Grassroots Win Round One

Grassroots Win Round One on Gun Ban;
Keep the Heat Going

GOA Alert

(Friday, September 27, 1996) — You guys have been terrific! Your combined voice has shone the spotlight on gun bans that would have otherwise passed with hardly a note of opposition. Many of you will recall that last month, GOA first alerted you to the Lautenberg “domestic confiscation” gun ban which had been added to the Senate anti-stalking bill. This provision would ban thousands of Americans from owning firearms for life, and order their guns seized. Persons convicted of certain misdemeanors would be added to the list of “prohibited persons” barred from purchasing or possessing firearms under federal law.

GOA turns up the heat on Sen. Hutchison. At the time, GOA asked many of you to contact Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), the prime sponsor of the bill. Sen. Hutchison had welcomed the Lautenberg proposal as an amendment to her bill, and in fact, had stated on the floor of the Senate on July 25, 1996 that: “Senator Lautenberg is to be commended for working with us to make his amendment a good amendment, and it is a good amendment, and I applaud him for it. I think it adds to the bill. He was willing to work with us, and I think we now have a very strong bill. . . . I am very pleased to be supportive of this compromise.”

With that kind of high-level support for the Lautenberg gun ban, it seemed at the time that the provision was as good as law. But GOA began alerting Congressmen to the problem, including the prime sponsor of the anti-stalking bill in the House. Moreover, GOA’s grassroots turned up the heat on Sen. Hutchison. The result? The Lautenberg ban was dropped from the bill. The Associated Press reported on September 16 that the “bill’s main sponsor, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, succeeded last week in attaching the anti-stalking language stripped of the [Lautenberg] gun ban to a spending bill.” Even though the Lautenberg ban had been previously praised by Senator Hutchison and even though it had passed easily by a voice vote, the ban was deep-sixed after the grassroots rose up and made it a controversial issue. The President signed the anti-stalking bill into law this week — without the Lautenberg gun ban in the bill.

Not to be outdone, however, Lautenberg forced another vote on his provision, getting it added to the Treasury spending bill. As we have already reported, this provision passed the Senate overwhelmingly by a 97-2 vote.

GOA leads coalition. Once again, GOA activists turned up the heat. GOA also led a coalition of 30 pro-gun, pro-family, law-enforcement and women’s groups to oppose both the Lautenberg and Kohl “school zone gun ban” amendments. GOA delivered the coalition letter to the Congress this week. Unfortunately, rather than kill the ban outright, the Republican response has been to merely lessen the impact of the anti-gun amendment. The Washington Post reported yesterday that House Republicans — led by Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) — have submitted a watered-down compromise version of the Lautenberg amendment to the omnibus spending bill.

The good news is that Frank Lautenberg is furious and is demanding that his original version be reinstated. The bad news is that while the Barr compromise does reduce the anti-gun bite (somewhat), it is still an anti-gun provision, as it still expands the list of prohibited purchasers to include — for the first time in federal law — misdemeanor offenders (See footnote #1).


(A) Reinforce your Representatives and Senators (1-800-962-3524 or 1-800-972-3524). Many Congressmen are saying that they don’t want to vote against the Lautenberg amendment and be accused of voting to put guns in the hands of wifebeaters. What they don’t realize is that the law ALREADY disarms men who are convicted of a felony for abusing their wife. In fact, the Lautenberg provision harms women by, in many cases, disarming the very women who are supposed to be helped. Attorneys who deal with domestic violence cases know how easy it is for either party to be charged and convicted for misdemeanor assault from little spats between spouses, roommates, lovers, etc. Even under Barr’s rewrite, a woman can now become defenseless for having committed a misdemeanor worthy of a lifetime gun ban! (The wife would simply have had to “use or attempted [to] use . . . physical force” — either in anger or out of exasperation.)

The answer is to punish serious offenders with felonious assault and not to plea bargain these abusive husbands down to misdemeanors. The answer is to fix the real problem which exists in the judicial system. But urge them not to extend the prohibited persons list to include misdemeanor offenses (an act which could open the door to eventually cover non-violent misdemeanor offenses). And urge them to uphold the Constitution. Domestic abuse is a state issue. Congress does not need to legislate domestic violence law for the entire nation — that is what we have state legislatures for.

(B) Keep the heat on Sen. Majority Leader Trent Lott (800# or 202-224-6253; fx: 224-2262) and House Speaker Newt Gingrich (800# or 202-225-4501; fx: 225-4656 or 225-7733). Ask them: “Instead of endangering women through the Lautenberg amendment (and its House counterpart), why are there no amendments to make it easier for women — whose lives are threatened — to circumvent the Brady waiting period? Rather than having to be interrogated by the Chief of Police, why not just allow abused women to sign an affidavit stating their predicament, thus escaping the Brady-imposed waiting period?”

(C) Distribute this alert.
1. While Barr’s proposal seeks to limit the extent of the Lautenberg gun ban to violent misdemeanors, it also would disarm one who “use[s] or attempted [to] use . . . physical force.” Thus, this language could easily affect a wife who throws a plate at her spouse, either in anger or out of exasperation. In the end, the Barr language still suffers from Lautenberg’s fundamental deficiency: if an act of domestic violence is serious enough to lose your civil right to own guns, then it should be a felony, which would solve the whole problem without compromising traditional American Firearms rights. If it is not serious, it should be treated as a misdemeanor.