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The year of the great "assault weapons" scare.

The Year of the Great "Assault Weapons" Scare!

Never has the political battle over the gun issue seen a period like the past 12 months!

Political victories and a major defeat for pro-gunners at the ballot box! A presidential candidate who campaigns against any additional federal gun laws, wins the election and then proposes new laws within 90 days of taking office! An anti-gun movement that's becoming ever more sophisticated--and better financed! Signs across the America that gunowners and pro-gun police officers are waking up to the threat!

Yet, there can be no question that the great assault on semiautomatic gun ownership has been the dominant story of the year and shows no signs of dying down as this issue of Shooting Industry goes to press.

Although it's a tough call, I would rank the six most important gun-related stories during the past year as follows:

* the "assault weapons" scare;

* gun control an issue in the 1988

presidential race;

* anti-gunners win in Maryland;

* federal waiting period rejected;

* pro-gun police starting to organize;

and

* America's gunowners waking up.

"Assault Weapons" Scare

I guess we shouldn't have been too surprised that the anti-gunners decided to target semiautomatic firearms. I had heard a pro-gun activist from Britain predict that was coming back in 1981. And even before the Stockton schoolyard tragedy, several California state agencies had launched a coordinated effort to push the state legislature to ban assault rifles.

But I don't think any of us were prepared of the anti-gun blitzkrieg that followed the Stockton incident. For weeks the hysterics over "assault rifles" filled the newspapers, dominated radio and television news broadcasts. It were as if the nation were in immediate peril from some foreign invader.

No one was surprised when the standard anti-gun choir members, such as Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Howard Metzenbaum (D-OH), took up the chant. Nor were we too shocked when we discovered that some of those proposals would have banned virtually all semiautomatic firearms.

However, many of us began to sweat as we saw some of our old allies starting to be swayed by the mass hysteria. Suddenly we watched Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-AZ) dropping his own assault weapons bill.

The most alarming metamorphosis was that of President Bush. At first Bush stood tough, saying no additional gun laws were needed--as he had declared during the campaign. Within a few days he was telling the media that, gee, maybe new laws were needed. Then came the ban on imports of so- called "assault weapons."

The rumor among pro-gun groups in Washington at the time was the import ban was something that the crafty old drug czar, William Bennett, had arranged and that George was still with us. Some organizations were even thanking George for providing a "cooling off" period to allow the Stockton hysteria to die down.

However, when the President addressed the National Peace Officers' Memorial Day Service held at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on May 15, he left no doubt that it was George Bush himself who was proposing to make the import ban permanent and to outlaw the importation, manufacture, sale or transfer of gun magazines of more than 15 rounds.

As if to rub salt in the wound, the media was telling us that Bush was taking advice on the gun issue from Jesse Jackson, one of the nation's most anti-gun politicians.

On June 22, the Bush Administration's "Comprehensive Violent Crime Control Act of 1989" was introduced. This bill does contain some excellent anti-crime provisions. Unfortunately, it also bans any future manufacture of "ammunition feeding devices" of over 15 rounds, severely restricts the transfer of those currently owned (providing for registration) and contains some scary language about making it "unlawful for any person to assemble any semiautomatic rifle or shotgun which is identical to any rifle or shotgun prohibited from importation...." (See the August legislative report in this issue for further details.)

As I write this column, the so-called temporary ban on the import of "assault weapons" seems likely to be made permanent.

What kind of "assault weapons" legislation will emerge from Congress this year--if any--is anybody's guess at this time. From Metzenbaum's wholesale bans to Bush's emphasis on magazine size, anything is possible.

At the state level, weve seen semiautomatic bills rejected in state after state--but not in California, where supposedly pro-gun Gov. George Deukmejian signed into law a bill banning the future sale of 55 types of firearms and registering those already owned.

In the wake of that defeat, California gunowners have launched a petition effort to put a right to bear arms amendment in the state constitution.

Bush Runs As Pro-Gunner

What made George Bush's change of position on gun control so surprising was the fact that no presidential candidate before him ever had exploited the gun issue the way he did in last fall's campaign.

Bush began his successful effort to brand Michael Dukakis as an anti-gunner in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention on Aug. 18, when he said, "Should free men and women have the right to own a gun to protect their home? My opponent says no--but I say yes."

For the next three months, Bush pounded Dukakis on the gun issue--especially in the South, West and some parts of the Midwest.

Right before the election, Claibourne Darden, an Atlanta political analyst who specializes in Southern polling, reported that, "It's a single-minded, simplistic issue with gunowners, especially hunters. The NRA told them Dukakis would limit their shotguns and rifles, and it scares the bejeezus out of them."

Darden said Dukakis was running even with Bush in Texas until the Republicans fanned out in the rural areas and told them Dukakis was going to take their guns. "In two or three weeks, Texas was gone," Darden noted.

Defeat In Maryland

Pro-gun groups repeatedly have won at the ballot box with virtually no national media coverage. Even the defeat of Proposition 15 in California back in the early '80s went almost unreported. But when we lost in Maryland last Nov. 8, most of the media eagerly carried the details.

Maryland voters defeated by a 58% to 42% margin a referendum that would have overturned a state law setting up a commission to determine which handguns are not Saturday Night Specials and thus may be purchased in Maryland.

Throughout the campaign, the governor and other state officials did everything they could to sustain the anti-gun law. Rank-and-file police officers were prohibited from supporting the pro-gunners, while their superiors openly endorsed the anti's.

Highway authorities removed pro-gun campaign signs from private property adjacent to public highways. The state's Mass Transportation Authority ran free bus advertising for supporters of the law.

On the eve of the election, police raided the Baltimore office of the Maryland Committee Against the Gun Ban, allegedly to investigate complaints of election law violations. No violations were found. But television and radio stations reported the raid the night before the election, and newspapers carried the story the morning and day of the vote. This raid is believed to have had a major impact on the 20% of the voters who had said they were undecided.

As one pro-gun publication reported at the time, "Constitutional and pro-gun scholars have always warned that a ban on the private possession of firearms by law-abiding citizens would lead to a police state. Apparently, in Maryland, the police state comes first."

As expected, the anti's have attempted to exploit this victory by citing it as an example of what can be done in other states.

House Rejects Waiting Period

The media keeps trying to paint the gun lobby as a "paper tiger," but the gun lobby continues to show that its claws are for real. A good example of this came last fall.

In the spring of last year passage of the Brady Amendment with its nationwide seven-day waiting period for handgun purchases appeared inevitable. All the nose counters said the anti's had the votes to push it through Congress. However, as pro-gun groups alerted their members to the problems posed by the bill, gunowners around the country began contacting their senators and representatives.

On Sept. 15 the House rejected the Brady Amendment by a 228-182 vote. In its place, the House passed the McCollum Substitute, which directed the Justice Department to develop a system to allow gun dealers to check for criminal records. The system could include a telephone check similar to what stores use to verify credit cards, and the concept has been endorsed by the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun groups.

Pro-Gun Police Organize

Following their defeat on Proposition 15 in California, the anti-gunners openly announced that their future strategy would be to use law enforcement leaders to influence public opinion. And, to give the devil his due, they have enjoyed considerable success in following that strategy. To oppose their oppressive gun control proposals has meant risking being branded anti-police.

But now pro-gun police officers are fighting back and have formed a new organization called Law Enforcement for the Preservation of the Second Amendment (LEPSA), which already has more than 700 members!

The founder of the LEPSA, Patrolman Thomas J. Aveni Jr. of the Winslow Turnpike Police in Braddock, NJ, declared, "Handgun Control, Inc., has raped law enforcement."

Aveni was present on June 6 when 225 law enforcement officers from 49 states gathered on Capitol Hill to demonstrate against the proposed federal bans on semiautomatic firearms. He stated that in focusing the attention of law enforcement on gun control, "HCI has manipulated law enforcement to legitimatize an illegitimate issue."

In a LEPSA letter distributed to law enforcement officers around the nation, Aveni wrote, "...LEPSA is a national grassroots organization of police officers dedicated to the preservation of our individual right to keep and bear arms guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

"Traditional law enforcement groups, comprised mainly of politically appointed bureaucrats, have misrepresented the mainstream views of you, the front-line officer, to the general public, the media and lawmakers.

"Sacrificing your individual rights, and those of honest citizens, has never been, and will never be, the solution to curbing violent crime...."

To say that this organization couldn't have come at a better time in struggle to preserve the Second Amendment is an understatement.

Pro-Gun Awakening

There is also a major awakening underway among pro-gun "civilians." I've been involved in the pro-gun movement for 16 years, and I've never seen so many people so interested in doing something to protect their right to keep and bear arms.

Pro-gun groups are gaining thousands of new members, and rallies are being held all around the country. I was on hand in Columbus, OH, on May 20 for what is believed to be the largest pro-gun rally ever held in this country.

An estimated 7,500 to 22,000 gunowners chanted, "USA, USA, USA," as they marched to the north steps of the State Capitol to voice their opposition to proposed federal, state and local gun legislation.

So amid all the negative news on the gun issue, there certainly are some very positive stories to report.

Other Major Events

Among the other important gun-related stories that surfaced during the past 12 months were the following:

. Various reports indicated that the number of women owning guns continues to grow. Time magazine noted that a Gallup poll commissioned by Smith & Wesson showed that between 1983 and 1986, as gun sales to men held steady, gun ownership among women jumped 53% to more than 12 million.

Even more striking, the poll found that the number of women who were considering buying a firearm quadrupled, to more than 12 million.

. A Justice Department study concluded that it is cheaper to build prisons and jails than to relieve overcrowding in penal facilities by releasing repeat offenders.

The department's National Institute of Justice indicated that the cost of building a cell and maintaining a prisoner is $25,000 a year. In contrast, the study said that crimes committed by each released prisoner cost society an estimated $430,000 a year in victim losses, police and court work and private security expenses.

. The NRA launched a new children's safety education program that sent the anti-gunners into hysterics. The Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights, IL, was the first school to dare to use the NRA's coloring book.

. Washington, D.C., reported a shocking 372 homicides in 1988, despite--or perhaps partly because of--one of the most oppressive gun laws in the nation. This made D.C. the "murder capital" of the nation.

Ironically, only a few years ago anti-gunners were citing D.C. as having a law that should serve as a model for the rest of the nation.

. Another Justice Department study released this April revealed that 63% of inmates released from state prisons are arrested for a serious crime within three years. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that recidivism rates were highest for young prisoners and those with extensive prior records.

. According to federal lobbying reports filed with Congress, Handgun Control, Inc., raised $5,424,492 in 1988 to "promote federal legislation."

During that same period, a total of $3,319,751 was raised by the nation's three major national pro-gun groups--the NRA, Gun Owners of America (GOA) and the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA).

News From Overseas

A variety of gun-related stories also came in from overseas, including:

. The Fijian dictatorship, fearful of an armed revolution by the ethnic Indian population on the island, outlawed the possession of firearms.

. It wasn't exactly gun control, but Tibet's Chinese-controlled government outlawed the long, decorative knives common in that nation's capital. The government claimed it was a "crime control" measure, but skeptics charged it was more a matter of controlling political dissidents among the native Tibetans.

. The Belgian government announced in January that it would restrict the sale of riot guns, sawed-off shotguns and other guns it said are "too dangerous, too widely sold and cause too many deaths."

. Kazakhstanskaya Pravda, the official organ of the Kazakh Communist Party, reported that the Kremlin estimates there are an estimated 17 million unregistered firearms in the Soviet Union. That number reportedly surpassed previous U.S. intelligence estimates.

Days after that report was issued, Soviet troops confiscated thousands of registered hunting rifles in Soviet Armenia, following the bloody suppression of protests in that province.

Of course, American anti-gunners always argue that no law-abiding citizen can oppose gun registration.

These are just some of the dozens of major stories involving firearms that popped up over the past 12 months.

This is a very unique period in the struggle to preserve the right to keep and bear arms--one of tremendous threats but also of great opportunities as American gunowners and pro-gun police officers begin to wake up to the fact that the extreme anti-gunners ultimately want to take away all privately-owned firearms.

PHOTO : On May 20, what is believed to be the largest pro-gun rally ever held in this country

PHOTO : occurred in Columbus, OH. A crowd estimated at from 7,500 to 22,000 marched to protest

PHOTO : proposed federal, state and local gun legislation. The Ohio rally was just one of dozens

PHOTO : that have been taking place around the nation as American gunowners wake up to the threat

PHOTO : facing them.

PHOTO : Some 225 police officers from 49 states gathered in Washington, D.C., on June 6 to let

PHOTO : Congress know that they oppose the semiautomatic bans currently being proposed. Rep. Larry

PHOTO : Craig (R-ID), who is shown facing the microphones, began the proceedings. With him near

PHOTO : the mikes are (left to right): Rep. Ron Marlenee (R-MT), Rep. Harold Volkmer (D-MO) and

PHOTO : Sen. James McClure (R-ID).

PHOTO : One of the highlights of the past 12 months has been the founding of the new pro-gun

PHOTO : police organization known as Law Enforcement for the Preservation of the Second Amendment.

PHOTO : Three members of its Steering Committee are (left to right): Sgt. Dennis Tueller of Utah,

PHOTO : Patrolman Thomas Aveni Jr. of New Jersey and Patrol Officer Vince O'Neill of Kansas.
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Title Annotation:gun control legislation
Author:Schneider, Jim
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Aug 1, 1989
Words:2688
Previous Article:Senators Metzenbaum and DeConcini push restrictive anti-gun legislation.
Next Article:Ammo roundup '89.
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