3/97 Taking Back Stolen Ground

Taking Back Stolen Ground
Larry Pratt
Executive Director
Gun Owners of America

Fear ruled the day as lawmakers enacted two oppressive gun control laws on the final day of last year’s Congressional session. Regrettably, the Republican legislators on the Hill feared the establishment inside the beltway more than their constituents — enough to negate their oath to uphold and defend the Constitution.

Legislators snuck two restrictive amendments into a 2,000-page omnibus appropriations bill which was still being debated, but not yet printed. Senator Inhofe (R-OK) said that two or three hours was not enough time to read such a lengthy bill, so he wisely voted against it. Unhappily, only 14 of his colleagues in the Senate voted with him.

GOA cautioned House members about the gun control provisions in the bill. Meanwhile, Representatives were being told that Gun Owners of America was misinformed and that there were no gun control amendments in the Omnibus Appropriations bill. GOA had been right all along, however, and it seems that Republican leaders will say anything to keep their troops in line.

The country is still finding out just how far-reaching these two gun bans are. Republicans were willing to stomach more gun control in order to get back home at the end of September and campaign to save their jobs.
Sen. Lautenberg’s Gun Grab

One of the gun control measures was authored by the anti-gun zealot, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), who found a way to hide gun control behind the skirts of women in need of protection. For the first time, the federal government is expanding its intrusion into the criminal justice arena by prohibiting Americans from owning guns if they were convicted of a mere misdemeanor. In other words, Lautenberg federalizes state laws dealing with husband and wife relationships and even those of parent and child — that’s all covered under the term “domestic”.

We should keep in mind that as late as 1934, President Franklin Roosevelt’s Attorney General, Joseph Keenan, testified before Congress that “The Federal Government has no police powers.” The Constitution has not been changed to authorize police powers. The only thing that has happened is what our forefathers called usurpation. In today’s terminology, it is an illegitimate power grab by the federal government.

Lautenberg’s measure means that if one were convicted of any kind of domestic violence misdemeanor (a slap, a foul mouth, spanking a child), one is forever prohibited from owning a gun. This prohibition will be imposed no matter how long ago the infraction may have occurred. Keep in mind that battery — that is, serious violence — is not the subject of misdemeanor domestic violence. Such serious violence is, and has been for a long time, a felony.

Who is effected by the Lautenberg gun ban? An increasingly large number of women are being kept from owning their best means of self defense. This is because police are more and more arresting both partners in a domestic dispute, and getting misdemeanor convictions against both the man and the woman.

Moreover, there is an ever-growing number of jurisdictions that are hostile to spanking — this does not mean beating — children. Parents can be and have been arrested and convicted for disciplining their children. This is a domestic violence misdemeanor and has resulted in the loss of gun rights.

One candidate in a police academy recently realized that he can never become a cop and never own a gun. Ten years ago, this Ohio resident said some really nasty things to his father who had him locked up over night to “teach him a lesson.” The authorities insisted, in spite of the father’s objection, on convicting the lad of a very mild misdemeanor — a mere $25 fine. But because it was a domestic violence misdemeanor, there will be one less policeman in our country thanks to Sen. Lautenberg. Police departments across the country have begun laying off sworn officers because of convictions twenty and even thirty years ago.
Sen. Kohl’s Gun-Ban Zones

Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) pulled off the other sneak attack against the Constitution, enabling Congress to reenact a bill the Supreme Court had correctly declared unconstitutional. The Court ruled that Congress has no authority to pass legislation affecting possession of firearms in so-called school zones. The Court went into detail to point out that the Commerce Clause (in Article I, Section 8) which has been used to justify anything the federal government wants to do is not a blanket authorization of power after all. Justice Thomas stated that this totalitarian view represented a wrong turn for the Court for the last 50 years.

Kohl’s measure prohibits possession of a gun within a thousand feet of the outer perimeter of a school’s property — typically a gun ban zone of a diameter of about one half a mile. The limited exceptions include on-duty policemen (not when they are off duty), people with concealed carry permits if the permit was obtained through a background check system (some states have no such permission slips), guns transported when they are locked and unloaded and with the school authority’s permission, and private homes (although it will be illegal to take the gun from the private premises to public property without a principal’s permission).

Senator Kohl got the Congress to make it virtually impossible to legally pass through most cities and towns in the U.S. with a firearm.

Until members of Congress fear their constituents more than they do now, we can expect the Congress to continue to knuckle under to the frenetic cries of “we must protect women and children” as the excuse for passing more restrictions.
Feeling the Heat

Everett Dirksen, the late Republican Senate Minority Leader, was fond of saying “When I feel the heat, I see the light.” At present, the Congress is unable to see the light. They need to feel the heat. Those who wish to live under the Constitution and enjoy the freedom and liberty it is supposed to protect, must regain the zeal for liberty that filled the breasts of the founders of our Republic.

Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) has introduced H.R. 26 to restrict the Lautenberg measure to misdemeanors only after September 28, 1996. While this addresses the unconstitutionality of an ex post facto law, it still does not pass muster because the feds do not have police powers. Moreover, if it is a bad idea to deprive people retroactively of their rights because of a misdemeanor (rather than a felony) conviction, then it is wrong in the future as well.

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) has introduced H.R. 445 to remove police and military personnel from the Lautenberg provisions. This is offensive because it is playing to the notion that these people are in a special class — an elite. This is absolutely the very thing the founders wanted to make sure the Second Amendment kept from ever happening. Of course, other federal gun control bills have done just this — police and military are favored with the possession of machine guns and semi autos (the so-called “assault weapons”) even while the rest of us are prohibited in one way or another by federal legislation.

Both the Barr and the Stupak bills are unacceptable compromises and will be considered as such by Gun Owners of America in our 1998 ratings of the Congress. Rep. Barr has been supported heavily by pro-Second Amendment voters in his district. It would be helpful if he “felt the heat”, in the form of communications urging him to drop his bill and instead sponsor an outright repeal. He can be reached as follows: The Honorable Bob Barr, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515. His fax number is 1-202-225-2944.

Those wishing to communicate with Rep. Stupak can do so as follows: The Honorable Bart Stupak, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515. His fax is 1-202-225-4744.

Rep. Helen Chenoweth (R-ID) has introduced H.R. 1009 with 11 co-sponsors. Her measure would totally repeal the Lautenburg gun ban. Please call your own representative and urge him or her to co-sponsor Chenoweth’s bill. For those who voted wrong last year, this is a way for them to start making things right.

Those who would like to put the heat on Congress are invited to work with Gun Owners of America. You can get our legislative updates by contacting our website at www.gunowners.org, or you can get on our fax or e-mail alert lists. These will provide you with information about gun control battles as they are being waged in Congress. You will be able to react so that you can put the heat on. With membership in GOA you will receive the GOA newsletter and other legislative update mailings. For further information, call toll free: 1-800-417-1486. Our fax number is 1-703-321-8408.

The founders were right. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. The fight will never end. Let’s take back stolen ground so the enemy has to fight on our terms, not us on his.