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Grassroots Alert: Vol. 9, No. 14 4/5/2002


Two letters—one carrying the signatures of 16 U.S. Senators, the other bearing the signatures of 24 U.S. Representatives—have been sent to Department of Defense (DoD) Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, asking the Secretary to ensure that budget language similar to Section 1062 of last year’s "National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2002" is not submitted this year. Section 1062 would have given the Secretary of Defense the authority to require "demilitarization" of any "significant military equipment" that has ever been owned by the DoD, which 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 would have provided 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.

Both letters echoed the warning that granting the Secretary of Defense such a broad new authority raised serious concerns over a number of property rights issues, including fair compensation and due process in seizing private property, and cautioned that it could "readily have become grounds for bureaucratic over-reach." The letters also emphasized the fact that the pro-gun community reacted to Sec. 1062 with an overwhelming grassroots uprising, and both declared, "As a result, many of us heard more from our constituents on this issue than on any other under discussion" during last year’s debate over spending for the DoD. The letters were signed by both Republicans and Democrats, and requested from Rumsfeld "assurances that this provision will not resurface this year in the Administration’s proposals for the Department of Defense."

We will be sure to post any developments on this front, and if you would like to know which lawmakers signed these letters, please call the Grassroots Division at (800) 392-8683.  While we appreciate the efforts of all who took part in this effort, our special thanks go out to U.S. Senator Bob Smith (R-N.H.), who took the lead in the Senate, and U.S. Representative Gary Miller (R-Calif.), who took the lead in the House.



A group of anti-gun lawmakers and gun-ban advocates held a sparsely-attended press conference on March 20 to promote another attack on gun shows, but this effort also included a curious attack on the "Project Exile" prosecution model. The event drew far more anti-gun extremists than actual members of the media, and served as the launching pad for U.S. Representative John Conyers’ (D-Mich.) H.R. 4034—touted as the House version of U.S. Senator Jack Reed’s (D-R.I.) S. 767. But was this event merely an attempt by Conyers and his supporters to grab publicity, or does it expose a growing conflict among anti-gunners?

Flanked by fellow Representatives Danny Davis (D-Ill.) and Dianne DeGette (D-Colo.), Conyers adopted the anti-gun movement’s universally-accepted shameless strategy of exploiting the war on terrorism to promote attacks on the Second Amendment. Conyers and his cohorts, however, went a step further to promote his legislation. Using a "study" put together by an obscure anti-gun organization called the Pacific Center for Violence Prevention (PCVP), Conyers derided the highly acclaimed "Project Exile" prosecution model—a program that has been widely hailed as helping to lower violent gun crime. This would appear to be an attempt to show how his bill is "superior" to the McCain/Schumer/Lieberman bill (S. 890), which includes cursory support for "Project Exile."

But there may be more to this latest assault on gun shows than simply just another example of anti-gun lawmakers working to eviscerate the Second Amendment. Does the addition of the attack on "Project Exile" in the anti-gun strategy serve to expose an ever-widening rift within the anti-gun movement?

This rift seems to have started with the launch of the new anti-gun organization that calls itself "Americans for Gun Safety" (AGS), and has widened with the attacks on gun shows. So it is not surprising an anti-gun shows bill would help to better expose the conflict.

On one side of the rift are the more radical extremist groups promoting the Reed bill, which includes the Violence Policy Center (VPC)—an organization that openly advocates banning all handguns—and the Consumer Federation of America (CFA)—which has worked hand-in-hand with VPC on numerous occasions and advocates that every home in America with children be "gun-free." VPC representatives attended the Conyers press conference but did not release a statement, while CFA’s Susan Peschin put out a release that seemed to indicate her group is entirely ignorant of federal gun control laws. Her statement included the comment, "Representative Conyer’s [sic] bill merely extends federal law from gun stores to gun shows"—a blatant lie, as the same federal laws that apply at gun stores already apply at gun shows nationwide. While the CFA release did not echo the anti-"Project Exile" sentiment of Conyers and the PCVP, it does express support for Conyers/Reed attack over the competing McCain-Schumer-Lieberman/Castle-McCarthy (H.R. 2377) anti-gun show bills, which both include language supporting "Project Exile" as a sop to pro-gun Congressmen.

But perhaps far more indicative of this growing rift within the anti-gun community was the distribution at Conyers’ press conference of a recent American Prospect article attacking AGS. The article (a link to it can be found on the VPC website) explains how Internet billionaire Andrew McKelvey began funneling millions of dollars into the gun-ban lobby formerly known as HCI—McKelvey briefly held the position of HCI Board Member—then, to the apparent chagrin of the already established national anti-gun organizations, started his own anti-gun group, AGS.

Many anti-gun groups at the state level were initially enticed to align with AGS by the allure of McKelvey’s millions, but are now trying to distance themselves from AGS due to its attempt to misrepresent itself as an organization that supports the right to own guns. Most of those state groups are quite open with their extremist anti-gun views, even openly supporting banning firearms. So as AGS began to try to separate itself from the image of being just another anti-gun group, the state groups started dropping away. But AGS has not been able to hide from the fact that one of the goals it has stated as its "top national priority" is the establishment of a Draconian licensing and registration scheme for all gun owners.

So where does this leave the anti-gun movement? Still dangerous, of course, and with plenty of supporters in Congress and the so-called mainstream media. But it would appear that anti-gun organizations are now stalling their own agenda by openly fighting over the specifics of their anti-gun agenda. The most radical extremist groups, such as VPC, are trying to vilify AGS because it is not anti-gun enough. Meanwhile, AGS is trying to fool the general public into believing it "supports the rights of individuals who own firearms." And where does this leave the gun-ban group many people still refer to as HCI? Conflicted, no doubt, as it publicly supports many of the most extreme anti-gun views held by groups like VPC, but also tries to deceive the general public into believing that it does not have all law-abiding gun owners in its sights. HCI has yet to publicly weigh in on Conyers’ anti-gun show/"Project Exile" condemnation press conference, and the group has vacillated on the two Senate bills that seek to end traditional American gun shows. Initially, HCI supported both, then changed its position to preferring the Reed bill, but not opposing the Lieberman-McCain bill. Considering HCI began claiming it supports "Project Exile," but only after NRA helped make it a nationally popular crime-fighting tool, it will be interesting to see how the organization responds to the March 20 event. Will it abandon its "support" of a proven crime-fighting tool, abandon several staunch allies by condemning their attack on "Project Exile," or simply remain silent, hoping not to get drawn into the growing battle within the ranks of the anti-gun community?



Yet another court has rejected the notion that law-abiding gun makers should be held responsible when criminals misuse their products. On March 25, U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins threw out a lawsuit that sought to hold certain gun makers responsible for Buford O. Furrow’s August 1999 attack on the North Valley Jewish Community Center in California, where three boys, a teenage girl, and a woman were injured. The suit also sought damages for the murder of Joseph Ileto, a postal worker Furrow killed after his attack on the community center. Judge Collins’ 37-page opinion held that the plaintiffs did not show a link between Furrows’ actions and the marketing strategies of the gun makers being sued.



On Wednesday, April 10, at 9:00 a.m., the House Committee on Natural Resources and Agriculture will hear SB 1008, the NRA-backed Range Protection bill. With more and more Arizona ranges being closed and threatened with closure due to encroachment by development, it is essential that this legislation pass this year. Call your Representative at (602) 542-4221 and urge him to support SB 1008.



Today, the House Civil Justice and Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on HB 1410, the NRA-backed Right to Carry bill. If enacted, this measure will allow all law-abiding adult Coloradans who pass a criminal history background check and complete a firearm safety training course to obtain a permit to carry a handgun for personal protection outside the home. The current carry law is discriminatory and arbitrary in its application. It’s time Colorado joined the other 33 states that have fair, non-discretionary Right to Carry laws so that eligible citizens will have the choice to lawfully protect themselves and their families at all times. It is critical that you contact your State Rep. at (800) 811-7647 (if calling from outside Denver) and encourage him to vote YES on HB 1410. The 2002 legislative session ends soon, so it is important that gun owners and sportsmen make their voices heard. Be sure to spread the word to friends and family.


NRA-ILA is hosting a FREE Grassroots-Election Workshop in Fort Wayne, Ind., on April 20. At this Workshop you will learn what you can do in your own community to ensure pro-gun candidates are elected to office this election season. NRA members who are interested in attending should contact the NRA-ILA Grassroots Division at (800) 392-8683 for details and to reserve their spots. NRA members who have access to the Internet can also reserve their spots on-line at www.nraila.org/workshops.asp?ID=FTWayne.



On Thursday, April 4, the State House passed Senate Bill 116, the NRA-backed "Reckless Lawsuit Preemption" bill, on an overwhelming 106 to 17 vote. SB 116 now heads to Governor Bill Graves (R) for consideration. Please take a moment to pen a short note of thanks to two Representatives who were extremely instrumental in helping to pass this important bill: Rep. Candy Ruff (D-40) and Rep. Todd Novascone (R-66). Both can be reached at Statehouse, 300 SW 10th Ave, Topeka, KS 66612-1504. Or, you can send them an e-mail directly by using our "Write Your Reps" feature.


The NRA Youth Education Summit (Y.E.S.) Program, created in 1993, is designed to encourage America’s youth to become active and knowledgeable citizens on both the national and local levels. The Y.E.S. Program— funded by The NRA Foundation with contributions raised through "Friends of NRA"—originated as a national program, bringing qualified students to Washington, D.C., to learn about the significance of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, while developing an understanding of the government and the importance of actively participating in it. Y.E.S. is now expanding to the state-level. The Ohio State Y.E.S. Program is looking for outstanding high school students to take part in a four-day, all-expense- paid educational experience in Columbus. The students who take part in this event will be selected from qualified applicants from across the Buckeye State who have finished either their sophomore or junior years in high school, are politically motivated, and possess a desire to learn more about how their state government operates. Potential Y.E.S. Program participants are also required to complete an extensive application, which includes the submission of school transcripts, a five-page essay about the Second Amendment, and three personal recommendations. The deadline for applications is April 22. For more information on the Ohio Y.E.S. Program, including to request an application packet, please contact Special Projects Manager Britt Ford at (703) 267-1369.



Yesterday, Governor Mark Warner (D) signed SB 593, which prevents local governments from subverting your state’s firearms preemption law by enacting their own gun-control regulations. In recent years, Alexandria and other local governments have enacted their own firearm regulations to restrict purchase and use. With help from anti-gun judges, these local regulations are very difficult to combat. SB 593 puts an end to these back-door anti-gun schemes and restores the integrity of Virginia’s firearms preemption statute. In a statement to the Washington Post on April 5, 2002, Governor Warner said he opposed Virginia localities using administrative mechanisms that are inconsistent with legislative intent. Please contact your lawmakers and thank them if they voted in favor of SB 593. Also, please take a moment to call (804) 786-0000 and thank Governor Warner for signing this bill into law. Your lawmakers and the Governor can also be contacted via e-mail by using our "Write your Reps" feature.


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.