Newsletters 1994-2001

Should a person who uses a firearm in self-defense be sent to prison?

Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), who recently reintroduced the Citizens Self-Defense Act, doesn't think so.
What the Citizen Self-Defense Act Does

The intent of the CSDA (HR 27) is to protect individuals who successfully defend themselves or others from violent attack, only to find themselves in the clutches of anti-gun prosecutors. Consider, for example, the case of Brian Mace, reported in the October 26, 1995, issue of The Gun Owners.

Brian used a firearm to defend himself and two friends from the attack of a raging madman. Brian defended himself and his friends from the attacker, but no one could save Brian from the anti-gun prosecutor. He was charged with murder, and later convicted of manslaughter.
Woman Persecuted for Defending Against Harasser

TGO readers will also remember Laura Kuriatnyk. Mrs. Kuriatnyk was being harassed by a neighbor for over a year. One night, while her husband was away at work, the neighbor came to her house, looked through a window, then later accused Mrs. Kuriatnyk of merely brandishing a firearm. The authorities, seeing no justifiable reason for a person to brandish a firearm when being harassed, dragged Mrs. Kuriatnyk through an arduous, year-long court battle before a judge finally dismissed the charges.
Baltimore Man Arrested for Saving Life

Then there is the case of Theron Richardson of Baltimore, who came to the aid of a 21-year-old pre-med student who was being choked to death by two thugs. Mr. Richardson came out of his house with an unloaded .32 caliber, and kept the attackers on the ground while his wife called the police. Mr. Richardson never even left his own property.

When the police arrived, Mr. Richardson, who should have been hailed as a hero, was forced to the ground while his wife and children looked on. He was taken to the police station in the same vehicle as the attackers, charged with a weapons violation, and spent 26 horrific hours in a Baltimore jail cell. A month later, charges were finally dropped.
Man Convicted for Killing Alligator in Self-Defense

The most blatant example of the disregard for the right to defense of self and others, however, occurred in Florida in 1995. Keith Kovacs witnessed an alligator going after his 9-year-old daughter. Mr. Kovacs shot and killed the menacing 'gator, saving the little girls life.

What happened to Keith Kovacs after he did what any parent would do? He was charged and convicted of felony poaching. For saving his daughter's life, Mr. Kovacs is now a felon, and is prohibited by law from owning firearms.
Congress Must Act on CSDA

Our right to self-defense is being destroyed by anti-gun zealots who would rather send innocent persons to prison than admit that firearms are the most effective means of self-defense. The CSDA is an important tool that will help keep anti-gun prosecutors and judges from trampling all over the Constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.
New Gun Ban Stripping Self-Defense Right from Millions
-- GOA continues offensive against onerous law

The horror stories have begun to come in. The names and places may be different, but all across the country, millions of decent Americans are being disarmed as a result of last year's far-reaching gun ban.

Readers of The Gun Owners will recall that just before the Congress adjourned last year, Representatives snuck through two restrictive gun bans. One of the bans in particular, the Domestic Confiscation ban offered by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), has resulted in several million people losing their ability to defend themselves with a firearm.

GOA had warned every pro-gun Congressman that such a ban would become one of the most onerous gun restrictions passed in the last 30 years. But these warnings went unheeded as Congress gave President Clinton two more gun bans to sign into law.

Former Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas reported during a T.V. interview in December that many Congressmen were told by the House leadership that the "bill was clean of any gun control." Stockman notes that only the "warning from Gun Owners of America [told them] that this wasn't right."
Gun ban: anti-woman, anti-police and anti-family

Even so, some staffers on Capitol Hill simply could not believe that the Lautenberg ban could be as bad as GOA was predicting. And yet, press reports all across the country have now documented the sweeping nature of the Domestic Confiscation ban.

For example, the Wall Street Journal recently confirmed that the problems cited by GOA before the ban passed are now, in fact, occurring. According to the December 23, 1996 article in the Journal, the gun ban is:

* Disarming many law enforcement officers and American servicemen across the country;

* Disarming men and women for domestic disputes that occurred 20 years ago or more; and is

* Threatening to disarm parents who have been convicted for simply spanking their children.

For now, this gun ban only applies to certain misdemeanors, but it sets a very bad precedent, since previously, only serious crimes -- such as felonies, dishonorable discharges, etc. -- could strip a person of his or her rights.
Losing your gun rights without a jury trial

A person can lose his or her guns forever under the Lautenberg gun ban for "the use or attempted use of physical force" against a family member.(1) Notice that you can lose your Second Amendment rights even for the "attempted use" of force.

Imagine that . . . losing one's gun rights just for spanking -- or merely "attempting" to spank -- one's child in the grocery store.

Moreover, in some cases, you can lose your gun rights without even a jury trial! Many misdemeanors do not guarantee a jury trial, and the new law does not require that one must be tried by a jury before losing his or her gun rights. Many offenders are now shocked to learn that a minor infraction from their teenage years is preventing them from owning a gun for life.

The nation has only just begun to learn about the hidden horrors that were lodged in this new ban. According to the Wall Street Journal:

    Congress held no hearings on the Lautenberg Act before it was enacted and most congressmen will likely be surprised at the police backlash against the law. . . .

    Thanks to the Lautenberg Act, there are probably at least one million new felons in this nation -- people with misdemeanor convictions who retain their firearms because they are unaware of their duty to disarm themselves. The act should be repealed.

That's right. Those affected by this new law -- even if they don't realize it yet -- have a duty to disarm themselves or face a felony prosecution!

In his memo of November 1996, the head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms stated that persons covered by the provisions of this law must "immediately [and] lawfully dispose of their firearms and ammunition" -- even for a misdemeanor occurring 20 years ago.

If a person does not disarm himself, then he will be guilty of a felony which could subject him to a $250,000 fine and a ten year prison sentence.
How easily can one lose his or her gun rights?

Spanking a child. Slapping a husband. Pushing a spouse out of the way. All of these demonstrations of "physical force" are enough to disarm someone for life.

The head of the BATF has stated the gun ban applies to "all misdemeanors that involve the use or attempted use of physical force."

Thus, an attempt by a wife to push her husband out of the doorway, as he is blocking her exit from their home, is a crime which would impose a lifetime gun ban on her, even if no physical contact occurred.

Or something as innocuous as the First Lady throwing a lamp at her husband would even fit this definition. If convicted of this "crime" -- or if the spouse merely plea-bargained to the same -- the "lamp thrower" would now be disarmed for life.
Disarming the law-abiding

Any domestic violence misdemeanor, no matter how minor or insignificant, will now revoke one's God-given right to use arms for self-defense. Consider what is already happening:

* In Ohio, one GOA member had an intense verbal argument with his father ten years ago. The father landed his son in jail for one night to "teach him a lesson." But he was surprised to learn the next morning that he could not drop the charges against his son. The resulting domestic violence misdemeanor against the son is now preventing this 27 year old from becoming a law-enforcement officer and from ever again defending his life with a gun.

* In Virginia, a gun collector owning more than $100,00 worth of firearms now must dump his entire collection because of an argument with his wife that resulted in a $10 fine for a domestic violence misdemeanor more than 20 years ago! Never mind the fact that he has lived an exemplary life since then, and has otherwise been happily married to the same woman for 34 years.

* In Illinois, another GOA member lost her gun rights after calling the police to her home. When her first husband returned home drunk one evening, ten years ago, an argument ensued and he started breaking out the windows in the house. Frightened, she called the police, but when they arrived they claimed there was nothing they could do since it was his own property.

Angered by her husband's smug look, she slapped him in the face, right in front of the police officer. Incredibly, the police arrested her and took her to jail, charging her with simple assault. In order to avoid the costly expense of a trial and hiring an attorney, she pled guilty to a misdemeanor and paid a $25 fine.

Now because of the Lautenberg gun ban, she can no longer own guns, and her current husband can't even keep his guns in the house where she and he live together.

All because legislators snuck through a gun ban -- without hearings -- in the closing hours of the 104th Congress.

All because "pro-gun" legislators in Congress decided to federalize a state issue, and after disregarding the Constitution, even failed to make any distinction between disarming truly violent "wife beaters" and disarming "beaten wives."
Disarming those who need guns the most

The gun banners claim they just want to target "wife abusers." But clearly, this legislation goes much further than that. This ban does not target violent felons. Felons had already forfeited their civil rights.

No, the gun ban targets misdemeanors (minor infractions), which means that even the conviction of a woman who slaps her husband in anger would now be enough to revoke her gun rights forever!

In fact, recent press reports indicate that many women will be unduly affected by this gun ban. According to the Wall Street Journal,

    Bogus charges of domestic violence are routinely used as tactics in divorce proceedings, and many people who plea-bargained 20 years ago on such a charge and paid a small court fine (instead of spending $5,000 in legal fees to defend themselves) will be surprised to discover that they have lost one of their constitutional rights. . . . [W]omen are not exempted from the new law, and even though they may need guns more than physically stronger men, they are increasingly likely to be stripped of the means of self-defense by its provisions.

Peter Proctor, a forensic expert in Houston, says that, "Many domestic violence charges are false -- perhaps as many as one-third where child custody or divorce issues are involved."

In addition, since the late 1980's, many localities have begun requiring the police to charge abusers of both sexes, even if there's no clear physical sign of violence or the victim doesn't want to press charges.

"Women are being charged with assault when it's self-defense or fictitious," says Sue Osthoff of the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women. "When the web is thrown out, women come back in, often inappropriately."
Disarming the needy can have deadly consequences

The problems that will result from the Lautenberg gun ban are not fictitious. Decent, law-abiding Americans have already lost their lives after being wrongfully disarmed by the police.

Consider Polly Pryzbyl of Cheektowaga, New York. She was murdered by her husband in 1994, only days after the police had taken away her gun.

When Polly had separated from her husband a few days earlier, she took her children to her mother's house. Her husband showed up one day and threatened them, but she repelled the attack after brandishing a pistol. The police arrived shortly afterwards and confiscated her firearm.

A few days later, Polly went with her mother to her husband's house to pick up some clothes for her kids. Her husband, who was home, stepped out of his house and killed them both.
GOA pressing for a full repeal of gun ban

GOA lobbyists have been working overtime on Capitol Hill, pushing support for a full repeal of this onerous ban.

But as this newsletter goes to press, there is still not an adequate repeal bill that has been introduced. Legislation has been introduced in Congress -- but none of the bills will fully repeal the ban.

Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) has introduced H.R. 26, a bill that only repeals the part about past offenses. And Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) has introduced H.R. 445, a bill that will only exempt the police and military.

"If the law is a bad idea for the police and military, then it is also a bad idea for everyone else," said GOA head Larry Pratt in a letter to the Congress. "And if the ban is bad retroactively, then it's a bad idea for the future as well.

"Don't just 'tweak' the law. A sick patient needs the entire cancer removed, not just pain killers to ease the pain."

GOA has model legislation to fully repeal the gun ban and has presented it to several offices in Congress. Many Congressmen are interested in the GOA bill and could very well introduce it in the near future. Please stay tuned for further developments.

1. Congressional Record, 9/28/96, p. H11743, Sec. 658 of the Treasury-Postal portion of H.R. 3610.
Good Samaritan Apprehends Suspects
Pro-Gun Legislator Now Faces Criminal Penalties

Anti-gun fear mongers love to spread horrific prophecies of wild west shoot-outs when states make it easier for citizens to carry concealed firearms. Time and again, their forebodings have proven false, as states adopting such policies have not turned into shooting galleries.

In fact, according to a recent study by University of Chicago Professor John Lott, there is an inverse relationship between crime and the right to carry: crime goes down when citizens are allowed to exercise their right to carry concealed firearms.

But how do the anti-gunners react when a responsible citizen uses a gun to successfully apprehend dangerous felons? As the case of David Bresnahan shows, they will stop at nothing to portray the gun owner as the criminal.

David Bresnahan is a citizen in good standing in the community, so much so that the people of West Jordan, Utah, elected him as their representative to the state legislature in 1994. Bresnahan is a staunch gun rights activist, and was a leading advocate of easing restrictions for law-abiding citizens to carry concealed firearms.

Mr. Bresnahan believes that when citizens of the community exercise the right to carry, the community will be a safer, not a more dangerous place. He is not a man of just talk, but of action.

In October of last year, Mr. Bresnahan saw a van run a red light. It then smashed into an occupied car, seriously injuring a young single mother, and left the scene of the accident. Mr. Bresnahan followed the van until it stopped in a ditch, whereupon he and three others pursued the driver of the van and another man on foot.

The fleeing men ran along a canal, then began climbing a fence, about to cross over into a residential area. Fearful that this might develop into a hostage situation, Mr. Bresnahan fired a warning shot from his .25 caliber handgun into the mud of a canal bank.

The two suspects climbed back over the fence and surrendered. "The perpetrators were fleeing an injury accident, a felony," Mr. Bresnahan said. "They obviously showed lack of regard for others."

Most people would consider Mr. Bresnahan a hero. He used his firearm in a most responsible way; firing into soft mud. In all probability, he kept a bad situation from getting worse. He should have been commended for his actions.

Instead, he finds himself charged with criminal misuse of a firearm. If convicted, he faces a possible six-month jail sentence and a $1,000 fine. In addition, the authorities are considering revoking his concealed carry permit.

This is an appalling case because if Mr. Bresnahan is convicted, it will send a dangerous message to society: that our government is working to protect criminals from law-abiding citizens, so don't get involved.

"What I did was right, it was lawful, I would do it again, and I believe a jury of my peers will support me," Mr. Bresnahan said.

Mr. Bresnahan's actions confirm what professor Lott has shown in his studies; that responsible gun owners are a tremendous asset to society. The police cannot be there to protect every citizen, nor are they required to do so. Responsible citizens working together to stop law-breakers should be encouraged, not punished as if they were criminals.

Gun Owners Foundation has established a Legal Assistance Fund on behalf of David Bresnahan. Tax-deductible contributions can be made through GOF. Make checks payable to Gun Owners Foundation and mail to: 8001 Forbes Place, Suite 102, Springfield, VA 22151.

Please write "Bresnahan" on the memo line to properly designate your contribution. Every dollar contributed to the Bresnahan assistance fund will go directly to his legal defense.
Brady "Instant Check" Registering Gun Owners

Most gun owners agree that the biggest step toward a complete ban on the private ownership of firearms is the registering of gun owners. Using the so-called instant check system, passed as part of the Brady bill, the federal government has taken a giant step in that direction.

For years, GOA has stood virtually alone in opposing the Brady instant check. Because it is widely supported by many "pro-gun" politicians and other groups, it is helpful to revisit why GOA opposes this legislation, and why it is a threat to the very core of the Second Amendment. But first, a brief history.
The Great Compromise

When the Brady law was being debated by Congress in the 1980s and early 1990s, there were two distinct issues under consideration. One matter was a waiting period, or so-called cooling off time. The pro and anti-gun forces in Congress were fairly polarized on this point. Led by Charles Schumer (D-NY), the anti-gun forces were preaching the virtues of having to wait seven (later reduced to five) days between the sale and the actual possession of a handgun.

The pro-gun side was opposed to the waiting period on Constitutional grounds. Fine so far. But there was a second issue involved in Brady for which the "pro-gunners" had no satisfactory answer; the background check.

Schumer et al, proposed that the background check be performed during the waiting period. The opposing side, both inside and outside of Congress, scrambled for another "solution." What they came up with was the instant check system. "If you back off the waiting period," they said, "we'll give you your background check instantly through the use of computers and technology." As if to prove this, the instant check was passed in Virginia in 1989. The gun banners agreed to let the waiting period expire, and in 1993, the "instant check" passed as part of Brady.

This was considered to be a victory for gun owners. Few questioned the fact that the anti-gunners got half of what they wanted while gun owners were stuck with an empty bag. The "great compromise" was no compromise at all; we got the shaft.

By 1998, the U.S. Attorney General is required to "establish a national instant criminal background check system that any licensee (gun dealer) may contact, by telephone or by other electronic means...on whether receipt of a firearm by prospective transferee (you) would violate Section 922 of Title 18."
The Dangerous Instant Check

All along, GOA had been warning of the dangers of the "instant check." Whenever names are entered into a computer, GOA has argued, there is no guarantee they will ever come out, regardless of what the law says.

Brady mandates that background check names be deleted after a certain period of time, but the temptation of government officials to hang on to the names is overwhelming.

To prove this point, GOA has often cited a 1989 Justice Department report which stated that, "Any system that requires a criminal history record check prior to purchase of a firearm creates the potential for the automated tracking of individuals who seek to purchase firearms."

Now, eight years later, our fears have become a reality.
"FIST"

In 1996, a Commission for the Bureau of Justice Statistics developed a computer database through which all information regarding gun purchases must flow. The result was the Firearms Inquiry Statistical Tracking: FIST.

Any government agent or agency who wants a list of gun owners must salivate at the potential of FIST. This data base includes "fields" for all information that is gathered at the point of purchase, which incorporates the 4473 form, the Brady form, and any applicable state forms.

Put together, these forms contain the name, address, Social Security number, drivers license number, age, sex, race, height, weight, home and business phone, concealed carry permit request information, the firearm's make, model, serial number, caliber and barrel length, information regarding the final outcome of the background check, and more.

Herein lies the opportunities for abuse. All of the above information is sent from the dealer to the Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO), who is the person responsible for executing the background check. This can be done now with the FIST program.

The CLEO is supposed to retain the information for only 20 days, but is in effect accountable to no one for doing so. With all of this information already computerized, it would be an incredibly simple task to gather up diskettes nationwide and compile a national list of gun owners.

Gun owners must wake up to the dangers of the "instant registration check." Law-abiding citizens should not have to receive prior government approval, whether it be through an instant check or any other means, before exercising their rights. The instant registration scheme is poised to become the downfall of the Second Amendment.

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