Newsletters 1994-2001

Senator Bob Smith Puts Hold on Hatch's Horror Bill!

The hard work of GOA members has paid off! Many gun owners have sent postcards, telegrams, faxes and e-mails to Senator Bob Smith (R-NH), asking him to put a hold on S. 10.

In late February, Senator Smith heeded the call and "stepped up to the plate" in defense of gun owners' rights.

Communicating via letter to Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Senator Smith said that he has told Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) of his objection "to any unanimous consent agreement" with respect to S. 10.

  GOA's executive Director Larry Pratt (left) met with
Sen. Bob Smith (R-NH) to discuss Sen. Orrin Hatch's bill, S.10.

In sum, this parliamentary procedure by Senator Smith makes it more difficult for S. 10 to come up for a vote unless there are changes made to the bill -- changes that will resolve the problems that GOA members have been raising for almost a year.

In his February 27 letter, Senator Smith says, "My concerns about S. 10 relate primarily to the Second Amendment implications of the provisions of the bill involving the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). I would be happy to work with you to resolve my concerns about the bill."

GOA has argued that the RICO provisions, originally intended for the mob, should not be expanded to go after gun owners. To do so could threaten the livelihood of every gun dealer and the very existence of the gun industry itself.

News media recognizing GOA and its members for their diligent efforts on S 10

At the beginning of 1997, Hatch's anti-gun bill was considered one of the "top ten" must-pass bills in the Senate.

But this is no longer the case.

GOA members have continued to turn up the heat. And as they have, more and more news media have begun to take notice -- publications ranging from U.S. News & World Report to some of the smaller, local papers in the heartland.

In fact, several articles have shown what can happen when individuals work together to put the "heat" on their elected officials.

"This should encourage gun owners," said Erich Pratt, the GOA Director of Federal Affairs. "Ordinary people can make a difference when they get involved. Activism really does work."

GOA members ring the phones "off the walls"

For example, The Hill newspaper, which covers legislative news in the nation's capital, listed several of the gains achieved by GOA members in its March 4 edition:

* "The Gun Owners of America generated a significant number of postcards" registering complaints about the bill, said John Cox, the Press Secretary to Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL). Not coincidentally, Senator Sessions' office has worked with GOA and has been instrumental in getting many of the egregious provisions removed from the bill.

* Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO) was the first member to pull his name from the bill. His Press Secretary, Sean Conway, recalls the firestorm that led up to that decision: "This is a real-life example of constituents in Colorado speaking out in town meetings, phone calls and letters, where they raised their concerns. I can remember our phones went off the walls."

Another publication based in the nation's capital, Legal Times, also noted the effects realized from GOA and its members:

Using a sophisticated Web site, the Gun Owners of America has mounted a massive lobbying campaign to mobilize its 200,000 members, focusing on conservative Republicans who were among the bill's Senate co-sponsors.
"We got e-mails, letters, and calls," says Mark Baker, the legislative director for Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), a diehard gun supporter. "At town meetings, people would be saying: "What the hell are you doing on that S. 10 anyway?"

Four Senators have now deserted S. 10; more could soon follow

GOA members should be proud of their accomplishment. It is extremely rare to see cosponsors remove their names from a bill.

But as this issue of The Gun Owners goes to press, the tally is now up to four Senators that have jumped off of Hatch's anti-gun crime bill.

Senators Allard, Burns and Smith were the first ones to drop their support of Hatch's bill. Wyoming Senator Craig Thomas (R) became the most recent defector in late February.

Having four cosponsors pull their names from a bill is truly an accomplishment. More Senators have threatened to follow suit if changes are not made quickly to Hatch's Horror Bill.

They are starting to hear from the grassroots!

The Gun Owners will keep readers up to date on the status of this bill. In the meantime, gun owners should be especially thankful to Senator Smith for putting a "hold" on S. 10, thereby slowing down the progress of the bill.

Gun owners can contact Sen. Smith and thank him at
ph: 202-224-2841
fax: 202-224-1353


From the March 2, 1998 issue of Legal Times, in an article entitled "The Crime Bill No One Likes":

Pro-gun groups have also been active against the bill. Gun Owners of America, the Springfield, Va.-based group whose unwavering opposition to gun ownership restrictions makes the National Rifle Association look like a liberal interest group, has repeatedly hammered the legislation and taken credit for persuading at least three Republican senators of the bill's approximately two dozen cosponsors to withdraw their support....

"Gun dealers tell us this bill could put them out of a job," says Erich Pratt, the group's legislative director and son of founder [sic] Larry Pratt.

 

Using a sophisticated Web site, the Gun Owners of America has mounted a massive lobbying campaign to mobilize its 200,000 members, focusing on conservative Republicans who were among the bill's Senate cosponsors.

"We got emails, letters, and calls," says Mark Baker, the legislative director for Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), a diehard gun supporter. "At town meetings, people would be saying: "What the hell are you doing on that S.10 anyway?"

The result: Burns and two Republican colleagues-- Colorado's Wayne Allard and New Hampshire's Robert Smith-- withdrew their names from the bill.

"We're pretty pleased about this," says Pratt. "As you know, jumping off the ship is not a common occurrence on the Hill."


Instant Check Is a Bad Check

by Larry Pratt, Executive Director, Gun Owners of America

As the head lobbyist for Gun Owners of America, I recently had the opportunity to debate the Majority Whip of the Alabama House of Representatives, Rep. Jack Page (D).

If you have never heard of him, please do not ignore what this state version of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has to say.

First of all, the gun control bill which Rep. Page was sponsoring was backed by the NRA. Secondly, the legislation is being promoted all around the country.

You see, Rep. Page was sponsoring an Alabama version of the Brady law. Now admittedly, the bill would do away with the state's waiting period. But that relief is more than overcome by the Brady instant registration check that would be imposed if the bill were to become law.

Instant check will register all gun buyers

Rep. Page's Alabama Brady Bill requires the state to share with other federal and state law enforcement agencies "any information in the files of the [Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center - (ACJIC)] which will aid these agencies in crime fighting."

The prohibitions in existing law that keep bureaucrats from storing gun owners' names are not that effective, as we have seen in Ohio, Georgia, Texas and other states.

One of the arguments in favor of passing state versions of the Brady Law is that it is preferable to have Alabama bureaucrats check us out than to have the feds do it. The thinking seems to be that if I am oppressed by somebody with the same accent, it is less oppressive than federal oppression.

But these arguments notwithstanding, it is clear that the states will not be able to "preempt" the feds and keep them from performing background checks on law-abiding gun owners.

BATF makes it clear: shotguns and rifles fall under Brady instant check

The BATF issued proposed regulations for implementation of the national instant registration check in the Federal Register in February of this year. As these regulations suggest, the names of firearms purchasers (both handgun and long-run) must be submitted to the FBI, irrespective of any additional bureaucratic requirements at the state level.


Larry Pratt (left) debating Alabama State Rep. Jack Page, author of the
instant registration check bill-- a state version of the Brady law.

Under these regulations, the feds will give themselves up to three days to respond. Were we not supposed to be getting rid of the waiting period? So much for dancing with the devil.

Moreover, through such computer programs as FIST, the U.S. Justice Department has given software to local law enforcement allowing them to build a data base of gun purchasers. The feds reportedly get monthly reports from local law enforcement agencies on the disposition of Brady checks.

While the local computer is connected to Washington, the federal computer can "lookback" (computerese for looking into the local's computer) and copy the entire data base -- all the names and address and firearms of gun purchasers. The City of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University were caught setting up just such a program and were stopped in court.

But FIST is alive and well and quite capable of supplying the feds with a national registration list.

The BATF has stated in the Federal Register (February 19, 1998) that for the Brady law to work for them, they want the Social Security number of gun buyers in addition to other personal data they are already getting.

They also want to do the instant registration checks on ALL gun buyers (both handgun and long-gun) regardless of whether their state has a state Brady law, and to track all these records with a unique identification number.

In Alabama, the ACJIC has admitted that their unique identification number would have to include name and address, social security number and date of birth. Do they need anything else for a registration list? Does the BATF?

From instant registration to gun confiscation?

The potential for government officials to register gun owners is, perhaps, the most dangerous threat facing gun owners today.

Sure, there are laws at the federal and state levels (in some cases) prohibiting such practices.

But the reality is that violations occur frequently, and are rarely prosecuted, if at all.

The November 7, 1997 issue of The Gun Owners documented some of these very abuses which have gone unpunished. Examples from around the country have clearly shown that officials can, and do, register gun owners without impunity.

Mike Slavonic, NRA Director and Chairman of the Legislative Committee for the Allegheny County Sportmen's League, states that the instant background check with the use of the FIST database could be "our downfall." He notes that,

What most Americans don't know is that once the instant background check goes into effect in 1998 the purpose of Brady could be used to set the stage for national confiscation. Instant check could eventually keep guns out of the hands of everyone by registering everyone who purchases a handgun, rifle and shotgun and who obtained concealed weapons permits in a computerized database.

Confiscation of guns in California

California's current travail illustrates the way governments use gun registration to violate the Constitution and break faith with the people. "Ugly" guns that were registered in the past are now being confiscated because one state official decided to reclassify as illegal, guns that had been "permitted" to be legal.

California is only the most recent example of the bad faith of governments who have the names and addresses of gun owners in their possession. In New York City back in the 1960's, New York City officials made some promises.

They wanted to register long guns over the vocal opposition of the city's gun owners. The city fathers promised they would never use such lists to take away firearms from the citizenry. But in 1991, the city banned (and soon began confiscating) many of those very guns.

The Daily News reported in 1992 the "Police raided the home of a Staten Island man who refused to comply with the city's tough ban on assault weapons, and seized an arsenal of firearms....Spot checks are planned [for other homes]."

Is there not something wrong with this picture? In a country where "We, the people" are sovereign, how do we end up having the servants tell the masters when they can have permission to exercise their rights?

How about registering the media?

The media would probably understand the Second Amendment problem with the Brady law if the Brady check were expanded to include the First Amendment. Then, before a journalist could get his permit to practice his profession, a faceless bureaucrat would run a background check to see if he were the sort of person considered by the government to be worthy to enter the profession.

As I thought about my pending debate with Alabama state Representative Jack Page on the plane ride to Alabama, a comparison came to mind. Some thirty years ago, black people were considered to be potential trouble makers, particularly if they belonged to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).


Federal Register
Vol. 63, No. 33, February 19, 1998, Proposed Rules

Department of the Treasury
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
27 CFR Parts 178 and 179 [Notice No. 857]

Permanent Provisions of the Brady Law

. . . While the interim provisions apply only to handguns, the permanent provisions of the Brady law will apply to all firearms. Furthermore, while there is no five-day waiting period under the permanent provisions, the system may take up to three business days to notify the licensee whether receipt of a firearm by the prospective purchaser would be in violation of law. [Page 8380.]

Firearms Transaction Record (Form 4473)

. . . For example, by providing a social security number, the transferee might avoid confusion with a prohibited buyer who has the same name and date of birth as the transferee. This would clearly help expedite the transfer. [Page 8381 - 8382.]


The state of Alabama wanted the membership list of the NAACP and ended up going all the way to the Supreme Court to get their hands on the list. But, happily, the Court ruled against the state of Alabama and protected the privacy of the names of the NAACP members.

That's the good news. The bad news is that governments in our day increasingly consider gun owners to be potential trouble makers, and so we are seeing the efforts to get our names and addresses regardless of legal prohibitions. At least the state of Alabama was unable to get a chapter of the NAACP to hand over the membership list of the organization.

In our day, there are too many gun owners willing to do what no NAACP member would have dreamed of doing. We are watching gun owners rush to hand over the list of gun buyers which is exactly what they are doing when they support the Brady instant registration check at either the state or national levels.

Every aspect of the Brady law is unconstitutional and dangerous. Congress should enact Rep. Ron Paul's Brady repeal bill (H.R. 2721) and stop hassling the states with ineffective crime-fighting ideas.

In the meantime, smile, because big brother is watching you.



Fast Fact:

Brady Registration Check Covers Rifles and Shotguns, too!

"When the permanent Brady rules come on line, all gun sales -- long guns and handguns -- will fall under federal control of 'national instant background checks.' The centralized federalization of all gun-sale records will be complete." (Alan Korwin, author, Gun laws of America, Every Federal Gun Law on the Books, February 8, 1998.)


Massacre in Gun Control State

CT Tragedy Shows Laws Don't Stop Criminals

The recent massacre at the Connecticut lottery headquarters in Newington sent shock waves through the state as people of all walks of life agonized over what caused Matthew Beck to methodically hunt down and kill four coworkers before taking his own life.

Many people, however, had no trouble in placing the blame. Rather than focus on the individual, people are blaming this tragedy on a lack of gun control laws.

"This shows the need for tougher enforcement of the state's gun laws," opined Gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Rep. Barbara Kennelly (D) in a radio interview.

Political columnist Michele Jacklin wrote in The Hartford Courant that while Connecticut's gun laws are among the toughest in the nation, "They don't go far enough."

The response from the legislature has been predictable. Elected officials are now considering proposals ranging from metal detectors in all state buildings to confiscating firearms from people who have attempted suicide or are reported as "acting strangely."

The proposed response from the legislature raises an eerie specter: does the government propose to deny Second Amendment rights to any person who has a bout with depression?

Tragedy Could Lead to Loss of Rights

"The legislative backlash from this tragic event can create another tragedy for the Constitutional liberties of the people of this state," said GOA Spokesman John Velleco, who was in New England at the time.

"Matthew Beck snapped. There is no way that anyone could have foreseen what he intended to do that morning," said Velleco.

Indeed, Donald Beck, Matthew's father, told the Courant that when his son left the house that morning "There was nothing unusual about his demeanor. He looked perfectly normal. I had seen him when he was depressed, and he certainly wasn't depressed. If he had any pent-up anger, it didn't show."

Even Senate Majority Leader George Jepsen (D), a fervent proponent of restricting gun rights, admits, "It's very difficult to stop a nut with a gun. No law is going to stop him."

Gun Laws Fail to Stop Criminals

GOA's Velleco, on radio talk shows across the state, also pointed out that Beck was in violation of several laws.

"Just look at the laws Beck disregarded: taking a firearm onto the property was illegal, and, obviously, the shootings were a criminal act. If a person like Beck is willing to violate these greater laws, there is no reason to believe they would obey a lesser law like a firearms prohibition," Velleco said.

The senior Beck agreed. Quoted in the Boston Globe, Beck said that there are "laws to keep out illegal aliens and illegal drugs, and you tell me what [these laws] do?"

Mr. Velleco noted that, ironically, gun control could actually have an adverse affect on situations like the one in Connecticut.

"Since firearms are banned at the lottery headquarters building, we have another instance where the only person with access to a firearm was the criminal. Perhaps an armed law-abiding citizen would have been able to minimize the damage," Velleco said.

Armed Citizens Thwart Crime

A large body of evidence supports Velleco's statement.

For example, last year in Jacksonville, Fla., a shotgun wielding man entered a restaurant and ordered the thirty mostly senior citizen patrons to hit the floor. When the clerk was unable to open the cash register, the man became irate.

Then the criminal met 69-year-old Oscar Moore.

"He was telling the waitress to open the cash register and she obviously didn't know how, and that was making him crazy. So I took what action had to be taken," Moore told a reporter.

Moore, armed with a .22, and another patron, 81-year-old Robert Guerry, opened fire on the suspect. The man was later arrested at an area hospital with a gunshot wound.

"Somewhere along the line, we the people have to start protecting ourselves," Moore said after the incident.

Of course, as with most self-defense gun uses, there is no telling how many lives were saved by the actions of the two men.

Guns used often in self-defense

Award-winning criminologist Gary Kleck of Florida State University has found that citizens use firearms in this country successfully in self-defense in excess of 2 million times per year.

Dr. Kleck, far from being aligned with the gun lobby, began his research in an attempt to show the virtues of gun control. However, as he amassed more and more data, he came to the inescapable conclusion that a firearm is far more likely to be used by an ordinary citizens to defend themselves and others than by criminals.

"Gun control proponents are quick to say 'if it [gun laws] saves one life, it's worth it.' What we seldom hear, however, is how many lives are lost because gun control laws make mandatory victims out of decent citizens," Velleco commented.


Did Your Senator Support Satcher?

On February 10, the Senate voted to confirm anti-gun Dr. David Satcher as the next Surgeon General. The crucial vote came when the Senate voted 75-23 to end the filibuster against the Clinton nominee, thus clearing the way for a confirmation vote on Dr. Satcher.

Senators who cast anti-gun votes to end the filibuster:

 ABRAHAM (R-MI)            FEINGOLD (D-WI)           LOTT (R-MS)
AKAKA (D-HI) FEINSTEIN (D-CA) MACK (R-FL)
BAUCUS (D-MT) FORD (D-KY) McCain (R-AZ)
BENNETT (R-UT) FRIST (R-TN) MIKULSKI (D-MD)
BIDEN (D-DE) GLENN (D-OH) MOSELEY-BRAUN (D-IL)
BINGAMAN (D-NM) GORTON (R-WA) MOYNIHAN (D-NY)
BOND (R-MO) GRAHAM, BOB (D-FL) MURKOWSKI (R-AK)
BOXER (D-CA) GRAMS (R-MN) MURRAY (D-WA)
BREAUX (D-LA) GREGG (R-NH) NICKLES (R-OK)
BRYAN (D-NV) HAGEL (R-NE) REED, JACK (D-RI)
BUMPERS (D-AR) HARKIN (D-IA) REID, HARRY (D-NV)
BYRD (D-WV) HATCH (R-UT) ROBB (D-VA)
CHAFEE (R-RI) HOLLINGS (D-SC) ROCKEFELLER (D-WV)
CLELAND (D-GA) HUTCHISON, KAY B (R-TX) ROTH (R-DE)
COCHRAN (R-MS) INOUYE (D-HI) SARBANES (D-MD)
COLLINS (R-ME) JEFFORDS (R-VT) SMITH, GORDON (R-OR)
CONRAD (D-ND) JOHNSON (D-SD) SNOWE (R-ME)
COVERDELL (R-GA) KENNEDY, (D-MA) SPECTER (R-PA)
CRAIG (R-ID) KERREY, BOB (D-NE) STEVENS (R-AK)
DASCHLE (D-SD) KERRY, JOHN (D-MA) THOMAS (R-WY)
DEWINE (R-OH) KOHL (D-WI) THOMPSON (R-TN)
DODD (D-CT) LANDRIEU (D-LA) THURMOND (R-SC)
DOMENICI (R-NM) LAUTENBERG (D-NJ) TORRICELLI (D-NJ)
DORGAN (D-ND) LEAHY (D-VT) WELLSTONE (D-MN)
DURBIN (D-IL) LIEBERMAN (D-CT) WYDEN (D-OR)

Pro-Gun, Discount Phone Service for GOA Members

Spurred by the support of AT&T and other phone companies for the anti-gun cause, Gun Owners of America has arranged with a very pro-gun long distance company, LifeLine, to provide discount service for GOA members and other supporters of the Second Amendment.

AT&T gave $3,000,000 to the Coalition for America's Children in 1996.

The Coalition was organized by the M.G. Fund, which was founded and is chaired by Marjorie Benton, also a trustee of the Benton Foundation and a National Committee member of Handgun Control, Inc. The Coalition shares office space with the Benton Foundation.

Five of the Coalition's seven-member executive Committee also are Handgun Control Inc., or Coalition to Stop Handgun Violence members.

Now you can make your long distance calls at 4 to 8 % under AT&T and be sure you are no longer supporting a propaganda campaign against the Second Amendment.

Even better, there is a very real positive benefit to dealing with LifeLine. With LifeLine, 10% of your domestic long distance charges will be donated to Gun Owners of America.

How easy can it be? By just making the long distance calls you normally make, you can add to the support you currently provide GOA to fight to keep the government within the bounds of the Constitution.

For information, or to sign up, just call 1-800-311-2811. It's easy!

GOA Needs a Few Good Men & Women

Are you able to help organize a "Friends of GOA" fundraising dinner in your area? Or, perhaps you could man a table at a gun show for GOA? If you would like to help in this area, call Kathleen Gennaro at: 703-321-8585. Thank you.


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