December 2001: The Year In Review

GOA Members Help Put Guns Back Onto Planes

“Please accept my sincere appreciation for the support Gun Owners of America has given to promote responsible and effective pro-gun legislation.”

— Sen. Bob Smith (R-NH), June 27, 2001

By Erich Pratt

There is no question about it. This has been a very productive year, and it could not have happened without your support of Gun Owners of America.

GOA boasts a total of more than 300,000 members like you — armchair lobbyists who upon a moment’s notice can help deluge a Congressional office with thousands upon thousands of postcards, letters and e-mails.

Because of your activism — and your financial support — Gun Owners of America has led many of the legislative battles to reclaim our Second Amendment rights this year.

GOA Executive Director Larry Pratt (left) appeared om national television in July to debate Mike Beard of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (right).

Gun control has been repealed. Gun freedoms have been advanced.

Most significantly, you will soon be able to travel the skies more safely now that Congress passed legislation allowing pilots to carry firearms.

GOA was on the front lines of this battle, drafting legislation… lobbying the Congress… mobilizing the grassroots… and using radio and national TV to advance the message that “more guns mean less terrorism.”

Gun control dealt a major setback in September

It all began September 11 — a date which may have forever changed the debate over gun control.

There’s an old saying that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged. But now, adds columnist Howie Carr, we can say that a gun owner is a “liberal who’s worried about terrorists.”

It’s a silver lining to a dark cloud, Carr says, this sudden collapse of the anti-gun movement.

“In the halls of Congress and the State House, they used to debate: Should we ban assault weapons? Now the more pressing question is: Do I buy a revolver or an automatic?”

September 11 visually demonstrated the failure of gun control. Turning airplanes into gun-free zones did not stop criminals from carrying weapons and terrorizing their victims.

And even the heightened security measures that have been implemented since the skyjackings have not stopped people from taking guns and knives through metal detectors at airports.

Airline security full of holes

Airports are finding it impossible to screen out all guns and knives — even after the September 11 attacks. Effective protection against hijackers occurred when pilots could carry firearms, such as when an American Airlines pilot used his .380 to kill a hijacker in 1954.

For example, a Tennessee man with a handgun in his pocket walked through a metal detector at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport undetected in late September. Charles Hildreth had a permit to carry the weapon and had simply forgotten he had it with him. Upon realizing his mistake, he flagged down an airline representative and handed over his firearm.

About the same time, a federal investigator in south Florida conducted his own security test and was able to carry three knives through a passenger checkpoint without anyone detecting them.

The also reported that undercover inspectors have been able for years to slip dummy bombs, hand grenades, guns and other test objects past security on hundreds of occasions at major airports in California.

All this only proves something that every gun owner has always known: it is not the government’s job to protect people. They can’t. They’re not responsible for the safety of individual Americans. And government agents can’t even be sued when they are grossly negligent in providing what limited protection they do.

Private citizens must take steps for the defense of themselves and their families.

This is exactly what one pilot did before 1987, when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began forcing pilots to walk through metal detectors in an effort to create gun-free zones on airplanes.

The incident was reported in the Houston Chronicle’s online version this past October 14. Nearly 50 years ago, Capt. Bill Bonnell used his .380 semiautomatic to stop a hijacker who tried to commandeer an American Airlines plane at the Cleveland airport.

Capt. Bonnell, who had served as an Army Air Corps pilot during World War II, shot and fatally wounded the armed hijacker. The year was 1954 — a forgotten time, the Chronicle notes, when pilots not only “routinely carried pistols, but were required to carry them.”

GOA worked behind the scenes to pass “armed pilots” language

In the wake of the recent terrorist skyjackings, GOA helped draft legislation to repeal federal restrictions that were effectively keeping pilots from carrying guns on airplanes.

Republican Representative Ron Paul of Texas introduced the bill in the House, and in so doing, set the standard for the ideal language to arm pilots. His bill would have completely left up to pilots the decision whether to carry arms — an idea which makes perfect sense.

The Brady Bunch has tried, without success, to rationally argue that a pilot might use his gun to bring down his own plane. But that is utter nonsense. If a pilot wanted to do crash his plane, he wouldn’t need a gun to do it.

Gun Owners of America also appealed to Rep. Don Young of Alaska and urged him to insert an armed pilots provision into his aviation security act. Young responded to GOA activists in his state and complied with their wishes.

On the other side of Capitol Hill, GOA worked with Sen. Bob Smith of New Hampshire to successfully overcome parliamentary hurdles set up by Democrats who wanted to keep the armed pilots language out of the Senate aviation bill.

Despite the opposition, the bill passed in both houses with an armed pilots protection in each version. This was a strategic victory for GOA, as it makes it likely that an armed pilots amendment would end up in the final bill that goes to the President’s desk.

GOA members helped change the momentum

From the very beginning, getting guns back into airline cockpits was clearly going to be an uphill battle.

The President was lukewarm to the idea. The FAA administrator was opposed. And the largest airline pilots association was also against the idea initially.

But after mobilizing tens of thousands of gun owners and pilots around the country, GOA supporters began to see the momentum change.

ALPA (the Air Line Pilots Association) made a 180-degree turn when it announced in September that it would support legislation to arm pilots.

Likewise, FAA administrator Jane Garvey admitted that, at first, the idea of arming pilots was a notion she “wouldn’t have even considered.” However, she warmed up to the idea after receiving an outpouring of support for the idea from pilots — many of whom were GOA members.

Even many of the usual gun control advocates in Congress found it difficult to swim against the political tide. Antigun Senator Barbara Boxer surprised many onlookers in October when she spoke on the Senate floor in favor of the provision arming pilots.

In the end, the pilot’s amendment passed the Senate by unanimous consent — not one Senator was willing to object.

GOA is working for you

Achieving recognition for private cit- izens, such as pilots, to carry guns onto planes was probably the biggest victory this year. Of course, it was not the only battle that GOA fought in 2001.

With your help, Gun Owners of America:

  • Defeated attempts to extend gun owner registration at the federal level to 90 days in July.
  • Actively lobbied to kill a provision allowing the government to confiscate military surplus firearms that are currently owned by private civilians.
  • Worked with Sen. Bob Smith (R-NH) to keep gun control out of the education bill in June.
  • Debated representatives from gun control organizations on nationwide television and on the radio.
  • Placed pro-gun editorials in newspapers and magazines across the country.
  • Assisted Rep. John Hostettler in getting 100 Congressional signatures onto a letter that ultimately helped persuade HUD Secretary Mel Martinez to stop his department from assisting state and local lawsuits aimed at putting gun makers out of business.
  • Mobilized grassroots gun owners in opposition to the Incumbent Protection Act — a measure that would squelch the ability of groups like GOA to inform the public about legislators’ records prior to an election, and much more.

The victory over the Incumbent Protection Act in July was the culmination of a multi-year battle, which has seen the number of the bill’s supporters gradually dwindle.

Over the past three years, the number of House Republicans voting for the bill has fallen almost 70 percent — a victory that should encourage gun owners all across the nation who have taken the time to contact their Congressmen.

Your activism makes a difference, for without it our rights would be in greater jeopardy.

The Incumbent Protection Act is one of the bills that GOA will continue watching closely next year.

But that’s not all. GOA will vigorously oppose restrictions on gun shows, or any gun ban that legislators try to shove down the throats of gun owners.

On the offensive side, GOA will continue pushing the Citizen’s Self-Defense Act, as well as John Hostettler and Bob Smith’s concealed carry legislation.

We will continue working at the state level to push for Vermont-style carry legislation protecting the right of decent citizens to carry without being licensed or registered.

GOA plans to keep delivering the same no-compromise message to the Congress and across the nation.

Our rights are not negotiable, and we will continue to put pressure on legislators who disregard their oaths to uphold the Constitution.

There’s a lot to work to do. But this upcoming year has much potential.

We hope you will support Gun Owners of America and work with us in 2002.

What They’re Saying About GOA

Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC):
“There is no question that without G.O.A., American gun rights would be in even greater peril today.”
Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN):
“Gun Owners of America is the pit bull of the Second Amendment. They are relentless and never give any ground whatsoever to the gun grabbers.”
Dave Kopel, National Review online, May 15, 2001:
“The GOA’s e-mail and fax grassroots network has become extremely effective. GOA was the most important organization behind the failure in the last two Congresses of Senator Orrin Hatch’s [gun control] bill to federalize much of the juvenile justice system.”

Sen. Bob Smith (R-NH), June 27, 2001:
“GOA has become a respected source of information concerning America’s gun rights. I enjoy watching you on television debating the gun grabbers and defending our Second Amendment rights.”



GOA on the Front Lines Working For You!


GOA worked hard to defeat the Incumbent Protection Bill sponsored by Sen. John McCain (left) and Rep. Christopher Shays. Over a three-year period, GOA helped slash the number of Republican supporters for this legislation by almost 70 percent. This bill would muzzle groups like GOA, and keep it from reporting on a candidate’s record during a campaign. In the picture, Sen. McCain chats with talk show host, Jay Leno — who like other media personalities and organizations would be exempt from McCain’s bill.

GOA Executive Director Larry Pratt appeared on Fox News in June to refute an anti-gun study being peddled by anti-gun researcher Arthur Kellermann.

GOA and its members were instrumental in getting 99 Representatives to cosign a letter authored by Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN) — a letter asking HUD Secretary Mel Martinez to drop the agency’s participation in lawsuits against gun makers. GOA’s Larry Pratt thanked Rep. Hostettler (right) for his leadership after Secretary Martinez announced that HUD would “no longer participate” in the effort to cripple gun manufacturers.

Gun Owners of America worked with Texas Rep. Ron Paul (pictured on the right with GOA lobbyist, John Velleco) in crafting legislation to overturn federal regulations disarming pilots. Paul’s legislation was the best of all versions, as it would have unequivocally allowed any pilot to carry firearms on a plane. GOA also helped craft “armed pilots” language which passed in the Senate and worked to make sure that similar language was adopted in the House.

Senator Bob Smith meets with GOA’s Larry Pratt. Senator Smith thanked Gun Owners of America for for working with him to keep a gun registration amendment off of an appropriations bill in September. “We expected gun control proponents to offer a gun records amendment on the Senate floor,” Sen. Smith’s top-aide said. “But after Senate offices were flooded with faxes and emails from GOA members, the gun banners backed off.” Sen. Smith also led the fight in the Senate to pass legislation arming pilots.

GOA lobbied to defeat anti-gun legislation offered by Virginia Democrat James Moran (right). Thousands of GOA members and activists bombarded the Congress with phone calls, faxes and emails after GOA alerted them to the Moran amendment. The provision, which would have let the FBI keep gun buyers names for at least 90 days, was shot down in the House by an overwhelming vote of 268- 161.

GOA Communication Director Erich Pratt debates a representative from the Brady Center on MSNBC this past March.

Gun Owners of America worked with Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) and others on the Hill to make sure the anti-terrorism bill that passed in the wake of the September 11 skyjackings was free of any gun control provisions. At the urging of GOA and others, some of the most noxious provisions that were in the draft proposal were dropped before Congress ever approved the bill.

JUNE 27, 2001

Hon. Lawrence D. Pratt
Gun Owners of America
8001 Forbes Pl, Suite 102
Springfield, Virginia 22151

Dear Larry:

Please accept my sincere appreciation for the support your organization has given to promote responsible and effective pro-gun legislation.

GOA has become a respected source of information concerning America’s gun rights. I enjoy watching you on television debating the gun grabbers and defending our Second Amendment rights.

I look forward to working with you again in the defense of our Constitutional right to keep and bear arms.


Bob Smith
U.S. Senate


Gun Control Book Based on Faulty Data

by Glenn Harlan Reynolds

Emory University historian Michael Bellesiles caused quite a splash when he published Arming America: The Origins of the National Gun Culture, a book that ostensibly turned our understanding of the Second Amendment on its head.

The book was enthusiastically received and celebrated by the media establishment, who welcomed it with rave reviews and awards and pronounced the book proof that the Second Amendment does not protect individual gun ownership.

Bellesiles’ thesis was that the framers of the Constitution must not have intended the Second Amendment to protect an individual right to own guns because private gun ownership was exceedingly rare at the time — and stayed that way until after the Civil War when the NRA nefariously created the “gun culture” that we know today and that we ascribe, incorrectly, to the framers.

Bellesiles backed up his theses with claims that he checked thousands of probate records and discovered that guns were scarce at the time of the framing.

This thesis was provocative, but it also appears to be wrong. In fact, it appears to be worse than wrong. People who have checked Bellesiles’ claims against the probate records that he says he consulted have found that he drastically under states the number of guns they show.

A growing number of respected scholars have charged Michael Bellesiles with “cooking” his data in order to paint the picture of an early America with relatively few firearms.

“Problems” in nearly every part of the book

Northwestern University law professor James Lindgren, an expert in probate records who has closely examined Bellesiles’ work, told the Boston Globe that “in virtually every part of the book examined in detail, there are problems.”

“It’s clear that this book is impressive to legal and social historians who do not check the background. Law professors and quantitative historians have been suspicious about the book since its release.”

The data sets Bellesiles’ drew from the probate records he claims to have examined are unavailable; Bellesiles says they were destroyed in a flood. Even more damning, set of records that Bellesiles says he relied on were destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and have been unavailable to anyone since then without access to a time machine.

Various scholars have been criticizing Bellesiles’ research for months, but on Sept. 11, Globe — fresh from breaking the tale of historian Joe Ellis’s Vietnam falsehoods — published a story revealing that the paper had investigated the claims against Bellesiles and found them to be true.

This was little noticed at the time, owing to other events, but on Oct. 3, Emory University decided that the criticisms constituted “prima facie evidence of scholarly misconduct,” and ordered Bellesiles to account for himself. What explanation Bellesiles will offer is unclear, but a finding of unforgivable sloppiness seems to be about the best he can hope for.

Gun banners tried to use Bellesiles’ theory to cripple Second Amendment rights

But for our purposes, it doesn’t matter whether Bellesiles is a fraud or merely exceedingly careless. Because there’s another failure here, one that in some ways was far more serious than Bellesiles’.

Extraordinary claims, Carl Sagan said, require extraordinary evidence. And that evidence itself requires extraordinary examination.

Yet Bellesiles’ claims — which counted as “provocative” precisely because they were in conflict with everything we thought we knew about the history of guns in America — got just the opposite. The people who should have examined his evidence rushed to embrace it, because it told them what they wanted to hear.

Writer Garry Wills, who reviewed the book for the New York Times Book Review, wrote that “Bellesiles deflates the myth of the self-reliant and selfarmed virtuous yeoman of the Revolutionary militias.”

The Chronicle of Higher Education featured the book on its front page, with the headline “Exploding the Myth of an Armed America.” The American Prospect wrote that “The image of… the American founders believing in an individual’s right to keep and bear arms… turns out to be a myth.”

Arming America even received the (up to now) prestigious Bancroft Prize from Columbia University.

Media elite embrace Bellesiles’ work without question

Instead of reviewers who might be skeptical of Bellesiles’ research, mainstream publications assigned reviewers who were antigun.

Wills, for example, has had a reputation as rabidly antigun for years.

Carl Bogus, who reviewed the book for The American Prospect, is a longtime gun-control activist. Richard Slotkin, who praised Arming America in The Atlantic Monthly, has referred to the notion of guns as instruments of liberty and equality as “self-evidently crazy.”

Gun banners had hoped that Bellesiles’ work claiming firearms were scarce during the founding era would discredit the individual right to keep and bear arms.

That such reviewers would not expend any great effort in checking out Bellesiles’ claims should come as no surprise, and in fact they didn’t.

How the Internet trumped the mainstream media when checking the facts

But this raises an interesting question about the claim that mainstream, traditional media organizations always make in defense of their importance: that they are careful and responsible, while alternative media and the Internet are not. The Internet, they tell us, is a domain of hype and hoaxes, while traditional media can be trusted to check things out and get them right.

Yet if one looks at Amazon.Com’s reviews of Arming America, it is immediately evident that Amazon reviewers found the problems with Bellesiles’ book a year ago, while the establishment was still smitten.

On Oct. 24, 2000, for example, Amazon reader Sondra Wilkins did something that Garry Wills did not: she checked some of Bellesiles’ sources and reported:

“In checking his sources, often the ones he lists, even the particular pages that he lists, contain evidence that contradicts his claims. He quotes parts of sentences from those sources and ignores the contradictory information on that same page.”

Another reader, David Ihnat, said he couldn’t believe Bellesiles’ claim that it took 3 minutes to load and fire a muzzle- loading rifle. His report:

“Never having fired a flintlock before, I tried to load and fire 10 times in succession, and was able to average 50 seconds per load.” His conclusion: “Bellesiles has an axe to grind, and worked it throughout this book.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the Internet, amateur scholars were posting long critiques of Bellesiles’ work, only to see those critiques dismissed by Bellesiles and his defenders as the work of those ignorant yahoos on the Internet.

It appears, however, that the Internet is sometimes harder to fool than the establishment. Five days after the Globe story appeared, the New York Times was repeating Wills’ praise of Arming America in support of the paperback version.

Keep this in mind the next time the establishment is rallying behind a “provocative” scholarly analysis that just happens to echo views that the establishment has always held.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds is Professor of Law at the University of Tennessee College of Law, and writes for the InstaPundit.Com.

Michael Bellesiles’ book excited anti-gun journalists when it supposedly documented that early Americans owned few firearms. Unfortunately for these pundits, Bellesiles has come under fire for twisting, distorting, ignoring and making up data.

More Guns, Less Terrorism

by Larry Pratt

The big reason that Project Exile supporters advocate the enforcement of federal gun laws (all of which the gun lobby opposed) is to lower crime and take the oomph out of gun control.

It turns out that the data do not support the claims of Exile supporters.

Richmond, Virginia was the flagship city for Project Exile. It was launched in 1997. Trouble is, crime went up that year, according to FBI crime records.

A review of Richmond’s murder record shows that murder did start dropping in 1995 and 1996 and resumed the downward trend in 1998.

What happened in 1995? Virginia’s concealed carry law was vastly improved in that year, forcing judges to issue concealed handgun carry permits to applicants unless they could prove they were criminals, insane, fugitives from justice or drug abusers.

Philadelphia is another city that followed suit in 1999, kicking off their Project Exilelike program with much ballyhoo. What did crime do that year? It went down.

But a review of Philadelphia’s murder statistics shows that murder started declining in 1996 and 1997, which was before the passage of its law.

So Exile can hardly take credit for either the Philadelphia or the Richmond decline.

What happened in Philadelphia in 1996? It was the first year that the anti-gun politicians of the city were forced to comply with the rest of the state and come under the “shall issue” concealed carry law as in the rest of the state (and in Virginia).

Dr. John Lott has shown from his massive 18-year study of all the jurisdictions in the U.S. that crime rates are only impacted by concealed carry laws. Namely, the easier it is for citizens to legally carry what they have a constitutional right to bear anyway, the lower the violent crime rates. Or, as Lott put it in his book title, More Guns, Less Crime.

Supporters of Project Exile (or its sequel, Project Safe Neighborhoods) would better spend their time working for reforms in the nation’s concealed carry laws rather than enforcing laws that not only are unconstitutional, but have nothing to do with fighting crime.

Gun owners certainly do not want to unleash more federal gun prosecutors (as called for in Project Safe Neighborhoods) with the attitude of U.S. Attorney James Comey as reported in the May 21, 2001 edition of U.S. News & World Report: “[G]un possession itself is a crime of violence.”

Crime will go down when more good guys are packing on the streets. The criminals already are carrying concealed.

It’s time for the rest of us to follow suit.

Does Gun Control Work?
Can It Work?

  • How do we keep guns out of the wrong hands?
  • What kind of right does the Second Amendment protect — individual or collective?
  • What has happened where gun control has been tried?
These probing questions — along with hundreds of others — are addressed honestly and forthrightly in Larry Pratt’s On the Firing Line. This new book is a collection of columns and articles written over the past several years — essays addressing relevant issues that are still being debated today.

As most critical thinkers know, the real debate over guns is not about guns. The debate is really about control — who (or what) will control the lives of private citizens? Will it be the individuals themselves? Or will it be the government?

This mammoth collection of thought-provoking essays will help equip those who are eager to preserve individual liberty and those who want to arm themselves with rational and coherent information.

And even though the focus of these essays is firearms, virtually every single one of them touches on a wide range of other freedom-related issues.

On the Firing Line is available from Gun Owners Foundation for $17.95 plus shipping and handling. Simply go to the GOF website at or call 703-321-8585.