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Grassroots Alert: Vol. 8, No. 40 10/5/2001


This week, the U.S. Senate passed S. 1438, the Department of Defense (DoD) annual authorization bill, which contains a provision that is of grave concern to hunters and sport shooters. Section 1062 of this bill provides the Secretary of Defense with the authority to require "demilitarization" of any "significant military equipment" that has ever been owned by the DoD. This would include all firearms (such as the venerable M1, M1 Carbine, and Model 1911, as well as all Civilian Marksmanship Program rifles, even "sporterized" surplus bolt-action Springfields!), firearm barrels, ammunition, and gun powder. "Demilitarization" is the term for rendering such items permanently inoperable, and Sec. 1062 allows for this action to be carried out either by the owner or a third party, with the owner paying the cost, or by the DoD. However, if the DoD determines it should perform the demilitarization, it can also determine that the cost of returning the demilled item is prohibitive, then simply keep the item, and reimburse the owner only for the fair market scrap value of the item.

Furthermore, this new authority would require private citizens to determine for themselves if an item they own is subject to demilitarization, and face criminal penalties for non-compliance. The DoD would be under no obligation to notify law-abiding citizens that items they have lawfully owned for years, and perhaps that their families have owned for generations, are suddenly subject to forced demilitarization. This becomes extremely significant when one considers that U.S. military surplus has been regularly—and legally—bought, sold, and traded for centuries. Countless Americans own items that could be subject to Sec. 1062. It is likely millions of law-abiding Americans would be affected, and could unknowingly become criminals overnight without having done anything or having ever been informed.

The DoD already has the authority and responsibility to demilitarize any item it sells as surplus, so there is absolutely no reason to seek new authority to confiscate and destroy lawfully sold and lawfully owned items that are now the property of private citizens. Be sure to contact your U.S. Senators at (202) 224-3121, and your U.S. Representative at (202) 225-3121, and urge them to strike Sec. 1062 from S. 1438, the "National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2002." The 24 members of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the 60 members of the House Armed Services Committee especially need to hear from you. To find out if any of your lawmakers are on either committee, you can use NRAILA.org`s "Write Your Reps" tool.


In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, various proposals have been offered to deal with airline security. One proposal, sponsored by U.S. Senators Bob Smith (R-N.H.) and Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), addresses air safety by allowing properly trained commercial pilots, co-pilots, and flight engineers to carry firearms aboard commercial airplanes. Along with the possibility of U.S. Air Marshals accompanying commercial flights, this measure would allow armed pilots, with proper training and suitable equipment, to be the last line of defense against hijackers and terrorists in providing cockpit and aircraft security, thus sending a strong message to potential attackers that self-defense exists in the air as well as on our land. Be sure to call your U.S. Senators at (202) 224-3121, and urge them to support the Smith/Burns amendment to S. 1447, the "Aviation Security Act." You can also find contact information for your U.S. Senators by using NRAILA.org`s "Write Your Reps" tool.


Last week, we reported the shameless attempt by Americans for Gun Safety (AGS) to exploit the terrorist attacks on September 11 as a tool to promote its anti-gun agenda. Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident, and this week, AGS has continued this disgraceful tactic. The latest effort from AGS involves yet another appalling attempt to foster the ruse that there is a link between gun shows and terrorism, but it falls just as flat as last week`s attempt. AGS cited a case involving alleged terrorists who had violated existing federal gun laws, among them making "straw purchases" of firearms. As was the case with last week`s story, though, the system worked here again. The illegal purchases were uncovered, and the perpetrators were arrested, prosecuted, and convicted. Even more embarrassing for AGS is the fact that they alleged the perpetrators were linked to the Irish Republican Army, but the record shows the jury rejected the prosecution`s charge that the guns were intended for the IRA.

It is clear that AGS will continue to stoop to these depths as it tries desperately to exploit the September 11 tragedies to help jumpstart its attacks on legal gun shows. Be sure to remind your federal lawmakers that attacks on legal gun shows, such as S. 767, introduced by U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and S. 890, introduced by U.S. Senators Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), have no place in a congressional debate on the threat of terrorism. Contact your U.S. Senators, at (202) 224-3121, and your U.S. Representative, at (202) 225-3121, and urge them to do everything possible to end the threat of terrorism, but not at the expense of our freedom! You can also find contact information for your federal lawmakers by using NRAILA.org`s "Write Your Reps" tool .


Michael Bellesiles, author of the controversial book Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture, has been told he must defend the oft-criticized "research" that was the basis of his book. Bellesiles is currently an historian at Emory University, and the clamor of controversy surrounding his book has reached such a volume that James Melton, Emory`s history department chairman, told the Boston Globe Bellesiles must "defend himself and the integrity of his scholarship immediately." The 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, private citizens has been widespread.

While this book initially received high praise from gun-ban extremists and the anti-gun media (the New York Times actually gave the book praise before it was ever released), numerous historians and journalists have since raised extensive criticism of Bellesiles`s research. Gerald Rosenberg, a visiting professor of law at Northwestern University, told the Wall Street Journal`s Kimberley Strassel in April, "...[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."

Strassel`s April 5 article mentioned several other critics of Bellesiles, including UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, who 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 professor Joyce Lee Malcolm, author of To Keep and Bear Arms: The Origins of an Anglo-American Right; Northwestern professor of law James Lindgren, who has tackled what many reviewers have considered to be the most compelling aspect of Bellesiles research—his use of probate records (Lindgren came up with starkly different results showing widespread ownership of firearms in early America); and Randolph Roth, an associate history professor at Ohio State University who examined Lindgren`s work on probate records and commented that "it looks as though Mr. Bellesiles work won`t be reproducible."

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, which he claims were destroyed in a flood.

Even more recently, Melissa Seckora of National Review called Bellesiles`s research "one of the worst cases of academic irresponsibility in memory." In an article originally posted to the Internet on September 11, but which can now be found online and in the October 15 issue of National Review, Seckora reveals that Bellesiles`s claim of having researched San Francisco probate records from the 1840s and 1850s seems to be a complete fabrication. According to Seckora, every source Bellesiles cited for these probate records indicated the records did not exist, as all were destroyed in the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906. While we certainly look forward to the detailed defense of his research Bellesiles has been told to produce, it is likely it will simply inspire a new round of questions from historians.



On Thursday, October 11, Assemblyman Dennis Hollingsworth (R-Murrieta) (Note: scheduled speaker originally was Senator Rico Oller) will provide NRA members with an inside look at legislation affecting the pro-gun community and what we can expect to see before the Legislature in 2002. In addition, NRA-ILA California State Liaison Ed Worley and attorney Chuck Michel will give an update on gun-related matters before the courts. This is an opportunity for Southern Californians to hear what`s happening in Sacramento and learn how you can get involved in the fight to protect your Second Amendment rights in California! The event will take place at the Sportsmen`s Lodge Hotel, at 12825 Ventura Blvd., in Studio City, at 7:00 p.m.


The North Carolina lawsuit preemption bill, SB 680, was passed out of the House Finance Committee this week WITHOUT any of the restrictive gun show language added to previous versions. It will probably be brought before the House next week for a vote. Call your state Representative and urge him to support SB 680 WITHOUT AMENDMENTS when it comes up for a vote on the House floor. You can find contact information for your Representative by using NRAILA.org`s "Write Your Reps" tool.


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.