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House Passes Extreme Penalties For Some Who Use Guns In Self-Defense
-- Bill could also make your hunting party a "criminal street gang"

Gun Owners of America
8001 Forbes Place, Suite 102
Springfield, VA 22151
(703)321-8585

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Let's assume that you and your family are on your way home from church. You have a gun in the glove compartment that is there for self-protection.

After driving within 1,000 feet of a school (which is almost unavoidable), you stop by the grocery store to pick up a few items for lunch.

As you are exiting your car, you are approached by a gang of teenagers, armed with long screwdrivers and wrenches. Realizing that you are about to be mugged, you brandish your firearm in order to scare them off -- although this act on your part is a violation of state law which requires that you first retreat, rather than defend yourself.

Congratulations. Under legislation that recently passed the House, all the members of your family are now subject to a MANDATORY MINIMUM sentence of ten years in prison -- and up to life imprisonment.

The judge would have NO DISCRETION to release you before the end of the ten-year period -- but an anti-gun judge could sentence you and your family to LIFE IMPRISONMENT.

Sound ridiculous? Welcome to the new "tough-on-crime" House of Representatives.

It's not as though Republicans like House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) have no experience with the "unintended" broad consequences of anti-gun laws.

Remember the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO)? That bill was passed with the ostensible purpose of going after the Mafia.

But it was poorly drafted. At its core, a person or business only had to commit two of a broad list of sometimes-fairly-innocuous crimes in order to be subject to stiff prison sentences. As a result, lawsuits and criminal prosecutions soon sprouted against legitimate banks and businesses and pro-life protestors.

Never capable of learning from its mistakes, Congress is about to go after gun owners in the same way.

This new bill -- touted as anti-gang legislation -- is numbered H.R. 1279 in the House, where it passed by a 279-144 margin on May 11. Twenty Republicans -- including pro-gun stalwarts like John Hostettler (R-IN), Ron Paul (R-TX), and Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) -- voted against it. It now goes to the Senate, where its counterpart (S. 155) is sponsored by anti-gun zealot Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

Similar to RICO, these two bills, at the core, would define "criminal street gangs" to be formal OR INFORMAL groups of three or more individuals who commit two or more of a long list of "predicate" crimes.

What are these predicate crimes, of which two or more could get you thrown into the slammer for the rest of your life? Check these out:

* Violation of the Kohl 1,000-foot "gun-free-school-zone" law would be a predicate crime in the House bill.
* Having a gun in violation of the Lautenberg amendment -- because you spanked your kid or spat on your husband -- would be a predicate in both the House and Senate versions.
* Accidentally shooting a doe instead of a buck (or shooting the wrong kind of duck) would be a "crime of violence" (under the 18 U.S.C. 16 definition) and could therefore be a "predicate" crime if some of the worst provisions from both bills end up in the final version that goes to the President.

And, as mentioned above, your family's trip past the school -- as you're driving home from church -- could send all of you to jail if you use your gun in self-defense, rather than first retreating as required in some states.

This is because:

* A "criminal street gang" exists as soon as this "informal" group of 3 or more individuals (your family) commits "2 or more gang crimes... in relation to the group" if one of the crimes is a "crime of violence."
* Violation of the Kohl "gun-free-school-zone" amendment (18 U.S.C. 922(q)) is a "gang crime."
* The threat to use a firearm against the muggers is both a gang crime and a crime of violence because it involves a "threat" of "force" against a person.

The bills have other anti-gun provisions, as well:

1. Mandatory Prison Sentences For Gun Owners

The "street gang" provisions in the bill (as mentioned above) could send you and your family to jail for 10 years-to-life if you defend them with a gun under certain conditions.

But even apart from those RICO-style provisions in the bill, there is other language in the bill that could send you to jail for twenty years MINIMUM if you use a gun in self-defense... even without your family being nearby.

Federal law prohibits the mere possession of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. The term "crime of violence" clearly includes brandishing or even opening your coat to display a firearm to defend yourself against a mugger -- without retreating -- in states that require retreat. Hence, a concealed carry permit holder who opens his suit jacket and displays a firearm to a potential mugger in these states is liable under this section because "crime of violence" means the threatened use of force against person or property.

Section 114 of H.R. 1279 would increase the MINIMUM penalty for shooting the mugger (i.e., a Bernie Goetz-type offense) to TWENTY years in prison.

2. Expanding The Lautenberg Gun Ban

Section 109 of the House bill -- and its counterpart on the Senate version -- makes it more likely that a person will NOT get bail if they possessed a firearm after committing a "Lautenberg misdemeanor." Again, a person could be held to commit such a misdemeanor if the person spanked their kid or spat on their spouse. So for having committed this small infraction (and for owning a gun) a person faces a higher probability of being held in jail until trial.

ACTION: Contact your United States senators. Ask them to oppose anti-gun so-called "gang" legislation.

You can visit the Gun Owners Legislative Action Center at http://www.gunowners.org/activism.htm to send your Senators a pre-written e-mail message.

-----Pre-written letter-----

Dear Senator:

H.R. 1279 and its counterpart, S. 155, are supposedly "anti-gang" measures. But they are so poorly drafted that they could lead to lifetime prison sentences for fathers who protect their families from muggers.

Under H.R. 1279, a family which drives within 1,000 feet of a school (which is almost unavoidable) with a gun in the glove compartment could be a criminal gang if the father or mother brandished the gun to scare off a mugger. All members of the family could be subject to a MANDATORY MINIMUM sentence of ten years in prison -- and up to life imprisonment, at the discretion of the court.

The Senate bill is only slightly better.

Please oppose these anti-gun abominations.

Sincerely,