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NRA to AGS -- Welcome to the Debate

Friday, January 18, 2002

For nearly 15 years, NRA has been raising issues relating to deficiencies in the nation’s criminal record-keeping system. This issue took on even more relevance after the Brady Act’s five-day waiting period, "sunsetted" into the NRA-backed instant check system in 1998. This week, Americans for Gun Safety (AGS) released a "report" parroting much of NRA’s positions for the past decade and a half.

NRA chief lobbyist, James Baker, noted during congressional testimony on S. 466, "The Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1987," "with only a ‘name check’ being conducted, all that can be determined is whether a person with that name has a criminal history. There is no way to verify that the person in front of you is who he or she purports to be." Identification fraud continues to be a national problem, revealed most recently on September 11.

Speaking specifically to the AGS "study," Joe Case, spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery, said, "This group tries to paint the picture that nothing`s being done, especially on the accuracy of the automated data system. That`s just absolutely false." These comments were echoed by South Carolina Attorney General Charlie Condon (R), who noted, "It`s false information. "I think we`re doing a good job in terms of checking people appropriately. ... We don`t need gun control, we need criminal control."

It’s rather duplicitous for AGS to make the claims it cites in its own "study" given the fact that their senior staffers were in strategic government positions to assure the integrity of the National Instant Check System (NICS) during its inception. Matt Bennett was a Clinton White House political aide; Jim Kessler, AGS Legislative Director, was gun adviser to Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y).; and AGS President Jonathan Cowan, was Chief of Staff to self-appointed gun czar Andrew Cuomo. While noteworthy, but not surprising, Kessler’s former boss, Senator Schumer, has not advocated NICS improvements, or taken any steps to oversee its effective implementation, but has only attempted to exploit NICS to establish national registration.

NRA believes, and has said all along, that it is vital that the NICS database be accurate and comprehensive. It is also important to make sure the NICS database isn’t bogged down with irrelevant data. The integrity of the database has to be precise for the purpose for which it was built -- that is, any gun sale disqualification should be based solely on accurate and complete disqualifying information.

NRA has long supported state efforts to improve and automate records necessary for NICS and has supported federal appropriations for that purpose, but would emphasize that these expenditures be thoroughly audited to ensure that they are properly spent. NRA believes further that congressional action would be helpful in attempting to bring together law enforcement and the mental health community in reaching agreement to supply disqualifying mental health records. And we support the concept that non-citizens in America on tourist, student, or non-immigrant visas have their visa status accessible by NICS to preclude gun purchases by these ineligible individuals.

AGS SHOWS TRUE COLORS -- AGAIN

This past weekend, the well-heeled lobbyists at AGS hosted a junket for congressional staffers who were wined and dined in Richmond, Va., and then escorted to a gun show by AGS staff. The observations of one congressional staffer in attendance are telling.

He said, "From the beginning of the trip, AGS stated their agenda as wanting to close the ‘gun show loophole,’ and nothing else, and after the ‘loophole’ is closed AGS will no longer exist. In reality, their agenda is much like the Violence Policy Center`s and other anti-self-defense organizations’ -- national registration and licensing and the eventual outlawing of firearms....[a]ll they did was alienate themselves from their stated policy positions of sensible gun ownership. It was apparent on the trip AGS clearly advocates gun registration and the eventual outlawing of all firearms. What was accomplished on the trip was nothing other than showing gun shows are not frightening nor illegal."

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.