1999: The Year in Review
Media, Hill Insiders Hail GOA as the ‘Most Aggressive’ Gun Rights Lobby
“[GOA] moved quickly and we heard from their people,” said one House leadership source close to the juvenile crime issue.
Representative Baron Hill of Indiana might be new to Congress, but this Democrat has already endured his share of arm-twisting from the White House.
This past Spring, as Congress was preparing to vote on gun control, opposing forces began clashing on Capitol Hill.
GOA head Larry Pratt (on the right) takes on Richard Aborn, the former president of Handgun Control, Inc., in a debate.
On the one hand, Gun Owners of America was ginning up its grassroots machine, generating thousands upon thousands of postcards, faxes, emails and phone calls into Congressional offices.
For several months, GOA led the charge in opposition to all of the gun control provisions in the juvenile crime bill.
GOA members made it absolutely clear that no compromise would be acceptable, a position that has won praise from pro-gun legislators on the Hill.
“GOA is close to standing alone in Washington,” said Rep. Helen Chenoweth-Hage (R-ID). “They are tough and they don’t give up.”
GOA grassroots help gain victory in the House
In mailing after mailing, GOA pounded away at the crime bill, exposing the many ways it would rob gun owners of their Constitutional rights.
Larry Pratt discusses gun control legislation with Rep. Lynn Rivers (MI).
|But the White House was also busy during this time. The President had selected a list of targets, and was relentlessly hounding fellow Democrats in support of greater gun restrictions.|
Rep. Hill was one of the Democrats on that target list. He was a freshman, and he had only won with 51% of the vote in 1998.
The White House pressed its case, thinking this conservative Democrat might buckle under the pressure. Thankfully, the President was sorely disappointed.
In June, The Washington Times reported what happened:
Clinton administration operatives went to [Rep. Hill of Indiana] and told him they had done a survey in his district that showed an overwhelming majority– 77 percent to 23 percent– supported the gun control legislation. However, Mr. Hill pointed out to them that . . . his office had received more than 1,100 phone calls against gun control and only a “half dozen or a dozen” in favor. In the end, Mr. Hill joined a substantial number of Democrats who helped block gun-control legislation passed by the Senate.
This proves once again what grassroots action can do. While not officially dead, the President’s legislation was seriously wounded.
House and Senate negotiators are trying to blend a Senate gun control version with a House bill that contained virtually no gun control. To date, little progress has been made, as the legislation remains just a couple of breaths away from the coroner’s table for this session of Congress.
GOA pushing legislation to roll back gun control
While the House victory was thrilling, this year has not exactly been a smooth ride.
For gun owners, 1999 will be remembered as the year of the “roller coaster.”
The year initially began quite well, as many Americans had high hopes of getting pro-gun legislation passed.
Rep. Ron Paul introduced a bill to allow Americans to carry concealed firearms in the states they travel in.
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett reintroduced his popular bill to protect gun owners who use a firearm in self-defense– a bill that now has 54 cosponsors.
GOA was backing these bills with great fervor. Things appeared to be going well.
But then came the news that shocked the entire nation. In April, two teenagers methodically walked through their high school in Littleton, Colorado, shooting and killing 13 people.
Predictably, the media frenzy kicked into high gear. The Chuck Schumers in Congress started climbing over the dead bodies to push their anti-gun agenda.
Gun owners, through no fault of their own, were being demonized nationwide. Never mind the fact that more than 20 gun control laws had failed to stop those two blood-thirsty young killers from assassinating their acquaintances.
GOA stands virtually alone in opposing all gun restrictions
As the weeks passed, the media began relying upon GOA spokesmen almost exclusively to give the pro-gun response to the Columbine tragedy. GOA talking heads appeared on dozens of TV, radio and newspaper outlets.
At the same time, GOA helped its members contact their Congressmen. Letters, postcards and phone calls began pouring into Capitol Hill.
From its national headquarters in Northern Virginia, GOA staff also focused their lobbying efforts on key Congressional offices.
The results were astounding. The New Haven Register reported on June 19 that,
Although the Republican House leadership and the NRA urged support for the final version, they were hampered by opposition from [GOA] who were unhappy it required gun safety locks and raised to 21 the legal age for owning a handgun.
“Please vote no on passage of HR 2122,” urged a letter from Gun Owners of America. And many conservative Republicans did just that.
Pro-gun Congressional offices heap praise on GOA members
Following the defeat of the anti-gun crime bill, one Capitol Hill newspaper, Roll Call, surveyed several Congressional offices.
This article reported that pro-gun offices on the Hill were quite appreciative of the work done by GOA members.
According to the article, Gun Owners of America was labeled “the most aggressive pro-gun lobbying organization,” a testimony to the hard work and dedication of its members.
This effort by GOA members can not be underestimated. Other Washington-based lobbies had sold Representatives on the idea that their constituents would “not care” if they voted for gun control.
But GOA members were instrumental in disabusing Congressmen of that notion.
After an avalanche of postcards and letters from GOA activists, Representatives realized that people “did care,” and these legislators were “not happy” they had been tricked into thinking their constituents would not mind, Roll Call reported.
GOA: putting people’s money to work in defense of gun rights
It’s tempting, all too often, for people to despair from the bad news that appears in the media. But gun owners should cheer some of the positive gains that all lovers of freedom achieved together:
* As already mentioned, GOA members were actively involved in contacting the House of Representatives immediately prior to the defeat of the anti-gun juvenile crime bill in June.
A strange coalition formed as pro-gun legislators, who opposed all gun control, teamed up with anti-gun legislators, who wanted more gun control, to vote against the “compromise” gun bill. “GOA members should give themselves a well-deserved pat on the back,” said GOA Executive Director, Larry Pratt. “It was truly a hard-fought victory.”
* The Congress retained its ban on the FBI’s plan to tax gun purchases– a ban which GOA members worked hard to get passed last year.
This ban also kept a provision that supposedly prohibits the FBI from using the instant check as a means to register gun owners. Many gun owners are still concerned that, despite this legislative language, the FBI can evade the written law and keep gun owners’ names indefinitely. By its own admission, the FBI is already keeping gun buyers’ names for 90 days– a policy which certainly violates the spirit of the law, if not the letter of the law as well.
* GOA worked with gun owners to voice opposition against legislation that would have cut out their voice from the political process.
A House bill would have severely restricted the ability of groups like GOA to report on incumbents’ voting records during the election season. While the House version passed, the Senate bill stalled in the face of a filibuster led by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The entire legislation is now considered dead.
The sponsors of the campaign deform bill plan to bring it up again. In order to put the issue to rest once and for all, GOA filed a friend of the court case in Nixon v. Shrink Political Action Committee. If this case is decided favorably, the Supreme Court would be declaring that the Federal Election Law is an infringement of the First Amendment. This means that groups like GOA could freely contribute to pro-gun candidates and criticize the records of anti-gun candidates.
* Gun Owners of America also lobbied to kill a gun registration boondoggle, which was supposed to take effect on October 1, 2000.
Beginning on that day, no one would have been allowed to purchase a gun, board a plane, open a bank account, go to a doctor, enter a school or take a new, private sector job without having a National ID card. It is quite possible that the ID card could have become a vehicle for gun owner registration, as firearms information could have easily been encrypted on these ID cards. The bill killing the National ID plan became law on October 9.
* In states all over the country, GOA members successfully lobbied their state legislators for bills that would stop city lawsuits aimed at destroying the gun industry.
The effectiveness of these newly passed laws varies from state to state. But Georgia’s law, which passed in February, has become somewhat of a model for other states. The Georgia law bans these “junk lawsuits” from being brought by city mayors, only leaving the door open for such lawsuits to be introduced by state officials.
* In Arizona, GOA fought a long, hard battle, providing the grassroots push that put a preemption bill on the governor’s desk.
The legislation, which prohibited localities from further restricting concealed carry, passed both houses by a veto-proof margin. While Gov. Jane Dee Hull (R) rejected the legislation, the leadership in both houses was reluctant to schedule an override vote. Gun owners will continue to press ahead in 2000 to override the governor’s veto. High praise goes to Brassroots, Inc., the local no-compromise group in the Grand Canyon State, for their hard work this year in getting the preemption bill passed.
* In Oregon, GOA issued a steady stream of alerts beginning early this year in opposition to a gun show registration bill.
The bill would have made decent gun owners criminals for trying to buy, sell or trade a gun at a gun show without permission from a government official. Bags and bags of legislative action mail were dropped into key districts– the bill being defeated in the Senate by one vote. GOA worked closely with Oregon Firearms Federation, the state’s true no-compromise gun lobby, to record a clear victory while others were advocating compromise.
* In Washington state, GOA helped kill a “lock-up your safety” bill.
Gun owners would have faced draconian penalties for not storing their firearms in such a way that would render their guns useless for self-defense emergencies. The Western Fish and Wildlife Federation did a yeoman’s job at the local level working against this dangerous legislation.
All these victories are just some of the highlights from a very active year, where GOA members played an important role in defending the rights of all Americans.
But there’s more to GOA than just alerting its members and lobbying on Capitol Hill.
GOA not just “preaching” to the choir
GOA spokesmen blanketed the airwaves this year in defense of 2nd Amendment rights.
Engaging the opposition in the “marketplace of ideas” is a challenge to which Gun Owners is committed.
On one talk show this year, Executive Director Larry Pratt had the task according to the hostess of “defending the indefensible” and explaining why GOA wants to eliminate the federal ban on guns within 1,000 feet of school property.
Pratt explained that he would like to see teachers and principals be able to have firearms at schools for self-protection.
Pratt argued that the research of Dr. John Lott, now of Yale University, makes it clear that jurisdictions which allow concealed carry have lower murder rates than jurisdictions that do not.
Toward the end of the show, one caller said that he had been holding for some time and had changed his opinion while listening to the information that Pratt had presented.
When he called in he was going to oppose Pratt’s position. When he got on the air, he said that what Pratt was proposing should be the law.
GOA looking toward the new century
In addition to radio and TV, GOA also educated the public in national publications like USA Today.
But of course, all this work only supplements GOA’s most important work of fighting to preserve our freedoms in capitol buildings all across this nation.
In the new millennium, GOA plans to keep delivering the same no-compromise message to the Congress and the state legislatures.
Our rights are not negotiable and we will continue to put pressure on legislators who disregard their oaths to uphold the Constitution.
GOA will vigorously oppose the anti-gun juvenile crime bill, or any other legislation that the President tries to shove down the throats of gun owners.
The foundation arm of Gun Owners– GOF– will be submitting an amicus brief in support of the very important Emerson case that challenges the federal government’s ability to pass gun control legislation.
The Emerson case, a federal court decision which was decided in favor of 2nd Amendment rights, is being appealed by the Clinton administration.
GOA will continue pushing the Citizen’s Self-Defense Act, as well as Ron Paul’s concealed carry legislation.
We will continue working at the state level to stop harmful gun bills, and will push for Vermont-style carry legislation protecting the right of decent citizens to carry without being licensed or registered.
There’s a lot to work to do. But this upcoming year has much potential.
We hope you will support Gun Owners of America and work with us in 2000.
Gun Owners Criticized by FBI
— Agency tries to divert attention away from its dirty laundry
The FBI issued a report in November that should concern gun owners everywhere.
The report, entitled Project Megiddo, tries to shift public attention away from the FBI’s long list of scandals to a problem of their own invention– namely, the threat of “right wing” terrorism at the turn of the century.
The report itself admits there are “very few indications” of specific threats to domestic security.
Nevertheless, the report goes out of its way to take a whack at the President’s political opponents.
In an attempt to demonize Clinton’s political opposition, the FBI has listed gun owners as being crucial to “understanding the phenomenon of domestic terrorism.”
FBI singles out Pratt
In fact, the report criticizes an article written by GOA Executive Director Larry Pratt that states in part that “gun control– meaning civilian disarmament– is high up on the agenda of the U.N.”
The FBI opines that “speculation [sic] like this only serves to fuel the already existing paranoia of militia and patriot groups.”
“How ludicrous!” responded GOA Executive Director Larry Pratt. “The FBI claims its ‘speculation’ to say that the UN is planning for civilian disarmament. This is ignorance at best; and deception at worst.”
“Nobody needs to speculate about the UN’s position on guns. They have openly displayed their gun control agenda on their web page for the entire world to see,” Pratt said.
Paranoid or vindictive? Louis Freeh’s FBI took a shot at gun owners in its recent report on terrorism.
UN openly displays its gun control agenda
To be sure, one does not have to be a member of the “paranoid right wing” to be concerned about UN gun control.
For example, on September 25 of this year UN Secretary General Kofi Annan issued a report recommending that the world’s governments, “Adopt gun control laws including a prohibition of unrestricted trade and private ownership of arms.”
This would be facilitated by “sharing information on the registration of guns and on sales.”
FBI covering its own anti-gun agenda?
The registration of firearms that Mr. Annan is calling for is being used right now in California as the basis for confiscating rifles that were legally registered at the time of purchase.
The FBI is the very agency registering every American who buys a gun from a dealer. These buyers have broken no law.
The FBI is not supposed to keep a list, but they nonetheless insist they need the names of decent people for law enforcement purposes.
This is the same ethically challenged agency whose laboratory has become infamous for withholding or tampering with evidence to obtain convictions of innocent people.
The FBI is also the group that has been maintaining files on leading Americans. This came to light in the Filegate scandal when they illegally provided these files to the President for his personal political use.
It took the FBI six years to discover they had withheld information about Waco from Congress, including the use of pyrotechnic devises and use of the military the day the Davidians were burned to death.
“No wonder the FBI issued a report that impugned the conservative movement in America,” Pratt said. “Clearly the FBI just wants to take our eyes off their own dirty linen.”
U.S. Representative Helen Chenoweth-Hage, Idaho:
“GOA is close to standing alone in Washington. They do not tell their members one thing and do another inside the beltway. They are tough and they don’t give up.”
U.S. Senator Bob Smith, New Hampshire:
“You and your members are great patriots.”
Roll Call, 8/12/99:
“Gun Owners of America is considered the most aggressive pro-gun lobbying organization.”
What They’re Saying About GOA . . .
U.S. Representative Ron Paul, Texas:
“Your membership in Gun Owners makes a difference on Capitol Hill every single day. . . . I know that GOA will continue to be the ‘no compromise’ leader in defending America’s gun rights and personal freedoms.”
Roll Call, 8/12/99:
“Gun Owners [of America] is . . . much more active. They moved quickly and we heard from their people,” said one House leadership source close to the juvenile crime issue.
Arizona Legislator Advocates More Guns in Schools
Anti-gun advocates go apoplectic when anyone even suggests that “guns save lives.”
Sticking to their script, anti-gun advocates hurled a series of personal attacks and distortions at Arizona state Representative Barbara B. Blewster (R-Dewey) for proposing that some school personnel should be armed for the purpose of protecting students and faculty.
Undeterred, Rep. Blewster refused to back down and praised the Israelis for the way they have virtually eliminated the terrorist attacks on schools in their country.
In the early 1970’s PLO terrorists targeted many Israeli schools, kindergarten, and school buses.
The schools were a very attractive target because of the publicity and infamy that the media afforded terrorists who attacked schools.
“The schools were also unprotected,” Blewster said. “Armed gunmen could easily kill large numbers of children and take many hostages.”
What was their answer?
“When the Israelis trained citizens in firearms use and teachers, nurses, parents, and grandparents worked together to guard the schools, the terrorists failed in two separate attempts to infiltrate schools,” she said.
“Afterwards, the terrorist attacks against Israeli schools stopped.”
Rep. Blewster also cited the example of Joel Myrick, a school administrator in Mississippi, who used a firearm in 1997 to stop a killer from continuing his school shooting spree.
Blewster’s proposal calls for a judicious selection of school personnel to be trained in the use of deadly force and permitted to carry concealed as part of a carefully coordinated crisis management plan.
Ignoring the outlandish personal attacks of hysterical anti-gun advocates, Rep. Blewster is steadfast in her support of the right to keep and bear arms.
Gun Owners Go to School
|In Milwaukee, concerned gun owners are going to school, but not with guns.|
After schools opened during the fall of 1999, members of a Milwaukee church developed an unusual outreach to the kids as they were entering area schools.
The man behind this effort is Matt Trewhella, a GOA member and pastor of the non-denominational Mercy Seat Christian Church in Milwaukee.
God and guns in the schools
Trewhella’s church purchased bullet-shaped religious tracts entitled “How Can We Stop the Bloodshed?” The tracts dealt with the removal of God from the schools and reasons why the Bible has the answer to the murder and violence of men’s heart.
That alone probably would have upset the local authorities.
But what really insured that they would condemn the Mercy Seat’s outreach was the inclusion of a flyer entitled “Never Disarm” which quotes America’s founders on the importance of being armed, as well as current information about guns and young people.
Included in the flyer was the contact information for GOA and for Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership.
Authorities up in arms
The Sheriff of Waukesha County, William Kruziki, said: “These people have no business handing 14-year olds information about guns while they’re at school.”
The Sheriff is evidently unaware that not long ago it was legal for 13- and 14-year olds to buy rifles at a hardware store. And the problem of school violence was far less than it is today.
One County School Board member, William Domina, said: “To stand out in front of a public school where young people are entering and to promote guns is an atrocity.”
Mr. Domina overlooks the atrocities committed against unarmed people in this country and abroad.
And last but not least the Milwaukee Sentinel editorialized against the literature distribution with a headline reading “Pro-gun fliers, schools don’t mix.”
“Now, how’s that for academic freedom?” responded GOA Executive Director Larry Pratt.
“The editors of the Sentinel would rather leave students in the dark about what the founding fathers had to say. The fact is, guns save lives; and rather than demonizing these objects, adults should instead by teaching teenagers how to properly handle firearms,” Pratt said.
The text of the bullet tract can be found on the GOA website at http://www.gunowners.org/op0001.htm.
Voters Don’t Like Gun Control
The Washington Times
October 14, 1999
by Larry Pratt
In an Oct. 6 column, “Political misfires on the gun control range,” Morton Kondracke claims that Republicans will be hurt at the polls if they don’t pass gun control this year.
Every poll, he says, indicates the public “supports” the strict handgun control measures being pushed by Democratic presidential candidates and their allies in Congress.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Kondracke may give a lot of “interesting” polling data, but he ignores the most important poll– the poll that is taken every Election Day. Let’s look at some recent history.
In 1994, the Democratic Party took a beating at the polls. The very party which Kondracke now considers to be so enlightened for pushing gun control got hammered on Election Day. Why?
According to President Clinton, “The fight for the assault-weapons ban cost 20 members their seats in Congress . . . [and is] the reason the Republicans control the House.”
That was Bill Clinton in an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer in January 1995.
Well, was Clinton just having a bad day? Did a reporter simply catch him off guard? No, if there is one truth that Clinton has managed to keep straight for the last four years, it’s the question of why the Democrats lost the Congress.
As recently as June of this year, Clinton told the audience of ABC’s Good Morning America: “This Congress came to power after the 1994 elections because in critical races the people who voted for more modest things, like the Brady Bill . . . got beat. They got beat, Charlie.”
Some will say, “That was 1994; things are much different now.”
Wrong. In 1997, the voters of Washington state went to the polls. One of the ballot initiatives would have required gun owners to lock-up their safety by putting trigger locks on their guns. The measure that voters were considering was very similar to a provision that is in the juvenile crime bill in Congress right now.
What happened? The voters of Washington shot down the initiative by a whopping 71-29 percent.
National Public Radio recently billed the race to fill the seat of the late Rep. George Brown, California Democrat, as a referendum on gun control. The favored Democratic candidate in the Sept. 21 Democratic primary, Rep. Brown’s widow, supported gun control. Her opponent, Joe Baca, opposed a ban on so-called assault weapons.
The winner? Voters rejected the gun control candidate and nominated Joe Baca.
It is ironic that so many candidates seem to make the mistake Mr. Kondracke makes. But as they say about history: If you don’t study it, you’re doomed to repeat it.
If candidates continue to ignore the lessons from the ultimate poll– which is taken every Election Day– they are doomed to repeat the same mistakes.
Larry Pratt is executive director of Gun Owners of America.
“Turn In Your Neighbor” Law Allows Gun Confiscation Without Crime
By Edward G. Oliver
Ominously dubbed the “turn in your neighbor” law, a new Connecticut gun control provision — which proponents predicted would be rarely used — has already resulted in police seizing firearms and ammunition from four gun owners since Oct. 1when the law took effect.
Hailed as groundbreaking by gun control advocates, the law reportedly opens up a new frontier for gun laws in the coming election season.
As originally written, the provision would have allowed seizure of firearms by police based on unproven allegations by any two persons in an affidavit to a judge. The language was later modified to require that two police officers or a state’s attorney go before a judge with the belief, after investigation, that an individual “poses a risk of imminent personal injury to himself or herself or to other individuals,” in order to obtain a warrant to seize the subject’s firearms. No crime needs to have been committed for the seizure to take place.
Alleged threatening behavior, cruelty to animals, alcohol and drug abuse or prior confinement in a psychiatric facility can be considered by a judge in assessing whether an individual poses an imminent risk of danger….
Thompson Bosee, of Greenwich, Conn., had his guns and ammunition seized by police on Oct. 29 under the new law. Bosee told WorldNetDaily he suspects that a neighbor, with whom he has had words regarding the neighbor’s driving on Bosee’s property, might have reported him.
“They had a warrant for my guns, they arrested my guns,” said Bosee. A member of both the NRA and the American Gunsmithing Association, Bosee said he works on his guns in his garage and is not ashamed of it. Police simultaneously served a “failure to appear” warrant from an eight-year-old traffic charge.
Although Greenwich Police would not comment, they released a list of the guns and ammunition they seized from Bosee, including six handguns, three rifles, one shotgun, one submachine gun and 3,108 rounds of ammunition.
A spokeswoman from Handgun Control Inc. told WorldNetDaily,
The gun lobby likes to use scare tactics in order to frighten people away from any kind of reasonable gun control laws. We support the law. It has to meet a pretty strict standard, we feel it is in the general interest of the person themselves as well as the general public.
We think there should be an outlet for families to say, ‘Look, my sister or my cousin is showing signs of losing it, we know he has a gun, we want to make sure he can’t hurt himself or others.’ They should have that option.
Asked if HCI would like to see the law in other states, she answered, “If other states want a similar law, we certainly would support it.”
To many, the “gun lobby” means the National Rifle Association. However, a spokesman described the NRA’s position on the issue to WorldNetDaily only as “neutral.”
But Jerry Tramontano of the Gun Owners of America, likened the provision, which was tacked onto an instant check bill, to the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent. The GOA has been a long-standing opponent of instant check, he told WorldNetDaily, believing it amounts to a national registration database.
Lamenting what he sees as a lukewarm defense of the Second Amendment in Connecticut, he said, “Look what happens when you’re willing to compromise a little — you get a lot,” adding that one of the law’s victims is already planning a constitutional challenge.
Attorney Ralph Sherman, chairman of Connecticut’s pro-gun “Gunsafe” group acknowledged that the search and seizure provision, which he opposes, did result from a compromise on the total gun bill the NRA supported….
The so-called “turn in your neighbor” provision allows for the issuance of a search warrant without the necessity of meeting the basic constitutional requirement of probable cause, said Sherman.
Probable cause, he explained, means there must be good reason to believe that the items being searched for are connected to a crime — not just a general feeling that somebody might commit a crime someday.
The law’s cruelty to animals justification for gun seizure scares him the most. “If I throw a rock or a newspaper at a dog in my yard or in my garden, that doesn’t mean I’m mentally unbalanced. What if a neighbor doesn’t like me and sees that?”
The law also violates the due process principle, Sherman said, which establishes that a suspect is innocent until proven guilty. . . .
Joe Graborz, Executive Director of the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union, an affiliate of the ACLU, told WorldNetDaily the law “continues to invest unusual and far-reaching powers in police authority that does not belong there” by requiring “police to act as psychologists in trying to predict and interpret behavior.”
He said the warrant can be issued on just the complaint of two police officers, without the need for anything more as far as suspicion of a crime having been committed.
“What is the standard of proof on this, where the police authority acting as the government [can] violate your right to be safe and sound from undue interference in your own home? The way this law is written, it can and will be easily abused by police.”
Reprinted with permission of the Internet newspaper WorldNetDaily.com.