6/95 House Throws Curve Ball to Gun Rights Supporters
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 increase not only the power and scope of the federal government, but also the BATF’s jurisdiction over firearms.
Most of the problems gun owners face 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,” said GOA Executive Director Larry Pratt, “they should insist that this dangerous pro-BATF provision is removed.
“As bad as it is, the gun ban will sunset in 10 years, even if the Congress does nothing. But you can be sure that a new grant of power to BATF will not sunset,” Pratt said.
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 oneself against a violent felon who just turned his back could land one 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). The consequences could be frightening.
Self-defense through the BATF looking-glass
Under Section 3 of the bill, just brandishing a firearm to discourage an assailant could be subject to the prosecutorial discretion of the BATF jurisdiction and a 10-year MANDATORY MINIMUM sentence.
Indeed, Pennsylvania officials recently charged a gun owner after he merely took a licensed firearm from his glove compartment and laid it on his passenger-side seat in view of an individual who was attempting to force him off an interstate highway.
The other individual never even claimed that the gun owner had pointed the gun at him. Nevertheless, state authorities charged the gun owner with intent to “brandish a firearm” and “threatening same which served no legitimate purpose.”
Would one expect the BATF to act more responsibly in investigating this incident?
Certainly, 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!
H.R. 1488 would severely punish someone for “possessing, brandishing, or discharging a firearm . . . during a state crime that is a serious violent felony.” Thus, if federal prosecutors felt that Goetz was a vigilante rather than a victim, that he was using a gun to commit a violent crime, then Goetz could still be in jail today.
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 someone 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 consider is this: the prosecutor in the Bernie Goetz case went through three Grand Juries before getting an indictment. When federal officials 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.
BATF as the new local gun cops?
Finally, and perhaps most dangerous of all, this provision 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.
One can be sure that as long as the law continues to criminalize mere possession of certain firearms, non-violent persons will continue to be harassed and persecuted by our federal government.
The bill does purport to give deference to the states in prosecuting gun crimes. However, that language is non-binding and there are no penalties against the federal government for ignoring this section.
Furthermore, federal officials can easily claim there is a compelling federal interest which allows them to usurp the state’s jurisdiction. Examples abound where the federal government has run roughshod over the states’ rights.
Gun owners should remember that H.R. 1488 is not the last chance to repeal the gun ban. H.R. 698 — introduced by Representatives Bartlett, Stockman and Chapman — would simply repeal the 1994 semi-auto ban without imposing excess baggage on gun owners. This bill can still be voted on as a stand-alone bill or can be attached as an amendment to another bill.
U.S. v. Lopez: Kids, Guns, and Limited Government
By Glenn Harlan Reynolds
Associate Professor of Law
University of Tennessee
On April 26, the Supreme Court decided a case that may prove to be one of the most important decisions of this decade. Though the case involved firearms, it has ramifications that go far beyond guns.
Alfonso Lopez was a senior at Thomas Edison High School in San Antonio, Texas. For forty dollars, he agreed to carry a gun to school for delivery to another student. The ultimate destination was a “gang war.” Lopez was caught, and charged with violating a Texas law that made possession of a gun on school grounds a felony.
The Texas charges were dropped, however, when eager federal prosecutors decided to prosecute Lopez under the then-new “Gun Free School Zones Act,” which had been passed as part of the 1990 federal crime bill. That act outlawed possession of firearms, in sweeping terms, within one thousand feet of a school zone. His client having been caught red-handed, the public defender assigned to Lopez attacked the constitutionality of the federal law. But he didn’t attack the law on the grounds that it infringed any of Lopez’s rights under the Bill of Rights: he attacked it on the ground that Congress lacked the power to pass the law.
Our Constitution, remember, created a federal government of limited powers. Though the federal government is supreme within its sphere of authority, that sphere is limited to the powers specifically granted by the Constitution. But since the New Deal, Congress’ power to “regulate commerce among the states,” has been read so broadly that the standard law-student version of the commerce power is “Congress can do whatever it wants.” Lopez’s lawyer argued that this was wrong, and that the Gun-Free School Zones Act went beyond any reasonable interpretation of Congress’ commerce power. He won, both at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and in the Supreme Court.
The government’s argument in favor of the law went something like this: Violence in schools creates a bad learning environment. Bad learning environments produce an undereducated work force. An undereducated work force is bad for the economy. And a bad economy means less interstate commerce. The trouble with this argument is that if the government is allowed to justify its laws this way, the very notion of limited government is dead. At oral argument before the Supreme Court, the justices challenged the government to identify anything that would be beyond Congress’ powers under such a theory–marriage? local school curriculums? divorce? The government had no response.
In its opinion, the Lopez majority stressed that our federal government is one of limited powers. And according to the Court, under the government’s reasoning “Congress could regulate any activity that it found was related to the economic productivity of individual citizens: family law (including marriage, divorce, and child custody) for example.” Such an expansive view of the commerce power could not be squared with the principle of limited federal government. Thus, the Court said, federal power to regulate interstate commerce cannot be used to “obliterate the distinction between what is national and what is local and create a completely centralized government.”
The Court struck down the law. So what does this mean? At this point, it is hard to say for sure, especially as the Court ducked an opportunity to go further in a case decided just a few days later, U.S. v. Robertson. At the very least, this case sends a strong signal to Congress that the Court will not ignore far-fetched extensions of federal power. On the other hand, even such general fans of big government as Harvard Law School’s Laurence Tribe admit that this law was a pretty silly one. According to the Washington Post, Tribe remarked that “If ever there was an act that exceeded Congress’ power, this was it.” The law merely duplicated what over 40 states had already done, and it was pretty obviously an effort by Congress to get on the right side of what was seen as a safe but popular issue: cutting down on violence in schools. Like so much of the federalization of criminal law over the past twenty or so years, this was pure symbolism, aimed not at preventing crime, but at reelecting legislators.
Of course, what gun owners probably want to know is what this case means for other federal firearms laws. The answer is mixed. Based on Lopez, it seems that federal laws against the possession of firearms (as opposed to their manufacture and sale) would face real difficulties. That means that the more sweeping regulations proposed by anti-gunners, such as the Brady II legislation of laws against the possession of the so-called cop-killer bullets, would face a tough time. On the other hand, limits on manufacture and sale (as in the so-called assault weapons ban), since they are more clearly regulations of commerce, would probably be upheld. And the Brady Bill, if it is struck down by Supreme Court, will probably go down on Tenth Amendment grounds, rather than commerce clause grounds.
As I write this, the Clinton Administration is trying to get a revised version of the Gun Free School Zones Act passed. Their theory is that if they can get Congress to include legislative findings that guns in school affect interstate commerce, they can get the Court to uphold the bill. Although such an approach may make a difference in close cases, it seems like wishful thinking in this one. Although the Court noted the absence of such findings in Lopez, the whole thrust of the majority opinion was based on the lack of any plausible connection between the possession of guns and interstate commerce. Merely putting the arguments that the Court rejected when they came from government lawyers into the mouth of Congress isn’t likely to make a difference.
There’s another lesson in this case. James Madison argued that even without the Second Amendment the federal government would lack the power to confiscate guns. Lopez underscores that point and brings it into the modern age. Although we have focused on the Bill of Rights for our protection over the past several decades, Lopez reminds us that the Framers considered limitations on government power to be our freedoms’ first line of defense.
Oklahoma City Aftermath:
How Gun Grabbers Exploited a Tragedy
The bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City is an outrage. The person or persons proven to be involved should be executed. Killing innocent men, women, and children on behalf of a cause is simply barbaric.
Sadly, however, the anti-gun forces in this nation, and a president desperate to shore up his sagging image, are shamelessly exploiting this disaster to push for further gun control. The wanton and antagonistic anti-gun outbursts from Bill Clinton in the days following the bombing have shown that this Administration will stop at nothing to strip citizens of their Constitutional Rights in the name of the so-called right to be “free from fear”.
As politicians and the media continue to impugn militias and other groups, it is easy to forget that to date not one person has been tried, let alone convicted, of the crime committed in Oklahoma City.
It appears that the chief suspect in the case, Timothy McVeigh, may have attended some militia meetings. But every cause will attract unsolicited supporters who do not represent the general consensus of the group. McVeigh no more represents the average member of a militia group than Bill Clinton represents the average Southerner.
Clinton, Schumer Use Oklahoma Bombing to Push More Gun Control
Administration officials were among the first groups to call for more gun control after the bombing. White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta said, “the “Oklahoma City bombing has renewed the President’s commitment to vetoing attempts to abolish the five-day waiting period for the purchase of handguns or the … so-called assault weapons [ban].” Never mind that firearms did not even remotely play a part in this tragedy.
Charles Schumer, ever-persistent in using any method or situation to advance his gun control agenda, stated in a letter to the Republican leadership that “Moving forward on the repeal of … the ban will stir more anger and may increase the chance for more violence by these [militia] groups.”
The dubious leap in logic of connecting the Oklahoma bombing with the Brady law and the “assault weapons” ban didn’t go unnoticed even by such moderates as Bob Dole, who responded to Schumer by saying: “I am not aware of the involvement of so-called assault weapons – legal or illegal – in the senseless bomb attack in Oklahoma City.”
The vehicle being used to drive this rhetoric is, of course, the alleged involvement of citizen militia groups in the bombing. Militias and other “right-wing fanatical” groups, we are told, are “obsessed with the Constitution,” especially the Second Amendment. Well, King George III made similar accusations against the minuteman at Lexington. But the only thing the minuteman, or any legitimate militia, has ever been “obsessed” with is freedom.
The attempt to link militia groups with the bombing is simply reprehensible. With a broad brush, Clinton paints all militias, indeed most gun owners, as “angry white men” and rebels against the government. What the President conveniently forgets is that militias and the Second Amendment were established to ensure that the Federal government did not overstep its authority as set forth in the Constitution. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “For a people who are free, and wish to remain so, a well organized and armed militia is their best security.
Clinton Administration Actions Fan the Fires of Mistrust
Flags flew at half-mast in memory of the victims of Oklahoma City. That honor was denied the more than 80 men, women, and children who burned to death in Waco, Texas. Neither did Bill Clinton fly to Ruby Ridge to bring a teddy bear to the now motherless children of Randy Weaver, who lost his wife and one child thanks to government marksmen. Waco and Ruby Ridge frighten many Americans. In both cases, the government seems to have declared itself judge, jury and executioner.
An armed assault team was sent onto the Weaver land because Randy Weaver had not shown up for a court appearance on a charge of selling a shotgun with a barrel a fraction of an inch too short. During the trial, it became clear that the request to saw off the barrel to an illegal length came from a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) informant.
According to a May 7, 1995, Washington Post article, the FBI issued a unique set of orders at Ruby Ridge. Agents were to shoot any armed person on the property even if they posed no immediate threat. This conflicts with standard FBI procedure which permits agents to fire only if their lives or the lives of innocent persons are in jeopardy. Shortly after the order was given, Vicki Weaver was fatally shot while holding her 10 month old child in her arms.
FBI Director Louis Freeh denies that Mrs. Weaver was shot due to loosened rules of engagement. Freeh maintains that the woman was shot because an FBI sniper believed someone in the cabin was aiming a gun at an agency helicopter. Freeh does not, however, deny the special shoot-to-kill order was given.
The best evidence on the events of the original raid on David Koresh’s home in Waco, Texas, suggests that the BATF was not interested in a nonviolent resolution. Dean Kelly, writing for First Things magazine, describes the events prior to the raid this way: “After assembling a large number of agents and rehearsing for several days, the ATF launched it’s raid … in what is described as a ‘dynamic entry.'”
Fifty-one days later, the government used CS gas to force the Davidians to exit the building. However, CS is banned for use in war, is known to cause disorientation, and would make escaping the building difficult, if not impossible.
The notion that the government has the right to send an army with guns blazing to serve a search warrant is disturbing to Americans across the political spectrum. The Clinton Administration has done little or nothing to calm these fears and much to encourage additional concerns.
Larry Potts Promoted
Mr. Clinton and his law enforcement hierarchy made an outrageous move by promoting Larry Potts to the assistant directorship of the FBI. Mr. Potts was officially in charge of the Waco operation and, according to two agents on the scene, gave the order to shoot civilians at Ruby Ridge. Now, he is heading up the Oklahoma City investigation. This is another glaring example of the growing breach of trust between citizens and the federal government.
The promotion of Potts drew sharp criticism from Idaho Senator Larry Craig. “I cannot understand how you can reprimand and censure a person for his actions … and in the next minute reward him by promoting him. It is that kind of insensitivity that frustrates Americans and results in the kind of anti- government anger that we’ve seen,” Sen. Craig told a Washington reporter.
GOA Executive Director Larry Pratt said that the frustration Americans feel over events like Waco, Ruby Ridge, and the Pott’s promotion needs to translate into political action. “We must use every non-violent means available to us in our efforts to reign in the federal government. Concerned Americans must continue to cry out for Congressional hearings into these incidents, and we must remember at the polls those who stand in the way of such hearings,” Pratt said.
Anti-Terrorism Legislation Dangerous to Gun Owners
With all eyes focused on militias and other “paramilitary” groups, it is not surprising that much of the current anti- terrorism legislation now being debated will focus on “domestic terrorism.” The danger is that people defining what a domestic terrorist is are the same folks who can’t figure out the difference between an assault rifle and a machine gun. Republicans and Democrats alike are rushing to offer bills that would, to varying degrees, infringe upon basic Constitutional rights.
Mr. Clinton has led the charge in forging anti-terrorism legislation. His bill would not only increase the power of Federal law enforcement agencies, but also calls for the use of the U.S. military in fighting domestic terrorism, a clear violation of the Posse Comitatus Act. Former Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger spoke for many when he said, “The whole idea is extremely repugnant.”
Although the President’s proposal will most likely not see a floor vote, it does show how far he is willing to go in sacrificing civil liberties in the name of “crime fighting”. It is also a reminder that perhaps the Third Amendment has contemporary relevance.
The most outrageous bill was introduced by New York Democrat Jerrold Nadler. H.R. 1544 makes it a criminal offense to participate in a paramilitary organization, and defines such an organization as “two or more individuals acting together, organized …possessing firearms … [and] participat[ing] in training” for an unlawful purpose. Of course, if they are gathering for an unlawful purpose, that is by definition illegal, so there is no need for such a ridiculous law.
H.R. 896 and S. 390 would allow a unilateral declaration of the President to classify an organization as a terrorist group, thus putting its bank accounts under government control, opening all of its records to government agents, prohibiting it from raising funds, and denying the group the right to confront its accusers, whose identity could be sealed by the government.
Republican anti-terrorist bill S. 735 in nearly as onerous. This bill has a firearms conspiracy provision which would create an across-the-board “conspiracy” crime for violation of virtually any firearm provision of federal law, including simple paperwork and technical violations. It would remove the “overt act” requirement, currently a prerequisite for conspiracy under federal law, and would punish conspiracy at the same level as if the crime had actually been committed.
S.735 also removes the charitable tax status of any organization convicted of “fail[ing] to make available to the Secretary [of the Treasury] the books or records required by subsection (i), or by regulations promulgated thereunder.” In plain English, this means that an organization could lose its tax status for failing to give its membership list to the government. This broad net can destroy any group that has serious complaints against the government.
For the record, Mr. Clinton assures us that “Americans will retain fundamental freedoms of speech, assembly, and the right to bear arms.” But he has also said that Americans must give up some of their freedoms. By couching our freedoms in such a context, however, one wonders if the President understands the meaning of an “inalienable right.” In a free country, innocent people should not be stripped of their rights and considered guilty of crimes they have not committed. His blaming of the Oklahoma incident on militias and other “right-wing” groups would be tantamount to blaming the bombings by the Weathermen on all Vietnam war protesters, of which he was one.
When the President and Congress begin talking about “quieting” harsh critics of the government and disarming the American people, there is cause for alarm across the political spectrum. If they use the tragedy in Oklahoma as a springboard to suspend or further curtail our First and Second Amendment rights, we will have another kind of tragedy: the loss of freedom.
Attacking the Second Amendment Militia
The Oklahoma City bombing has been used by anti-gun forces to launch perhaps the most severe attack on the Second Amendment in history. The very foundation of the Second Amendment is being questioned right now by Congress and in the media.
Not since the great War for Independence have militias gained so much national attention in this country. However, because of the enormous amount of misinformation floating across the airwaves, it is necessary to take a fresh look at this controversial subject.
To start, one must differentiate between a legitimate militia and an illegal group of armed guerrillas, criminals, or terrorists. The citizen militia is a group of law-abiding men and women who are concerned with preserving liberty in this country. A group or organization that violates the law of this land (the Constitution) is not a legitimate militia.
What happened in Oklahoma City was not the work of a citizen militia. That terrible act was an aggressive, violent assault not only on the government, but against the people of this nation. If any militia played even the smallest part in that atrocity, they should be tried as terrorists, and disavowed by all militia members.
The militia, viewed as an enigma by many people who don’t understand this country’s history, is based on a fundamental principle of freedom. The principle is that if the government is allowed to possess a monopoly of force or is permitted to disarm the people, the people no longer possess the means by which they can protect their liberties.
Five months after ratifying the Second Amendment, Congress passed the Militia Act of 1792. This Act defined the militia as consisting of all males between the ages of 18 and 45. Or, as George Mason pointed out, the militia is “the whole people, except a few public officers.” The Militia Act obviously describes the same “militia” as set forth in the Second Amendment, seeing that the same Congress passed both proposals. This definition of militia is still applicable according to Title 1 0 of the U.S. Code.
Viewed in this context, it is clear that the Second Amendment has nothing whatsoever to do with hunting, sporting or recreation. The right to keep and bear arms is more than just a right that predates the Constitution; it is a responsibility that we as citizens have to preserve the fruits of liberty for our posterity.
The foremost responsibility of all concerned gun owners including militia members – is to vote. The ballot box is a free country’s legitimate and rightful instrument for enacting change. If there are militia members who are not registered to vote, they are part of the problem, not part of the solution. Militias should be, above all, a political force, with the goal of keeping this nation free through the political process.
The media, however, ignores any aspect of the militia that does not involve firearms. Most people in the media claim that militias are nothing more than armed men and women running around in the woods with guns preparing to battle the federal government. Militias do train, but is their purpose to violently attack the federal government because they are unhappy with its laws? The answer is most emphatically NO.
Citizen militias traditionally and constitutionally have a defensive posture. Their purpose is not to attack the government, or entice it to attack them.
Militias can work hand in hand with legitimate government authorities. Today in some states, for example, members of militias have been deputized by a local sheriff to assist in apprehending fugitives, searching for missing persons, helping during natural disasters, and many other functions.
Militias also serve a legitimate function in the private sector. Although anti-gunners label them as “private armies that are a danger to society,” these groups are simply people who have decided to come together to protect life and property. Many contend that they are trying to do the job of the police. But courts have always held that the police cannot be held responsible for protecting each individual citizen.
Recall what happened in Los Angeles during the 1992 riots. People with homes and businesses in the affected areas saw violent looters coming at them in one direction, and the police taking off in another.
Were these people supposed to turn their backs and allow their property to be plundered by a bunch of law-breakers, if they even escaped alive? Many of the businessmen in the area said “no,” banded together, and successfully defended their lives and property with firearms.
Other circumstances where armed citizens are needed may occur without warning, such as during a natural disaster. Hurricane Andrew recently ripped through south Florida, leaving most people without power. Here again, the police, while doing their best, were simply not able to be everywhere all the time. Were it not for armed private citizens banding together to protect their neighborhoods from looters, the outcome of that disaster could have been even more devastating.
Under a bill currently pending in Congress (H.R. 1544), all citizen militias could be deemed illegal and the participants be subject to imprisonment. This bill prohibits the existence of paramilitary organizations, which is defined as two or more people who train together with firearms, and who also disagree with the policies of the government. This bill, with its broad definitions, could easily affect gun clubs, law-abiding militia groups, and even a husband and wife out doing some shooting on the weekend, who happen to make a disparaging remark against the president.
Citizen militias have legitimate functions. They should continue to perform them, continue to train with their firearms, and continue to serve their country. When it comes to opposing abuses in government, they should take any complaints to the ballot box and other avenues open under our political system. Of course, people cannot escape the fact that the Second Amendment and the Citizen Militia were put in place as a last resort to protect the people of this country from violent oppression and tyranny.
Some people seem to believe the government will never overstep its authority. Others, like those in militias, believe this is not an absolute certainty. When they take steps to guard against government abuse of power, it often seems foolish, if not dangerous, to their fellow citizens. But when a crisis does occur, like the riots in Los Angeles or the hurricanes in Florida, the same people who were criticizing their gun-owning neighbors will be at their door asking to borrow a spare firearm.
Virginia Gun Owners Triumph Against All Odds
No compromise lobbying is textbook case for other states
In February, Virginia’s General Assembly passed the Personal Protection Act, a bill to improve the state’s concealed carry law. Among other things, the bill removes the arbitrary power judges have been using to prevent decent people from getting a concealed carry permit.
Before the Personal Protection Act could pass, GOA members and supporters across Virginia had to overcome anti-gun politicians still boasting about their passage of “one-gun-a-month” rationing in 1993.
Even worse, some pro-gun advocates said the Personal Protection Act (PPA) could only pass by caving in to anti-gun demands from the other side.
GOA ignored the naysayers and went to work mobilizing statewide grassroots support with an aggressive no-compromise message. GOA lobbyists made several visits to the capital, reminding the politicians they would be held accountable if they tried to kill the bill. Furthermore, GOA mailings and fax alerts kept gun owners across Virginia informed and involved in the fight.
In the end, the grassroots pressure from gun owners steamrolled over the opposition to pass the Personal Protection Act overwhelmingly in both houses of the Virginia General Assembly.
Grassroots won the victory
GOA looked for a tough sponsor who would fight for a clean Personal Protection Act. GOA asked state Senator Virgil Goode (D) and Delegate Frank Ruff (R) to introduce model legislation drafted by GOA.
The political leadership on both sides insisted the bill couldn’t pass. But these political operatives did not foresee the grassroots outpouring that was about to occur.
Since 1993 GOA had worked hard to mobilize tens of thousands of its members and supporters across Virginia. These individuals were eager to take back their rights from the politicians who had robbed them.
The year, 1993, was a turning point. After the legislature imposed the “one-gun-a-month” limitation on handgun purchasers, GOA members fought back. GOA printed and distributed thousands of tabloids and flyers in the districts of legislators who had betrayed gun owners.
The results were incredible. One delegate admitted to retiring early because of the enormous pressure generated by GOA’s flyers. Other delegates called GOA headquarters, begging Executive Director Larry Pratt to “call off the dogs.” One delegate even introduced a bill to overturn the very gun control law he had voted for before.
And two years later, the results are still coming in:
* Delegate Leo Wardrup (R) told GOA staff this year that the flyers which were distributed in his district in 1993 really hurt him in his reelection. Wardrup, who has hardly been a friend to gun owners in the past, voted right on the PPA.
* Delegate Robert McDonnell (R) told GOA’s Director of State and Local Affairs, Dennis Fusaro, how much pain the tabloids had caused him in his district. Seeking to avoid any further reprisals, he promised — and delivered — his support by cosponsoring the PPA.
Even though the tabloids were printed and distributed in 1993, politicians still remembered them two years later. The outpouring of mail and phone calls by GOA members helped reinforce the message and reminded politicians that they would have to account for their actions.
GOA swings into action
The first hurdle this year was to get Governor George Allen (R) to retract his support for a bill with Florida-style concealed carry restrictions. Florida imposes prohibitive fees and requires mandatory government-controlled training before one can get a concealed carry permit.
Unless fees and other charges are strictly limited to the actual cost of a simple background check they become a tax on the right of self-defense. As the old adage says: the power to tax is the power to destroy.
Anti-gunners also want mandatory training to make it difficult, if not impossible for the average citizen to have a gun for self-defense. Their goal is to discourage people from obtaining a permit unless they can shoot like an Olympian and endure long hours in a classroom, paying high costs to do so.
GOA sent a letter to Governor Allen urging him to support the GOA bill as drafted, without any harmful amendments. At the same time, thousands of GOA members were asked to contact the Governor and urge his full support for the PPA.
Governor Allen was elected in 1993 on a pro-gun platform despite a mixed voting record as a legislator. However, a number of Allen’s top advisors are known anti-gun activists.
With thousands of postcards and faxes from the grassroots flooding his office, Governor Allen endorsed the Personal Protection Act.
Then GOA swung its full power behind the PPA by mailing to tens of thousands of gun owners targeting the Virginia State Senate. Again, the postcards and letters flooded into the legislature.
Reports from the state Senate indicated there was a tidal wave of postcards, letters and faxes flooding the legislature.
Before anti-gun forces knew what was happening the PPA passed out of a formerly anti-gun committee 9 to 6 and then the whole Senate 23 to 17 in early February.
However, the Senate added one amendment which required separate permits and fees for each type of weapon one might choose to carry.
Failed attempts to derail the PPA
After GOA’s victory in the Senate, anti-gunners scrambled to derail the Personal Protection Act in the House of Delegates. House Majority Leader Richard Cranwell, who masquerades as a pro-gunner, first bottled up the PPA in a House committee and then allowed anti-gunners to attach bad amendments.
Delegate Cranwell tried to kill the bill outright but a huge outpouring of postcards, faxes and calls caused him to back off.
Faced with a series of roadblocks, GOA was forced to do another huge mailing. Once again GOA members rose to the occasion. The thousands of postcards and faxes generated such overwhelming pressure that the PPA passed out of committee 16 to 6.
Tensions were high on Wednesday, February 22, 1995 when legislators in the House realized they had to vote up or down on the record. In a brutal slugfest, pro-gun and anti-gun forces battled for five hours while weak-willed legislators swung in the balance.
When the dust finally settled, House members voted 69 to 29 in favor of final passage. Clearly, most politicians were responding to the tremendous grassroots pressure mobilized in support of the Personal Protection Act. The presence of anti-gun activist James Brady on the floor of the House made no difference.
Battle swings back to the Governor’s desk
However during the fight through the House, anti-gunners tacked on a couple of harmful amendments.
As The Gun Owners goes to press the Personal Protection Act has been sent to Virginia’s Governor for his action. GOA is rallying grassroots support to get the Governor to make line-item changes to remove harmful amendments. Afterwards, the General assembly will vote on the Governor’s changes — up or down — in a one-day session.
No one knows for sure whether the Governor will stand up for the rights of gun owners or cave into the anti-gunners. Regardless, the grassroots in Virginia overcame tremendous odds to accomplish the impossible — a crucial factor being the hundreds of minuteman activists on GOA’s Fax Alert.
“The credit goes to GOA’s members and supporters across Virginia,” said GOA Executive Director Larry Pratt. “This sends a clear signal that we’re only just starting to reclaim our rights.
“GOA promises to keep pushing for repeal of gun control. With your support GOA can and will take back your rights from the anti-gun politicians,” Pratt said.
and become a Postcard Distributor
GOA has printed postcards for you to take to your gun clubs, gun shows and other meetings. If you call the above 800 number you can order postcards opposing H.R. 666, S. 3 and S. 54 — bills that would encourage the harassment of law-abiding citizens (including gun owners) by removing the incentives for officers to secure a warrant. Postcards include messages addressed to both Representatives and Senators (the names are left blank for the sender to fill in the appropriate legislators’ names). Order a set of 51 for $6.00.
You can also order postcards asking legislators to drop the “BATF enhancement” provision in H.R. 1488. This provision would massively expand the role of the Federal government, giving the BATF more authority and more jurisdiction. Postcards will go to House Speaker Newt Gingrich and to a Representative with a blank space for the name to be filled in by the sender. Order a set of 51 for $6.00.
GOA also has postcard sets for other legislation. When you call, ask to see what else is available. Each set of postcards is $6.00 for the first set of 51, $10.00 for two sets, and $2.50 for each additional set of 51 postcards.
GOA Over the Airwaves
The media frenzy over the existence of militias and firearm ownership in the wake of the Oklahoma bombing has kept GOA spokespersons hopping. GOA representatives have debated the issue of gun control, militias and free speech all across the nation.
In the months of April and May, Executive Director Larry Pratt defended the rights of gun owners on CNN’s Crossfire and Larry King Live. Other GOA representatives discussed the issues on National Empowerment TV, Talk Back America (CNN) and countless radio shows throughout the country.