04/95 Repeal Bill Hijacked!

The Bait-n-Switch is on!
Firearms Task Force bill would increase BATF’s power


by Gun Owners of America

(April 21, 1995) — Earlier this year, House Speaker Newt Gingrich appointed a Firearms Legislative Task Force to promote a gun rights agenda. But now the House task force has thrown us a curve ball and has introduced a bill that in many ways takes us the wrong direction.

The bill, H.R. 1488, does attempt to repeal the 1994 semi- auto ban. That’s the good part. The bad news is that the bill will not only increase the power and scope of the federal government, it will increase the BATF’s jurisdiction over firearms.

Realize, that most of the problems we have had with the BATF have involved gun dealers or people in possession of sawed-off shotguns or machine guns. With relatively few areas to meddle in, the BATF has managed to become infamous for wrecking people’s lives and property.

But now, a provision in H.R. 1488 is going to GIVE THE BATF MORE AUTHORITY, MORE JURISDICTION — all in the name of helping gun owners. Before gun owners support this bill, we must get this dangerous provision (in Section 3 of the bill) removed.

Certain leaders in the House had agreed to drop the pro-BATF provision in order to get gun rights supporters like Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) to support the bill. Relying on this agreement, several pro-gun Representatives — including Stockmancosponsored the bill. But it later turned out the changes were not made. And thus, Stockman has told GOA he will push to get the pro-BATF provision dropped. Otherwise, he will pull his name from the bill!!

The problem section — Section 3 of the bill — would effectively federalize certain state crimes committed while in the possession of a firearm. While the section goes through a daisy-chain of definitions which obscure its real purpose, Section 3 would in fact create mandatory prison terms for a broad range of conduct consisting of the actual or threatened use of force against person or property. CONDUCT AS INNOCUOUS AS THREATENING A BARKING DOG OR DEFENDING YOURSELF AGAINST A VIOLENT FELON WHO JUST TURNED HIS BACK ON YOU COULD LAND YOU 10-20 YEARS IN A FEDERAL PRISON! Historically and constitutionally, the states have jurisdiction over prosecuting day-to-day gun crimes. And so at a time when Congress should be returning power to the states, Section 3 of the bill would massively expand the role of the Federal government (especially the BATF’s). Consider the consequences:

1. Under Section 3, the BATF could go after a person like Bernie Goetz who used a gun against violent criminals. IF THE BATF CAN CONVINCE A JURY THAT A GUN OWNER DID NOT ACT WITHIN IT’S NARROW DEFINITION OF SELF-DEFENSE, THEN THE DEFENDER WOULD GET A MANDATORY MINIMUM SENTENCE OF 20 YEARS! Remember that Goetz shot one of the crooks in the back. Does this mean that Goetz went too far? Not according to Roy Innis, head of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). “Goetz in a way was generous not to shoot to kill, because any of those criminals could have rebounded on him,” Innis says. “The talk of them being shot in the back is nonsense. In a fire fight with four people you don’t know how they are armed, you don’t know that the person who is turning his back is not turning his back to get a weapon.” Furthermore, many victims have shot their attacker in the back because a blast from a first shot had spun them around just prior to the second shot. Nevertheless, local authorities have used such “shots in the back” as ammunition to claim such shootings were not done in self-defense. UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF H.R. 1488, THAT KIND OF SHOT PLACEMENT CAN LAND YOU 20 YEARS IN JAIL WITHOUT PAROLE! (While H.R. 1488 does have a self-defense exception, it is inferior to the laws of many states and it would not protect defensive shootings that hit the attacker’s back. H.R. 1488 would supersede those state laws if federal prosecutors are arguing the case.)

Another point to remember is this: the prosecutor in the Bernie Goetz case went through three Grand Juries before getting an indictment. When the Feds prosecute someone in federal court under this bill, they would have much greater latitude in where they can prosecute the case. In essence, they can go “fishing” for a place where they are more likely to find jurors that frown on self-defense.

2. Finally, and perhaps most dangerous of all, this provision also opens the door to getting the federal government involved in ALL gun possession charges, both state and federal. Under H.R. 1488, the BATF will start enforcing gun laws — that up until now — have been enforced by the states. And once the Congress has stuck its legislative foot in this area, it could easily broaden its jurisdiction to all gun possession charges. THE BATF WOULD THEN BECOME THE GUN COPS ENFORCING EVERY LOCAL ANTI-GUN ORDINANCE. You can be sure that as long as the law continues to criminalize mere possession of certain firearms, non-violent persons (like the Weavers and the Davidians) will continue to be harassed and killed by our federal government.