Smith and Coburn Introduce Anti-Brady Bills
GOA Pressing for Cosponsors
One of the highest agenda items that Gun Owners of America shares with freedom-loving Americans is the rolling back of the unconstitutional Brady law.
Gun owners can be glad that two defenders of the Constitution have stepped forward in Congress and taken a major step toward the ultimate goal of repealing this law.
On March 11, Senator Bob Smith (R-NH) reintroduced his bill to keep the FBI from taxing and registering gun purchasers.
GOA's Larry Pratt meets with Senator Bob Smith (R-NH)
And later that same day, Rep. Tom Coburn (R-OK) notified GOA that he was introducing identical language.
GOA's Pratt lauds both Smith and Coburn
GOA Executive Director Larry Pratt praised the actions of both men. "Last year's Smith amendment was a good first step," Pratt said.
"Unfortunately, the restrictions the Senate passed on the FBI were watered-down by a conference committee at the last minute, and the restrictions that did remain are scheduled to expire later this year. Congress must put the FBI back in its cage," Pratt said.
Gun owners may remember that the mandate for the FBI to "immediately" destroy gun owners' names was deleted from the Smith amendment by a House-Senate conference committee.
To no one's surprise, the FBI responded by saying they would not immediately destroy records, but would keep information on gun buyers who have broken no law for up to six months.
Sen. Smith blasts Clinton's abuse of gun owners' privacy
Upon introducing his bill, Smith took to the floor to denounce the Clinton Administration's "insistence" upon keeping gun owners' names.
"There is no reason why such private information on law-abiding gun owners should be retained," Smith said.
Moreover, Smith told Senators that his bill will keep the FBI from unilaterally taxing gun owners.
"With [my last year's] amendment," Smith said, "we told President Clinton 'no' to the gun tax. Let us tell him 'no' again, once and for all, by enacting the Second Amendment Rights Protection Act."
Like last year's Smith amendment, this year's Smith-Coburn bills (S. 597 and H.R. 1178) contain some teeth: private individuals will be specifically authorized to sue the FBI for any violations of privacy under the Brady Law.
Sen. Smith introduced his bill with four original cosponsors: Senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Conrad Burns (R-MT), Michael Enzi (R-WY) and Frank Murkowski (R-AK).
Gun Owners of America is currently working to get more cosponsors.
FBI Violating Federal Law
In related news, the FBI is, perhaps, becoming the best argument for passing the Smith-Coburn bills
On March 3, the FBI submitted proposed regulations showing that they intend to violate the very spirit of last year's Smith amendment.
Gun owners have until June 1, 1999 if they wish to submit their own comments.
In its new regulations, the FBI is seeking to do the following:
* Allow information concerning gun buyers which is obtained by the unconstitutional Instant Check system to be retained for ninety days (a reduction from its current illegal retention period of six months);
* Specifically allow the FBI to share its illegally retained information with BATF for the express purpose of allowing BATF to conduct unrelated inspections of federal firearms dealers; and
* Specifically allow information concerning gun buyers to be retained without a time limitation if deemed necessary to "pursue cases of identified misuse of the system," even if the person whose privacy is abused is not suspected of being a culpable party.
Gun owners should note that passing the Smith-Coburn bills would invalidate any and all illegal FBI regulations of this type.
In the mean time, readers can check out the March 3, 1999 regulations (Vol. 64, No. 41) promulgated by the FBI at wais.access.gpo.gov on the Internet.
Activists who wish to submit comments can write to:
Mr. Emmet A. Rathbun
Unit Chief, FBI, Module C-3
1000 Custer Hollow Road
Clarksburg, WV 26306-0147
Further questions should be directed to the FBI at (304)625-2000.
Congress Responding to Lawsuits Aimed at Gun Makers
While Gun Owners Foundation eyes legal defense
As this issue of The Gun Owners goes to press, five major metropolitan cities have filed lawsuits against gun manufacturers, distributors and business associations.
Other mayors are also expected to bring similar lawsuits in the near future.
While the arguments differ slightly from case to case, the end result of these suits is to punish innocent third parties-- namely, the gun industry-- for the criminal acts or negligence committed by others.
Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) has introduced H.R. 1032, a bill designed to put a stop to the anti-gun lawsuits being filed by the country's mayors.
The bill would require courts to throw out cases involving civil suits relating to "criminal or unlawful use" of firearms.
Sen. Smith informs GOA of upcoming bill
Sen. Bob Smith (R-NH) plans to introduce in the very near future a bill with a similar goal, but there is a possibility that Smith may take a different approach.
Smith is considering the British rule of "loser pays" in the kinds of cases being brought by the mayors. In such cases, the lawyers for the cities would be limited to $150 an hour.
This measure would eliminate the profitability of lawsuits arising from the criminal misuse of firearms, as well as the negligent or reckless misuse of the same. Victims would be encouraged to sue the criminal rather than innocent gun manufacturers and gun dealers.
Both Barr and Smith would send a welcome message to the firearms industry and the companies providing their liability insurance. At present, even if the companies win every case, which is likely, they could face extinction if they are unable to pay astronomically increased insurance rates to cover the heavy costs of litigation.
Smith aims at removing the profit motive from the mayors' arsenal
The language Smith is considering could be a bit more all-encompassing. In addition, the approach of loser pays and lawyer fee limitation may be easier to pass than Barr's approach requiring summary dismissal of these cases.
Smith also may avoid the Tenth Amendment challenge that Barr could encounter. Smith would be doing what has been done before-- limiting the standards for cases that get to court rather than telling states that a class of lawsuit is not permitted.
The existence of two fairly similar approaches on the legislative agenda will hopefully encourage the firearms industry as much as it will chill the trial lawyers looking for a pot of gold under every gun.
Indeed, limiting trial lawyers to $150 per hour may incline them to look elsewhere for cases to keep them living in a manner to which they have become accustomed.
At the state level, several bills have been introduced to curtail the attack on the firearms industry: Alaska, HB 103; Florida, HB 937; Louisiana, HB 204; Kansas, HB 2540; South Carolina, HB 3420; Tennessee, HB 585; Texas, HB 1716; Vermont, S 32; and Wyoming, SF 128.
In the courts, Gun Owners Foundation (the foundation arm of GOA) will be submitting amicus curiae briefs in defense of the gun makers that are facing current court battles generated by the mayors of several cities. Stay tuned as these stories continue developing.
The Best Defense is a collection of fascinating human interest stories of people who successfully used firearms to defend themselves and others against violent assaults.
From Ohio, Florida and Virginia to Missouri, Texas, Mississippi and Montana, this book gives a dramatic portrait of what is at stake in the fight against crime at the level it occurs: victim vs. perpetrator.
Here is living proof-- thankfully living-- that citizens do not have to be helpless in the face of crime and that in many cases self-defense proves to be citizens' only opportunity to save themselves and their loved ones.
The book is available through Gun Owners Foundation, 8001 Forbes Place, Springfield, VA 22151 for $14.95 plus $4.50 shipping and handling. Credit card orders may call toll free 1-888-886-GUNS (4867) or visit the secure server at http://www.gunowners.com/resource.htm on the Web.
Government Trial Strategy: Bleed 'Em or Plead 'Em
Chris and Trudy Sherburne have been put through the judicial system meat grinder in California.
Readers of The Gun Owners may recall from a previous edition (October 12, 1998) the account of the model family which was not only concerned for its own interests, but also for the interests of others.
In particular this family has tried to get material aid such as food and Bibles to the Christians of the southern Sudan who are being persecuted by a Muslim government in the north of the country.
The Sherburnes are an example of the government strategy of bleeding a victim who cannot afford a protracted legal battle. Unfortunately, victims will quite often rely on incompetent legal counsel provided by the government itself and get convicted.
Even if the attorney is competent and dedicated to the interest of the accused, money can run out and a settlement has to be negotiated.
Without any criminal intent whatsoever, the Sherburnes were nevertheless viewed as hardened and dangerous criminals by a malicious prosecutor in Victorville, California.
Their crime? Possession of government surplus items they had bought at auction from the federal government for inventory in their retail surplus business.
One of the offending items in the 24-count indictment was a used LAW rocket tube. Another was a destructive device: surplus .50 incendiary rounds.
These items are legal in other states. But the way California law is written, a book of matches could be considered a destructive device.
GOA members make a big difference
Gun Owners of America members were very generous and contributed several thousand dollars to the Sherburne Defense Fund at Gun Owners Foundation.
This support enabled the Sherburnes to get an attorney willing to fight for them.
But the Sherburnes had no other resources, and what they had from the Foundation was simply not enough to go through an expensive trial.
At least their new attorney, Andrew Haut, was able to blunt a great deal of the ferocity leveled by the government against the family.
Haut was very appreciative of what GOA members made possible.
"I have worked with a number of other organizations that assist with good causes, but never one like Gun Owners that was willing to 'roll up its sleeves' and dive unreservedly into a fight to protect a good family from ruin," Haut said.
California's attack on family and home
To keep the family together-- and the children out of the hands of the state's bureaucrats-- the Sherburnes pleaded guilty to a single felony charge of possessing tracer rounds.
This meant that, in addition to time served, Chris would serve another month in prison, but Trudy was able to keep the children at home.
When the Sherburnes were first sucked into the system, they were both incarcerated on $1,000,000 bond. Trudy was finally able to get the bond reduced and get out of jail to care for the family.
Chris has been in jail since last year.
The Sherburnes will probably move to another state as soon as they can. Their business has been reduced to shambles by the authorities.
Friends kept from saving Sherburne's possessions
While they were in jail, the Sherburnes inventory was left exposed to the elements after a devastating "search" of their premises.
Friends of the family were prohibited by local law enforcement from entering the property to secure the merchandise.
The search was but a cover for trashing everything they owned and fishing for anything at all that could possibly be used to bring charges.
The search itself was illegal, but again, it takes money to even try to make the point in court.
Under the guise of an inspection by a building inspector, police agents who were lurking nearby entered the Sherburne's property minutes after the inspector's call to them. Without probable cause, the police would not have gotten a search warrant.
But once the building inspector entered the property, anything he thought was a violation of law then became a complaint for the police to get a warrant based on "probable cause."
Such was the ruse the police used to "legally" enter the Sherburne's property.
Some of the other items that the state of California has removed from Second Amendment protection are: shock shells that explode and frighten pest birds on farms, wallet holsters, fletchette darts and ammunition, flares not approved by the California Fire Marshall, blowguns and their darts, and many types of martial arts weapons.
Too bad California's crime rate has not responded to all this gun control.
If you can afford it
California citizens are not the only ones facing legal harassment.
Bob Arwady owns a gun store, the Ammo Dump and formerly a rifle range in Houston, Texas.
He made the government mad at him when he beat back the state EPA attempt to shut down his range.
In a process that cost him over $100,000 and three years of his life in court, Arwady showed that the lead in rifle bullets that collected in the berms on his range could not possibly contaminate ground water as the environmental extremists in the state government were alleging.
Arwady's victory saved our ammo, and in so doing, blocked a back door effort at gun control through banning bullets.
BATF tries to entrap Arwady
The next government assault on Bob Arwady came as an attack from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
The BATF sent in an agent from another region who had been specially trained in entrapment just to get Bob Arwady. When he was unsuccessful at getting Arwady to break the law at gun shows, other avenues were pursued.
The BATF discovered that two of Arwady's salesmen were vulnerable to attack. One had a felony conviction years before, and another was a Houston police officer who had engaged in some illegal activities inside the police department.
The BATF got these employees indicted and then got them to lie against Arwady to avoid going to jail themselves.
Happily the jury saw through the BATF's schemes, but Arwady had to spend another $100,000 to retain one of the leading defense attorneys in the country, Mike DeGuerin.
Of course, all the time this was dragging on, Arwady was denied his firearms rights and was only allowed limited access to his own business.
"What, You're Free?"
The BATF brought nine separate charges against Arwady. The jury acquitted him on all counts.
Arwady was the first person in ten years to get acquitted on all counts by a federal jury in Houston, according to an officer of the court who spoke to Arwady after the trial. He was dumbfounded that Arwady was a free man.
GOA has been the only pro-gun organization to help Arwady during his ordeals. Sadly, GOA's resources have not made it possible to make a large contribution.
Arwady's willingness to fight has doubtless saved other victims of the federal gun Gestapo from similar charges being brought against them. Those victims will not have to decide to plead to a felony if they do not have $100,000 with which to fight back.
But now Bob Arwady is tapped out. He is rightly concerned that the BATF will try to cook up another case against him. But now he does not have another $100,000 with which to fight. He has spent his life savings.
Gun Owners Foundation is asking GOA members to make a tax-deductible contribution to GOF (with Arwady written in the memo line) so that at least some of Arwady's funds can be replenished. Arwady has fought for more than himself. We all need to help this brave man.
Checks can be made out to GOF and sent to 8001 Forbes Place, Springfield, VA 22151. Credit card contributions can be made by calling toll free 1-888-886-GUNS (4867).
Lock-Up-Your-Safety Bill Dies Again in Washington State
In spite of being overwhelmingly crushed in a 1997 referendum, and two previous legislative defeats (in 1997 and 1998), a Lock-Up-Your-Safety bill was back like a vampire in Olympia this year. It seems to be dead-- for now.
H.B. 1424 would have imposed penalties of up to a year and/or $5,000 in fines for one who 'stores or leaves a loaded firearm in a location where the person knows, or reasonably should know, that a child under the age of 16 is likely to gain access, and the child obtains possession of the loaded firearm."
There are a bevy of negligence suits based on this "reasonably should have known" standard now threatening to destroy American gun ownership. All but the most obtuse now have been convinced of the danger of this negligence standard.
The way to duck prosecution under H.B. 1424 would be to have the firearm "secured in a locked box, gun safe, other secure locked storage space, or secured with a lock that prevents the firearm from discharging."
Grassroots Effort Killed the Bill
Major credit for killing the bill goes to two places. Al Woodbridge is a veteran Second Amendment lobbyist, and his shoe-leather lobbying in olympia was very effective.
Delbert Gilbow is the president of the Western Fish and Wildlife Federation. Gilbow has assembled over the years an armada of grassroots activists who can be mobilized by phone, fax, and e-mail. The grassroots lobbying pressure was intense and compelling.
At a Senate hearing Gilbow told a gripping story of tragedy involving a gun whose Canadian owner had locked it according to law. Ian Dunbar of Green Lake, B.C. was four years old and home from kindergarten in 1994. While playing in his back yard, a bear attacked him. His mother jumped on the bear and hit him. a neighbor went to get a rifle, but was unable to find the key. They finally snatched Ian away and rushed him to the hospital, but he died in his mother's arms on the way.
Happily, H,B. 1424 was defeated.
Utah: Gun Control for the New World Order
Utah legislators have bowed to pressure from the International Olympic Committee and imposed gun control in the name of being good World Citizens.
During the 2002 Olympics, Utahans otherwise permitted to carry a firearm to a football game will be prohibited from attending Olympic events with a firearm.
This unconstitutional law only deepens the embarrassment inflicted on the state by their Olympic Committee. In a still deepening scandal, it has been reported that the Utah Committee lavished women, guns and other gifts upon the International Committee members in order to get the nod for the 2002 Olympics.
This is not the first time that politicians pushing gun control were actually crooks. Former outspoken anti-gun Reps. Mario Biaggi (D-NY) and Larry Smith (D-FL) both did jail time which kept them from returning to Congress.
It is not surprising that the Olympic officials wanted gun control since they are crooks. But what does that say about the Governor and the Legislature of Utah?
One thing is for sure. During a hearing the legislators behaved as if they were running an inquisition with no provision for due process. Here is what Sarah Thompson, M.D. reported after her day testifying against the bill:
My husband and I always thought we knew what bigotry was, what it felt like, how it could affect a person's life. Some of my earliest memories are of being beat up by local thugs for being a "Jew kid".... My husband is Asian-American. He grew up in a small town where... he was taunted mercilessly.
But neither of us ever experienced anything like the sheer vitriolic hatred that was shamelessly expounded in the legislature of the State of Utah.... If you've ever wondered what it's like to be the victim of blind hatred and bigotry, I suggest you purchase a gun, and carry it with you.
Guns in Schools
by Larry Pratt
Not long ago I was on a radio talk show in Lexington, Kentucky. An eighth grader had held a principal hostage elsewhere in the country, and the talk show hostess was unhappy that the episode had made so little news.
Indeed, perhaps this is the first you have heard of the incident.
I had the task, according to the hostess, of "defending the indefensible" and explaining why GOA wants to eliminate the federal ban on guns within 1,000 feet of the property of a school.
I told the hostess and her listeners that I would like to see teachers and principals be able to have firearms at schools for self-protection.
Too many times criminals seem to have a knack of striking where gun control laws have made the place a Criminal Safe Zone.
I argued that the research of Dr. John Lott of the University of Chicago made it clear that jurisdictions which have concealed carry laws have lower murder rates than jurisdictions that do not.
Lott found from analyzing crime data over 15 years from every county in the country that more guns means less crime.
I went on to argue that England's crime rate had now surpassed that of the U.S., and that it had been predictable that their gun control laws would yield more crime.
In fact, I had predicted this would happen when I debated a British Parliamentarian on CNN International shortly before the then-Conservative government had banned possession of almost all firearms in England.
What a pleasant surprise when, over the course of an hour, only ONE caller was opposed. His arguments sounded as if he were reading the lines of a Sarah Brady script.
All the other callers were either mildly favorable or strongly supportive of the pro-gun position. Two callers said that they had taken hunting guns to school, and had frequently carried guns in their pockets for self-protection. One caller had taught in a school where he wished he had a gun to protect himself from the thugs masquerading as students.
The hostess was already in a state of disbelief when a caller toward the end of the show said that he had been holding for some time, and that he had changed his opinion while listening to the information about Dr. Lott's studies.
When he called in he was going to oppose my position. When he got on the air, he said that what I was proposing should be the law.
Maybe there is hope after all.
Your Long Distance Calls Could Help Protect Our Second Amendment Rights
The big three long distance telephone companies ALL support gun grabbing politicians. Here is a list of some of the anti-gunners they have supported as taken from Federal Election Commission records.
AT&T: Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Carol Mosley Braun (D-IL), Chris Dodd (D-CT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Patty Murray (D-WA), Chuck Robb (D-VA), John D. Rockefeller (D-WV), Paul Sarbanes (D-MD), Arlen Specter (R-PA), and Senate candidates Bill Weld (R-MA) and Dick Zimmer (R-NJ). Among a host of anti-gun Representatives were Major Owens and Charles Schumer with most of the rest of the likely suspects also receiving contributions.
MCI: Senators Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Carol Moseley Braun, Dick Durbin, Tom Harkin, Carl Levin (D-MI), Barbara Mikulski, Chuck Robb, John D. Rockefeller and Bill Weld. Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Edolphus Towns (D-NY) were among the many House anti-gunners.
Sprint: Senators Barbara Boxer, Dick Durbin, Dianne Feinstein, Tom Harkin, and John D. Rockefeller. Representatives: Kevin Brady (R-TX), Tom Campbell (R-CA), Ron Dellums (D-CA) were among the many anti-gunners in the House being helped by Sprint.
LifeLine: This long distance carrier gives to NO gun grabbers. LifeLine is a conservative, pro-gun company that gives ten percent of your long distance bill to GOA.
No matter what long distance company you use, your money will be at work in the gun control debate. The question you must answer is, "On which side of the debate will your money be used?"
LifeLine's rates are four to eight percent under AT&T's standard tariff rates. Do yourself a favor -- and help GOA at the same time -- by switching your long distance to LifeLine. By having LifeLine contribute to GOA's overhead for you, your regular donations are freed up to go for GOA lobbying even more than before.
For information, or to sign up, just call 1-800-311-2811.