10/95 Stockman Introduces Brady Repeal
In late September, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) and several other pro-gun Representatives introduced a bill to repeal the Brady law. GOA is currently working with Stockman’s office to get even more cosponsors on the bill.
“There is no evidence that the Brady law has had an impact on crime in America,” said Rep. Stockman. “To the contrary, the law has diminished the right of law-abiding citizens to protect themselves, their homes, and their families.”
H.R. 2393, or the “Second Amendment Restoration Act of 1995,” is the “McClure-Volkmer” bill of the 1990’s. It will not only repeal the mandated waiting period and instant background check, but takes several other steps to restore gun owners’ rights, including the following:
1) Prohibits and punishes BATF agents for computerizing lists of firearms owners; 2) Requires FFL dealers that are going out of business to give their 4473 forms to another dealer, as opposed to the current requirement that the gun owners’ records be sent to the BATF; 3) Allows citizens to sue BATF agents for violation of civil or constitutional rights; 4) Provides legal fees for successful defendants who prevail against frivolous federal firearms charges; 5) And repeals the D.C. strict liability law covering certain semiautomatic firearms.
H.R. 2393 comes at a very crucial time. Already, the Brady law has resulted in at least one person’s death. In August, Philip Russell Coleman of Louisiana sought to buy a handgun for self-defense but was erroneously rejected after the background check. The error was later corrected — three days after he was murdered in his place of employment.
Waiting periods and background checks frequently endanger the lives of honest citizens. Consider just a few examples:
* Lance Corporal Rayna Ross of Virginia bought a handgun to protect her child and herself from a stalker in 1993. Three days later, the predator entered her home in the middle of the night and attacked Ms. Ross with a bayonet. She shot and killed the attacker in what was ruled a justifiable homicide by the local prosecutor.
Fortunately for Ms. Ross, she did not live in a state that required a mandatory five day waiting period. The incident most certainly would have ended differently.
* Residents of Los Angeles were forced to wait 15 days during the 1992 riots before they could legally buy firearms for protection, in spite of the fact that police were admitting they could not protect them.
* In 1991, Bonnie Elmasri of Wisconsin tried to purchase a handgun to protect herself from her estranged husband, but he returned home and killed her and her two children before the 48 hour waiting period required by State law had expired.
Advocates of the Brady law claim that it is working to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. But on the one-year anniversary of the enactment of the Brady law, the results showed just the opposite.
The Washington Post reported on February 24 that, of the 40,000 people initially denied by the Brady background check, only four had been prosecuted. Only four! Assuming that all 40,000 denials were legitimate, only four criminals would have been taken off the street and truly prevented from buying a gun.
The fact is, the overwhelming majority of background check denials are due to errors, to unpaid traffic tickets or to the fact that prospective buyers do not realize that even non-violent offenses (such as tax violations or forgery) can disqualify them.
The Brady law is simply not stopping violent people from getting guns. Those who are denied — if they truly were criminals — are not being incarcerated, and thus, they could easily buy guns on the street. If they did go to a gun dealer, they could either get a substitute buyer — known as a straw purchaser — or use a fake I.D.
If the law is not working to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals, then what can be said for the law? To be sure, the law has had a powerful trickle-down effect. State legislators across the country have been cowed into thinking they must pass some type of background check to comply with the Brady law. What has resulted is that many “instant” registration systems are being installed in the states.
Background checks and registration
All background checks (whether an “instant” check or some other type of police check) create the strong potential for registering gun owners with the government. Why? Because gun buyers are singled out and their names are sent to the government for identification.
When a gun dealer notifies the government about a potential gun buyer (for a background check), that citizen can easily remain on record as having bought a gun. That is centralized, gun owner registration.
Consider what just a couple of official reports have stated:
* A Justice Department Task Force stated in 1989 that, “Any system that requires a criminal history record check prior to the purchase of a firearm creates the potential for the automated tracking of individuals who seek to purchase firearms.”
* The Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), the think-tank of the U.S. Congress, made a similar declaration in 1991. The OTA, commenting on the possibility of gun owner registration under Virginia’s instant check system, stated “the potential [for registration] exists regardless of legal prohibitions.”
This can be a huge problem. Even though it may be technically illegal to compile a registration list, there are no penalties for doing so. (See related article, “Brady Instant Check Opens Door to Official Harassment.”) Moreover, citizens must rely on government officials to prosecute their fellow ‘brothers in blue’ for violations. The end result is that charges are rarely filed.
Even before the enactment of Brady, waiting periods and other gun control laws were being used to compile registration lists and violate civil liberties:
* In California, officials have for years been using the state background check — required during the waiting period — to compile an illegal registry of handgun owners. These lists have been compiled without any statutory authority to do so.
* The BATF has also compiled an illegal gun owner list by going to dealers’ stores and copying the 4473 forms which are kept there. By copying these forms, which contain the names and addresses of gun buyers, the BATF is violating federal law.
But the worst was yet to come. Only six months after the enactment of Brady, the Justice Department issued a grant to programmers at Carnegie Mellon University to develop a computerized registration system for the tracking of firearms’ owners. (See related article, “Clinton Administration Seeking to Register Gun Owners.”)
The project summary specifies that programmers are to use several sources of information to automate the names of firearms’ owners, including all gun purchase registrations (for example, 4473 forms and instant background check records), gun dealers’ licenses, concealed carry applications, etc.
There have been several court challenges to the Brady law. Already, five out of six U.S. District Courts have ruled the background check to be an unconstitutional federal mandate.
H.R. 2393 is expected to face an uphill battle. But if Republicans really want to bring about change in the Congress, they will take this issue up before the 1996 elections. This bill, more than any other, could become the litmus test for Congress: will they fight to preserve our rights, or does the revolution need to continue for a few more elections?
Clinton Administration Seeking to Register Gun Owners
— Instant Check a key ingredient
The Clinton Justice Department has given a generous grant to computer programmers at Carnegie Mellon University to develop a pilot program for registering gun owners.
The computer system will first put gun owners in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, on-line; but then programmers expect the system will “easily be transferred to other jurisdictions.”
The project was discovered after a pro-gun deputy sheriff alerted the Legislative Committee of the Allegheny County Sportsmen’s League (ACSL). ACSL later used the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to get the official documents detailing the registration plans.
GOA has obtained copies of these government documents. After obtaining this information, GOA Executive Director Larry Pratt noted that the Administration’s actions would appear to be illegal under Title 18 of the U.S. Code. Section 926 states that no “system of registration of firearms, firearms owners, or firearms transactions or dispositions [shall] be established.”
Nevertheless, the state-of-the-art computer system will use several sources to register the names of gun owners. According to the project summary, this information will include names from the following: applications and registrations for all firearms purchases (including 4473 forms, instant background checks, etc.), applications and approved carry permits for firearms, and applications and approved licenses for firearms dealers.
The network plans to combine gun owners’ names from both federal and local sources. And the system will be integrated with technology allowing police to print out detailed maps locating gun owners on any given street.
Moreover, the system will be able to identify gun owners based on the type of guns they own. Rather than just relying on the serial number, police will be able to identify gun owners according to a gun’s physical characteristics — make, model, firing capabilities (revolver, semi-automatic, “assault weapon,” etc.), caliber, barrel length, magazine capacity and much, much more.
This raises serious concerns over the confiscation of firearms. Officials will now be able to identify gun owners who own firearms that were previously legal but have recently been arbitrarily banned by a legislature. This means police will now be able to easily locate and confiscate those firearms.
Similar actions have already occurred. The New York Daily News reported in 1992 that, “Police raided the home of a Staten Island man who refused to comply with the city’s tough ban on assault weapons, and seized an arsenal of firearms. . . . Spot checks are planned [for other homes].”
How did the police know where to find the guns?
Well, in the mid-1960’s officials in New York city began registering long guns. They promised they would never use such lists to take away firearms from honest citizens. But almost 30 years later, the city began banning (and confiscating) many of those very guns.
What was done on a limited basis in New York City might now be multiplied as a result of the federal grant to Carnegie Mellon University.
Information about the grant has only recently come to light, even though the initial grant was awarded back in August of 1994. Part of the reason for the delay was that the ACSL ran into several roadblocks when trying to receive specific information about the program.
ACSL tried unsuccessfully to receive a copy of the grant from the city of Pittsburgh and from Sen. Arlen Specter’s office. Not only was Specter’s office uncooperative, but he actually helped Carnegie Mellon get the grant, according to one ACSL spokesman who was quoted recently in the New Gun Week.
The Carnegie Mellon registration effort could come to a screeching halt if Congress passes Rep. Steve Stockman’s bill, H.R. 2393. This bill will hold any official personally liable for registering gun owners’ names. Please stay tuned.
Brady Instant Check Opens Door to Official Harassment
Imagine having to pass an official background check before publishing an editorial or giving a sermon. Would there not be a public outcry? First Amendment lawyers would storm the courts in a flash to protest such an act of Congress.
And with good reason. This country has traditionally refrained from requiring law-abiding citizens to prove their innocence to the government before exercising their rights. The potential for government abuse would be too great.
But in November of 1993, Congress turned history on its head. With the passage of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, Congress not only required people to prove their innocence to the government before exercising their Second Amendment rights, they also exposed honest citizens to official abuse.
The Brady instant check allows government officials to wrongfully (even intentionally) deny people’s rights without any reprisals.
The law states that,
A chief law enforcement officer or other person responsible for providing criminal history background information pursuant to this subsection shall not be liable in an action at law for damages . . . for preventing such a sale or transfer [of a handgun] to a person who may lawfully receive or possess a handgun.
This means that any official who erroneously or willfully denies law-abiding citizens their right to buy a handgun can do so with impunity. He cannot be held personally liable.
Such denials are already a problem. Background checks have been abused by law-enforcement officials to oppress law-abiding citizens in many states. All too often, applicants for gun licenses are arbitrarily denied or can experience lengthy delays. David Kopel, a former assistant district attorney in New York City, cites some examples:
* New York City routinely denies gun permits for ordinary citizens and store owners because — as the courts have ruled — they have no greater need for protection than anyone else in the city. In fact, the authorities have refused to issue permits even when the courts have ordered them to do so.
* And while New Jersey law requires applications to be responded to within thirty days, delays of ninety days are routine; sometimes, applications are delayed for several years for no readily apparent reason.
This is what happens when gun ownership is treated as a state-granted privilege instead of a preexisting right. Officials can withdraw or delay the “privilege” whenever they choose.
Of course, New Jersey and New York City are not the only places where officials have used background checks as a means to arbitrarily deny or delay people’s rights. Consider the following abuses:
* In San Jose, California, former police chief Joseph McNamara bragged in his 1984 book, Safe and Sane, that “I have made it considerably tougher for residents to get handgun permits.”
* In 1980, Mayor Richard Hatcher of Gary, Indiana, let it be known at a press conference that he would not be approving any citizens’ gun applications. He then dared citizens to take him to court if they did not like his gun policy.
* In the mid-1980’s, Maryland police threatened to pull the licenses of any gun dealer who sold a handgun before the police could finish their background check on a potential gun buyer. So even though the state waiting period was only seven days, the “unofficial” wait could be as long as 14 days or more.
* In 1993, Virginia legislators decided to use the instant check in “creative” ways to further infringe upon gun owners’ rights. Legislators passed a law limiting handgun purchases to one per month. Police found they could easily enforce the law by using the registration list compiled through the instant check.
* In Oregon, police have illegally used the data collected from background checks on concealed carry permit holders to justify searches of persons and vehicles when no evidence of a crime existed. And in one of the most outrageous examples, a sheriff revoked the license of an individual because he was the editor of a pro-life magazine. At a court hearing which examined this particular case, the judge affirmed that the man’s political views were the cause of his permit revocation.
Any background check — an instant check or otherwise — can be subject to abuse. Such laws always force honest citizens to prove their innocence to the government.
In contrast, the Declaration of Independence states that all men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” There are only two choices. Either our rights are preexisting, or they are privileges granted by the government (which can be revoked or infringed at any time). If one chooses the latter path, one must learn to live with the consequences.
Little Brady Bills Moving in the states
In some parts of the pro-gun movement, misguided politicians are teaming up with gun control advocates to pass even more restrictions on gun owners.
State legislators are being asked to ratify and mimic at the state level, the Brady law’s mandate to carry out background checks on prospective gun buyers.
Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia are three key states where pro-gun and anti-gun forces have teamed up to push for state “Brady laws” and to limit the rights of their gun owning constituents.
The stated reason is to negate the waiting period mandated by Congress. (A state can potentially “sunset” the waiting period by passing an “instant” check law.)
But the heart and soul of the Brady Act is NOT the waiting period. The heart and soul is the mandated background check requirement, “instant” or otherwise. Such a mandate is de facto registration, since gun buyers’ names are sent to the government. This system is dangerous to the rights of gun owners in spite of legal “safeguards.”
No later than March of 1999 the Brady law becomes a so-called “instant check” on all firearms — rifles, shotguns and pistols — purchased through a dealer. To accomplish this, officials must run background checks on prospective gun buyers.
This, of course, requires the efforts of the states to comply with this federal mandate. At this point, the Tenth Amendment comes into the picture.
The Tenth Amendment basically states that any power not delegated to Congress (in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution) is reserved for the states and the people. The Constitution does not give Congress power to pass waiting period and background check laws.
As a result, several federal courts have cited the Tenth Amendment in ruling that the federal Brady law mandates an unconstitutional background check. However, if the states pass their own “Brady bills,” then the Tenth Amendment argument no longer applies. The states can no longer claim that the background check is an unconstitutional federal mandate. After all, the states will have foisted the restriction upon themselves.
It would seem that passing “instant” backgroun checks (that register gun owners) at the state level is not the answer. There is a better way.
First, Gun Owners of America is supporting a repeal of the national Brady law and is pushing Rep. Steve Stockman’s bill (H.R. 2393). If gun owners can effectively repeal the law at the federal level, state legislators will no longer be able to claim that they have to pass Brady compliance laws.
Second, GOA has model legislation for the states that will remove them from the Brady mandate. Known as the “Brady Act Cut-Off,” the bill removes any requirement that state and local officials comply with the federally mandated background check. GOA pushed this legislation in Georgia where pro-gun legislators were trying to defeat a Brady-style “instant” check in the state.
Right of Self-Defense Under Attack Again
Gun Owners Foundation Assisting Brian Mase
When is self-defense not self-defense? According to many anti-gun prosecutors, whenever the means used to defend one’s self is a firearm.
Most people remember the Bernhard Goetz case. In 1984, Goetz was on a New York City subway train when he was approached by four thugs “asking” him for money while wielding sharpened screwdrivers. Goetz, who had been mugged and beaten four years earlier, pulled out his small revolver and shot his attackers. He chose not to be a victim again. Although he was acquitted of the most serious charges, Goetz still ended up in jail for over a year for violating a New York City gun ban ordinance, thanks to an overzealous, gun-hating District Attorney.
On February 6, 1991, Bruce Thayer was on his way to choir practice when he was attacked in his vehicle on a rural road in Oregon. After being forced off the road and struck in the face twice Thayer, a retired Deputy Chief of Police from Sacramento, California, shot and killed his attacker. The former police officer went by the book, staying at the scene, setting out road flares, and calling for help. But for Bruce Thayer, a long legal nightmare had just begun. He was arrested, held for nine days without bail, and subsequently tried for murder. Ten months later, he was acquitted by a jury, but not before losing his home and life’s savings on legal fees and expenses. Bruce Thayer was twice a victim–once on the streets at the hands of a violent attacker, and then in the courts at the hands of an anti-gun prosecutor.
Brian Mase: Prosecuted for Self-Defense
This scenario is being played out yet again in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania. Brian Mase, a member of the Army Reserves, used a firearm to successfully defend himself and two friends from a violent intruder who refused to leave his home. What should be deemed as self-defense and heroism is being called murder by the local District Attorney. Brian is currently being held without bail in the Lebanon County jail as he awaits trial.
The facts in this case are such that Brian should not have to be subjected to the further emotional and financial drain of a trial. On the afternoon of May 21, 1995, nineteen-year-old Brian Mase was inside his home with a friend, Barbara Weaver, and her boyfriend, Mike Armpreister. The three had been having difficulties with a mutual acquaintance, John Boyer, an old boyfriend of Ms. Weaver’s. Boyer had previously threatened and harassed all three at various times, and these occurrences escalated to the point where Ms. Weaver requested and received a Protection From Abuse Order against Boyer, issued by the Lebanon County Court of Common Pleas. Boyer repeatedly violated the Protection From Abuse Order by contacting Ms. Weaver in person and by telephone.
Earlier that day there had been an incident involving Boyer and Weaver, in which Boyer claimed Weaver had stolen a watch (The watch actually was given by Boyer to Ms. Weaver). Ms. Weaver contacted the North Lebanon police department, stating that she would return the watch, thus avoiding any further trouble. A police officer was sent to pick up the watch, and while she was there, Boyer arrived unexpectedly. Ms. Weaver informed the officer that Boyer was in violation of the Protection Order by his presence. The officer took no action.
Several times throughout the day, Boyer called or went to the house requesting to get back together with Ms. Weaver, and alternately threatening to kill Ms. Weaver, Armpreister, and Brian Mase. The three had several heated exchanges with Boyer throughout the day outside the house, until about 2:30 that afternoon, when Boyer came inside uninvited. Mase later told police that he ordered Boyer to leave the house, but Boyer refused. When Boyer reached for what Mase believed to be a baseball bat, Mase shot him with an M-1 rifle.
Brian was immediately arrested and charged with homicide, which in Pennsylvania could mean anything from first degree murder to involuntary manslaughter. The District Attorney had indicated that he may seek the death penalty in this case.
Internet and the Right to Keep and Bear Arms
Brian’s father, Richard Mase, could immediately sense the anti-gun forces at work against his son, so he quickly took his case to the Internet. Under the title RKBA UNDER ATTACK!, at web page http://www.leba.net/people/rickmase, Richard Mase started a flurry of activity, receiving a groundswell of support from gun owners nationwide. This infuriated District Attorney Bradford H. Charles. Claiming that the senior Mase was prejudicing the jury pool, Charles attempted to persuade the judge to issue a gag order for both Brian Mase and his attorney, Mitchell Sommers.
Of course, everyone, including the local newspaper editorial writers, knew the person Charles was really trying to silence was Brian’s father. “It’s obvious that the Mase the district attorney would really rather gag is not Brian, but Richard, and by extension, the Internet,” stated one editorial in a local Harrisburg newspaper. Under the gag order Charles was seeking, Brian would have been forbidden to speak to anyone, including his own father, about the facts of the case.
At one point, Charles became so incensed by the activities on the Internet that he accused Richard Mase of using mass propaganda, comparing him to Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propagandist under Hitler. The judge recently denied most of Charles’ request, granting only a limited gag order.
District Attorney Charles is building a frivolous murder case against Brian while ignoring the obvious facts of self-defense. Brian Mase didn’t go looking for trouble, but it came to him in the form of John Boyer, a violent intruder. Boyer left Brian Mase with little choice.
The Mases are a hardworking family of modest means. Mase’s grandfather, a retired machine operator from U.S. Steel, is 81 years old and lives in a house he and his wife paid off years ago. The only way to afford an attorney for their grandson was to mortgage their home. Justice is not cheap.
If Mase, and others like him, are prosecuted, honest citizens and homeowners have to question what is happening to our right to self-defense. One Lebanon resident raised this question succinctly in a letter to a local newspaper: “Can we no longer protect ourselves in the privacy of our own homes?”
GOF helping Mase
Gun Owners Foundation is currently working with Brian Mase and his attorney, providing legal and financial assistance. Tax deductible contributions to the Mase defense fund can be made through Gun Owners Foundation at:
8001 Forbes Place, Suite 102, Springfield, VA 22151.
Make checks payable to Gun Owners Foundation.
Please write “Mase” on the memo line to properly designate your contribution. Every dollar contributed to the Brian Mase fund will go directly to his legal defense.
GOA Members Bring Turnabout on H.R. 1488
Hats off to GOA members and supporters who flooded legislators with postcards demanding that they clean up the “assault weapons” ban repeal bill (H.R. 1488). The bill contains a provision that would enormously expand the powers of the BATF.
As this newsletter goes to press, GOA lobbyists have been asked to work with several legislators — including Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) — in drafting language to gut the BATF enhancement provision.
Sources on Capitol Hill have stated unequivocally that postcards and letters from GOA members were instrumental in getting Congressmen to agree to make the change. Before the avalanche of postcards and letters, there was little support for striking the dangerous provision from the bill.
“This battle once again proves how effective postcards can be,” said GOA Executive Director Larry Pratt. “When individual gun owners from across the nation deluge the Congress, it becomes almost impossible for legislators to ignore the outcry.”
GOA will keep members updated on the success of these attempts to remove the BATF enhancement provision from the bill.
House Votes to Increase BATF’s Pay
In July, the House of Representatives defeated an amendment to limit funding for the BATF by a vote of 317-111. (This vote will be listed in an upcoming issue of The Gun Owner).
Rep. Helen Chenoweth (R-ID), author of the amendment, said her provision would prevent “any member of ATF from receiving any bonuses or salary rewards this year until the Waco and the Ruby Ridge and other investigations have been concluded.”
Had it passed, the Chenoweth amendment would have sent a strong message to BATF officials that bad conduct will not be rewarded with pay increases. Upon defeating the amendment, the House proceeded to give the BATF a $6 million increase for 1996.
and become a Postcard Distributor
* Set #1: H.R. 666, S. 3 and S. 54 — These bills 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. (Postcards addressed to Representatives ask them to oppose the bill if it comes back from a conference committee.)
* Set #2: H.R. 1710 and S. 735 — Oppose the “anti-terrorist” bills that give BATF $100 million extra, threaten to put gun dealers and manufacturers out of business, expand the government’s wiretap authority, restrict the Posse Comitatus Act, and much more. Postcards include messages addressed to both Representatives and Senators. (Cards addressed to Senators ask them to oppose the bill if it comes back from a conference committee.)
* Set #3: Send postcards to the four most prominent Republicans in the country and ask them to stop dragging their feet and taking gun owners for granted. The postcards — which go to Senators Bob Dole and Phil Gramm, Representative Newt Gingrich and Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour — ask these men to use their position to pass gun rights legislation.
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. There is plenty of time to order the above cards. As this newsletter goes to press, it appears all the sets should remain current through the end of the year.
From the Horse’s Mouth:
“If gun control is not the answer, what should we do to make America safer and free us from fear? . . . [T]he first step should be to accelerate the instant identity-check system that would compare a thumbprint against a national record of felons and people who have been in mental institutions. No law-abiding citizen’s thumbprint would be kept.” [Editor: how can one be sure?]
— House Speaker Newt Gingrich, To Renew America, p. 204
In the States
Earlier this year, GOA sent Dr. Suzanna Gratia (now Gratia Hupp) to Baton Rouge, Louisiana to testify in favor of citizens’ right to carry a firearm concealed for self-defense. Testifying along with Dr. Gratia Hupp was GOA’s Director of State and Local Affairs Dennis Fusaro. Ten years ago, armed thugs shot and robbed Fusaro’s sister. He testified that his sister is now a strong defender of gun rights, remarking that the only person who wasn’t armed in that attack was her.
A bill that loosened restrictions on the right to carry concealed firearms passed both the Senate and House but was ultimately vetoed by Governor Edwin Edwards.
GOA ignited a powder keg in Jackson this year and led the charge in defeating a dangerous bill, HB 836. Dubbed the “gun haters bill” by GOA’s state representative Ed Thames, HB 836 mandated that virtually every firearm confiscated by the police be destroyed. It forced firearm owners to pay huge legal fees to recover their stolen guns, assuming the police notified them that their guns were recoverd.
HB 836 sailed through both the House and Senate overwhelmingly. At this point, Thames began working with pro-gun legislators while GOA sent a letter to all legislators urging them to vote against the conference report. GOA posted Bulletin Board alerts, did a quick mailing and fax alerts to mobilize the grassroots.
Even though it looked hopeless, GOA members responded to the call. The conference committee members killed the bill after realizing that opposition was growing to a bill that, if passed, would be remembered during the election season.
GOA took the lead in fighting for genuine concealed carry legislation. Rep. Charles Key (R-90) offered a Vermont-style amendment to the phony carry bill. In Vermont any law-abiding citizen may carry a firearm without any government approval, permission, license or tax. Rep. Key’s amendment failed 43 to 58, but the exciting thing was that Vermont-style carry — real right to carry — got so many votes. This was in the face of opposition from not only anti-gunners but from “pro-gun” compromisers. In the Senate Carol Martin (R-24) attempted to offer the same amendment but the Senate president Stratton Taylor, who likes to posture as pro-gun, used a parliamentary trick to block Sen. Martin’s amendment.
Under the guise of removing the state from under the Brady law, anti-gunners worked with misguided pro-gun forces to pass a bill that was even more dangerous than the original Brady bill. Special Session H.B. 110 — now called Act 17 — creates a file of virtually every gun owner in the state, even shotgun and rifle owners.
Before Act 17, Pennsylvania law had required every handgun purchaser to fill out a form which was then sent in to the state police. But Act 17 goes even further than this and does the following:
1) Every gun purchaser — not just handguns — will be required to have their name filtered through an electronic background check; this goes beyond the requirements of Brady. Currently Brady only applies to handguns and prohibits federal officials from keeping records and lists of gun buyers.
2) The State Police still get a copy of the written form (including social security number). They get a differentiated registration list of gun buyers — long gun versus handgun.
3) The language in Act 17 vaguely says that no registry of gun owners is permitted. But anti-gunners like Senator Vincent Fumo (D) says this provision does not mean officials cannot register sales. This, of course, amounts to the same thing. Moreover, Act 17 contains no criminal penalties for officials who do keep registration records.
4) The law makes parents felons for leaving a handgun in the home which is in the “constructive possession” of their minor children. Even in the case of legitimate self-defense a parent could be made a felon when a son or daughter use a gun to stop a home-invading rapist or murderer.
GOA is the key national organization leading the fight to repeal Act 17.
GOA putting the candidates on record in key states
Right now five key states are holding off-year elections, and GOA is taking on Sarah Brady and the gun lobby. GOA is mailing questionnaires to these states and asking the candidates tough questions about their positions on vital gun issues:
* GOA ‘s Louisiana Survey ’95 program is getting gun owners involved in passing real right to carry concealed reform next year. GOA is asking grassroots supporters to force candidates to take a public stand for full gun rights, including support for a Vermont-style concealed carry law. In Vermont, law-abiding citizens don’t need permisson from the government to carry a firearm.
* GOA’s Mississippi Survey ’95 program is getting members and supporters involved in the fight to defeat Brady “instant” check registration bills and pass Vermont-style right to concealed carry legislation.
* GOA’s Kentucky Governor’s Survey is focused on getting all the gubernatorial candidates to endorse real right to concealed carry legislation.
* Virginia Survey ’95 is focused on repealing “One-Gun-a-Month” rationing while the New Jersey survey is focused on repeal of the state’s semi-auto ban.
In all of these efforts, GOA recognizes that our members are the best way to get the candidates to commit to pro-gun policy changes.
If a focused issue group wants to have an impact, there is no better way than to mobilize citizen pressure on candidates during the election season. Candidates listen much better than elected officials do. Once elected, gun owners can use these surveys to hold officials accountable.