Newsletters 1994-2001

"The president thanked gun control groups for their support... but said, 'We have a lot more to do.'" -- Associated Press, November 30, 1999

by Erich Pratt

Unfortunately, it is only a matter of time before it happens again.

Another maniac will shoot up a school or an office building, leaving several innocent victims in his wake.

But to compound the tragedy, scores of media vultures will follow the trail of blood -- all of them screaming for more gun control.

Of course, one wonders where those same vultures are when a good guy uses a gun to stop a school-massacre. Or when mother pulls a firearm out of the cabinet to send several intruders fleeing the house.


Democrats have praised Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) for his work in pushing the anti-gun juvenile crime bill through the Senate.

Most of the time, we never hear the positive uses of a firearm reported.

Nevertheless, the next shooting that galvanizes the nation will bring the Congress just one step closer to passing more gun restrictions -- restrictions that are purely symbolic in terms of fighting crime.

Even supporters of gun control admit as much. The Washington Post stated back in September that,

None of the gun control legislation under discussion in Congress would have prevented the purchase of weapons by shooters in a recent spate of firearms violence, including [the] massacre at a Texas church, gun control supporters and opponents agree.

Democrats pushing discharge petition

The primary gun control legislation that moved through the Congress last year was the anti-gun juvenile crime bill.

For the most part, the media has focused on the provisions in the juvenile bill requiring background checks on private sales at gun shows.

But there's much more to the bill than what has been reported on the six o'clock news.

The anti-gun provisions in the juvenile crime bill would blow a huge hole in the Second Amendment. (See the description of the anti-gun provisions listed below.)

Thankfully, the concerted activism of people at the grassroots level has put the gun control "jeanie" back in the bottle -- for now.

But the Democrats, not to be outdone, are looking for ways to uncork that bottle.

Several Democratic leaders are considering a parliamentary maneuver known as a "discharge petition" which would pull the juvenile crime bill out of committee and onto the floor of the House for an immediate vote.

This effort is being led by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) who said he views the gun control provisions in the bill as "gun safety provisions."

As GOA has argued in its TV and radio debates, "gun safety" is just a smokescreen designed to cover the anti-gunners agenda. Namely, "safety" is just a way of nibbling around the edges until the whole 2nd Amendment is gone.

Legislating "gun safety" will result in safety for criminals only.

Moderate Republicans pushing gun control

On the Republican side of the aisle, high-ranking voices are also pushing S. 254, the gun control bill passed by the Senate in May.


Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is the author and chief advocate of the anti-gun juvenile bill.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) voted for the juvenile gun bill in July.

For example, Republican candidates John McCain of Arizona and Orrin Hatch of Utah are two presidential candidates that are in full support of the anti-gun juvenile bill.

While Sen. Hatch is the lead sponsor of the crime bill, both he and McCain voted for several of the anti-gun amendments that were added in May.

[Readers can go to http://www.gunowners.org/106svote.htm on the GOA web page to view their votes, as well as any other Senator's voting record.]

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) has also played an important role in bringing the bill to the floor right after the Columbine tragedy.

Lott won praise from Democrats for his forcefulness in getting a quick vote on the bill. Lott himself admitted that,

On the juvenile justice bill [S. 254], I could have gone through all kinds of contortions and gyrations to try to block that, but I thought . . . we ought to take it up. . . . I didn't run around out here trying to block [the anti-gun amendments]. Some of my colleagues said I should have done that.

In July, pro-gun Senator Bob Smith (R-NH) tried to kill the bill, but Senator Lott successfully led the effort to override Smith's filibuster.

Lott forced the Senate to vote on whether to continue the Smith filibuster or to send it to a conference committee.

All three Senators -- Lott, Hatch and McCain -- along with 69 other members of the Senate, voted against efforts to kill the bill.

The July vote sent the bill to a conference committee which is where it has currently stalled.

Compromisers in the House leadership looking to make a deal

Moderate Republicans in the House have also bragged quite openly that they would like to forge a compromise with the Democrats.

"I remain optimistic that some compromise is possible," said House Judiciary Chairman Henry Hyde of Illinois.

"Senator Hatch and I have pulled together a proposal that closes the gun-show loophole and offers a number of other modest yet effective gun safety provisions."

But the truth be known, these proposals are neither modest nor effective -- not to mention that they will not result in additional safety.

Grassroots activism works!

The good news for gun owners is that their activism over the last year has had a tremendous effect upon the rank and file members of the House.

Some Congressmen initially thought their constituents would not mind some gun control compromises. But the torrential downpour of mail from GOA members and supporters has convinced many legislators that those initial thoughts were a mistake.

They have told the leadership they would rather not be forced to "walk the plank" again by voting for more gun control.

As it stands now, there is a winning coalition to defeat the juvenile crime bill on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Of course, that could change after the next shooting.

For many reasons, we should hope that shooting never occurs.



How Bad is the Anti-gun Juvenile Crime Bill?

1. Banning the private sale of firearms. The Senate juvenile bill (S. 254) bans the private sales of firearms at gun shows unless the gun buyer submits to a government registration background check. According to government studies from 1989 onwards, any background check system can lead to registration, despite legal prohibitions. The FBI has already saved the names of three million gun owners through the instant background check that went online late last year. Of course, the danger is that gun owner registration has historically led to the confiscation of firearms -- including recent examples in New York City and California.

2. Full-scale gun owner registration -- including a new requirement that could give the government the serial numbers of firearms that you have recently purchased. If you want to buy a firearm at a gun show, S. 254 requires that within 10 days, the gun dealer must report your purchase to the FBI. This information could very well include the serial number of the firearm you just purchased-all of which would be over and above the data given to the FBI during the instant background check. As mentioned above, this provision can very easily lead to gun owner registration and gun confiscation.

3. Death blow to gun shows? The Senate bill allows gun show promoters to be imprisoned for two years for failure to notify EVERY attendee of his legal requirements. With this "sword of Damocles" hanging over gun show promoters' heads, don't be surprised when gun shows go the way of the horse and buggy.

4. Unlimited new taxes on the next purchase of a firearm. S. 254 will allow federal bureaucrats to slap an indirect tax on firearms buyers at gun shows by letting them impose higher fees on gun show promoters -- fees which, of course, get passed on to the firearm purchaser. Right now, private gun sales at gun shows are not regulated or taxed. This would change with the passage of the juvenile bill.

5. Punishing parents for letting their kids touch a gun under most circumstances? Under the provisions of S. 254 if you, as a parent, take your kid target shooting, you can't even walk to the car to grab a lunch, without giving your teenage son or daughter a permission slip to handle the firearm. Otherwise, you would spend a mandatory year in prison!

6. Limiting self-defense with lock-up your safety requirements. The juvenile injustice bill forces gun sellers to include trigger locks with every handgun sold. Like seat belts, this requirement will be the first step towards mandating that every gun owner lock-up their gun. But locking up your safety means that a gun will not be immediately usable in an emergency and will actually cost lives. Need proof? The Wall Street Journal (4/23/99) noted how when Beretta tested a "Saf T Lok," it caused 18 of 27 rounds to "totally malfunction." And when Handgun Control's chief attorney attempted to demonstrate the same trigger lock at an HCI-sponsored event, he found, to his embarrassment, that he was unable to disengage the lock.

7. Banning self-defense ammunition magazines. The Senate bill bans the importation of any magazine that holds over 10 rounds. This is a direct attack upon the ability of law-abiding gun owners to defend themselves. Consider that in 1992, the National Guard and the police refused to engage hoodlums during the Los Angeles riots. But Korean merchants successfully used their firearms, with high capacity magazine clips, to fend off the rioters. It was their stores that were still standing after the riots.

8. Opening the door to BATF harassment of gun owners. S. 254 would commit $40 million to increasing the presence of the BATF-not to investigate murders, violent felonies, or crimes of violence-but to pursue firearms "offenses" (such as record keeping and other innocuous errors by otherwise law-abiding Americans).

The anti-gun juvenile crime legislation is currently deadlocked in a House-Senate conference committee.



GOA Catches President Blowing Smoke on Gun Law's Anniversary

by Erich Pratt

Six years after signing the Brady bill into law, President Bill Clinton hit the airwaves praising the instant background check.

But Gun Owners of America quickly responded to the media and accused the President of completely distorting the facts.

The President claims that background checks have stopped over 470,000 criminals from getting guns.

But when one looks through the smoke and gets behind the mirrors, one sees that his claims simply evaporate into thin air.

The General Accounting Office has found that almost 50% of denials under the Brady Law were erroneous. The agency found that citizens were being denied for traffic violations or administrative snafus -- things like sending paperwork to the wrong department.

In 1998, the Indianapolis Star and News reported that the U.S. Department of Justice had over-stated the number of people who were denied firearms in Indiana alone by more than 1,300%.

Indiana was not an aberration, as the newspaper found that "paperwork errors and duplications inflated the [DOJ's] numbers" in many states.

Brady law not keeping guns out of criminals' hands

Errors, mistakes and disruptions have marked the first six years of the Brady administration.

But the dirty little secret the gun banners hate to talk about is this: the Brady law has resulted in less than ten people being sent to jail.

The fact is, even the real criminals who are initially denied at a gun store are not arrested -- which means they're still free to get a gun on the streets.

How can the President, with a straight face, claim these people have been denied a firearm?

Benjamin Smith's shooting spree this past July is indicative of this hole in the President's numbers.

Benjamin Smith is just one of those 470,000 who were supposedly denied a firearm.

He was rejected when he tried to buy a firearm from an Illinois gun dealer. His past raised a red flag, and authorities denied him the firearm.

But after this initial rejection, he hit the streets and in just three days had two handguns from an illegal source. Three days after getting the guns, Smith went on a rampage that killed two people and wounded nine others.

The truth of the matter is that all the millions of dollars that have been poured into conducting background checks in this country cannot stop -- and have not stopped -- the Benjamin Smiths of the world from getting guns.

Why should we leave a law on the books that penalizes honest citizens, but rarely punishes criminals?



Going Down Under Down Under


by Sen. H.L. Richardson

Let's study the horror of what's happening to our Australian, English, Canadian and South African gun owning friends.

The Aussies, like us, are a gun owning population; or should we say, were.

The Australian continent is a vast, arid land, populated with only 19 million people. It also has an abundance of varmints, a pest problem of major proportions.

It is little wonder that practically every rural house contained a firearm, used for the control of these bothersome critters.


Sen. H.L. Richardson warns American hunters to beware: Australian style gun control could someday wash up on our shores.

The crime rate in Australia has been historically low, 1.8 per 100,000. It is an isolated country with no borders for the illegal to slip across. It has been rightfully referred to as a sleepy, peaceful land.

That is, until the leftist government implemented a draconian gun confiscation policy.

Media helps turn gun tragedy into draconian new legislation

For years, the Labor party [socialists] and the Liberals [conservative] were closely balanced, a six- percent swing one way or the other, could change their parliament.

A small but vocal group of hard leftists split off and formed the Australian Democrat Party. They held few seats in parliament, however, they have been mouthy, and the driving force behind the anti-gun movement.

On April 28th 1996, a maniac shot 35 people in Port Arthur. The media went ballistic, screaming about the evil of "assault" firearms.

Australians were shocked, nothing like this had ever happened in sleepy, peaceful Australia. The shrill cry and incessant anti-gun propaganda paid off and, in just 12 days, Federal resolutions were passed and the states enacted them into laws.

What did they enact? Did they just go after those "ugly" guns, those military look-alike assault weapons? Think again!

Pump shotguns, .22 calibers on the ban list

They outlawed every semi-auto, even those "pretty' duck guns, the Browning A5 and the Remington 1100's.

They even struck down pump shotguns; the Winchester model 12 and the Remington 870 are two examples. The law read "Any pump shotgun with a magazine capacity of 5 rounds or less."

Do you own a Browning BAR rifle? Banned. How about a Winchester Model 100? Out of luck, all semi -auto hunting rifles were outlawed as well. They didn't miss a one.

You may ask, "Surely they left 22's alone, didn't they?"

Nope, the criteria the government used was simple. If it's a semi-auto, it's gone.

If caught with one of these "illegal" firearms, the crime was considered serious, punishable by multiple years in prison.

The Australian government offered to buy back all of the listed firearms.

They then imposed a 1% tax on everybody to raise the money necessary to secure the "illegal" firearms.

Gun ban followed by spike in crime

The massive 500 million buy back program was quickly, but poorly, implemented. Of the estimated 7 million firearms, roughly 40% are now prohibited. Close to 2.8 million firearms should have been surrendered to authorities. Was it a success? Hardly. Less than 25%, or 640,000 weapons were turned in.

Gun Control and left-wing politicians said great things about the new law. A university of criminology professor stated, "It is probable that the crime rate will drop by up to 20 percent."

Nothing of the sort happened, in fact just the opposite took place. In 1997, just 12 months after the new laws went into effect, across Australia, homicides jumped 3.2 percent, armed robberies were up a whopping 44 percent, assaults up 8.6 and in the state of Victoria there was a 300 percent increase in homicides.

Prior to the new dictatorial anti-gun laws, statistics showed a steady decrease in armed robberies with firearms; now, there has been a dramatic increase in break-ins, especially against the elderly.

In 1998, in the state of South Australia, robbery with a firearm increased nearly 60 percent. In 1999, new figures reveal that the assault rates in the state of NSW has risen almost 20 percent.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the crime rate for burglary in America is now substantially less than Australia, Canada, and Britain.

The data from a comprehensive study from the University of Chicago [Lott, Mustard] showed that in these same three countries, people were home almost half of the time when the burglaries were committed.

In the US, it was less than 13%. Fear of firearms in the American home was the reason given.

Gun haters refused to settle for registration laws

Again, in Australia, Canada and Britain, all handguns were already severely controlled. Failure to yearly re-register in a prompt manner could bring law enforcement to the doorstep to confiscate the firearm.

Reasons must be given why anyone needs a license. The government lists only 10 reasons for owning a firearm -- protection of self and family is not considered a "reasonable" request!

Guns aren't the only things prohibited. In 1998, a new law was passed outlawing an assortment of knives. The fine for owning a classic Bowie knife? Up to $10,000 or two years in the crow bar motel. Owning handcuffs is prohibited. Caught with one of these items, the fine is up to $11,000 or up to 14 years in prison.

Hunting anywhere other than private property is now extremely difficult, where one must have written permission by the owner. One has to acquire a permit from government to hunt on government-controlled land. The Australian government is under no obligation to honor hunting requests and it is common for permits to be refused.

American hunters beware: gun banners want them all

American hunters, especially those who hunt on western public lands -- take notice! Someday soon we will face the same problem on federal and state lands.

The Anti-gun movement is the creature of the most radical leftist elements of the world wide socialist movement. The tactics are the same, with only slight propaganda alterations to fit each country.

It's not surprising that the internationalist nose of the United Nations poked its way into the gun issue. The Sport Shooters Assoc. of Australia stated that they had been "aware of a connection between the United Nations [UN] and Australia's new so-called "national" gun laws."

Look no further than the UN Security Council's pronouncements; they endorsed sweeping gun control measures, including a ban on private ownership of assault rifles. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for ways to reduce the global stockpile of some 500 million handguns, rifles, shotguns and assault weapons.

We gun owners are not just fighting for our gun rights; we are fighting for all our freedoms. The Second Amendment just happens to be the linch-pin.



Powerful New Waco Film is Making History


Waco: A New Revelation is the film that triggered a new Congressional investigation of the Waco tragedy, and caused the Justice Department and the FBI to reverse their long-held positions on Waco. It has generated a firestorm of events unprecedented in the history of documentary filmmaking.

After six years of painstaking investigation, the complete story of the tragedy near Waco is finally coming to light. This compelling feature-length documentary presents new revelations about the events that led up to the deaths of 79 men, women and children at Mount Carmel on April 19, 1993.

Based on physical evidence recovered from the official Waco evidence lockers, chilling testimonies from former FBI, Special Forces and CIA operators, and interviews with Branch Davidian survivors, Waco: A New Revelation presents evidence addressing the following questions:

Why didn't the Branch Davidians and their children come out of the compound?

Did the FBI actually start the Waco fire using pyrotechnic devices?

Why was critical evidence missing from the evidence locker nearly six years after the event?

What was the role of the elite U.S. Army Delta Force at Waco during the final tank assault -- and why was their presence denied until recently?

Does the trail of the Waco evidence lead to the White House?

To order a copy of this new film, see http://www.gunowners.com/resource.htm or call (703) 321-8585 to use most major credit cards. Make checks out to Gun Owners Foundation ($24.45 + $4.50 shipping and handling) and send to Gun Owners Foundation at 8001 Forbes Place, Suite 102, Springfield, VA 22151.



GOA Life Member Runs for Congress


Dr. Michael Curtiss, a GOA Life Member, is seeking the support of the voters of Illinois' 17th Congressional District. And the way he is doing it sure caught the national media's attention.

Imagine! Raffling off a semi-auto rifle and handgun. Well, thanks in part to the media attention, it proved to be so successful that Curtiss is now raffling off a Browning .50 caliber machine gun. It comes with a good scope for the accuracy appropriate for the long range of this firearm. The winner will receive a piece of freedom's arsenal worth $3900.

The Browning raffle has been dubbed the "Rod Blagojevich special" in honor of the Chicago congressman who would like to ban this particular gun.

Dr. Curtiss sees all of America's liberties, not just those protected by the Second Amendment, to be in jeopardy.

Those wishing to purchase a $20 raffle ticket for the Browning (Blagojevich special) should send their personal checks to Curtiss for Congress, P.O. Box 165, Seaton, IL 61476. The raffle will be held on March 1st.



GOA in the States


Gov. Jane Hull (R-AZ)

Gov. Gary Johnson (R-NM)

by Dennis Fusaro

Gun Owners win big in Arizona; "Attila The" Hull issued stern rebuke

Arizona Governor Jane Hull (R) is getting a bad reputation in her state -- some say, deservedly.

She recently tried to bully Arizona officials, and made an all out effort to ram new gun control through the legislature.

Now, her anti-gun ways have prompted state activists to dub her Governor Jane "Attila The" Hull.

It all began in December when Governor Hull gave legislators a surprise Christmas present -- she called the legislature into special session.

Legislators were not amused.

Seeing that one of the issues on Hull's agenda was gun control, GOA members and allied groups like Brassroots (out of Tucson) sprang into action and generated a firestorm of protest.

One pro-gun representative's office noted 300 calls and e-mails against new gun control and only two in favor.

Gun owners emerged victorious as legislators shot down Hull's gun control wish list. But gun owners can certainly expect more threats in the regular session which began in early January 2000.

Dubious compromise in the Keystone State

Well, the anti-gunners won another round in Pennsylvania. At least that's the take from many pro-gun activists.

Andy Barniskis, GOA member and a spokesman for the Keystone Firearms Coalition, criticized the recently passed Senate Bill 167, which among other things, requires that anti-gun locking devices be forced upon handgun buyers (and transferors).

"File a lawsuit or threaten to do so and the anti-gunners . . . will ultimately make it difficult, if not impossible, to have a firearm available to defend one's home and family," notes Barniskis.

In other words, gun owners will have little choice but to lock-up their guns if they want to escape any potential civil liability. To state the obvious, that means that every Pennsylvanian's gun will be rendered virtually useless for immediate self-defense.

Some gun advocates have praised one of the provisions in SB 167 that prohibits local government entities from filing lawsuits against gun manufacturers. But others question how much was truly won with this proviso.

"The [lawsuit] provision will not prevent cities from suing gun manufacturers," Barniskis said.

All the cities have to do is allege that the manufacturers were party to unlawful activities. Whether or not the suits are successful in themselves, they can still be used for their real purpose of economic warfare against the gun industry.

According to Barniskis, "All of the municipal lawsuits against gun manufacturers to date have alleged that the manufacturers were parties, either willfully or through negligence, to UNLAWFUL distribution of their products."

In plain words, anti-gun cities are claiming manufacturers "should have known" that large distributors of certain classes of firearms were marketing them either "carelessly" or illegally.

"The object of the multiple national suits IS NOT necessarily to win judgments in court," Barniskis says, "but to bankrupt many manufacturers by forcing themselves to defend themselves against the same allegations over and over again."

 

"Smart-guns" first step to total handgun ban in Maryland

Maryland's anti-gun Governor is joining Attorney General Joseph Curran (D) in a one-two punch to ban handguns from private citizens.

While Curran basically wants an outright handgun ban, Gov. Parris Glendening (D) is using the smokescreen of so-called "smart-gun technology" to eliminate the supply of existing handguns and make it difficult, if not impossible, to have a handgun in one's home for self-defense.

In a report released on December 1, 1999, the Governor's Task Force on Childproof Guns recommended that no handguns be sold in Maryland after 2002 unless they are manufactured with internal safety locks, and further, that handguns lacking so-called smart gun technology not be sold after 2003.

No doubt transfers between family members and friends will be banned as well.

GOA member John Josselyn, Legislative Vice President of the Associated Gun Clubs of Baltimore, says, "I have little doubt that law enforcement agencies, and what Mr. Curran refers to in his handgun ban report as 'certain professional groups,' will be exempt from the proposed legislation.

"The Governor and Attorney General will continue to hide behind their bodyguards who are armed with safe and reliable 'dumb guns' while average citizens hide defenseless behind their locked doors," Josselyn said.

"As for the criminals, it will simply be business as usual."

Rep. Lutz pushing Vermont Style Carry in New Mexico

The 2000 New Mexico legislature is limited by the state's constitution to dealing with fiscal issues unless Governor Gary Johnson (R) makes a special "call" to address concealed carry legislation.

In 1998, pro-gun Representative Lisa Lutz (R-60 Sandoval) tried to win a call from Governor Johnson to let her bring up concealed carry. Sadly, the Governor's advisors opposed her effort and the issue could not come before the House.

Now with the departure of one of the chief obstacles to real right to carry, Public Safety Secretary Darren White, who resigned over Governor Johnson's drug legalization "crusade," perhaps the Governor will look more favorably on genuine concealed carry for New Mexico citizens.

Since 1995 the only recorded vote on concealed carry on the floor of the New Mexico House was an amendment offered by Rep. Lutz in 1998. Lutz's amendment -- a true right to carry proposal modeled on Vermont's successful law -- lost on a close 38 to 31 vote.

Representative Lutz has vowed to fight for Vermont-style right to carry again this year.

Gun owners can contact Governor Johnson at 505-827-3000 or E-mail at to urge him to "message" the legislature. Ask him to insist that the legislature take up Rep. Lutz's concealed carry proposal.

Will Ohio finally get real concealed carry reform?

Rep. Ron Hood (R), the state House's pro-gun leader, is facing another tough fight for re-election in District 57.

Hood always faces a hard campaign because the anti-gunners hate the things he does for gun rights.

Last year, Hood forced a vote on an amendment to a pending bill that would have made Ohio's concealed carry law virtually the same as Vermont's: no registration, no tax, no fingerprinting and thus no permit required. This is the true freedom policy.

So far the only recorded vote on concealed carry in Ohio's House is Hood's amendment.

Another legislator who could make a big difference is Rep. Jim Jordan (R-85 Urbana). Jordan is currently running for the open seat in Senate District 12 (West Central Ohio).

With concealed carry stalled by the House, gun owners in Ohio are looking for new leadership in the state Senate. So far, the Senate leadership continues to cower in the face of Governor Bob Taft's veto threat.

But all that could change with the election of Rep. Jim Jordan to the state Senate.

Rep. Jordan is a gutsy legislator. He recently tried to amend a pending bill with concealed carry, but House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson pulled the bill from the calendar in order to prevent its likely passage.

To date the Senate has paid mostly lip service to passing a good concealed carry bill. What gun owners need is a state Senator who will fight to bring concealed carry to the Senate floor so it can be passed on to the Governor.

Real concealed carry will be a high priority for GOA in 2000.

Ohio gun owners should call Ron Hood at 1-330-533-9119 and Jim Jordan at 1-937-484-5811 to let them know you stand with them.



So, What's Next-- Hand-Control Laws?
Registration Of Fingers?

by Larry Pratt

I've got to admit that even though I know there's a lot of anti-gun hysteria in our country, this one I found hard to believe when I first heard about it. But, alas, it happened. And we can, no doubt, expect more such craziness in the future.

As reported in Time magazine (12/6/99), MeShelle Locke, 16, of Lacey, Washington -- a National Honor Society student -- was kidding around with a boy in her English class at North Thurston High School in early November. When he made some wisecrack to the teacher, Locke looked at him, made a gun with her thumb and index finger, and said, "Bang." The boy, with whom she often joked, wondered if what she said was a threat? "No," said MeShelle lightly, "it's a promise."

Following this incident -- which was, obviously, a joke -- two girls in MeShelle's gym class confronted her about her "threatening to kill" (!) the boy, according to a story in The News Tribune newspaper (11/13/99). Exasperated by this absurd accusation, MeShelle made the same thumb/finger "gun" gesture to them.

Well, the next school day MeShelle was confronted by a police officer who read Miranda rights to her (but didn't arrest her). Then she was expelled from school for four days.

The News Tribune quotes North Thurston High Principal Karen Eitreim as saying, presumably with a straight face: "I think schools are taking every precaution. And that includes looking at students' threats and really taking them seriously and analyzing whether there is a threat to safety or not."

But, this is idiotic beyond belief!

What possible "threat" is there from one student pointing his or her finger at other students and saying, "Bang"? Even the most cursory "analysis" of this incident would reveal that this is nothing more than -- well, one student pointing her finger at other students and saying, "Bang." Period. That's it. By no stretch of the imagination, and by no definition, is this a "threat." No way.

Incredibly, Bob Locke, MeShelle's father, says that school district officials told him that his daughter fit the profile of a student who might hurt the school. And what, exactly, made them think this? Well, for one thing, she often ate lunch alone or in a small group!

Wow. A real profile of a potential terrorist, yes? No.

In an interview with Gun Owners of America (GOA), when it was facetiously suggested that maybe what we need now is a hand-control law, and for all the fingers and thumbs of students to be registered, Bob Locke replied, with a laugh: "Right. Lethal fingers. We gotta have'em banned from the schools."

Locke -- who says he's against gun control because it's unconstitutional -- tells GOA that to get back into school his daughter had to sign a "behavioral contract" in which she promised "not to threaten any other students or to hold grudges against any other students." But, of course, he adds that MeShelle never really "threatened" any students in the first place. This is why he says that if his daughter had the whole thing to do over again, she would do nothing different.

Locke says their friends and acquaintances have been "shocked" by this entire affair. He says they originally found the school's actions to be "annoying, painful and embarrassing" to MeShelle. But, as it was resolved, it was "more of a joke."

Well, maybe, maybe not -- a sick joke at best, to be sure.

All the sicker when we consider that the school would have never noticed MeShelle if she had chosen to extend her middle finger rather than her index finger.

But, this kind of thing is not funny, not at all. And -- sad to say -- this sort of so-called "zero tolerance" lunacy appears to be happening more often across the country in our government-run schools. This same issue of Time magazine reports that a seven-year-old boy in Cahokia, Illinois, was suspended for having a nail-clipper in class.

And a high school in Nevis, Minnesota, turned thumbs down on a yearbook photo which showed an Army enlistee in the senior class posing atop a 155-mm howitzer at a Veterans Of Foreign Wars post. The photo was approved when a U.S. flag was draped over this cannon.

Obviously, in many cases, this "zero tolerance" policy is being implemented by people with zero brains.

Larry Pratt is Executive Director of Gun Owners of America.