Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN Grassroots

Grassroots Alert: Vol. 8, No. 15 4/13/2001


Congress is still on recess for its Easter District Work Period (House scheduled to return April 20, Senate scheduled to return April 22), so now is a good time to set up face-to-face meetings with your federal lawmakers at their district offices. The gun-ban extremists in D.C. have already set their sights on gun shows, and U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-R.I.) is poised to introduce his version of the legislation championed by former U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) that sought to end gun shows as we know them today. The Senate will soon take up the issue of education reform, and we anticipate that Reed and fellow gun-ban extremists such as U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) will be working with the gun-ban lobby, HCI, to attach Reed's assault on gun shows, as well as other anti-gun amendments, to any education legislation brought up for consideration. Try to schedule personal meetings with your Senators—or contact them by letter or phone call—to express your opposition to any assaults on our Right to Keep and Bear Arms. For those on the Internet, you can also use the "Write Your Reps" tool at NRAILA.org.

Also remember to urge your U.S. Representative to opposeS. 27, theMcCain-Feingold campaign finance "reform" legislation that was passed by the Senate. This bill would severely restrict our ability to provide timely information—including information on lawmakers' positions on firearm-related issues—to our membership and tens of millions of other law-abiding gun owners.

Finally, be sure to contact the offices of both your Senators and your Representative to see if they have any Town Hall Meetings scheduled over the next week. If so, be sure to attend, and bring your family, friends, and fellow gun owners, so that you can take advantage of any opportunities to express your support for the Second Amendment. If you learn of any of these meetings, be sure to share the information with the NRA-ILA Grassroots Division, so we may alert others. To find out your federal lawmaker's district office number, you can call the U.S. House switchboard at (202) 225-3121, and the U.S. Senate switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Just ask for your lawmaker's office, and someone there will be able to tell you the closest district office to where you live. Also for those on the Internet, if you go to http://www.bushtaxrelief.com/townhall.asp, you can find information on some town hall meetings.


Next week,Columbia University will bestow itsBancroft Prize—an award it touts as "one of the most prestigious awards in the field of history"—uponMichael Bellesiles ofEmory University, author of last year's "Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture." Bellesiles's book, according to the author, is a culmination of research that indicates that most Americans around the time of our country's formation did not own firearms. This, of course, is contrary to reams of scholarly research showing that America has always been a nation where the possession of firearms by responsible, law-abiding citizens has been widespread.

While this book was received with high praise from gun-ban extremists and the anti-gun media (theNew York Times actually gave the book praise before it was ever released), an editorial byKimberley Strassel from theApril 5 issue ofThe Wall Street Journal points out that Bellesiles's research has been under fire by many respected scholars. Thus far, however, Bellesiles has refused to produce anything of substance that would counter the claims of his critics.Gerald Rosenberg, a visiting professor of law atNorthwestern, told Strassel, "...[T]he evidence is so overwhelming that it is incumbent upon Bellesiles as a serious scholar to respond. He either has to admit error, or somehow show how his work is right."

UCLA law professorEugene Volokh has pointed to examples of Bellesiles either misquoting sources, or citing sources that do not contain the information the Emory professor claims they contain.Bentley College history professorJoyce Lee Malcolm, author of "To Keep and Bear Arms: The Origins of an Anglo-American Right," referred to Bellesiles's use of travel narratives, which he claims failed to mention the use of guns for hunting. But Malcolm states that "Arming America" makes no mention of the same narratives referring to guns outside of the context of hunting. And Northwestern professor of lawJames Lindgren tackles what many reviewers have considered to be the most compelling aspect of Bellesiles research—his use of probate records, which are basically inventories of someone's estate at his time of death. Bellesiles claimes his research shows that only 14.7% of American men, and virtually no women, owned firearms, and he goes on to claim that most guns were old or broken. But Lindgren says he went over the same records that Bellesiles cited, and found that 54% of American men, and 18% of the women, owned firearms, with no indication that most were listed as old or broken. Lindgren stated, "No one who has seen the evidence can figure out how he could have made such errors, or why he has not retracted the obviously mistaken data."

According to Strassel, Bellesiles told her that many of his critics are "ideologically motivated," but she points out that Rosenberg and Lindgren all told her that they favor gun control. Bellesiles has also revealed that he did not keep a database (rather odd in the age of computers), but kept all his data on paper notes, and he claims these paper notes were recently destroyed in a flood.Randolph Roth, an associate history professor atOhio State who also supports gun control, examined Lindgren's work on probate records and commented that "it looks as though Mr. Bellesiles work won't be reproducible."

In an effort to present a different view to Bellesiles's, Ron Lewenberg, President of the Columbia College Conservative Club, has been working with university officials to try to schedule a panel of researchers and scholars to discuss "Arming America" next Wednesday, April 18, the day Bellesiles is scheduled to receive his recognition from the university. At this time, it is unclear if the school will accommodate this request, but if it does, tentatively scheduled to appear are Yale professor John Lott, author of "More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws," and Clayton Cramer, author of several historical books, including "For the Defense of Themselves: The Original Intent and Judicial Interpretation of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms." Bellesiles declined an invitation to appear as well. We should have more information on this tentative panel discussion next week, so if you are interested in finding out more, please call the Grassroots Division at (800) 392-8683.



SB 52, a bill that seeks to require licensing of all handgun purchasers, will be heard by the Senate Public Safety Committee on Tuesday, April 17. Contact members of the committee and urge them to oppose SB 52. For a list of committee members, call NRA-ILA Grassroots, or use the "Write Your Reps" tool at NRAILA.org.


SB 412, a bill that seeks to protect firearm manufacturers from reckless, politically-motivated lawsuits aimed at bankrupting them, passed theFlorida Senate on a vote of 27-12. The bill was immediately certified to the House and will be awaiting consideration when lawmakers return from Easter recess next week.


SB 425, a bill that sought to make gun owners criminally liable if a juvenile gained access to one of their handguns and caused it to discharge, or used it to harm another—even if that juvenile accessed the handgun by theft, trespass, or other unlawful means—was defeated by theLouisiana Senate on a vote of 27-9. If passed into law, SB 425 could have caused gun owners to lose their homeowners' insurance if accidents involving juveniles occurred in their homes.


House File 1360, the NRA-backed Personal Protection Act that seeks to allow all trained, law-abiding citizens to obtain permits to carry concealed handguns for personal protection, passed the Minnesota House by an overwhelming margin, on a 85-45 vote. Unfortunately, when it was time to bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote, a group of anti-gun state senators voted to keep the bill from even being considered. For the names and numbers of those senators who voted against your right to personal protection, contact NRA-ILA Grassroots, or use the "Write Your Reps" tool.


The House Judiciary Civil Practices Subcommittee still has not considered HB 227, a bill that seeks to allow Right to Carry permit holders to carry firearms for self-defense in grocery and convenience stores that sell alcohol for off-site consumption. Contact Subcommittee Chair Representative Kim McMillan (D) at (615) 741-2043, and ask that she bring this important bill up for a vote when the subcommittee meets this Tuesday, April 17. Also on Tuesday, the House State and Local Government Committee will hear HB 221, a bill that seeks to authorize municipalities to heavily regulate the use of firearms under certain conditions, such as banning hunting and regulating shooting range activity. Contact committee members and urge them to oppose HB 221. For a list of committee members, please contact NRA-ILA Grassroots, or use the "Write Your Reps" tool.


The House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee passed HB 367, a bill that seeks to mandate a federal records check using the flawed NICS system prior to the sale of any firearm at a gun show (other than a sale to a CHL holder). Although the bill has not yet been scheduled for action by the full House, NRA members should begin calling their State Representatives at (512) 463-4630 and urge them to oppose HB 367.


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.