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S-47, the DeConcini gun bill passes the senate judiciary committee.

S-747, The DeConcini Gun Bill Passes The Senate Judiciary Committee

Are you getting the feeling these days that in the future you may have fewer types of firearms to sell? Recent events in Washington seem to indicate you are correct--and that the number of guns on the prohibited list may continue to grow.

On July 7, the Bush Administration ordered that the temporary import suspension on 50 semiautomatic firearms be made permanent on 43 of the guns. Then 13 days later, the Senate Judiciary Committee surprised even most of its members when it passed a modified version of the DeConcini Gun Bill, S-747, which would ban nine specific types of guns.

"Everybody thought we had a done deal that was going to keep anything from getting out of Judiciary Committee," noted Nancy Norell, a legislative aide on the gun issue to Sen. James McClure (R-ID). Although not a member of the Judiciary Committee, McClure is the recognized leader of the pro-gun forces in the U.S. Senate and has threatened to filibuster any anti-gun bill that goes to the floor.

The watered-down version of S-747 that emerged from the Senate Judiciary Committee defines as "assault weapons" the following:

"Norinco, Mitchell and Poly

Technologies Avtomat Kalashnikovs (all

models)",

"Action Arms Israeli Military

Industries UZI and Galil";

"Beretta AR-70 (SC-70)";

"Colt AR-15 and CAR-15";

"Fabrique Nationale FN/FAL, FN/LAR

and FNC";

"MAC 10 and MAC 11";

"Steyr AUG";

"INTRATEC TEC-9"; and

"Street Sweeper and Striker 12."

Under the bill, it would be illegal to transfer, transport, ship, receive or possess any of these firearms that were not legally owned before the law went into effect.

The Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Attorney General, could recommend to Congress additions and deletions to the list. However, they would not have any authority to make changes without legislation.

S-747 permits the continued ownership and future transfer of any of the prohibited firearms owned prior to the effective date of the bill, provided that both the buyers and sellers, whether dealers or private individuals, retain copies of BATF Form 4473 as an official bill of sale or record of disposition. These records are to be retained by the by the individuals and do not need to be sent to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) or any other agency.

Part of the implementation of this bill would fall on your shoulders as a dealer because it would require current owners of these guns to obtain a 4473 from a dealer within 90 days of the issuance of the regulations. Reportedly, future regulations may require you to furnish 4473's to such individuals.

Jack Lenzi of the National Rifle Association noted that, "This would be the first time the government has required private citizens to keep firearms records."

DeConcini's modified bill includes mandatory penalties for anyone using the banned firearms in crimes of violence or drug trafficking.

The bill calls for an 18-month study of its impact on crime to begin one year after it becomes effective. Finally, it includes a sunset provision which wipes most of the law off the books after three years.

How this "done deal" to keep any bill from coming out of committee came undone in one of the most bizarre stories in the history of the Judiciary Committee. Cramped in a hot, crowded hearing room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, committee members clearly were busily conferring before the meeting began.

As the meeting began, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) told Biden that he would not be present for the whole session because he was vice chairman of the committee involved in the impeachment proceedings for U.S. District Judge Alcee Hastings. Specter indicated he might be back but couldn't be sure.

Biden then asked Specter if he were giving a proxy to Thurmond, but the Pennsylvania Republican said he didn't want to do that. Biden then jokingly offered to accept Specter's proxy.

"Oh, no," Specter said. "You'll get me in trouble." Those words proved prophetic.

The committee first considered an attempt by Sen. Thurmond to substitute the Bush Administration's crime bill, S-1225, for the gun legislation. (The "large clip" prohibition had been removed from the Administration's proposal at that point.)

Biden moved, according to a preannounced agreement, to table the Thurmond bill, saying he would hold hearings on it later and would be offering his own comprehensive crime package. The motion to table carried by an 8-5 straight party line vote.

The real shock came on the modified version of the DeConcini Bill. As staffers for pro-gun Sen. Hatch were urgently attempting to get Specter to return, Hatch himself was charging that the S-747 proposed national registration for the firearms covered under it.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), spoke about the shortcomings of DeConcini's bill. Leahy praised gun ownership and urged increased penalties and a crime tax to deal with drugs and violent crime.

The vote for passage was 7-6 with everyone waiting for Sen. Specter to return and cast the tying vote, which would have kept the bill in committee. Everyone kept asking, "Where's Specter?"

When Specter finally did return, he said he had not had time to read the new version of the DeConcini Bill and could not vote. Even Sen. Biden appeared shocked. However, Biden -- a supporter of gun control -- quickly recovered his composure, declared the bill had passed and brought down his gavel to end the meeting.

Then Sen. Leahy, who had voted for the DeConcini Bill, went running up to Biden demanding to change his vote and reportedly asking, "What are you trying to do to me?" Biden simply noted that the vote was closed.

Apparently Leahy didn't want the bill to pass but did want to stick with his fellow Democrats on voting. That would have been possible had Specter voted as expected.

Sen. Specter later wrote a letter to Biden asking him to reopen the issue, but Biden replied that it would be impossible to get unanimous consent -- as required by committee rules--to reopen the issue.

Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-AZ), who had earlier indicated he would not be pushing his bill, did vote for it. At a news conference that same day, DeConcini said he was "pleased" by the vote and claimed that the bill was aimed at drug dealers, not law-abiding gun owners.

"I challenge gun owners to look at DeConcini's record (on guns)," he said. "Then I ask them to look at the drug problem and this modest but realistic approach."

Voting with DeConcini for the bill were: Sens. Biden, Leahy, Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Howard Metzenbaum (D-OH), Paul Simon (D-IL) and Herbert Kohl (D-WI).

Voting against the bill were: Sens. Thurmond, Hatch, Howell Heflin (D-AL). Alan Simpson (R-WY), Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Gordon Humphrey (R-NH).

Sens. Specter, Leahy and DeConcini -- who are all from states with large numbers of sportsmen and gun owners--were all left with egg on their faces.

One person who has no sympathy for them is Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America (GOA). "Specter, Leahy and DeConcini were all attempting to do a political tap dance," Pratt said. "They just happened to get their feet stepped on and went limping away. I hope gun owners remember what they did on election day."

Wayne LaPierre, the executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, openly accused Sen. Specter of "taking a pass" on the vote.

Regarding the bill itself, LaPierre told the media, "All he's (DeConcini) really done is to make it ridiculous. "We're against it, and we intent to defeat in on the floor."

Sen. Metzenbaum has declared he will push for a broader gun ban on the floor of the Senate. Meanwhile, pro-gun Republicans are saying they will attempt to substitute the Bush crime package for the DeConcini Bill. Plus, as I noted, talk of a filibuster is in the air.

This fall could prove to be even hotter than this summer -- at least in political terms.

Less than two weeks before the Judiciary Committee met, Stephen E. Higgins, director of BATF, announced his agency was making the import ban permanent on 43 guns that "do not meet statutory requirements."

"Forty-three of the weapons under suspension have been classified as semi-automatic assault rifles and accordingly will be barred from entry into the U.S.," Higgins said.

Barred from importation by the administration order are: (See the accompanying list.)

The seven that had been temporarily banned but are now approved for import include: AK22 type; AP74 type; Galil22 type; M16/22 type; Unique F11 type; Erma EM1.22 type; and the Valmet Hunter.

In its fact sheet released on July 7, BATF claimed that the "legislative history (of the 1968 Gun Control Act) indicates the term 'sporting purposes' refers to traditional sports such as target shooting, skeet and trap shooting and hunting."

It further insisted that there is "nothing in the law to indicate that the term 'sporting purposes' was intended to recognize every conceivable type of activity or competition which might employ a firearm."

BATF went on to establish its own definition of "assault rifles" based on criteria that include: military appearance. large-capacity magazine and semiautomatic version of a machinegun. The decision to make much of the import ban permanent certainly was not unexpected.
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Title Annotation:gun control; assault weapons legislation
Author:Schneider, Jim
Publication:Shooting Industry
Article Type:column
Date:Sep 1, 1989
Words:1544
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