Ban Gun Bans
19th Annual Gun Rights Policy Conference
by Dave Workman
September 26, 2004
"That's the first time that a single-action bolt action rifle, that has never been used in a crime, has been banned. . . . In signing the .50-caliber bill he did us some great harm."
State Sen. Sam Slom (R-HI), a member of the SAF board of trustees, offered an update of legislative affairs in Hawaii, where Republicans are in a clear minority in the legislature. Hawaii is one of the most anti-gun states in the union, yet still has an active gun rights group, the Hawaii Rifle Association.
"What happens at the local level does determine what happens at the federal level," Slom advised.
Slom told the audience that they need to keep up the momentum and "not let all those bad editorials and dumb letters go unchallenged."
"We do have the other side on the run but we've got to keep them on the run," he said. "We're in it for the long haul. We're optimistic (and) we know that we're going to succeed. We have to remain strong; we have to remain smart; we have to remain committed."
Attorney Chuck Michel, who represents the California Rifle & Pistol Association (CRPA), had more bad news than good out of the Golden State, but he did note gunowners won a couple with the veto of the ammunition tax bill, while Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill that will streamline the process by which police return firearms to their rightful owners.
Michel lamented the passage of a bill that bans rifles chambered for the .50 BMG cartridge, noting, "That's the first time that a single-action bolt action rifle, that has never been used in a crime, has been banned. . . . In signing the .50-caliber bill he did us some great harm."
Michel said there are more than 800 firearms statutes in California today, and that one ray of sunshine has been a lawsuit filed by two county prosecuting attorneys against the state attorney general over complicated gun laws.
He predicted that in 2005, there will probably be proposals to register all long guns and ban "offensive ammunition." He could not define what kind of ammunition that might be. Michel also said anti-gunners in other states will likely be pushing legislation on .50-caliber rifles and other measures similar to what has passed in California.
From the Illinois perspective, Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, said 2004 was a fairly successful year. Gunowners there managed to beat back 45 bad pieces of legislation, including an "assault-weapon" ban that became "so hot, that everybody who touched it got burned."
One bright spot in Illinois, Pearson said, was passage of the Hunting Heritage Act. Signed by anti-gun Gov. Rod Blagojevich, this legislation will require the state Department of Natural Resources to replace any public hunting land that is lost during the calendar year. This bill was inspired by the fact that there is little public hunting land in the state, so the result of the law is that there will be no net loss of hunting land.
Surprisingly to some, Pearson stated, Illinois seems to have more pro-gun Democrats than Republicans in the legislature. This sometimes makes for interesting moments in Springfield, the state capitol, because, "Like California, Illinois is a test bed for all kinds of laws."
Another hunting-related bill that was stopped dead in its tracks, he said, would have virtually outlawed taking of wild game under language that would have banned the slaughter of any animal that was not farm-raised for human consumption.
Closer to the location of the 2004 GRPC, Dr. James Purtilo, editor of Tripwire and legislative advisor to Marylanders for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (MPFO), reported on gun legislation activities in Maryland. He said several anti-gun bills have been beaten back, including a state-level attempt to ban so-called assault rifles.
He also stressed that politics is local, urging the audience to "sweat the politics on your street and the big issues take care of themselves."
"We had all the right pieces at local level to make the right things happen," he said of this year's victories.
However, Purtilo urged gunowners to get involved in political action early, instead of waiting until the last minute.
"Early is absolutely essential," he said. "The time to save the Titanic is not when the iceberg is 20 yards off the bow. The time to save the Titanic is when it leaves the dock."
He said Maryland gun activists are already working on plans for the elections in 2006.
Purtilo also offered some tips on reaching lawmakers. For example, one legislator's priest is a trap shooting acquaintance, so he was able to apply subtle influence through that avenue. Another time he found out who a lawmaker's barber was, and got to the lawmaker that way.
On the other side of the Potomac River, Virginia has also been a victory ground for gun rights this past year, according to Phillip Van Cleave, president o the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL). He said the Commonwealth "led the nation in the number of pro gun bills passed this year."
One bill allows primitive weapon hunters, particularly archers, to carry handguns for self-defense while hunting with bows. Another bill established full state pre-emption of gun laws, taking away the ability of local authorities to pass gun control ordinances that might conflict with state law.
Van Cleave said the Internet has re-created the "Minuteman" by allowing gun rights activists to organize mail and telephone campaigns in a matter of minutes.
"It's a powerful stick that the Internet gives us," he observed.
Another strategy Virginians are using to keep local governments from interfering with gun rights is that activists are constantly monitoring the communities to see that zealous city councils "don't go over the line."
One big effort that is beginning in Virginia, and could spread to other states, is a campaign to have the National Park Service change its rules to allow licensed concealed carry inside national parks. Presently, firearms are not allowed unless they are cased and locked.
Nationwide, there have been some significant victories this year for gunowners, and a couple of setbacks. CCRKBA Executive Director Joe Waldron detailed the good and bad.
He noted that, "Even in problem states like Illinois good things are happening, people promising to do things are keeping their promises."
He said concealed carry has been implemented in Ohio and New Mexico, and reminded the audience that during the past 15 years, "we have picked up all but four states for concealed carry."
"The bottom line," he said, "is we're moving forward. If the '90s were the decade of concealed carry, this decade is the decade of reciprocity."
To support that argument, Waldron pointed to the growing number of states that have recognized concealed pistol licenses from other states. In his own state of Washington, Waldron managed to finally push through a limited reciprocity bill that he predicted will ease as time goes by.
But there are not just silver clouds on the horizon. Waldron warned of troubles that could lie ahead, on the gun rights and hunting fronts. In Alaska and Maine, he noted, animal rights groups are pushing to limit some forms of bear hunting.
"If we can knock off sport hunting," he cautioned, "we do away with-in the public perception-the sporting use of firearms."
And, he stated, "My biggest immediate concern in the states is a backlash over the expiration of the assault weapons ban."
Bills have been filed in several state legislatures to create state-level bans, in some cases far more broad than the defunct federal legislation.
"With all the fanfare given to the alleged loopholes in the federal law," he said, "these will probably be more restrictive."
He urged gun activists to "get our friends, neighbors and hunting buddies together and go" to the state capitols.
"You need to go home and bring everyone else into the fight," he said.
Freshly back from a debate with Rebecca Peters, chief executive of the International Action Network of Small Arms (IANSA), LaPierre fired up the audience about the threat of international gun control. Peters was given the Australian Human Rights Medal in 1996 for spearheading the gun control movement in Australia, and she wants to spread that effort worldwide.
IANSA was founded six years ago, and currently has some 500 affiliate groups in about 100 countries. LaPierre said these organizations have previously been active as anti-nuclear proliferation groups, and after the end of the Cold War, "They morphed themselves into gun ban organizations."
Convincing American gunowners about the threat of global gun control is a tough job, as LaPierre learned recently on a visit to Wisconsin. He said many of the shooters he spoke with there refused to believe there is a looming problem.
"I was up in Wisconsin," he recalled. "A lot of those guys didn't believe it. This is real, its true and it's gonna be a huge problem."
He said these anti-gun groups, which are all recognized as "non-government organizations" (NGO)-same as is the NRA-"truly intend to come into our country and infect us like a germ."
"Gunowners around the country, if we're going to withstand this, need to see, feel and touch this threat," LaPierre stressed. "There's nothing new in what they're proposing, the same old global fantasy."
He labeled their plan as "Godmother Government," under which American citizens would be expected to live under a "UN standard" of freedom, without protections found in the Bill of Rights. There is a conference scheduled for 2006 during which Peters and her cronies will come to the UN pushing their proposals.
"Can you imagine President John Kerry appointing a United States delegation to that conference," LaPierre challenged. "This is real, this is not going away and these people mean business. They openly admit they're out to hijack our freedoms."
LaPierre ignited the audience when he told them, "These UN people, they look on us like we're all street trash."
What the UN would like to see in America is gun control on the British scale, he intimated.
"The Englishman's castle is no longer his home," LaPierre stated. "They have eliminated self-defense in that country. The penalty for using a handgun is 10 years in prison in the United Kingdom right now.
"The UN's bottom line is this," he continued, "give all the guns to the government, and anybody else the government decides it's going to slip guns to. They (the UN) believe in a form of government supremacy."
On the other hand, in the United States, "We trust individuals," he said. "We believe individuals have a right to protect themselves. Individuals come first. Theirs is a socialist fantasy. In the whole history of the world it's never worked."
LaPierre noted that murderous dictatorships, illustrated by the reigns of despots like Saddam Hussein or Pol Pot, have not happened in America "because individual citizens have the right to bear arms."
This will come to an end if the UN has its way, he warned. LaPierre accused the UN of turning a blind eye to genocide within certain nations, because the killing stayed inside the borders. He also said that typical UN delegates hate America's freedoms, and he called them "elitists who live behind security systems."
"If you want to see a system that imposes peace on the world, I give you the United States of America," he said. "We have more opportunities; the USA is the place that assures more opportunity than any other place on the planet."
He urged gunowners to alert their friends and mobilize activists back home.
"Let's go forward together," he said. "We can win this."
Coming in the next issue: Addresses by Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, NSSF President Doug Painter, and Professor John Lott.