Smith: When The Smoke Cleared
Smith Decries the Gutting of His “Anti-Brady” Amendment
— Vows to take up the fight again early next year
by Gun Owners of America
“I am disappointed. I am angry. But I will not give up.”
— Senator Bob Smith (R-NH)
(Thursday, October 22, 1998)– He fought for the rights of gun owners, all the way to the bitter end. In no uncertain terms, he made it clear that he would not become a party to the “decimation” of gun owners’ rights. And so he voted against the entire budget bill “because it did not contain two critically important provisions of [my] amendment to protect the privacy of law-abiding gun owners.”
Sen. Bob Smith (R-NH) stood up for gun owners yesterday. Unfortunately, he was only one of 29 Senators to oppose the omnibus spending bill. The bill passed even more overwhelmingly in the House the day before by a 333-95 vote. (Gun owners can see the vote tallies at http://www.gunowners.org/105hvote.htm and http://www.gunowners.org/105svote.htm on the GOA website.) Undaunted, Sen. Smith has promised to force the issue again next year.
Smith Vents His Anger At The “Decimation” Of His Pro-gun Provision
Stating that the “answer to America’s crime problem is not to restrict the people’s Second Amendment rights,” Sen. Smith blasted the budget conferees yesterday for gutting his amendment, which passed the Senate with a veto-proof majority:
I am deeply disappointed that those who negotiated this bill with the Clinton Administration have ignored the legislatively expressed will of 69 United States Senators by rendering meaningless– in fact, gutting– the second, and eliminating altogether the third, provisions of the Smith Amendment.
Smith was referring to the gutting of the anti-registration provision and the elimination of the private cause of action. This latter provision was the “teeth” of the amendment since it allowed an individual gun owner to sue the FBI for violating the “no tax” and “no registration” provisions of the amendment.
Back To Square One For Gun Owners
As for the anti-registration provision, the Republican leadership put gun owners back at square one. The final language merely states that all background information must be “destroyed”– a requirement which was basically the status quo before the Smith amendment passed. To this demand, the FBI makes an argument that goes something like this: “We are complying with the law. We’re going to destroy gun owners’ names– after 18 months.”
That is why the Smith amendment’s language was so important. The Smith language required the “immediate destruction” of gun buyers’ names, and if not, that any private citizen could take the FBI to court and recover attorney’s fees for their trouble.
Other legislators criticized the torturous “process” that accompanied a bill that was thousands of pages of long, and that was made available to legislators only hours before the vote. According to the Associated Press, legislators were still putting their finishing touches on the bill as late as Monday night. Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) stated on Tuesday: “I dare say no member understands completely what is in this legislation. Only God knows what’s in this colossal monstrosity.” Indeed, legislators were at a loss to find out specific details about the bill before the vote. For example, the House leadership was indicating last week that a 24-hour registration provision had been written into the Smith language. But this provision was absent from the final version. This should come as good news to gun owners, knowing that the FBI is not authorized to keep gun owners’ names for up to 24 hours. (But as already stated, one severe drawback is that the FBI is not instructed as to WHEN to destroy the names. They are not told to destroy the names “immediately.”) On a positive note, the Smith anti-tax provision did survive in the omnibus spending bill. And while that is good news, gun owners should know that they’re still going to have to pay. Because the gun owners’ tax was deleted, Republican leaders increased funding for the FBI instant background check to $42 million dollars. So gun owners are still going to pay for it– they just won’t see the “tax” until April 15.
Common Questions Gun Owners Are Asking
Who’s to blame? While it would be almost impossible to get an actual admission from the legislators who were responsible for gutting the Smith amendment, one can make a very-educated guess. In Washington, the “buck stops” with the leaders of both houses: House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS). One would most likely find their “fingerprints” all over the budget deal, as they were the ones who spent a majority of the time negotiating it with the White House. And more to the point, the word from staffers on Capitol Hill is that Clinton refused to go along with the full Smith amendment, and that both Gingrich and Lott agreed to back down.
No matter how they spin this on Capitol Hill, Gingrich broke his word to gunowners. This past summer, Rep. Tom Coburn (R-OK) wanted to offer the Smith amendment on the floor of the House. But Rep. Gingrich pressured him to refrain from offering the amendment, promising that as Speaker, he would make sure that the House accepted the Senate language in the conference committee. Coburn demanded to have that promise in writing. What he finally got instead was a letter dated September 14, wherein Gingrich merely said he would “urge” the Conferees to adopt Senator Smith’s amendment.
Thus, it was no surprise that when the smoke cleared, the full Smith amendment was nowhere to be seen. According to Smith himself, the amendment had been “decimated.”
Is Sen. Smith going to try again? The silver lining in this cloud is that Sen. Smith is as motivated as ever to push his provision as a stand-alone bill early next year. There is no doubt that his language would easily pass both houses of Congress with a veto-proof majority. With such overwhelming support, Clinton’s opposition becomes irrelevant.
Moreover, gun owners have put the Republican leadership on notice. Gun owners bombarded the RNC who, by their own admission, admitted that thousands of phone calls, faxes, and emails poured into their office. At the same time, GOA members were deluging their office with thousands of postcards. Yes, the Republicans still caved in to the President, but consider this: Senator Smith is not going away.
In less than four months, Smith is going to resume the push to pass his amendment. How many more times are the RNC and the rest of the Republican Party going to run this gauntlet? How many more times do you think they’ll dare to water-down legislation that has overwhelmingly passed by a veto-proof majority? How many more angry phone calls do you think they will be willing to answer? If we keep applying the “heat,” they will eventually see the “light.”
What can I do? Well, many of you have told us that you have taken the RNC’s fundraising requests (that have been delivered to your home) and sent them back to the RNC– both empty and with a little tip (of advice): “You”ll get no money from me until the Smith amendment is passed in full!”
Others of you have told us that you received a solicitation but already ripped it up (in anger). So if you would still like to send the RNC a message (remember, Sen. Smith will be fighting this battle again very soon), you can write the RNC and let them know why their solicitation is not coming back to them. Write to: Jim Nicholson, Chairman, Republican National Committee, Dwight D. Eisenhower Republican Center, 310 First Street, S.E., Washington, DC 20003.
The first battle may be over, but another one looms on the horizon. So to paraphrase the immortal words of John Paul Jones: “We have not yet begun to fight.”
1998 GOA Candidate Ratings Available
Gun Owners of America has completed our ratings of this year’s Congressional candidates. Those ratings– which include third-party candidates– have been posted on the GOA website at:
Please note that only 1/3 of the Senate is up for re-election. At http://www.gunowners.org/s105rat.htm you can find the ratings of those incumbent Senators who do not have to face the voters.
Finally, due to the increased workload of the election season, we ask that you please bear with us if individual e-mail questions take longer to answer.