-- Your hard work in bottling up this bill is about to be undone
"[The] more vociferous rival, Gun Owners of America,... has long opposed McCarthy's background-check bill." -- The Washington Post, June 9, 2007
While the entire nation was focused on the immigration bill the past couple of weeks, the gremlins on Capitol Hill were finalizing a "compromise" on gun control legislation.
The good news is that your tremendous outpouring of opposition to Rep. Carolyn McCarthy's Brady enhancement (HR 297) has sent a strong signal to Capitol Hill that this bill is unacceptable as written. The bad news is that there are some seemingly pro-gun Congressmen who are driven to get anything passed, just so they can say they did something about Virginia Tech.
So what's going on?
On Saturday, The Washington Post reported that both the Democrats and the NRA leadership had reached a "deal" on legislation similar to the McCarthy bill. This "deal" involves a new bill that has been introduced by Rep. McCarthy (HR 2640) -- a bill that has not yet been posted on the Thomas legislative service. While all the legislative particulars are not yet available, one thing is clear: it is, as reported by the Post, a deal with Democrats. And it involves legislation introduced by the most anti-gun member of the House, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY).
The Post says that, under the new language, the federal government would pay (that is, spend taxpayers' money) to help the states send more names of individual Americans to the FBI for inclusion in the background check system. If a state fails to do this, then the feds could cut various law enforcement grants to that state. In essence, this is a restatement of what the original McCarthy bill does. The states will be bribed (again, with your money) to send more names, many of them innocent gun owners, to the FBI in West Virginia -- and perhaps lots of other personal information on you as well.
Under the terms of this compromise, the Post says, "individuals with minor infractions in their pasts could petition their states to have their names removed from the federal database, and about 83,000 military veterans, put into the system by the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2000 for alleged mental health reasons, would have a chance to clean their records."
Oh really? The Brady law already contains a procedure for cleaning up records. But it hasn't worked for the 83,000 veterans that are currently prohibited from buying guns. Gun Owners of America is aware of many people who have tried to invoke this procedure in the Brady Law, only to get the run around -- and a form letter -- from the FBI. The simple truth is that the FBI and the BATFE think the 83,000 veterans, and many other law-abiding Americans, should be in the NICS system.
After all, that's what federal regulations decree. Unless these regs are changed, Congress can create as many redundant procedures for cleaning up these records as it wants, but the bottom line is, there is nothing that will force the FBI to scrub gun owners' name from the NICS system.
Not only that, there is a Schumer amendment in federal law which prevents the BATFE from restoring the rights of individuals who are barred from purchasing firearms. If that amendment is not repealed, then it doesn't matter if your state stops sending your name for inclusion in the FBI's NICS system... you are still going to be a disqualified purchaser when you try to buy a gun.
Moreover, will gun owners who are currently being denied the ability to purchase firearms -- such as the military veterans who have suffered from post-traumatic stress -- be recompensed in any way for their efforts to "clean their records"? They will, no doubt, have to spend thousands of dollars going to a shrink for a positive recommendation, for hiring lawyers to take their case to court, etc.
And this is not to mention the fact that this procedure turns our whole legal system on its head. Americans are presumed innocent until PROVEN guilty. But these brave souls, who risked their lives defending our country, were denied the right to bear arms because of a mental illness "loophole" in the law. Their names were added to the prohibited purchasers' list in West Virginia without any due process, without any trial by jury... no, their names were just added by executive fiat. They were unilaterally, and unconstitutionally, added into the NICS system by the Clinton administration. And now the burden of proof is ON THEM to prove their innocence. Isn't that backwards?
One wonders if these military veterans will be any more successful in getting back their gun rights than the gun owners in New Orleans who tried to get back their firearms which were confiscated in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. (Gun owners in the Big Easy have found it very difficult to prove their case and get their guns back, even though the courts have ruled that the police acted improperly in confiscating their firearms.) But isn't that the problem when honest people are thrust into the position of PROVING their innocence to the government, rather than vice-versa.
The fact is, current federal law -- combined with BATFE's interpretations of that law -- will make it very unlikely that any court will restore the Second Amendment rights of those 83,000 veterans.
Finally, the Post article also says the "federal government would be permanently barred from charging gun buyers or sellers a fee for their background checks." Well, that sounds good, but GOA already won this battle in 1998 when we drafted and pushed the Smith amendment into law.
GOA had to overcome opposition from certain pro-gun groups to help Senator Bob Smith (R-NH) introduce and push his language as an amendment to an appropriations bill. The Smith amendment barred the FBI from taxing gun buyers, something which the Clinton administration was considering doing.
GOA won the vote in the Senate with a veto-proof majority and the Smith amendment has been law ever since. But now we're being told that we need to swallow McCarthy's poison pill so that the Smith amendment -- which is currently law -- will stay on the books. Huh?!
ACTION: Gun Owners of America is the only national pro-gun organization opposing the McCarthy bill, so it is imperative that you contact your representative immediately. Please take action today and spread the word about HR 2640! We need all the help we can get.
You can visit the Gun Owners Legislative Action Center to send your Representative a pre-written e-mail message. You can call your Representative at 202-225-3121, or you can call your Representative toll-free at 1-877-762-8762.
----- Pre-written letter -----
Gun Owners of America tells me there is a compromise brewing on McCarthy's Brady expansion legislation -- the recently introduced HR 2640. I want you to know that grassroots gun owners OPPOSE this bill.
All the compromises on the table continue to infringe upon the Second Amendment. Please understand that no new gun control whatsoever is acceptable... period.
If you want to know some language that gun owners would support, then consider this:
"The Brady Law shall be null and void unless, prior to six months following the date of enactment of this Act, every name of a veteran forwarded to the national instant criminal background check system by the Veterans Administration or the Department of Veterans Affairs be permanently removed from that system."