Gun Bills Moving

Gun Bills Moving in Senate and House Judiciary Committees

* Juvenile Crime Bill (S 10). After coming under intense pressure from GOA activists, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has modified a provision that would have treated gun owners like organized crime figures. The original language could have sent a gun dealer, manufacturer or owner to prison for up to twenty years for something as minor as two record-keeping mistakes. After GOA alerted the Senate to these problems, several Senate offices told Gun Owners of America they could not support the bill as it was then drafted. This led to Senator Hatch revising his bill.

But several problems remain with S. 10, even as it was reported out of the Judiciary Committee yesterday by a 12-6 vote. The bill would still impose a twenty year sentence for minor mistakes involving semi-automatics, school zones, and supervised handgun use by your kids. There were also several amendments that were added to the bill in committee. Thus, once the dust settles, GOA will update you on the specifics in this bill. S. 10 is not expected to be considered by the full Senate until October.

On a brighter note, the Judiciary Committee did kill a provision last week that would have required gun owners to lock up their guns, thus jeopardizing people’s ability to defend themselves in an emergency. The amendment, introduced by Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), was narrowly defeated by a vote of 9-8. Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH) was the only Republican to cross over and join Democrats in voting for the amendment. Gun owners may see this provision resurrected since Sen. Kohl has vowed to offer his amendment once again on the Senate floor.

While gun owners hailed the defeat of an anti-gun amendment in a Senate Committee, the Constitution did not completely escape unscathed. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) offered a compromise alternative to the Kohl amendment that would require all dealers to have gun locks, or other gun safety devices, available for sale. The panel approved Hatch’s amendment, 10-7.

* Forfeit Your Guns Bill (H.R. 1965). The House Judiciary Committee recently passed a forfeiture “reform” bill by a 26-1 vote. This bill would, in most cases, make the forfeiture laws even worse. Indeed, there is a tremendous problem. According to a survey done by The Pittsburgh Press, 80% of the people who had property seized by the federal government were never even charged with a crime.

Currently, BATF is allowed to come into your business or your home under some circumstances and seize your firearms and other business and personal property. This authority has been egregiously and repeatedly abused by BATF.

Under H.R. 1965, your rights as a gun owner or businessman would be considerably diminished. Let’s say that you and two other limited partners own a gun shop, and that BATF decided to come in and seize your business. Under H.R. 1965, BATF could seize your business without a warrant if there were probable cause to believe the property was subject to forfeiture. There would also be a broad definition of your personal assets which BATF could seize because they were “proceeds” of your business.

Your partners would not have to be notified until well after the seizure, and would lose their interest in your business if they did not act within 30 days — and, even then, they may be unable to receive compensation for their interest in your business.

BATF could conduct a fishing expedition against you without probable cause, and it could use hearsay evidence against you in initial proceedings. Your right to raise an Eighth Amendment objection to the seizure would be seriously limited, and you would have to demonstrate an extraordinary showing of hardship to get a court to order the BATF to temporarily return the business to you pending trial.

If it turned out that BATF had made a mistake, its liability to you would be limited.

FOR THE RECORD: No Senator has yet to introduce a repeal of the 1994 semi-auto ban or a full repeal of the Lautenberg gun ban. The House Subcommittee on Crime has yet to schedule any action on H.R. 27 (Bartlett’s Self-Defense Bill), H.R. 1009 (Chenoweth’s full repeal of the Lautenberg gun ban), or H.R. 1147 (the semi-auto ban repeal). The new 800 number for Capitol Hill is 1-800-522-6721.