House Gun Vote And More

Good and Bad News on House Gun Vote
— Gun rights activists lose symbolic vote by a squeaker

(Thursday, March 16, 2000) — The House narrowly voted yesterday to instruct House-Senate conferees to begin meeting on the anti-gun juvenile bill within two weeks. If the committee does meet, it would be their first session since August of last year.

That’s the bad news. We lost the vote — albeit by the slimmest of margins. Considering the fact that there are 435 Representatives, the 218 votes in favor of the motion was exactly the number of votes needed to get a majority in the House.

As for the good news, the motion that passed is non-binding. It can be completely ignored by the conferees, and 218 votes is not much of a mandate anyway. But that’s not all. We also appear to be gaining ground.

On The Offense. Our side picked up more than 20 votes from the last time this issue was voted on. Last September, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) offered a similar motion instructing the conferees to begin meeting. It passed with 241 votes. Her motion yesterday only passed with 218 votes.

It would seem that the gun banners are losing ground and that you guys are having an impact once again. GOA thanks you for your hard work.

The Bigger Issue. Hours before the vote, a bipartisan group of Congressmen went to the White House and publicly asked their colleagues to support the juvenile crime legislation. Meanwhile, Clinton remained on the attack, answering many of his critics by claiming that gun prosecutions are actually up.

Whether they are or not, one should be worried about the administration’s desire to do so.

First of all, nobody doubts that violent crimes — whether committed by guns, knives or fists — should be prosecuted. But they should be prosecuted at the state level. That’s the position of the Constitution and the Founding Fathers. Real criminals need to be taken off the streets by the local authorities.

The problem in this debate revolves around the question: Should BATF agents also be encouraged to go after non-violent, very technical offenders of the federal gun laws? When federal prosecutors and agents go after gun crimes, they go after ALL gun crimes — even the paper offenses. A Project Exile style, zero-tolerance approach for these types of gun crimes means that:

* Grandpas will get thrown in jail. Federal law prohibits the exchange of a handgun from the resident of one state to the resident of another state, without going through a firearms dealer. So what happens when a grandpa innocently gives a handgun to his son or grandson who lives in another state? Does grandpa really merit zero-tolerance?

* Brave teachers like Joel Myrick of Mississippi can go to jail, even after saving the lives of countless students. Myrick used his gun in 1997 to stop a killer in his tracks. The gun was illegal, however, since he was in possession of a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school. Violation of that law would invite federal jurisdiction and severe draconian penalties under Project Exile.

Already, prosecutors routinely abuse their power by going after individuals who use guns in lawful self-defense. GOA is working to pass the Citizen’s Self-Defense Act for that very reason. Should we now open the door for even more such abuses by federal prosecutors?

* We’ll see more Wacos and Ruby Ridges. The tragedies in Waco, Texas, and Ruby Ridge, Idaho, were all about enforcing the federal gun laws. In the case of the former, it was alleged that the proper paperwork had not been done and taxes had not been paid on certain NFA weapons. In the latter case, a man was accused of selling two shotguns that had barrels which were too short. Do we really want zero-tolerance for these kinds of “criminals”?

* Even state legislators and cops will not be exempt from the federal gun web. From coast to coast, out-of-control BATF agents have shown themselves to be “equal opportunity” abusers.

In Alaska, GOA came to the assistance of Democratic state legislator Rich Foster when the BATF tried to send him away to prison for 50 years (and to fine him up to $1.25 million). For what heinous crime? For building a replica machinegun — the BATF had at first OK’d it, but then later used it to arrest him in a sting operation. A jury, outraged by the BATF’s actions, acquitted Foster.

In New Jersey, the BATF went after two Camden cops and confiscated two of their private handguns, claiming they were too easy to convert to fully-automatic fire. And in Pennsylvania, the BATF’s “machinegun” case against Sgt. James Corcoran was thrown out after the judge learned that the BATF, not Corcoran, tampered with his semi-automatic rifles, making some of them double fire. [By the way, both of these cases can be viewed on GOF’s video: Breaking the Law in the Name of the Law: The BATF Story. It is available from GOF at 1-888-886-GUNS (4867) or at on the web.]

The President is talking a lot these days about enforcing the anti-gun laws on the books. That should scare us. GOA Executive Director Larry Pratt responded to Clinton in a national op-ed article this week. Pratt had this to say about the Clinton administration’s desire to go after so-called “gun crimes”:

“Forcing people to be checked out by the government before they buy a gun is not going to keep criminals from getting a gun. A gun ban in England has not kept criminals from stocking up, so what makes us think a Brady instant check in the U.S. will get any better compliance than a ban in England?

“For that matter, the handgun bans in Chicago and Washington have also led to skyrocketing crime rates. Imagine that, criminals on both sides of the Atlantic behave the same. Disarm the victims, and the criminals are more vicious than ever before. The problem is not that Clinton has failed to enforce the unconstitutional gun laws currently on the books. Let us hope he never does.

“The problem is that Clinton wants to take away guns from the civilian population. Clinton is for victim disarmament. That is the issue. Dead, disarmed victims. The issue should not be Project Exile.

“Instead of Project Exile, let’s have Project Repeal — of existing gun laws. Let’s have Project Victim Rearmament. Gun control kills. Guns save lives.”

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