6/97 Rep. Paul Introduces Repeal of Semi-Auto Ban
The 1994 Clinton gun ban passed as part of a larger crime bill. In sum, this crime bill banned more than 180 types of firearms, banned magazines holding more than 10 rounds, and placed unprecedented restrictions upon gun dealers. Rep. Paul’s bill would repeal all of these restrictions.
“The semi-automatic ban interferes with the rights of law-abiding gun owners, and further expands the bounds of unconstitutional laws on the statute books,” Paul said. “The U.S. Constitution grants Congress no authority to enact gun control legislation.”
The battle over the semi-auto ban in 1994 has been widely credited with handing the Republicans the control of the Congress in the ensuing elections. President Clinton himself remarked on several occasions that the gun ban “cost the Democrats an estimated 21 seats in the House and therefore handed control of the chamber to the Republicans.” [Campaigns & Elections magazine (Jan. 1995) placed the figure much higher, showing that the gun ban helped elect more than 60 new Republicans in the 1994 elections.]
Nevertheless, much of the current leadership in Congress seems to have run from the gun issue. The Republican “Wish List” printed in The Washington Times earlier this year revealed that out of all the goals the Party was pursuing, passing pro-gun legislation was not one of them.
Even in the Senate, none of the “pro-gun” legislators in that chamber have stepped forward to introduce a repeal of this onerous law. Even Senators like Mike Enzi of Wyoming, who pledged in the 1996 campaign to introduce a repeal of the semi-auto ban, have failed so far to make good on their promises.
Fifty percent of gun dealers have been forced out of business
The semi-auto ban is perhaps the best known gun control feature from the 1994 crime bill. Lesser known, however, is the many restrictions which were also imposed upon gun dealers in that bill — restrictions which have helped cut the number of gun dealers nationwide in half.
This has greatly contributed to the massive drop in federal firearms licensed (FFL) dealers. FFL’s have now plummeted nearly 57 percent to the lowest level in 22 years — for a total of more than 150,000 dealers who have lost their licenses.
Of course, this was the specific intent of the Clinton administration. Just before the ban passed, U.S. News & World Report noted that the Clinton administration had “hopes of driving many of America’s 258,000 licensed gun dealers out of business.”
Driving gun dealers out of business is just another step in the long-term program to severely restrict the private ownership of firearms. [President Clinton himself indicated in a 1993 interview with Rolling Stone magazine that he would one day like to propose a total ban on handguns. His only regret, he said, was that “I don’t think the American people are there right now.”]
More gun control than meets the eye
The 1994 crime bill was chock full of gun control, more so than most people realize.
The 1994 law punishes parents that give a handgun to their teenager — even if it’s only to take target practice in the woods — unless the teenager carries with him written permission from the parent at all times. [To make matters worse, Senators Orrin Hatch and Dianne Feinstein have cosponsored legislation together (S. 54) that could very well increase the penalty for such a “crime” to a mandatory prison sentence of 10 years. See David Kopel’s article later in this issue.]
The 1994 law also began the practice of denying people their Constitutional right to keep and bear arms without having had the benefit of a jury trial. The crime bill allows a judge (say, in a divorce proceeding) to unilaterally revoke a person’s rights by simply slapping a restraining order on one of the parties.
There was also a myriad of restrictions placed upon gun dealers. In addition to those mentioned above, the 1994 crime bill imposed greater waiting periods before receiving an FFL license, required photographs and fingerprints of prospective dealers, and even allowed for more “compliance” inspections by the BATF.
Again, all of the firearms restrictions that passed as part of the 1994 crime bill would be repealed by Rep. Paul’s bill (H.R. 1147).
Gun ban is unconstitutional
There is a growing amount of scholarship that is recognizing that gun control laws are not only harmful, but unconstitutional. Even the Supreme Court had to admit in 1995 (in U.S. v. Lopez) that there was no authority in the Constitution to pass gun control laws like the one banning possession of a firearm near a school. Moreover, several prominent law journals and criminologists have done excellent work recently in stating the case for the individual right to keep and bear arms.
Despite all this scholarship, some pundits feel the founders would never have intended the Second Amendment to cover the modern type of firearms in existence today. Of course, to argue this would be like saying the First Amendment was never meant to cover modern outlets such as radio and T.V.
In reality, the Second Amendment was specifically intended to protect an individual’s right to own the type of firearms in “common use.” Consider the statement by the Supreme Court in U.S. v. Miller (1939): “The Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense . . . [and that] when called for service, these men were expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time.” (Emphasis added.)
So what is one to conclude from all this? First, the Constitution gives Congress NO authority to enact gun control legislation. Second, and perhaps even more surprising for modern-day pundits, the Constitution allows the Congress to require gun ownership.
Consider a law which Congress passed in 1792 — a law which is clearly authorized by the “arming and disciplining the militia” clause in the Constitution:
In the Militia Act of 1792, the second Congress defined “militia of the United States” to include almost every free adult male in the United States. These persons were obligated by law to possess a [military-style] firearm and a minimum supply of ammunition and military equipment. . . . There can be little doubt from this that when the Congress and the people spoke of the “militia,” they had reference to the traditional concept of the entire populace capable of bearing arms, and not to any formal group such as what is today called the National Guard. (Emphasis added.)
The above quote comes from a statement issued in 1982 by the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution. The subcommittee correctly observed that Congress can require gun ownership.
This should not strike fear into one’s heart. Law-abiding citizens use guns to defend themselves against criminals as many as 2.5 million times every year — or about 6,850 times a day. A substantial number of these self-defense firearms are semi-automatics, and are internally indistinguishable from the firearms banned in the 1994 crime bill.
Semi-autos save lives
The 1994 crime bill banned many of the very guns with which the Korean merchants used to defend themselves during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Those firearms proved to be extremely useful to the property owners. They were facing mob violence and the police were nowhere to be found; truly, they needed firearms that would shoot more than just six bullets. When it was all over, it was their stores which were left standing while other stores around them were burned to the ground.
The Sarah Brady crowd would like people to think that these guns have become the criminals “weapons of choice.” Not true.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics reported in 1993 that violent criminals carry or use a “military-type gun” in only about one percent of the crimes nationwide. And according to the FBI, people have a much greater chance of being killed by a knife or a blunt object than by any kind of rifle, including an “assault rifle.” In Chicago alone, a person is 67 times more likely to be stabbed or beaten to death than to be murdered by an “assault rifle.”
One can’t have it both ways. If one wants to ban truly dangerous weapons, then one should start by banning knives and baseball bats. Of course, such an option would be as ineffective in stopping crime as banning firearms. Hopefully, the current Congress will restore some sense to our criminal code and pass H.R. 1147.
Hatch, Feinstein bill threatens gun owners
Congress ‘Ganging up’ on the Bill of Rights
by David Kopel
Associate Policy Analyst
Imagine the following scenarios:
* Every week, a group of office workers bet money on NFL football games, in an office betting pool.
* A father and a mother take their teenage children target shooting every weekend one summer. The teenagers use their parents’ handgun, under parental supervision. Although the teenagers are under continuous parental supervision, the teenagers do not possess and keep in their possession at all time a written note from their parents authorizing the children to possess a handgun at the target range.
* Three adult men often go hunting together, and like to tinker with their rifles. One afternoon, they put a folding stock on one of their rifles, to make it easier to carry in the field. Another day, they put a muzzle brake on the rifle, to make the follow-up shot more accurate.
All of the above activities are already federal crimes. S. 54 would substantially increase the penalty for all these crimes, by defining the persons who did any of these things as a “criminal street gang” engaged in a “pattern of criminal gang activity.”
Every one of the persons described in the above scenarios would be imprisoned for a minimum of ten years. All property associated with the crime (such as the hunting lodge, all the guns, the cars that carried the guns, and the office computers which tracked the football betting) would be forfeited to the federal government.
How can it be that a bill bearing the attractive title of “Federal Gang Violence Act” can impose many draconian, patently unjust penalties on persons who have nothing to do with gangs? The answer, oddly enough, is that everything gangs do — such as sell controlled substances, kill rival gang members, and steal property — is already illegal under state and federal law.
Because the enactment of legislation is often confused with genuine action, enacting “anti-gang” legislation may have a strong political appeal — even when the criminal law has already covered everything that gangs do. When there are a few substantive laws which can be added (e.g., murder and drug dealing are already illegal), legislatures may be tempted to create what might be called “second order laws.” That is, laws which take existing laws, arrange those existing into new combinations, and create new “crimes” out of the new combinations.
For most part, S. 54 is a second-order law. It takes existing federal criminal laws — many of them for very minor crimes — and creates new crimes — with severe penalties — built of the bricks of trivial crimes.
In an era when hardly any Congressperson carefully reads and studies the text of every bill he or she is voting on, second order laws are especially dangerous. Because the impact of the bill depends heavily on the content of other laws, which are only briefly referenced, many legislators may not understand the implications of S. 54’s severe penalties.
So-called “Criminal Street Gangs”
The bill was introduced by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), among others. Entitled the “Federal Gang Violence Act,” it should deal only with gang violence. But most of the crimes which are labeled as “gang” crimes are not violent crimes. The vast majority of the persons who are covered by the law are not gang members. And the bill addresses other subjects — such as the possession of handguns by teenagers, or the wearing of body armor by anyone — which sometimes involve gangs, but which usually do not.
A “criminal street gang” is defined in Section 3 of the bill as a “formal or informal” “ongoing group, club, organization, or association of 3 or more persons” who meet certain requirements.
There is difference between a genuine gang (such as the Crips)–which typically has dozens or thousands of members–and a mere group of friends. Three juvenile delinquents may spend a lot of time together, and even commit various crimes together, but they are not a real gang. (The three are, of course, still criminals, and can be punished for violating whatever laws they violate.)
The very broad definition of “criminal street gang” makes it very easy for almost any association of three people, including almost any business, to be labeled a “criminal street gang,” providing that at least one person in the group commits two “predicate gang crimes” in a five year period, and offenses are in some way “committed in connection with, or in furtherance of” the group.
Most people who hear the phrase “predicate gang crimes” would think of drive-by shootings, fencing stolen property, first degree assault, and a few other major violent felonies. But S. 54 defines “predicate gang crimes” to include a vast number of minor or non-violent crimes, many of which are paperwork offenses, which real gang members–generally illiterate–would never commit.
For example, one of the five subsections listing a “predicate gang crime” includes any federal firearms offense, any federal gambling offense, and defaming the dead. The entire federal Gun Control Act is thrown in as a predicate gang offense. Notably, the Gun Control Act does not define any violent crimes. Rather, the act defines possession of a gun under various conditions as a crime, bans some guns, and establishes a complex regulatory system for licensed firearms dealers.
To state the obvious, a federally licensed firearms dealer is a not a “criminal street gang.” He operates out of a storefront, not on a street. But the kinds of paperwork offenses, generally misdemeanors, which a store might commit are labeled “gang” crimes.
Many other minor firearms offenses would be turned into “predicate gang crimes.” For example:
* It is illegal (and it would therefore be a “predicate gang offense”) to put certain accessories, such as a folding stock or a bayonet lug, on an imported gun [18 . 922(r)].
* It is illegal to take your own children target shooting with a handgun unless the children carry a permission note from you at all times. Even if the children are carrying the note, it is illegal if they transport the unloaded handgun to a target range in a case, and they do not lock the case [18 U.S.C. 922(x)].
* It is illegal even to hold a gun in your hands if you were once convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor, or if you have used drugs within the last several months [18 U.S.C. 922(g)].
* It is illegal to have a gun in your car for protection if your car comes within a thousand feet of a school. It is no defense to this crime to point out that your state’s laws specifically authorize carrying a gun in a car for protection, and no permit is needed to so carry [Gun Free School Zones Act of 1996].
Simply put, this clause amounts to a sub rosa repeal of the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986. Enacted in response to copious testimony about abusive prosecution, the bill lowered the penalties for various paperwork offenses. This clause turns all those minor offenses into “predicate gang crimes” carrying a 10-year mandatory minimum.
Firearms and RICO: The Metzenbaum Legacy
S. 54 also revives legislation sponsored in 1988 by Senator Howard Metzenbaum (one of the most energetic foes of the Second Amendment ever to serve in the United States Senate): turning every violation of the Gun Control Act (including a conspiracy to violate) into a RICO predicate offense.
Of the many anti-gun provisions in this bill, section 6 is the most important. The RICO statute is one of the most powerful in the entire federal code. RICO prosecutors are granted enormous powers; forfeiture provisions are heavily weighted in favor of the government; sentences run up to 20 years. The Attorney General is granted sweeping subpoena power to investigate potential RICO violations. And private plaintiffs are granted extensive rights to sue, to obtain broad injunctions, and to recover attorney fees.
And S. 54 turns even the tiniest violation of federal gun laws into a RICO predicate. Section S. 54 is a dream-come-true for anti-gun lawyers determined to destroy firearms manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers through litigation. Indeed, even individual gun owners could be sued by anti-gun groups.
Prohibitions related to firearms
Currently, federal law imposes an unworkable, inappropriate ban on the possession of handguns by minors (18 U.S.C. 922(x)). The conditions under which minors should possess handguns ought properly to be set by each state, taking into account the conditions in each state. Rules that might make sense in Manhattan might to inappropriate for Montana.
There are some exceptions allowing juveniles to possess handguns while ranching or farming, or engaged in lawful target shooting or hunting. But even then, the juvenile must have prior written permission from her parents, and must carry that permission at all times with her while in possession of the handgun.
It would be a mistake to think that teenagers helping on their parents’ ranches and farms are actually complying with this silly statute. On the ranch, they do not carry around prior written permission. Off the ranch, they may carry a handgun in their pickup truck for protection while driving on isolated rural roads at night, as people in their family have for many generations. It is doubtful that most farmers and ranchers even know of the federal statute.
Currently, federal law provides a penalty up to one year for an adult who violates the statute, and no penalty for the juvenile. Section 7 of S. 54 imposes a mandatory sentence of at least one year on adults and on juveniles aged 14 or older.
If there something to be gained by sending teenage farmers, ranchers and their parents to federal prison for a year, it is hard to discern. If there is no intent to imprison farm and ranch children, then there is no justification for a mandatory prison sentence.
More prosecutors and more federalization
S. 54 is not the type of bill which could become a good bill through revised drafting. Simply put, S. 54 addresses crimes, the overwhelming majority of which have no place in the federal criminal law. To the extent that S. 54 relates to legitimate federal powers, all things which it criminalizes are already federal crimes. S. 54 therefore makes no legitimate contribution to the federal criminal code.
The sponsors of this legislation [Senators Orrin Hatch, Dianne Feinstein, etc.] might note that they are concerned about actual gang violence, and not about myriad non-violent crimes discussed in this testimony. But the sponsors’ intent is no defense at all to the application of this bill as written; if enacted, the bill will be applied as written.
It is plain beyond doubt that Congress never contemplated abortion protesters when enacting the RICO statutes. But prosecutors do not enforce according to the motives of Congress; they enforce according to the literal text of the law. And because of the literal text of the law, Sammy Weaver, Vicki Weaver, and William F. Degan are dead as the result of a federal law which makes it a felony just to possess–without any violent purpose–a shotgun whose barrel is too short. Nicole Richardson is serving a ten-year federal prison term just for answering the phone, and telling an undercover federal agent where her boyfriend (a drug dealer) could be found.*
* Nicole Richardson was the boyfriend of an LSD dealer whose customers included an undercover federal agent. When the agent called the boyfriend’s house one day, she picked it up, and, in response to the agent/buyer’s request, told the agent where to find the boyfriend, to make a purchase. Under federal drug laws, this participation in the “conspiracy” makes her criminally liable for the entire quantity of drugs which the agent bought from the boyfriend. Years after breaking up with the boyfriend, she was charged with the conspiracy, and is serving a 10-year mandatory sentence.
Especially when prosecutors can earn notches on their belts by winning convictions for long mandatory sentences, laws are applied as written. As a former appellate prosecutor, I know that most prosecutors push written statutes as far as the language can possibly go. Families Against Mandatory Minimums can supply hundreds of horror stories of harsh federal laws being applied just as written, against minor offenders.
Significantly, S. 54 appropriates 100 million dollars for extra prosecutors– twenty million a year for five years. All of the underlying offenses which are actually real gang crimes are already being fully prosecuted. There are no state or federal prosecutors in this country who are going soft on gang murders, gang arsons, and the like. So at least some of the new prosecutors will necessarily have to look for “new” offenses to justify their funding.
S. 54 aggravates the problems that led to Waco and Ruby Ridge. As a “second order” law, it adds a second layer of federal control to a group of offenses which for the most part have no place in the federal statute books. The extreme mandatory sentences for minor offenses will not only cause injustice to many individuals, but will also further reduce the already low level of respect many Americans have for the federal government.
GOA Members Shooting Down Gun Control in the States
GOA members have ignited quite a powder keg this year in states all across the country. In addition to several anti-gun bills being put forth, there were a frightening number of fake concealed carry laws being pawned off as pro-gun legislation. The GOA membership in those places was quick to act, and for the most part was able to stop these counterfeit bills, many of which had the support of other gun lobbies, even at the national level.
As of this writing, many of the state legislatures are either winding down their sessions or have already gone. But GOA members have hammered home one simple truth: they want government officials to start recognizing their Second Amendment rights. Moreover, they are asking their legislators to pass Vermont-style carry laws, which would allow honest citizens to carry concealed firearms without first getting a permit . . . without paying any taxes whatsoever . . . and without getting any prior permission from the government.
Here is a brief look at some of GOA’s activities around the country at the state level:
In Colorado, GOA members fought successfully to remove Sen. Dottie Wham’s anti-gun “no-safety” zones in SB 96. Billed as “reform,” the bill allowed for high fees, fingerprinting, and centralized gun owner registration, making it more “control” than “reform.”
GOA opposed much of the substance of the bill and urged that it be fixed. GOA activists stirred up quite a hornet’s nest, and managed to get several anti-gun provisions removed. Unfortunately there was still a lot of anti-gun language left in the bill.
In the House, GOA members worked with pro-gun Representative Mark Paschall (R-26) to force votes to remove centralized registration, mandatory training and lowering fees. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-65) offered a Vermont-style and fought to restore people’s right to carry in a car without intrusive government regulations. At this writing, the bill is on its way to Governor Roy Romer (D) who will likely veto it as an apparent favor to President Bill Clinton, who helped him become the Democratic National Party Chairman.
Another state that just ended its session is Florida, where GOA was active in blocking some dangerous legislation. GOA generated a flood of phone calls and faxes against several gun control bills, including one that was similar to the Lautenberg domestic gun ban passed last year at the national level.
In Kansas, GOA battled against another so-called “reform” bill, HB 2159, modeled after the repressive Texas carry law. GOA fought the battle in the House and the Senate, mobilizing the membership against anti-gun provisions in the bill. The “go along to get along” mentality was at full tide with no one ready or willing to advocate for less restrictions. When it became clear that no one else would fight to clean up the bill, GOA mobilized members and supporters to oppose it unless and until better legislation was forthcoming. HB 2159 is one of the most dangerous types of laws, because some pro-gun legislators see such fake reforms as a “good compromise.”
Many of the anti-gun provisions in HB 2159 were tolerated by “pro-gun” forces without a fight in committee or on the floor of either chamber. By conceding without a fight, by refusing to force recorded floor votes, these “pro-gun” legislators ended up giving into the HCI strategy.
HCI has put out a “strategy guide” detailing how anti-gun forces can water-down and restrict concealed carry bills to the point that few, if any, honest citizens will bother to run the gauntlet in order to get a permit to carry. HCI goes on to point out, that those who do endure the process and get permits will find their effectiveness limited by no-safety zones and onerous renewal training and costs.
Liberal Republican Governor Bill Graves dealt the final blow to this bill by vetoing it. Clearly without intention, Governor Graves did grassroots gun owners a favor. Now weak-kneed “pro-gun” compromisers will have to face this issue again recognizing that loading a “reform” bill with anti-gun provisions bought them no favors with the anti-gun Governor.
The best strategy gun rights activists can pursue in regard to concealed carry legislation is to introduce a clean bill and force the anti-gunners to water it down. Of course, they can only do this by publicly going on record in support of amendments to weaken a good bill. Such a strategy accomplishes two things:
1) Accountability — It exposes those who are against the gun rights and safety of their pro-gun constituents before the next election. Compromisers and closet anti-gunners don’t dare to cross their pro-gun constituents in an open, recorded floor vote.
2) Less restrictive bill passes — The anti-gun forces have to expend their own political capital over each and every harmful provision put into the bill, if they even succeed in doing so.
Sadly, the lobbyist for another gun organization swayed many of the Kansas pro-gun forces to adopt a strategy of pre-emptive surrender to anti-gun provisions. This same political operative had bad-mouthed the possibility of passing carry reform in Virginia in 1995. But GOA’s grassroots ignored him and mounted a mobilization campaign not dependent on insider dealing and pre-emptive surrender. The end result was that Virginians defeated almost every single anti-gun amendment in 1995 and gained a huge improvement in the state carry law.
In Maine, GOA has worked closely with pro-gun freshman Representative Adam Mack to introduce true Vermont-style concealed carry legislation. What the bill actually does is repeal all of the governmental controls already in place, including a complete repeal of the entire permit process. Through mailings and FAX/E-Mail alerts there, GOA has kept the citizens informed every step of the way, as well as keeping the pressure on the legislature to support the rights of the people.
As gun-rights go, Montana has it pretty good. But this session saw an opportunity to improve their law. Representative Wes Prouse introduced a Vermont-style carry bill (HB 416), but the House Leadership kept it frozen in committee. GOA campaigned long and hard to revive action on the bill, generating tremendous grassroots pressure in the districts of the opposition. GOA also exposed several of the legislators who were bottling up the bill in committee.
Once again, the grassroots heat helped more legislators “see the light.” Some of the opposition lawmakers started making pro-gun sounds, denying they were holding up the bill. But, the legislative session is so brief that HB 416 and another real reform bill, HB 429, were not able to leave the committee before the deadline. Nevertheless, GOA members were able to get their legislators on record in a public, roll call vote. The blitz of calls, letters and faxes will serve as a permanent reminder that Montanans want Vermont-style carry. Moreover, now that the compromisers have been exposed, they will have to explain to their gun owning constituents why they voted to put the restoration of their freedom on hold for at least another two years. To paraphrase an old saying, freedom delayed is freedom denied. Gun owners can campaign in Montana to put the heat on 1998 candidates so that they will “see the light” and get Vermont-style right to carry through next time.
New Hampshire’s legislature has been holding hearings on SB 66, a bill to reform current gun laws in the state. SB 66, known as the “Lifetime Carry Bill” and also the “Right to Carry Tax Cut of 1997,” reduces fees by making permits good for life, eliminating costly and intrusive renewal. At present, SB 66 has passed the Senate, but has been referred back to a House Committee.
Defensively, GOA strongly opposed three anti-gun bills. The first was SB 193, 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 SB 195, in effect an expansion of the Federal Brady law, that would allow for registration of all firearms including all long guns. The third bill, SB 141, was a “study” bill,” intended to fund a biased report concerning gun storage and the safety of children. The two most dangerous bills were killed in the Senate, thanks to the diligent efforts of GOA members in conjunction with Gun Owners of New Hampshire and New Hampshire Citizens Against Corruption. The coordinated efforts of these groups and their memberships shows what people can accomplish when they unite against the tyranny of unconstitutional law.
The Tar Heel State has a great bill pending– Senator Hugh Webster’s “Personal Protection Act of 1997,” SB 810. GOA has been working with N.C. activists, trying to shake this bill loose from committee. SB 810 does away with the restrictive measures imposed on people by the present permit system, and restores actual rights to the citizens. GOA alerts have caused a flurry of phone calls into State legislative offices, but the Committee Chair, Roy Cooper III, has turned a deaf ear to the demands of the citizens for whom he works. At this time, however, there is no set date for adjournment of the legislative session in the state, so the battle is far from over. Traditionally, North Carolina’s Spring or “long” session, ends sometime in July. GOA activists across North Carolina still have the opportunity to turn up the heat in the legislature and regain their constitutional freedoms.
The 1997 Virginia legislative session has ended. The two pro-gun bills (GOA’s bill to repeal one-gun-a-month and Northern Virginia Citizens Defense League’s bill to eliminate the restaurant ban and repeal grandfathered local gun control ordinances) both died in the House Militia and Police Committee. The legislature passed six gun-related bills, two of which were signed by the Governor without modification, two were modified, and two were vetoed.
From the very beginning of the session, GOA actively opposed FBI fingerprint registration of concealed carry permit applicants. Unfortunately, too many legislators were tricked into believing that fingerprinting of concealed weapons permit applicants was required by the FBI. After the legislature passed mandatory statewide fingerprinting, the FBI notified the administration that existing Virginia law was sufficient for them to conduct background checks without fingerprints.
Despite the huge number of letters from GOA members to the Governor to strike the fingerprint language from the bill, the Governor only modified it to give localities the option to enact an ordinance requiring fingerprinting. The Governor’s actions were sustained by the legislature. Now, we will have to fight the fingerprint issue at the local level. In spite of the bad features in this bill, legislators were forced to put in a few good things from the bills they killed in the committee as an effort to quiet the grassroots. These provisions included extending permit duration to five years and clarifying the cost of the permit.
West Virginians sidestepped a bullet thanks to a last minute heads up from GOA. The sponsors of SB 98 kept this Trojan Horse real quiet, so quiet that it unanimously passed the House before the details were really known. This bill would have severely restricted gun rights by requiring retraining every time a concealed carry license was renewed, and would have given the government control over those training requirements. One gun rights lobby even claimed the bill was good. But thankfully, GOA found out about this deceptively bad bill and helped spread the word to the grassroots. The members did the rest. With an incredible display of unity, West Virginia citizens stepped up and stopped this anti-gun juggernaut in its tracks. Congratulations to the Mountaineers for ignoring bad counsel and standing firm with GOA to stop the ruination of their rights.
GOA and the membership have been busy defending the Second Amendment in states across the country, and these efforts will pay off in the long-run as legislators keep “feeling the heat” from their pro-gun constituencies. Grassroots actions like those listed above truly put power where it belongs, in the hands of the people. Look for future issues of The Gun Owners for details on GOA’s activities in states like Ohio, Oregon and Texas, where Vermont-style bills are currently pending.
Gun Owners Hold BATF at Bay
Gun Owners of America worked closely with Citizens for Safe Government (CSG) to stop a recent attempt to give federal gun police (BATF) expanded jurisdiction and immunity with respect to state law in Georgia. 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. 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. GOA credits the victory to the extensive fax and e-mail network now in place, coupled with the motivated and active Georgia citizens who took the time to fight for their rights.
“We couldn’t have stopped this measure without the help of GOA and CSG,” said pro-gun Rep. Brian Joyce (R-Lookout Mountain). “They were the only pro-gun groups actively opposing the bill.”
Thanks also need to go to Pro-Gun Reps. Joyce, Mitchell Kaye (R-Marietta) and Bobby Franklin (R-Marietta) — all of whom led the fight against the onerous bill.
This is America!
With Larry Pratt
Heard on Republic Radio International every other Tuesday starting May 6, 1997, at 9:00pm EST. Tune in on WWCR World Wide Christian Radio, 3.215 megahertz via satellite, Galaxy 7, Transponder 14, 7.71 audio.
Larry Pratt on “Crossfire”
Larry Pratt appeared on “Crossfire” on April 21 following the anniversary of the Oklahoma bombing and the final raid at Waco. Pat Buchanan and Larry squared off against Geraldine Ferraro and Brian Levin, an attorney and former staffer of Morris Dees’ Southern Poverty Law Center.
The debate topic was “Are the militias really a threat, or are they owed an apology?” To get a copy of this video, send a check for $7.50 (icludes shipping & handling) to GOA at 8001 Forbes Place, Suite 102, Springfield, VA, 22151. Credit card orders (MasterCard, VISA, Am. Exp.) can be phoned: 703-321-8585 or faxed: 703-321-8408.