Newsletters 1994-2001

-- Hostettler Bill Would Allow for Reciprocity Among States

By John Velleco

(Washington) -- Gun Owners of America is calling on the Congressional House leadership to hold hearings on a bill, sponsored by Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN), to allow for reciprocity between states for concealed carry permit holders.

H.R. 950, the Secure Access to Firearms Enhancement (SAFE) bill, was introduced by Rep. Hostettler in March of 2001, but has since not moved from the House Judiciary's Subcommittee on Crime.


GOA Executive Director Larry Pratt (left) meets with Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN)

GOA is now urging Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Crime Subcommittee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) to hold hearings and vote to move the legislation to the House Floor.

"H.R. 950 has languished for too long in Committee," said Larry Pratt, GOA's Executive Director.

"Decent gun owners face confusion and uncertainty over the status of their CCW permit when leaving their home state with a firearm. Worse yet, many gun owners leave their self-defense firearm at home to avoid any liability, thus leaving themselves and their families more vulnerable to criminal attack," Pratt said.

In fact, a CCW holder from New Hampshire was shot and killed in a Massachusetts office complex the day after Christmas last year.

New Hampshire resident Sandy Javelle was one of four killed by Michael McDermott in a widely publicized rampage in Wakefield, Mass.

Mr. Javelle was New Hampshire permit holder, but Massachusetts does not recognize such permits.

Despite the fact that he was unarmed, Mr. Javelle, an avid sportsmen and army veteran, heroically confronted the madman. If the confrontation occurred in the company's New Hampshire office, where Javelle usually worked, the outcome would have likely be en different, according to Mr. Pratt.

"This tragedy puts an exclamation point to the studies that show allowing decent people to carry guns saves lives and makes all people, gun owners and non-gun owners alike, safer in their place of business and in their community," Pratt said.

In the most thorough study of its kind, research has shown that concealed carry laws have dropped murder and crime rates in the states that have enacted them. The study, conducted by Dr. John Lott, presently a research scholar at Yale University, looked at crime statistics in all of the counties in the United States from 1977 to 1992. The conclusion was that states which passed concealed carry laws reduced their murder rate by 8.5%, rapes by 5%, aggravated assaults by 7% and robbery by 3%.

Even the Clinton Justice Department found that there are one and a half million self-defense cases per year in this country. The National Institute of Justice published this figure in 1997 as part of "Guns in America," a study authored by noted anti-gun criminologists Philip Cook and Jens Ludwig.

"The Hostettler bill would simply place decent people on a level playing field with armed attackers, instead of turning them into mandatory, unarmed victims," Pratt said. "It is outrageous that citizens are denied the most effective means of self-defense simply because they leave their home state."

H.R. 950 seeks to treat CCW licenses in much the same way as driving and marriage licenses.

Rep. Hostettler rests his legislation on Article IV of the U.S. Constitution, which provides that "Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other state; and the Congress may by general Law prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof."

Under the "Full Faith and Credit" clause, Congress has the Constitutional authority to take action when states refuse to recognize the acts of other states, such as would be the case if states did not recognize auto registration, drivers' licenses, and marriage licenses.

Because the individual states set the standards for carry permits, Hostettler's bill avoids the Constitutional problem of violating individual state sovereignty.

"Congress should delay no longer in moving this legislation forward," said Mr. Pratt. "I am hopeful that Chairmen Sensenbrenner and Smith will, at the very least, hold Congressional hearings so that the American people can hear the arguments in favor of firearms ownership, instead of the distorted view commonly portrayed in the media."


Project Exile's Draconian Fangs Bite Unsuspecting Gun Owners

by Erich Pratt

Should gun owners support a Project Exile-style approach to enforcing the gun laws on the books? Or could such efforts end up putting peaceful citizens behind bars?

At least one federal judge has now weighed in and is blasting these kinds of laws as "draconian."

Project Exile is the controversial program that was started in Richmond, Virginia during the Clinton years. Under this program, prosecutors use federal laws to crack down on "gun offenders."

But programs like Project Exile have come under fire because many gun laws on the books punish non-violent behavior, such as the mere possession of certain firearms. The result is that gun laws can end up sending ordinary, non-violent gun owners to prison for lengthy sentences.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal demonstrates this problem. In the July 3 story, reporter Gary Fields shows how a paperwork error landed an otherwise innocent gun owner behind bars for more than a dozen years.


Fifteen years in jail for buying a gun for self-defense

Mike Mahoney is a pool hall owner in Tennessee. He frequently made bank deposits at night, so understandably, he wanted a gun to protect himself.

He went to Buddy's Pawn Shop in 1992 and bought a .32-caliber Derringer. Later, when that gun was stolen, he returned to the gun shop to buy a North American Arms .22-caliber pistol as a replacement.

The problem? Mike Mahoney failed to mention on his application that he had drug felonies on his record from 13 years prior to his purchase of the firearms. In 1979, at the age of 24, he had sold methamphetamine to an undercover officer.

Why would Mahoney buy a firearm when he knew he was a felon?

Because like many felons, he did not know that the felony convictions were for life. And besides, he had just completed -- and passed -- a very thorough criminal investigation to get a beer license.

So what could be the problem, he thought, with buying a gun?

"I thought, since I was able to get a beer license after living a clean life for 10 years that my gun rights would be restored," Mahoney said.

It's a very common mistake that many people have made. Unfortunately for folks like Mike Mahoney, federal law is very unforgiving.

He is now serving a mandatory sentence of 15 years in a federal prison. Onlookers were aghast. Even the presiding judge was a bit taken aback.

Judge denounces sentence as "draconian"

"I'm groping to find a way to get around the Draconian sentence" required by the law, admitted Judge James D. Todd.

"I don't think that this is the kind of case that Congress had in mind" when it passed legislation getting tough on gun crimes, he said.

The judge is not alone in his thinking, as voices from outside of the gun community are also denouncing this rush to apply mandatory minimum sentences on anyone who commits a federal gun crime.

Congressmen pass these new laws "with all the worst-case scenarios in mind," says Julie Stewart, founder and president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a group in Washington that opposes lengthy prison terms for nonviolent offenses.

"They think they catch gun-toting thugs, but it's all kinds of people who get caught up, whether it's an ex-offender with a hunting rifle handed down by a relative or someone like Mr. Mahoney.... Guns have become the new taboo."

The question remains: to enforce or not enforce?

No one in this debate would dispute the fact that government should crack down on thugs with guns.

The question is: which government should do the cracking down -- federal or state? And, which laws should be enforced -- violent crimes, or mere paperwork and possession offenses?

These are significant questions, as Congress will soon be deciding whether to fund additional prosecutors to focus on "gun crimes."

How Congress answers the above questions will make all the difference in the world.


UN Pushing Global Gun Control

by Larry Pratt

The United Nations met for two weeks in July to discuss the issue of gun control.

Although the ostensible reason for the meeting was to deal with international trafficking of firearms, some delegates openly admitted their ulterior motive.

The delegate from Ireland said that the real purpose of the conference was to get the nations of the world to "suppress private ownership of small arms and light weapons."

Gun owners should not be fooled by the term "small arms." That phrase does not refer to rocket or grenade launchers. "Small arms" as defined by UN documents refers to many of the revolvers, pistols and rifles that millions of Americans already own.

In other words, the UN wants to strip you of your guns.

Lawrence Auster is a Newsmax.com reporter who covered the UN meeting in July. He says that so blatant is the statist agenda at the UN that it "unembarrassedly admits that it wants to strip small arms from all non-government individuals [like you] because the possession of such weapons allows people to oppose the U.N. itself."

Bush administration stands against UN gun control

Thankfully, there was one delegate at the UN convention who was willing to oppose plans for worldwide gun control. That was the U.S. delegate, Undersecretary of State John Bolton, who threw a monkey wrench into the convention.

Bolton made it very clear that the U.S. would not go along with any agreement that violated the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution or which prevented freedom fighters from throwing off the yoke of illegitimate rulers.

What a difference four years makes. This conference would have ended much differently if it had convened during the Clinton presidency. His delegates would have, no doubt, jumped behind the full scope of gun control restrictions discussed at the convention.

Bolton's stand angered many UN delegates, and the conference ended with an unenforceable, voluntary agreement. Nevertheless, foreign delegates agreed that nations should seek to enforce gun owner registration, impose export-import controls on firearms, destroy surplus stocks of firearms, and discourage the production and possession of small arms.

Some onlookers believe the July conference may also have been an attempt to drum up support for a gun control treaty that was passed by the UN General Assembly in May. Many foreign governments -- and domestic gun control groups in this country -- are pressuring the Bush administration to sign the treaty that would mandate worldwide gun owner registration.

The May treaty will go into effect worldwide if 40 nations sign it by December, 2002 -- a relatively easy task.

UN working against our rights

The UN talks a great deal about human rights. But a look at their actions helps translate what sounds good to the American ear into English we understand.

For example, I found during a recent excursion to New York City to address an anti-UN rally that getting into the UN compound from First Avenue requires leaving the U.S. Bill of Rights on the City sidewalk. My companion had a yellow sticker depicting a Jewish star of David with the message "No to Gun Control" written inside the star. He, and others with whom I spoke, were not allowed to enter until he removed the pro-gun sticker.


This gun, with its twisted barrel, should leave little doubt where the UN stands on gun rights.

A person is on foreign territory when visiting the UN every bit as much as while visiting the embassy of a foreign country. We have in this way put the UN on an equal footing with real countries.

What most Americans do not realize is how much of the U.S. Constitution has already been supplanted by the UN Charter. I am indebted to Dr. Herb Titus, a preeminent constitutional lawyer, and the Liberty Committee (consisting of a number of conservative representatives on Capitol Hill) which commissioned his work, for the analysis that follows.1

The UN vs. the US Constitution

The UN Charter is not a treaty, in spite of bearing the name of treaty. Actually the UN Charter is a constitution. Its ratification as a treaty by the U.S. Senate does not change the nature of the UN Charter which, according to international legal authorities, is a permanent "constitution for the universal society."2

The Charter violates the U.S. Constitution by delegating to the UN the power to declare war, a power specifically delegated to the U.S. Congress. However, the Constitution delegates the power to conduct war to the U.S. president. From Korea to the Gulf War, the U.S. has fought wars under the authority of the UN, not following a Congressional declaration of war.

Consider the implication of the term "police action." Countries fight wars among themselves. Police actions are conducted by a government within its own territory. The implication of a UN police action clearly is that the UN is the government of the world and all the countries are but subdivisions of the UN.

The Charter unconstitutionally delegates the power to levy taxes. The UN has arrogated unto itself the power to assess "dues" which are calculated just like a progressive income tax. If the U.S. does not pay its "dues" after two years it loses its vote in the General Assembly of the UN. The U.S. Constitution vests the power to levy taxes in the House of Representatives.

The UN Charter violates the Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. A whole gamut of state powers -- health, welfare, education, crime, environment -- are nowhere to be found as powers delegated to the federal government. They are reserved to the states. The UN Charter claims the power to act in all of these areas through treaties which would override state laws.


In July, GOA's Larry Pratt spoke at a pro-gun demonstration in front of the U.N. in New York.

For years, Congress has appropriated funds for various UN organizations which in effect transfers powers reserved to the states. Consider, since the Congress is prohibited from enacting laws regarding rape, could it get into this arena by relying on the UN Charter to do so?

The UN in this way could become a gigantic Interstate Commerce Clause and abused even more than has been the ICC of the U.S. Constitution. UN spokesmen are arguing that one's physical security (i.e., freedom from rape) is an international security issue. It is the same totalitarian logic that has stretched the Interstate Commerce Clause beyond what it was ever intended to do.

Originally, this provision was intended to prevent the balkanization of the states. Now, it has been stretched to the point that the federal government can regulate anything that affects interstate commerce -- even to the point where it regulates inactivity because not doing anything has a negative impact on commerce.

All these operations of the UN are those of a government operating under a constitution. Yet the U.S. Constitution was based on "We, the People" and ratified by the people in conventions assembled. The UN Charter was approved only by government agents and never submitted to the people of the US for their legislatures or conventions to ratify.

That flaw is fatal and makes the UN Charter completely illegitimate.

Gun owners should be particularly concerned because one of the "human rights" in the minds of most of the UN bureaucrats and member countries is "freedom from guns."

Strictly speaking, they envision a world without privately owned guns where governments have a monopoly. The UN web site leaves no doubt that this is the preference of the UN bureaucracy. As with speech, the UN has no regard for the right to keep and bear arms.

These are reasons why the U.S. should get out of the UN. The best way to do that is to pass Rep. Ron Paul's (R-TX) bill, H.R. 1146, to get us out of the UN.

Erich Pratt also contributed to this article.

 


1 Go to http://www.thelibertycommittee.org/hr1146summary.htm on the internet to read Dr. Titus' analysis in detail.
2ibid.

When Gun Safety Locks Kill


California Governor Gray Davis (D) recently enacted additional penalties for violating the state's gun storage law. By effectively forcing parents to lock up their safety, the original law has resulted in at least two dead children.

by Erich Pratt

It has been said that if you don't study history, you are doomed to repeat it.

That's why Americans should take note of a horrible tragedy that occurred just over one year ago in Merced, California. It is a tragedy that could have been prevented.

On the morning of August 23, 2000, Jonathon David Bruce was high on drugs. He slipped inside a home when the parents were away and began attacking the children inside.

Armed only with a pitchfork, and without a stitch of clothing on his body, Bruce proceeded to chase the children through the house -- stabbing them repeatedly.

The oldest of the children, Jessica Carpenter (14), was babysitting at the time. Having been trained by her father, Jessica knew how to use a firearm. There was just one problem: the household gun was locked up in compliance with California state law.

Because of California's "lock up your safety" law, Jessica had few options. She could not call 911 because the intruder had cut the phone lines to the house. She could not protect herself, for state officials had effectively removed that possibility.

Her only option was to flee the house and leave her siblings behind.

Thankfully, Mr. Bruce's murderous rampage was finally cut short when police officers arrived at the house. They shot and killed Bruce, but not before two children had already been murdered.

Now, notice when the attack ended. It screeched to a halt when the good guys -- carrying guns -- showed up on the scene.

Which has made many wonder: could Jessica have protected her brother and sister if the state law had not prevented her from doing so?

Well, the family seems to think so. After the murders, Jessica's uncle, Rev. John Hilton, blasted California legislators for having scared the father into hiding the gun where Jessica, who was trained in the use of firearms, could not get it.

"If only [Jessica] had a gun available to her," said Rev. Hilton, "she could have stopped the whole thing. If she had been properly armed, she could have stopped him in his tracks."

Of course, that kind of talk sends gun haters into orbit. "Hold on," they say. "Kids shouldn't have access to guns. And you can't expect a 14-year-old to handle a weapon in a responsible fashion during a high-pressure encounter like that."

Oh really? Tell that to the 12-year-old Mississippi girl who used a gun to save her mother's life this past April.

The girl's mother was being choked in her own apartment by Anthony Fox, a 25-year-old man who had forced his way into the apartment. The cries for help woke up the daughter who grabbed her mother's handgun and shot Fox in the chest.

One shot. One dead killer. A 12-year-old saves the day.

Prosecutors ruled the shooting a case of justifiable self-defense.

Which brings us back to Jessica. She could very well have saved the lives of her two siblings. If she had access to her father's gun to save those children's lives, would that have been wrong?

For that matter, was it wrong for the 12-year-old girl in Mississippi to have access to her mother's handgun in order to prevent a murder?

In California, the answer to these questions is: "Yes, it is always wrong for anyone to have immediate access to a firearm, even when it's to save the life of a family member."

Governor Gray Davis just signed a bill last month putting more "teeth" into California's original gun storage law. Under the new legislation, parents face additional criminal penalties if they refuse to lock up their best means of self-defense.

Many legislators -- both at the state level and in Washington, D.C. -- seem to think they know what's best for each family in every situation.

Parents are told they need to put trigger locks on their guns. Or that they must store their ammunition separately from their firearms. Or that they must store the weapons in a safe.

But many times, locking up your safety in any of those ways can be deadly. Americans use guns almost 50,000 times every week to defend themselves or others. And in most of those situations, a trigger lock would give criminals the advantage.

Consider a case from March of this year, where a trigger lock would have cost the life of homeowner, Chuck Harris.

After being repeatedly stabbed by three young men in his Colorado home, Harris managed to grab the .44-Magnum pistol he kept in a desk drawer. Thankfully, Harris didn't have to remember a combination or fiddle with a trigger lock -- he just pointed the gun and fired.

That quick thinking saved his life, and has caused Harris to later reflect upon what was, perhaps, the obvious. "If I'd had a trigger lock, I'd be dead," he said. "If my pistol had been in a gun safe, I'd be dead. If the bullets were stored separate, I'd be dead. They were going to kill me."

Which raises a very important question: when it comes to life or death issues, who is best suited to make choices for you? You, or some faceless bureaucrat who is hundreds of miles away, impotent to rush to your aid? You, or the politicians in the U.S. Congress?

It would, perhaps, help to know how those bureaucrats and politicians answer that question for themselves. They are not left unprotected. They have security officers nearby who are carrying guns.

And no, those guns don't have trigger locks on them.


Gun Owners Foundation Running Pro-gun Ads

 

Two children died last year when the Carpenter family was unable to defend itself against a crazed thug. Why? Because the family gun was locked up in deference to California state law. The grandmother of the slain children, Mary Carpenter (on the left), pleads with Americans to not lock up their safety. On the right, Sheriff Richard Mack reminds people that a gun with a trigger lock is about as useful as a rock when it comes to self-defense.

Both Carpenter and Mack are spokesmen for hard-hitting education ads that were produced by Gun Owners Foundation. They are currently running on selected television stations around the country. Those who wish to contribute to this important public safety project can call 703-321-8585 or visit http://www.gunowners.com/psatext.htm on the GOF website.


Time to Ban Doctors?

Number of physicians in the U.S.: 700,000
Accidental deaths caused by physicians per year: 120,000
Accidental deaths per physician:
  (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
0.171
Number of gun owners in the U.S.: 80,000,000
Number of accidental gun deaths per year (all age groups): 1,500
Accidental deaths per gun owner: 0.0000188


Statistically, doctors are approximately 9,000 times more dangerous than gun owners.


FACT: Not everyone has a gun, but everyone has at least one doctor. Please alert your friends to this alarming threat. We must ban doctors before this gets out of hand. Remember: guns don't kill people, doctors do.

Source: Newsmax.com, July 21, 2001


Bill Protects Gun Owners' Privacy

by John Velleco

(Washington) -- Pro-gun Congressman Joel Hefley (R-CO) has introduced a bill designed to protect the privacy of all gun owners.

Under the Brady Act, the records for approved firearms sales are to be destroyed to prevent the registration of gun owners.

However, the Department of Justice has been allowed, contrary to the intent of the Congress, to maintain the names of lawful gun buyers for 180 days for auditing purposes. This raises grave concerns. There is a fine line between gun owner registration and maintaining an "audit log."

Congressman Hefley's bill, H.R. 1460, requires the immediate destruction of the records of approved gun buyers.

H.R. 1460 goes farther than recent efforts by Attorney General John Ashcroft concerning NICS records. In a proposed change within the Justice Department, General Ashcroft wants the records deleted within 24 hours of a background check approval.

While Ashcroft's move is a good first step, Rep. Hefley's bill helps guard against any government database from being established in the first place by requiring that the records be destroyed immediately.

Currently, H.R. 1460 has 44 cosponsors. GOA is hopeful that this bill will come to the House Floor for a vote before the end of the year.


Your Hard Work is Helping Preserve our Freedoms


by Larry Pratt
"The GOA's e-mail and fax grassroots network has become extremely effective. GOA was the most important organization behind the failure in the last two Congresses of Senator Orrin Hatch's [gun control] bill to federalize much of the juvenile justice system."
-- Dave Kopel, National Review online, May 15, 2001

Because of you, this has been a busy -- yet productive -- summer.

In July, we defeated attempts to extend gun owner registration at the federal level. Thousands of GOA members and activists bombarded the Congress with phone calls, faxes and emails after we alerted them to a dangerous amendment being proposed by Rep. James Moran (D-VA).

The Moran amendment would have let the FBI keep gun buyers names for at least 90 days. This was an obvious attempt to overrule Attorney General John Ashcroft who has ordered the FBI to destroy each name obtained by the instant background check after 24 hours. While 24 hours is still too long to hang on to gun owners' names, I'm glad to report that the Moran registration amendment was shot down by an overwhelming vote of 268-161.

In June, GOA worked behind the scenes to keep gun control legislation off the Senate education bill. Gun owners can also thank Republican Senator Bob Smith of New Hampshire. Smith threatened to offer hard-hitting, pro-gun amendments to the education bill -- a threat which discouraged gun banners from offering their own amendments.

In August, GOA members realized another victory when the Bush administration ended a gun control policy that had begun under President Clinton. Bush stopped the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) from purchasing firearms in exchange for taxpayer dollars. Back in February, many of you had sent postcards to the White House -- postcards provided by GOA which asked the President to get HUD out of the gun control business.

Bush did exactly that. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) tried to overturn the administration's decision in August, but his amendment failed miserably by a 65 to 33 vote.

GOA members help sink Incumbent Protection

With your help, we also defeated a bill in July to muzzle 2nd Amendment organizations like Gun Owners of America. The Incumbent Protection Bill would insulate Congressmen by keeping watchdog groups such as ours from reporting on a candidate's record during a campaign.

Just after GOA members sent in their postcards this summer, the Incumbent Protection Bill went to the floor of the House for a vote. That's the best-case scenario for us. I love it when Congress decides to vote on legislation right after getting thousands upon thousands of postcards and letters from GOA members like you.

Well, the Incumbent Protection Bill never made it out of the starting gate -- a testimony to the relentless pressure from the grassroots. With the current makeup of Congress, the Incumbent Protection Bill cannot pass without Republican support. Three years ago, there were 61 Republicans supporting the bill. Two years ago, there were 54.

But in July, only 19 Republicans voted for this anti-freedom bill, a total decrease of almost 70 percent in three years.

This victory should encourage gun owners all across the nation who have taken the time to send their postcards to their Congressman. Your activism is important. It does make a difference, and our rights would be in greater jeopardy had you remained silent.

The anti-gun bill has now been put off indefinitely, and House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R) said he had no plans to bring up Incumbent Protection in the near future. Hill watchers predict the anti-gun bill could be dead for the legislative session. Although, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D) says he might turn to a discharge petition which would force the Incumbent Protection Bill to the floor for a vote if Representatives can garner 218 signatures.

The discharge petition could be a serious threat and we'll keep you posted on its progress.

FEC Commissioner blasts incumbent protection laws

One breath of fresh air that has swept through Washington during this whole debate over free speech is Bradley Smith, the man who is in charge of the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

After reading FEC Commissioner Bradley Smith's book Unfree Speech: The Folly of Campaign Finance Reform, I determined to interview the author on my weekly radio show Live Fire.

Smith points out that campaign finance laws don't ensnare big-bucks donors attempting to corrupt the political process, but rather grassroots activists who are not aware of, and don't have the funds to comply with, the speech restrictions in campaign finance laws.

One example Smith reports is a voter in the congressional district of Rep. Nancy Johnson. He was outraged by her vote to impeach President Clinton and set up a web page to urge her defeat. The FEC told him that the cost of his computer and home electric bill had to be calculated. Were those costs to go over $250, he had to file with the federal election commission. Smith provides many other cases of harassment of grassroots activists and hapless, poorly-funded campaigns that fell afoul of the FEC and were fined and threatened with jail.

The history of campaign finance laws is clearly one of Republicans trying to get the advantage over Democrats and vice versa. The picture Smith paints of these laws is one of corruption -- campaign finance laws are themselves corruption, and abridgments of free speech. The language of the First Amendment is that "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech...."

Soft money, Smith argues, is nothing more than money that is free from unconstitutional regulation. Therefore, Sens. McCain and Finegold want to limit freedom.

New ideas are kept out of the political arena because of restrictions on the amount of contributions that can be given by one person (or a political action committee). As a result, only those ideas favored by the establishment and the media are well enough known to raise money on -- unless one is independently wealthy.

Steve Forbes is a case in point. He was able to spend millions of his own money for his presidential campaign during the 2000 presidential primary. Although he did not prevail, his millions forced the issue of tax relief into the debate during that election. Governor (now President) George Bush proffered his own tax relief plan in response to Forbes.

In a way, Forbes' campaign was successful on that matter, but had he not been wealthy he would have had to seek small contributions from lots of people. The time and energy required to raise the money would have consumed more time than would have been available to put forth his tax relief program.

Smith argues forcefully that campaign finance reform drives new and unorthodox ideas out of the public forum. This only can favor those in power by shielding them from competition with those with different ideas.

For example, a few individuals were all that were needed to get Ronald Reagan started on his political career. A few large contributions got Reagan off and running for Governor of California. He did not have to spend his time raising money; he spent his time defending his ideas.

The raw hostility to free speech that Smith has uncovered is staggering. He quotes House Minority Leader Richard Gephart (D-MO) arguing that: "What we have here is two important values in conflict: freedom of speech and our desire for healthy campaigns in a healthy democracy. You can't have both."

Presumably a healthy campaign is one that Gephart and his anti-freedom allies are guaranteed of winning. And of course, that is the purpose of campaign finance laws; these laws don't protect individual speech, they protect the expression of favored speech.

Smith clears up an important point that is often confused. Namely, "We're not talking about speech. We're talking about money."

The answer is that if you can't pay the huge expenses to get your speech heard on radio, television and in print, then you might as well go shout in a cave. And if we're not talking about speech, why does McCain-Feingold specifically exempt the mainline media?

If there is any doubt that Commissioner Smith is the best thing that could happen to the Federal Election Commission short of its abolition, consider this. During Smith's nomination contest in the U.S. Senate, then Vice President Al Gore said this: "The last thing we need is an FEC commissioner who publicly questions not only the constitutionality of proposed [campaign finance] reforms, but also the constitutionality of current limitations."

The full interview with Commissioner Smith can be heard on the Live Fire portion of the Gun Owners of America web page (http://www.gunowners.org/radio.htm).

Those opposed to the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Bill, better known as the Incumbent and Media Protection Act, should communicate their opposition to their U.S. Representative in the Congress.