Newsletters 1994-2001

Veto of Smith Amendment Expected

WASHINGTON-- President Clinton, desperate to salvage his failing presidency, continues to wage war against the Constitution and the nation's gun owners.

As this issue of The Gun Owners goes to press, the President has all but promised to veto the $31 billion Commerce-Justice-State Appropriations bill because of a pro-gun measure tacked on to the bill by Senator Bob Smith (R-NH).

Smith Amendment Reins in FBI

In July, Senator Smith introduced the "Anti-Brady Amendment" in response to the FBI’s announced intentions of keeping the names of law-abiding gun purchasers for 18 months and for proposing a tax on gun owners, ranging from $15 to 30, for each purchase made through a licensed firearms dealer.

The Smith amendment requires the "immediate destruction of all [gun buyer] information, in any form whatsoever."

Furthermore, the Smith language effectively prohibits the levying of any tax on gun purchases and gives private citizens the power to "police the police." That is, the Smith amendment specifically allows for aggrieved citizens to sue the FBI and collect monetary damages, including attorney's fees.

In speaking for his amendment on the Floor, Senator Smith said,

Stated simply, my legislation will put a stop to the FBI's plan to keep records of private, identifying information on law-abiding citizens who buy guns . . . .

Why would we want the FBI to maintain a file on a law-abiding gun owner who did nothing [except] exercise his constitutional right to own a gun? They want 18 months to keep these files. I don't want 18 seconds. I want these files destroyed immediately . . . . We have seen files held in the White House. Do you want this to go on? That is what this issue is about. That is what my amendment is about.

Clinton Announces Veto Plans

The President wasted no time in singling out the Smith Amendment as a primary reason to veto the entire spending bill.

In his August 6th remarks on the Brady law, Clinton had this to say:

In their official literature, the [Gun Owners of America] is proudly calling this measure, and I quote, "an anti-Brady amendment." Let me be clear, I will oppose any legislation that would gut the Brady Law.

The President's threat notwithstanding, Gun Owners of America members have much to be proud of in bringing the Anti-Brady Amendment this far.

GOA Members Acknowledged in Smith Victory

Back in July, The Hill newspaper, a publication of record on Capitol Hill, credited GOA members with a tremendous victory:

Lobbying on the [legislation] was intense, and it continues. The Gun Owners of America's 200,000 grassroots members covered Hill offices with phone calls, faxes and e-mails [right before the vote].

The efforts of GOA's members were effective in bolstering the resolve of fence-sitting politicians. In the end, Smith's legislation passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 69-31 and was made part of S. 2260.

The hard work of GOA members paid off even in spite of some unexpected opposition in high places.

This was noted by former NRA 1st Vice-President Neal Knox, who reported in the August 15th edition of the Hard Corps Report the following:

Republican leaders are nervous about hard votes-- that's why Senate leaders and NRA tried to keep Sen. Bob Smith from introducing his amendment to the Justice Appropriations bill . . . . [M]any in the Senate leadership, and the NRA, had feared the Smith proposal-- mainly pushed by Gun owners of America-- was "too good to pass." There were efforts to get Sen. Smith to drop the civil sanction, or to agree to forego the vote entirely in exchange for adding the language in conference.

 

Rep. Coburn Takes Lead in House

On the House side, pro-gun Rep. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has worked tirelessly to ensure that the Smith language be included in the final version of the bill.

While the stricter rules of the House prevented Rep. Coburn from getting a vote on the entire Smith amendment, he, along with several other Representatives, sent a letter to Speaker Newt Gingrich insisting that the House accept the Senate language verbatim.

In the event of a presidential veto, GOA will work to have the Smith amendment attached to a ‘continuing resolution’ or other appropriate legislation.


Instant Check to Open Pandora's Box

An interview with noted firearms author, Alan Korwin

Gun Owners of America Executive Director, Larry Pratt, recently took the opportunity to interview researcher and author, Alan Korwin. Mr. Korwin is one of the most knowledgeable individuals on the details of the Brady Law, and has spent the past several months carefully researching this topic.

Gun owners may have already read Mr. Korwin's report on the Brady Law, which was commissioned by the Gun Owners Foundation. (This report can be read at http://www.gunowners.org/bigof.htm on the GOA website.) In this interview, Mr. Korwin provides additional information on the fine details behind the Brady Law, and gun owners will find what he has to say to be very interesting.

1. Larry Pratt: Alan, could you please bring our readers up to date on the current efforts by the Clinton administration to bring the instant registration check on line later this year.

Alan Korwin: Sure. As you know, America has been operating under "Part 1" of the Brady requirements. Waiting periods and local background checks for handguns were only temporary measures under federal law, while preparations took place behind the scenes to implement the provisions of Brady "Part 2."

But starting Nov. 30, the name and full ID of every retail gun buyer in the country will be recorded by the FBI if they have their way and are ready in time. Social security numbers will be semi-optional until Oct. 1, 2000, when they become mandatory. A tax of up to $16 will apply to every purchase, unless your state's police cooperate with the FBI (in which case the tax is waived); 19 such states are "playing" as of this date. The FBI may lower its tax, working in concert with membership groups, if they think it will aid acceptance of registration.

None of this appears to be legal, but they're pursuing it anyway.

FBI agents (who have effectively eliminated BATF from this business) claim they need to register these people for security purposes. For audit purposes. They claim they have to under the Brady law. They claim it’s just an instant check. None of these claims are supported.

Gun owners will be kept online for at least two years, and records will be stored permanently. The 2-year revolving online registry will include between eight and fourteen million people-- all the most current gun owners. Multiple permanent and quasi-permanent backups are planned.

When Brady Part 2 comes on line, all gun sales-- long guns and hand guns-- will fall under the federal control of "national instant background checks." The centralized federalization of all gun-sale records will be complete, to the delight of many, and the ire of some pro-gun groups. The NRA supports the "insta check.". . .

Whether the FBI will be ready on time to begin conducting background checks is anyone's guess. A mailing by Handgun Control, Inc., called for more effort to finish the system, which they decried as behind schedule. Created for gun sales, the system could, conceivably, be used to check on anyone.

Further complicating the matter, BATF senior counsel Stephen R. Rubenstein has noted-- and this is clearly stated in the first sentence of the Brady law-- that the current requirements do expire 60 months after enactment (on Nov. 30, 1998).

If the insta-check isn't up by that time, as Rubenstein noted, there will be no Brady requirements in effect at all.

Whether Congress would allow Brady to lapse is a crucial issue, and attempts at change are likely. White House spokesperson Rahm Emanuel has already indicated that Clinton will seek some form of extension to the expiring first part of the Brady law.

Instant Check = Gun Owner Registration

2. LP: Obviously, by forcing gun dealers to give the names of gun buyers to the FBI (in the name of conducting background checks), the Brady law gives government officials the ability to retain a registration list of gun owners. How many levels of gun owner registration will gun owners be facing when the instant registration check goes on line?

AK: The issue is no longer "if" or "whether" the federal government will register gun owners nationally. It is their announced plans, and the system is nearly completed. They'll tell you on the phone, they'll mail you the brochure, you can read about it on their website (not any website, their website).

The law requires the Bureau to obtain complete ID on gun buyers, but then to destroy this information. Collecting and maintaining a file on the 70 million legitimate gun owners in America has never been done, has been prohibited by statute since 1986, and is also prohibited under Brady itself.

However, in proposed regs, the FBI has indicated that they will in fact record every retail gun buyer in America, once the system is running, in apparent violation of those laws.

Gun buyers will be recorded by at least three independent systems (NCIC, NICS, III) and kept on line for a period to be determined solely by the FBI (the NCIC apparently will save records the longest).

Most published reports have focused on the background check system only (NICS), ignoring the other two-- which have apparently been creating prohibited lists for some time, and will continue to do so. Long-term backup is not discussed (but is a fundamental element of any large-scale database).

The NCIC has apparently been keeping records all along, and this was recognized (and ignored) as a McClure-Volkmer violation during the early design stages, according to two state police departments I spoke with.

If the new NICS registry is stopped nothing is accomplished unless the NCIC (and triple “I”) gun owner identification systems, which are currently running, are also shut down. Author Claire Wolfe has called attention to this recent federal strategy to embed numerous attacks on liberties, so that if one is found and stopped the others will remain.

Brady Law not working

3. LP: Of course, some might argue with you on this point. Some might claim that a little registration is O.K. if the law were to take criminals off the street. But is that the case? How effectively has the Brady law worked so far?

AK: Well, critics point out that police do not plan to pursue the criminals identified by NICS operators, and you have to wonder about the motives, value and cost of recording millions of innocent people instead.

Criminals who do apply, commit a five-year federal felony by doing so, and provide their names and addresses to get into the system in the first place. The administration has indicated that the Brady law is intended to stop retail gun sales to criminals and other unqualified people, not to increase the number of federal prosecutions.

Of the hundreds of thousands of reported Brady stops, a GAO study reported only seven arrests, four prosecutions and three jail terms.

When long guns are added to the handgun totals, an awful lot of dangerous people may be identified—and then left to go about their business. This puzzles many observers, especially since Attorney General Janet Reno announced that arrests are down for the second year in a row (despite adding 100,000 new police nationwide). The cost for the NICS system, which will catalog every honest retail sale of a firearm in America, has been set by Congress at a staggering $200 million.

Gun sales blocked across the country

4. LP: Forcing citizens to get prior government permission before exercising a right-- besides leading to gun owner registration-- can lead to other problems as well. Do you see any real possibility that the FBI could, even unintentionally, block gun sales nationwide?

AK: Absolutely. The most shocking new wrinkle in the FBI proposal has to do with shutting down gun sales nationally from time to time.

Any "hit" on data you provide will refer your inquiry to a criminal records analyst (currently being hired and trained) and either slow your approval or trigger a formal delay (or denial).

Only one condition will automatically allow a sale: All databases queried, all systems responding, no records found. This condition is expected in about 80% of all inquiries. But the proposed regulations are clear that if any system fails to respond the sale will be delayed.

In other words, if any database in the entire system is down, no retail sales will be possible across the board.

Such a condition would invoke the highly publicized three-business-day wait, which works out to nearly a week in the proposal. The day of the sale isn't counted. In the FBI's example, a gun purchased at 9 a.m. Friday cannot be picked up legally until 12:01 a.m. Thursday, if they call for a delay. Holidays extend the delay.

Saddam Hussein: stopping Americans from buying guns?

5. LP: In what other ways could gun owners be illegitimately denied the right (or delayed in their right) to buy a firearm under the FBI proposal?

AK: Section 25.4 of the FBI proposal defines the valid record source categories. It's only three sentences long, but the last sentence packs a wallop:

Information in the NCIC and III systems that will be searched during a background check will be contributed voluntarily by Federal, state, local, and international criminal justice agencies.

When combined with the rule that any data hit triggers at least a review, possibly a delay-- and based on a single person's evaluation, a denial-- this amounts to extra-national control of the criminal justice system.

A nation could presumably load a set of names, identify the individuals as felons, and deny them their rights. The proposal makes it clear that the contributing agencies, not NICS operators, are responsible for accuracy.

6. LP: In your opinion, what is the most significant thing that Congress is doing to prevent these proposed abuses?

AK: There is some significant Congressional action in the Smith [R-NH] amendment to the gigantic Commerce, Justice and State Dept. Appropriations Bill which has been vigorously supported by your organization.

It must now be finalized by a conference committee and sent to the President and signed, if it is to even theoretically deter the FBI/ATF illegal plans for registration and unauthorized taxation.

On the plus side, Senate passage of the Smith amendment has at least temporarily stalled the horrendous NRA-backed Barr Bill (HR 3949) that would actually authorize government recording of gun owners.

As currently written, HR 3949 would override the absolute prohibition on gun registration now in effect. This bill would allow the government to record gun buyers for a specified amount of time, something they may not do under current law. Contrary to some reports, this bill does not require record destruction or prohibit recording.

What HR 3949 does do, is penalize anyone who retains gun registration records for longer than recommended, or transfers records after the time limit is up.

At first blush, the stiff penalties ($250,000 and ten years in jail) seem like a step in the right direction, and may well be. But this is an incredibly bad law because it authorizes recording, and since no measure of accountability is included it will never make it to court.

7. LP: Why do you say there will be no accountability under the Barr bill?

AK: Well, who exactly has "retained" or "transferred" your records after your background check? The system operators in the basement?

Or is it the clerk who pushes the "next customer" button, dumping your data to disk? Make that the 250 clerks now being hired. Maybe you could just charge Louis Freeh, Director of the FBI.

Who's going to file those charges and prosecute? You? The Attorney General who, uh, happens to work for that department?

[Editor's Note: This underscores the advantage of the Smith amendment. His provision does not rely on the Attorney General to prosecute officials who register gun owners. Rather, Smith's language allows private citizens to sue the FBI for any infringement of privacy, and to recover attorneys' fees as well.]

The point is, no one will be responsible under this terribly concocted bill [H.R. 3949], which just happens to defeat McClure-Volkmer. If we can't require the FBI to comply with McClure-Volkmer (record nothing) and Brady (destroy all records instantly), what difference will another, weaker, worse bill make. It just gives up ground that hasn't been lost, in a vain effort to stem blatantly illegal bureaucratic abuse.

It has been pointed out that under Brady part 1, all records had to be destroyed within 20 days (a measure reportedly abused and ignored by states). Brady part 2 drops the 20-day requirement, prompting some officials to argue that there is no longer a destruction requirement. Brady part 2 does, however, say "destroy all records" and the only time frame it mentions is "instant," which it says five times.

8. LP: Thank you, Alan, for speaking with us on this very important topic. We appreciate the research and the work you've done to document the official abuse of gun owners' rights. Keep up the good work.

AK: Thanks, Larry. It's been a pleasure to communicate with you and your members.




California 'Tubes' Model Family

by Dave Hardy

Chris and Trudy Sherburn's rap sheet is impressive:

* Married 23 years, six children ages 7-21.
* Children home-schooled by Mrs. Sherburn (who holds an M.A. in early childhood education). "Field trips" to help in convalescent homes and assist in missions to Central America.
* Totally clean record.
* Focus of life: missionary work in South America and coordinating translation of Bible study materials into Spanish.
* Newest interest: sending medicine, tools, and Bibles to refugees in southern Sudan. These refugees are quite capable (literacy rate of 70%) but are under attack by the government based in northern Sudan, which seeks to force their conversion to Islam. (Children captured by the north are commonly sold into slavery.)

No question about it, in a time when people are supposed to focus on self-- self empowerment, self realization, self healing-- these are suspicious people. They probably weren't distraught over the final episode of Seinfeld. Children being held in chains and sold for $100 moves them far more than does the lot of the grey wolf or condor. Worst of all, they actually feel it's their duty to do something about it. Suspicious indeed.

Which may explain why they were charged by the State of California with 24 felonies, carrying stiff mandatory sentences, why their children were taken from them, and why Mrs. Sherburn was held for five months on a million dollars' bond.

For the last fifteen years, the Sherburns have earned income by purchasing government scrap, largely military surplus, and selling it at gun shows. Their inventory included MREs, camping supplies, LAW rocket tubes, fired ammunition, radio parts, and flares. It was the type of thing you see at any gun show, all harmless, mostly purchased from the government itself.

On April 10, 1998, a building code inspector was nosing about the Sherburn's yard, looking for nonoperational vehicles or other such nuisances. He noticed storage tubes for LAW rockets in the Sherburn's back yard and, claiming these simply must contain warheads, summoned the Victor County Sheriff Department. Within hours a team was tearing the Sherburn's house apart in a search for "explosives" and "destructive devices."

What were these? California law includes within the definition of "explosives" any substance capable of "detonation or rapid combustion" or "rapid release of gas or heat." (Technically, possession of a match is thus a felony in that state). The Sherburns possessed military surplus day and night flares-- flares that can be held in the hand to signal rescue parties. Possession of these was charged as a felony possession of explosives.

They possessed smokeless powder and black powder. Possession of these was charged as materials for destructive devices. Some surplus .50 incendiary rounds were likewise charged as destructive devices. The law also includes any rocket "or launcher therefore." The Sherburns were thus charged with possessing used LAW rocket tubes.

When Trudy Sherburn returned home she was arrested, her children turned over to Child Protective Services, and she was held on a million dollars' bail. (Five months later she was released, no bail required, after a judge heard testimony about what the "destructive devices" really were, and fifty people wrote letters recommending her release.)

Chris was then in Florida, helping to outfit a boat, loaded with medicine, farming tools, and clothing, for a mission to southern Sudan. The prosecution issued an order to arrest and extradite him, claiming he was a fugitive from justice and-- this is a direct quote-- "was leaving the country on a 70' sail boat with a boatload of explosives."

He was arrested-- the Florida court treated him as if he were a suspected terrorist-- and shipped back to California. Chris is still being held on a million dollars' bond, and the three youngest Sherburns children are still in custody of CPS, which allows Mrs. Sherburn two hours of supervised visitation now and then.

The Sherburns now stand charged in state court with 24 felony charges-- felonies which bear mandatory sentences. If convicted, they face years in prison, for offenses which amount to no more than owning used missile tubes, fired ammunition, and rescue flares.

If these are criminal offenses, then every gun show in California is in violation, and thousands of gun and militaria collectors are felons. Indeed, the mere fact that you own a military storage tube gives probable cause to search your house.


Dave Hardy is a Second Amendment attorney and author who lives in Tucson, Arizona.


Cosponsor Watch

H.R. 27, the Citizen's Self Defense Act of 1997
Introduced by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD)
77 Cosponsors

H.R. 1009, the Lautenberg Gun Ban Repeal
Introduced by Rep. Helen Chenoweth (R-ID)
40 Cosponsors

H.R. 2721, the Brady and Semi-Auto Ban Repeal
Introduced by Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX)
20 Cosponsors

Gun owners can go to http://www.gunowners.org/costb.htm and see if their Representative has cosponsored these important bills.


Hear Larry Pratt on Short-wave!

Tune in to "Live Fire" with your host, Larry Pratt on WWCR, World Wide Christian Radio, 3.215 megahertz on the short-wave denial.

"Live Fire" is proudly sponsored by Gun Owners of America. Permanent guest host Jeffrey Bennett will fill in for Mr. Pratt on the first and third Mondays.

Join GOA today . . . and take a stand for America!

Upcoming "Live Fire" guests:

  • September 28, 1998: Jim Fotis of the Law Enforcement Alliance of America
  • October 12, 1998: Paul Valone of Grass Roots North Carolina
  • October 26, 1998: Howard Phillips of the Conservative Caucus (and Presidential candidate for the Taxpayer's Party)
  • November 9, 1998: Vin Suprynowicz, pro-gun writer for the Las Vegas Review Journal
  • November 23, 1998: Steve Barry of the Resister journal
  • November 30, 1998: Rick Dalton of the American Citizens & Lawmen Association
  • December 14, 1998: FBI victim, Randy Weaver of Ruby Ridge, Idaho
  • December 28, 1998: BATF victim, "Big" Al Woodbridge of Tacoma, Washington


Pro-gun Amendment on the Ballot

On November 3, 1998, Wisconsin voters will have the opportunity to recognize a state right to keep and bear arms.

Currently, the state constitution does not guarantee that right.

A referendum will appear on the ballot as a result of the passage of Wisconsin State Assembly Joint Resolution 11 (AJR 11). The referendum would amend the state constitution, creating a new section in Article I, inserting the following language:

The people have the right to keep and bear arms for security, defense, hunting, recreation or any other lawful purpose.

Wisconsin gun owners statewide are working to get out the vote on November 3 to insure the passage of this referendum.


House Passes Ban on Organized Free Speech

The House of Representatives savaged the First Amendment in August when it voted-- 252 to 179-- to restrict the Free Speech rights of citizens that organize together to influence legislative policy.

One month later, similar legislation stalled in the Senate when it failed to break the filibuster over language introduced by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Russ Feingold (D-WI).

While both the House and Senate proposals claim to reform campaign finance laws, in fact, they would severely restrict the ability of groups, like Gun Owners of America, to keep members informed on how their legislators are voting.

Senator McCain vowed to continue his campaign to pass this legislation.


New Action Manual

Confrontational Politics has just been published by Gun Owners Foundation. Its author is GOA Chairman, Senator Bill Richardson (Ret.), who was the primo practitioner of confrontational politics during his 22 years in the California State Senate.

Do you want to be effective in dealing with your Senators, Representative and other elected officials? Then Confrontational Politics is the book for you.

Some may say, "Well, that was fine for Richardson in California, but my state is different." If they say that, they are wrong. The late Senator Everett Dirksen was fond of articulating a universal rule of politics: "When I feel the heat, I see the light."

Read why gun owners have been losing when they seek access to politicians' offices rather than trying to hold them accountable. If you are serious about keeping your Second Amendment liberties-- indeed all of your freedoms-- this is the book for you.

Confrontational Politics is available from Gun Owners Foundation (8001 Forbes Place, Springfield, VA 22151) for $8.95 plus $4.50 shipping and handling. From the web at http://www.gunowners.com/resource.htm
the cost is $6.00 plus shipping. Credit card orders can be taken by phone by calling toll free at 1-888-886-GUNS. Faxed orders can be sent to 1-703-321-8408.


GOA IN THE STATES

Gun Owners of America and its members are impacting candidates and policy throughout the states.

Now, ten months of hard work is coming down to the finale, and GOA members are at the center of the action.

GOA has been surveying candidates for office, and as a result, has generated a firestorm of protest against those challengers and incumbents who have failed to pledge their support for gun owners’ rights.

Next year's legislative battles are being fought and decided right now as GOA members voice their opinions over candidates' answers to the 1998 GOA Survey Program.

GOA Survey puts politicians on record

Generally, a legislative session ends several months before the legislators must face their constituents at the ballot box. Many politicians hope you will forget what they did to you by then.

During this time GOA compiles votes related to your gun rights. Then GOA staff plans for the next legislative year and produces a list of questions relevant to next year's legislative goals.

This list of questions -- the Survey -- is then mailed to all candidates for the legislature. Once the Surveys are returned, GOA lets you and other GOA members and supporters know just where the candidates stand.

Not all candidates answer the GOA Survey. This usually means the politician is radically anti-gun and doesn't care about pro-gun constituents.

Other candidates fill out the GOA Survey, but not 100% pro-gun.

For example, sometimes politicians "duck" a controversial issue by not answering certain questions, while filling out the rest of the candidate Survey Program.

Ducking issues exposes an anti-gun candidate just as much as giving a bad answer. GOA members know that a candidate that does not have the guts to pledge support for gun owners' rights on paper does not have the guts to stand up for the Second Amendment once elected.

GOA members bring pressure to bear on squishy politicians

The first major step to legislative victory is to identify likely legislative foes, fence straddlers and legislative friends. The Candidate Survey Program is the tool GOA staff and members use to answer these critical questions.

Through GOA's Survey Program, members know the answers politicians give or do not give on the Second Amendment. GOA will list survey answers and the legislator's voting record so that gun owners can see exactly where their legislator stands.

When GOA publishes Survey results, GOA supporters are asked to use the information gathered in the Survey Program to communicate with their legislative candidates. Whether it means expressing thanks for pro-gun support or asking them to renounce their anti-gun ways, this constituent response phase is the heart of the Survey Program.

Wyoming Governor comes out for Vermont-style right to carry

Most gun owners are probably aware that Vermont-style right to carry does not involve taxing, fingerprinting and registering gun owners who wish to carry a firearm for self defense. This is the full intent of the Second Amendment unlike permit to carry laws often with numerous anti-gun infringements.

Wyoming Governor Jim Geringer did not respond in support of Vermont-style carry on his primary survey. Then GOA members swung into action.

Responding to GOA members who contacted him as a result of the primary survey results, Governor Jim Geringer (R) has favorably changed his position, and is now publicly suporting real right to carry in the state.

This is great news for Wyoming gun owners.

Now Wyoming GOA members need to further "educate" the various legislative candidates to support Vermont-style right to carry for the likely battle in next year's legislature.

Informed gun owners impact policy

Gun owners find they impact legislative battles when they consistently stand before the candidate, reminding him or her that they are to serve the public and uphold the Constitution.

Simply put, many politicians know that it is harmful to their career to go against the will of an informed and organized constituent base like GOA members and supporters.

GOA members recently achieved a great victory in Wyoming, but similar results are occurring in other states as well.

Politicians are educated to the facts of life by GOA members and supporters taking the time to communicate with politicians at a time when politicians are listening -- election time.

Through phone calls, postcards, personal letters and face-to-face meetings, politicians are often convinced by their constituents that standing firm for the Second Amendment is good policy and good politics.

That's what GOA's Candidate Survey Program is all about.

In addition to covering the entire federal level, GOA has conducted the state survey in at least three dozen states. GOA will once again be relying heavily on its members to put the heat on their elected officials.