of postcards" from GOA members asking her to introduce the bill. Encouraged by this support, she introduced H.R. 1009 -- the only bill to repeal the entire Lautenberg gun ban.
Right before the bill was officially introduced, GOA members and activists were instrumental in getting almost a dozen original cosponsors on H.R. 1009. GOA sent out both fax and e-mail alerts in early March asking gun owners to urge legislators to support a forthcoming Chenoweth repeal bill.
GOA members deluge the House
The resulting deluge of phone calls had legislative offices asking, "where are all those phone calls coming from?" Some offices reportedly received as many as 100 phone calls in support of the Chenoweth bill -- even before the bill was introduced.
Startled by the outpouring of grassroots interest, Capitol Hill offices were contacting both GOA and Rep. Chenoweth's office to get more information on the forthcoming bill.
By the time Rep. Chenoweth introduced her bill, there were 11 original cosponsors -- a significant number considering the fact that these Representatives were rounded up on such short notice.
Gun Owners hosts Women's Gun Rights Day
In July, GOA organized about a dozen groups for a Women's Gun Rights press conference. Among other things, the coalition called on Representatives to cosponsor H.R. 1009.
Rep. Chenoweth thanked the GOA staff for the "fine effort" put into hosting the Women's Gun Rights press conference. "The speakers you brought in were excellent . . . [and they] showed just how dangerous gun control legislation, like the Lautenberg gun ban, can be."
Gun Owners Foundation (GOF) also organized a luncheon for Representatives and their staffs, and flew in notable speakers from around the country to discuss the Lautenberg gun ban. The luncheon was very well attended and allowed many of the Representatives' offices to see, perhaps for the first time, how "well-intentioned" gun control laws have serious consequences for law-abiding citizens.
GOA members push Chenoweth bill over the top
Many supposedly pro-gun Representatives still have not signed onto Rep. Chenoweth's repeal bill, as they have been intimidated by the rhetoric of the gun control side.
But GOA members, to their credit, have accomplished a mighty feat in getting 35 cosponsors to sign onto this repeal bill. Every time a new wave of postcards has landed on Capitol Hill, more Representatives have jumped on board as a result.
"I appreciate the hard work Gun Owners of America and its members have put into pushing my bill to repeal the Lautenberg gun ban, H.R. 1009," said Rep. Chenoweth. "Your strong support has helped H.R. 1009 get more cosponsors than any other bill dealing with this pernicious law."
GOA members deluge Senate
Over on the Senate side of the Capitol, GOA members were also flooding offices, in the words of one Senate staffer, with a "significant amount of mail."
In particular, GOA has focused attention on a juvenile crime bill introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). This bill, S. 10, treats gun owners like organized crime figures and, originally, could have sent a gun dealer, manufacturer or owner to prison for up to 20 years for something as minor as two record-keeping mistakes.
As reported in last month's The Gun Owners, Sen. Hatch came under intense pressure from GOA and its members and modified the most dangerous part of the bill. Because of this modification, the bill no longer imposes draconian sentences on gun dealers for innocent record-keeping mistakes, although gun owners are still in danger if they commit very minor, technical offenses.
GOA members apply the heat; Senators see the light
The late Senate Republican Minority Leader, Everett Dirksen, used to say that, "When I feel the heat, I see the light." This frank admission by one Senator is, in reality, a description of what motivates most politicians to do what they otherwise would not.
Sen. Dirksen's admission is just as much true today as it was in the 1960s when he was the Minority Leader. And his frank acknowledgment has become the rallying cry and motivation for GOA members and activists.
GOA members stirred up a hornet's nest when they sent thousands upon thousands of postcards and letters to Senate offices. At the same time, GOA staff were contacting each Senator's office with the specific details, showing how S. 10 compromised gun owners' rights.
Several offices responded by telling GOA they could not support the bill as it was then drafted. In fact, two Senators, who had originally cosponsored S. 10, asked to have their names withdrawn as a result of GOA's campaign. [Gun owners should thank Senators Wayne Allard (R-CO) and Bob Smith (R-NH) for their courageous stands. Withdrawing one's name as a cosponsor is a rare event on Capitol Hill.]
Facing pressure on all fronts, Senator Hatch revised his bill and modified the most onerous provision in the bill. But S. 10 would still "RICOize" many gun offenses. That is, a gun owner, under certain circumstances, could face 25 years in prison for committing a very technical offense such as taking his kids pistol shooting without giving them "written permission."
Nevertheless, gun owners have been able to accomplish a great deal. The Congressional Quarterly (July 19, 1997) reported that S. 10 was "identified at the beginning of the year as one of the chamber's top five priorities." But to the chagrin of Sen. Hatch and other Republicans, time delays (and unexpected "heat") stalled the bill in committee for much of the year.
[Just recently, Senator Hatch managed to push S. 10 out of the committee and onto the Senate calendar. While S. 10 has been even further amended -- for the better -- since our report in the last issue of TGO, the bill still contains problems (as mentioned above). Thus, GOA members must remain ever vigilant in 1998 and should look for updates in TGO. If the Senate should pass S. 10, look for GOA to begin a postcard campaign aimed at the House of Representatives.]
GOA activists help squelch anti-rights bill
In another important battle, GOA activated its alert network (both fax and e-mail) to help defeat the very dangerous McCain-Feingold bill in October. This "Incumbent Protection Bill" (S. 25) would have resulted in the government regulation of GOA's newsletters and other communications with its members, while expanding the relative political power of the liberal media and other anti-gun forces.
In a dramatic victory for pro-gun forces, Senators failed in their effort, by a 53 to 47 vote, to shut down a filibuster of the McCain-Feingold campaign bill. Sixty votes would have been necessary in order to shut off debate. (See Senate Votes.)
Since January, GOA has taken the lead in actively fighting McCain-Feingold. At the beginning of the year, GOA proposed a package of "killer amendments" designed to destroy the bill. Ultimately, the Senate Majority Leader adopted a "killer amendment" strategy to prevent McCain and Feingold from "sweetening" their bill in order to attract more votes.
GOA spokesmen appeared on national television attacking the anti-gun bill, while, behind the scenes, GOA strategists led conservatives in plotting strategy.
GOA members can be justly proud of this victory on behalf of the First and Second Amendments. One senator, Tim Hutchinson of Arkansas, received so many calls from pro-gun constituents that his office phoned GOA in order to plead that we "call off the dogs." Not surprisingly, Hutchinson switched his vote on the first McCain-Feingold roll call to a pro-gun vote on the second day.
[As this newsletter goes to press, both the Senate and House leadership have announced that they will schedule another vote on this legislation in the Spring. GOA will be alerting its members and relying upon their activism to put the "heat" on once again.]
GOA members win battle with BLM
GOA members won an important victory in mid-March when Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of the Interior, directed the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to halt action on proposed rules that would have greatly restricted people's Second Amendment rights.
The powers of BLM law enforcement personnel would have been greatly expanded, especially as they relate to the use of firearms by law-abiding citizens.
GOA warned its members by fax and e-mail in January about the proposed danger, and urged members to submit comments to the BLM opposing the regulations. As a result, activists not only hounded their Congressmen, they blitzed the mailboxes at BLM headquarters as well.
Babbitt cites large response from gun owners
Bruce Babbitt explained in March that his decision to stop further action on the proposal resulted from the "many public comments received" opposing the idea. Indeed, BLM Director Sylvia Baca acknowledged "widespread concern" among people in the West over the proposed changes.
The proposed rule, on page 57615 of the Federal Register for November 7, 1996, could have effectively prohibited both hunting and the use of firearms for self-defense on much of the public lands that gun owners can now enjoy.
Moreover, the proposed rule would have allowed BLM to "[s]earch without warrant or process any person, place, or vehicle according to any Federal law or rule of law; and ...[s]eize without warrant or process any piece of evidence as provided by Federal law." (Emphasis added.)
GOA owes a debt of gratitude on this to Rep. Helen Chenoweth who cajoled BLM into giving GOA members and the public more time to register their opposition.
GOF brief contributes to Brady decision
In addition to lobbying the Executive and Legislative branches of the federal government, Gun Owners has been involved at the judiciary level as well.
In 1996, Gun Owners Foundation (GOF) filed a brief with the Supreme Court on behalf of two sheriffs who took the Brady law to court. In June of this year, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of freedom and gun owners when it ruled that the federal government has no authority to compel state officials to perform the Brady background check.
GOF was delighted to see that two of its arguments were used by the Court in striking down a portion of the Brady law. Gun Owners Foundation was the only organization to use these arguments (which relate to Congress' complete lack of authority to commission federal law enforcement officers).
1997 in the States
GOA was involved in several states this year, a few of which are mentioned below.
Gun owners joined with liberty activists this summer and won a stunning victory by defeating the Department of Public Safety's plan to fingerprint driver's license applicants and encode the print in government computers. Understanding that computerizing fingerprints into driver's license data bases is part of the architecture for gun owner registration, GOA joined efforts to oppose this scheme.
No new gun control
GOA members fought to remove several anti-gun provisions from a concealed carry "reform" bill in the Senate. Restrictions such as higher fees, fingerprinting and centralized gun owner registration were just some of the items over which GOA members successfully lobbied their legislators.
In the House, GOA members worked with pro-gun Rep. Mark Paschall (R-26) to force votes to remove centralized registration and mandatory training, and as well to lower fees. GOA also worked with Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-65) to force a vote on Vermont-style concealed carry, and fought to restore people's right to carry in a car without intrusive government regulations.
Gun control goes down in flames
Gun Owners of America was instrumental in blocking dangerous legislation this past Spring. GOA generated a flood of phone calls and faxes against several gun control bills, including one that was similar to the Lautenberg domestic gun passed last year at the national level.
Gun Owners shut out BATF
Gun Owners of America worked closely with Citizens for Safe Government (CSG) to stop an attempt to give federal gun police (BATF) expanded jurisdiction and immunity with respect to state law. Among other things, BATF agents would have been given the power to stop vehicles and seize otherwise legally owned firearms that were in violation of the Gun Free Zones Ban passed by Congress last year.
GOA and CSG generated an intense grassroots outpouring against the bill (HB 163) in the Spring. Postcards, faxes, letters and phone calls opposing the bill poured in from all over the state, causing lawmakers to take notice and defeat the bill.
Progress made on concealed carry
Gun owners were active in the Granite State this year, pushing one pro-gun bill out of the Senate and killing several anti-gun bills.
On the offensive end, GOA members fought for the "Lifetime Carry Bill," SB 66. This bill improves the existing laws in the state by making permits good for life -- thus eliminating costly and intrusive renewal fees.
Defensively, GOA strongly opposed three anti-gun bills. The first was a "lock up your safety" bill, which demanded that you keep your gun stored away, meaning it will be out of reach when you might need it most. GOA also strongly opposed an expansion of the federal Brady law, that would allow for registration of all firearms including all long guns. Finally, GOA combated a "study" bill, intended to fund a biased report concerning gun storage and the safety of children.
GOA lassoes "Trojan Horse"
The Mountain State was yet one more battleground where gun owners were victorious this past year. The New Gun Week (6/20/97) reported on GOA's efforts in the state, noting that "putting the heat" on legislators can make a difference.
Gun activists came out of the woodwork to oppose SB 98 after GOA alerted members to how this Trojan Horse threatened their firearms rights. Because SB 98 had enjoyed the support of another gun lobby, the bill passed unanimously in the House.
But thankfully, GOA found out about this deceptively bad bill and helped spread the word to the grassroots. The members did the rest. West Virginia citizens stepped up and stopped this anti-gun juggernaut in its tracks -- killing a bill that would have severely restricted gun rights by requiring retraining every time a concealed carry license was renewed, and would have given government control over those training requirements.
Gun Owners of America was also heavily involved in states like North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Washington and many more -- too many to mention here. Please see the State Alerts section of the website.
In 1998, GOA will continue fighting anti-gun legislation at the federal and state levels, in addition to any U.N. inroads against our gun rights.
GOA appeared on scores of national and local talk shows this past year, and likewise, will continue educating Americans on Second Amendment issues.
We will continue leading the charge in favor of important legislation like the Citizen's Defense Act (H.R. 27), the Lautenberg repeal bill (H.R. 1009), and many, many more.
Finally, GOA will remain committed to keeping legislators accountable. To do this, we will keep the grassroots informed and frequently report on how their legislators are voting.
GOA firmly believes the grassroots must stay informed and keep the "heat" on their elected officials. This is what GOA helped its members do during 1997, and with your support, what we will continue to do next year.
What They're Saying about GOA and its members . . .
"I appreciate the hard work Gun Owners of America and its members have put into pushing my bill to repeal the Lautenberg gun ban, H.R. 1009. Your strong support has helped H.R. 1009 get more cosponsors than any other bill dealing with this pernicious law. Thank you again for the tremendous work your organization has put into fighting for our Second Amendment rights."
"Let me reiterate my deep appreciation for the tremendous job being done by Gun Owners of America in the battle to defend America's right to keep and bear arms. There is no question that without G.O.A., American gun rights would be in even greater peril today."
"If it were not for Larry Pratt and Gun Owners of America, I shudder to think where our gun rights would be today . It is Gun Owners' members, showering the Congress with faxes, postcards and Telegrams who ensure that your Representative does not forget the promises made during the election season."
"Gun Owners of America is the only no compromise gun lobby in Washington. I am grateful to have the friendship of the man who makes GOA the leader in defending America's precious freedoms."
"Thank you for your mail on Sen. Webster's [concealed carry bill]. We have had a ton of cards supporting the bill. Please continue to keep the cards, etc. flowing -- especially to the committee chairs."
Do You Ever Drive By A School That Looks Like This?
According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, you may do that more than you think.
Remember the Gun Free Zones Act that passed as part of the omnibus appropriations bill in 1996? That law states that, with very few exceptions, it is a felony crime to pass within 1,000 feet of any school in the country with a firearm.
GOA warned that the law could have serious implications regarding home schools. Capitol Hill know-it-alls disregarded our concerns as paranoid irrelevancies.
Recently, however, in a letter to one U.S. Senator, BATF Director John Magaw stated that if a home school is considered a school by state law, "the possession of a firearm on the grounds of such school or within 1,000 of school grounds would violate the law."
This is not only a concern of home-schoolers. According to this BATF interpretation of the law, gun owners traveling in an automobile not only have to know where every public and private school is located, but also every home school as well.
The Gun Free Zones law is yet another square in the patchwork quilt of gun laws, forcing gun owners who want to lawfully carry a self-defense firearm to pass through a maze just to drive across town.
Gun Owners Foundation plans to file an amicus curiae brief in support of a lawsuit filed on behalf of certain home schooling families. Stay tuned to TGO for updates on efforts to repeal the gun free zones law in Congress and to strike the law down in the courts.
Sara Lee Says: "Let them Eat Cake!"
Sara Lee, the huge conglomerate famous for its frozen desserts, would like to put your gun rights in the deep freeze.
The business giant recently named rabid anti-gun radical Sarah Brady as "Humanitarian Woman of the Year!" Not only is the company advocating Brady's well known anti-gun agenda, but at the same time, they made Brady's notorious anti-2nd Amendment organization, HCI, $50,000.00 richer!
Many national organizations are calling for a boycott of Sara Lee products, which include much more than frozen custard pies, such as Hillshire Farms and Hanes products! Other Sara Lee owned brands include (contact the offices of GOA for a complete listing): Champion, Spaulding and Polo/Ralph Lauren sportswear, Playtex, Sheer Energy and Bali hosiery, Ball Park Franks, Jimmy Dean products--- and many, many more. Without realizing, we have been feeding the war chest of HCI by buying these brands!
As to Sarah Brady being an "outstanding humanitarian," and a "Woman of the Year," Janalee Tobias, President of Women Against Gun Control (WAGC), had this to say:
I'm concerned that Sara Lee is severely misguided - if they really want to help humanitarian causes and save lives, they are throwing good money after bad. Handguns save almost 2 million lives per year. The good thing about handguns is they are fat free and proven 100% more effective than a frozen cheesecake at stopping a criminal. If Sarah Brady were a true humanitarian, she would give the money back, so Sara Lee could invest it into their own products, which are laden with fat and cholesterol, the leading causes of heart disease, which is the Number One killer in the United States.
The pro-gun community needs to band together to show this anti-gun conglomerate that we the people demand better. Sure we've eaten their pies without knowing their liberal position- now we need to make them eat crow!
Washington State Votes For Freedom
Washington State voters sent a strong message to the State Government, the liberal media and the `ivory tower' elitists November: "LEAVE OUR GUNS ALONE!"
Initiative 676 was defeated by a landslide vote as the citizens of Washington State refused to let bigger and more oppressive government gain a foothold there. Seventy-one percent of the voters were against the measure!
I-676 was an anti-gun juggernaut, strongly supported by radical anti-gun liberals like Bill Gates and company, but voters there made it clear that their Constitutional right to self defense cannot be stripped from them by media misinformation and cold cash from elitists who pay others to protect them.
I-676 was overwhelmingly defeated despite BIG cash donations from the liberal elite. Small donations from the real working people, people who can't afford high-priced professional security, added up to victory for gun-rights.
Through the efforts of dedicated groups like the Western Fish and Wildlife Federation (with whom GOA worked closely during this crisis) the word got out. But it was the pro-gun voters of Washington State who defeated this anti-gun nightmare in the end. Congratulations to you, gun owners of Washington!
Through an innovative mailing campaign, GOA and activists from across the country contacted over 70,000 Washington citizens to alert them to this initiative. One gratified member faxed GOA's national headquarters the day after the tremendous grassroots victory:
Thanks for your uncompromising efforts in the defeat of I-676. It makes me proud to be a member of both GOA and WFWF. A political analyst on KOMO-TV last night said a grassroots campaign of this magnitude has not been seen in Washington state in twenty years. . . . My THANKS to you for your efforts to save this nation.
Elections of Special Interest
Anti-gun Governor Christine Todd Whitman squeaks by as James McGreevy comes within 1 percent! Pro-gun candidate Murry Sabrin takes 5 percent. Republicans hold state Senate and Assembly.
Jim Gilmore wins Governor defeating Don Beyer: Gun owners should prepare for an assault on statewide pre-emption in the 1998 General Assembly. John Hagar (R) wins Lt. Governor; he took a fairly strong pro-gun position on the GOA survey, while opponent L.F. Payne refused to answer. Mark Earley (R) wins Attorney General running as a stealth anti-gun candidate. Democrats retain control of State House; Republicans sweep top of ticket.
Michigan State Senate District 12: Pro-gun Dave Jaye wins primary! Gun owners carry him through to general election.
Pennsylvania State Senate District 10: Anti-gun Republican Joe Conti wins.
Columbus City Attorney: State Senator Bruce Johnson goes down in flames. His anti-gun maneuverings in the House and Senate, exposed by GOA, lead to his defeat as the voters demand better.
In six out of ten contested general election races, GOA survey results were mailed to gun owners with mixed results. Half of the pro-gun candidates GOA reported about were elected: solid pro-gun House candidates Jennings McAbee (R-12) and Bill Bowers (D-120) were voted in, along with Larry Grooms in Senate District 37.
The Not-So-Funny Clown
The notoriously anti-gun Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has teamed up with several other organizations, most notably Ronald McDonald House, on a project that will result in lessening of parental authority over school children's mental health treatment. The program will also result in pressure from school officials for parents to disarm themselves.
The Team Up To Save Lives program is being marketed as an anti-suicide strategy for teachers in our schools, but after viewing the entire program, GOA has discovered that the underlying purpose of the program is to force parents, through guilt tactics, to voluntarily disarm themselves.
What this program does is "educate" teachers to possible signs of "risk" in students, and then encourages them to refer students to the school counselors, who are advised by the program to take action. Sometimes these actions can consist of your child being treated psychologically and psychiatrically without parental consent, if the school official thinks such treatment is warranted.
If and when your child is deemed "at risk" (and may be deemed so by virtually ANY behavioral change), you may be visited by school officials who are instructed to get you to dispose of the firearms in your home, so as to protect the child from him/herself.
The program, which GOA has viewed on CD-Rom, contains video clip examples for teachers to effectively employ guilt tactics in order to frighten parents into relinquishing their firearms.
The entire program is nothing more than a front for liberal anti-gun rhetoric to be fed to the American family. One GOA staffer even took all four teachers' exams included with the program and earned a certificate after reading only three of the four test sections. How, you may ask? He simply answered anti-gun and pro-government intervention, receiving a perfect score!
Gun owners should protect themselves and their families from such na‹ve attempts at thought control. The push for "conformity for the sake of our children" is one more attempt to drag us into an era where the state, not the family, dictates how our children are raised.
Gun owners need to resist the attempts of clowns like Ronald McDonald and his liberal cronies to dictate our parenting.
|Is Your Senator Sponsoring S. 10? (Juvenile Crime Bill)|
Twenty-six senators have cosponsored Sen. Orrin Hatch's Juvenile Crime Bill (S. 10). This bill would treat gun owners like organized crime figures, increasing existing penalties for technical violations of federal gun laws.
Originally, this bill would have even punished gun dealers with 20 years in jail for committing two paper work mistakes. Pressure from GOA and its members forced significant changes in the bill by the time it was reported out of the Judiciary Committee, but problems still remain. For example, under certain circumstances parents that take their minor children pistol shooting, without fulfilling the absurd requirement of giving them written notes of authorization, could receive draconian penalties of 25 years in jail.
Senators who have cosponsored this bill are listed at right. Three Senators in italics have withdrawn their names from the cosponsorship list-- the heat you have applied is working.
Vermont-Style Carry in 1997 *
* States where bills or amendments have been introduced to model Vermont, where citizens can carry firearms as a matter of right -- without permits, taxes, fees, fingerprinting, etc.