Senate Vote Imminent

Terror Bill is Improved, But Still Assaults our Liberties

(Wednesday, April 17) — The Senate began debate on the Government Terror Bill yesterday. Apparently some folks are starting to get the message on Capitol Hill — truly horrible provisions such as Schumer’s national police force and the DeLauro laser sight language have been deleted from the terror bill. You guys deserve a pat on the back for keeping the heat on these guys. But problems still remain. The Senate is expected to vote on the $1 billion bill today; the House is expected to vote tomorrow. Here’s the core problems that made it into the final version of the bill — which is known as the Conference Report on S. 735, the Terrorism Prevention Act:

* BATF pay increase of $40 million (Sec. 816).

* “Anti-hunter” rifle and ammo study (Sec. 809). Hunters are in the “cross hairs” of an anti-terrorism bill! The BATF will be authorized to study ammunition and recommend which kinds need to be included under the “armor piercing” ban. (It is already well known that much hunting ammunition can penetrate body armor.) Furthermore, the BATF is required to specifically look at policemen killed with handguns, rifles and shotguns, and thus, opens the door to calling for the regulation of all gun sales.

* Federalize State Crimes. Sec. 702 contains a provision which could federalize certain state gun crimes and, as a result, enlarge the BATF’s scope and jurisdiction. Conduct must “transcend national boundaries” and involve interstate commerce. But these terms have been defined so broadly that a Bernie Goetz who uses, say, an Italian-made Beretta to defend himself and then flees to Vermont (as Mr. Goetz actually did) would trigger federal involvement and a BATF investigation.

* Tap ’em, entrap ’em and zap ’em. Title I will severely curtail the ability of gun owners to successfully appeal previous court decisions where evidence was destroyed or suppressed by prosecutors (like in Waco). Moreover, this Habeas Corpus “deform” provision will severely damage the ability of the courts to rescue honest gun owners who are unjustly incarcerated. Pro-gun Rep. Helen Chenoweth (R-ID) introduced an amendment to delete this provision from the bill, since it threatens gun owners’ rights and does not just deal with death penalty cases, as some have insinuated.

* Secret Evidence. Title IV will allow the government to use “secret evidence” against certain individuals (i.e., aliens). The concern is that this precedent could later be expanded in the criminal code and applied to all citizens. If so, then government officials could bring charges against gun owners and prevent them from seeing the specific evidence being used against them, from cross-examining the witnesses who are accusing them, etc.

* Reasonable Cause to Believe. . . . Gun owners should beware. Section 706 will punish anyone who transfers “explosive materials, knowing or having reasonable cause to believe” that such explosives would be used in a crime of violence. Could this language apply to ammunition? Experts in the industry certainly think it could. And any anti-gun judge can make a reasonable argument that it does. After all, firing ammunition out of a gun creates a condition that everyone would recognize as creating an explosion. The question is, how will Janet Reno interpret this provision if this bill is passed. Gun dealers might have to become clairvoyant before selling a box of ammunition. One never knows when the next box of ammo will be used in a violent crime.


* Keep the heat on RNC Chairman Haley Barbour. Make sure you have both called and faxed him (ph: 202-863-8700; fax: 202-863-8774). Even if you’ve contacted him already, you may want to contact Mr. Barbour again and let him know that the problems in S. 735 have not been totally fixed.

* Let your Senators and Representatives know that the problems have not been completely fixed (1-800-962-3524 or 202-224-3121).

* The Western Union message line has been updated! After calling your elected officials, you can send all three a Western Union mailgram by calling 1-800-651-1486. For $8.95, you can send them a hard-hitting message that urges them to oppose the final version of the Government Terror Bill.