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Gun legislation 1992 - the year in review.

The Year A Riot And A Hurricane Dominated The Gun Debate

The year 1992 may go down in history as the year that disasters -- both man-made and natural -- did far more than anything else to shape the gun control debate in this country.

That does not mean, of course, that legislative and political battle did not rage throughout the year but 1992 was basically a "Mexican standoff." The anti-gunners scored no great knockouts, and neither did pro-gun forces. In late September, some members of the Bush Administration were urging the President to push passage of the Crime Bill with its anti-gun provisions in retaliation for the National Rifle Association's failure to endorse Bush. Cooler heads prevailed, however, and that threat fizzled.

The springtime riots in Los Angeles and what happened in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in South Florida in late summer were the high-impact stories of the year. Much of the nation sat riveted to their television sets as armed Korean merchants defended their stores in scenes that looked like they came straight out of a 1950 cowboy movie -- or from a Beirut newscast. The American public clearly saw that waiting periods for firearms purchases can have a down side when the police cannot protect you and you're faced with an immediate threat.

Suddenly former anti-gun newspaper columnists around the country were saying out loud, "Maybe I'd better rethink this issue." Formerly anti-gun L.A. residents were telephoning people they once ridiculed to ask if they could borrow one of those awful firearms.

At the 1992 Gun Rights Policy Conference in Los Angeles in September, NRA Executive VP Wayne LaPierre noted that, "Charleton Heston ... has taken a lot of grief in this community for being pro-firearms-ownership and having the guts to speak out. You know what happened when that riot broke out? All those neighbors who gave him grief got on the phone and said, 'Chuck, forget everything I said. Can I borrow one of your guns?'"

At that same conference, Joe Tartaro, president of the Second Amendment Foundation, summed up the situation when he said, "I think the world is beginning to realize -- even if the lessons are being taught by providence -- that you can't take people and disarm them and expect them to live in South Florida or Los Angeles or anywhere else where events are dictated by others and where government cannot protect you."

Hurricane Andrew's Lesson

As residents of South Florida took up guns to defend what was left of their homes, even the normally anti-gun Miami Herald was forced to admit in one of its headlines that the, "Proliferation of firearms in South Dade keeps down looting." Homestead Police Chief Curtis Ivy warned, "You take your own life in your hands as a looter in South Dade."

Sen. Ron Silver, D-Miami Beach, a leader of anti-gun forces in the Florida legislation changed direction a bit and declared, "I don't have a problem with hurricane victims having guns. In fact, if I lived in that area, I'd have considered getting one myself."

Meanwhile Back At The Capital

Although the riots and the hurricane may have stolen center stage in '93, political and legislative battles raged throughout the year. The most pro-gun political platform was that issued by the Libertarian party, which declared, "Rather than banning guns, the politicians and the police should encourage gun ownership, as well as education and training programs. A responsible, well-armed and trained citizenry is the best protection against domestic crime and the threat of foreign invasion. America's founders knew that. It is still true today."

The Democratic Party's platform advocated a waiting period for handgun purchases and banning so-called "assault weapons," while the Republican Party's platform made a vague reference about supporting the right to keep and bear arms.

Although the media constantly stated that independent presidential candidate H. Ross Perot was for gun control, Perot told the NRA he doesn't care what type of firearms individuals own as long as they don't misuse them. Pat Buchanan, who gave President Bush fits in the early Republican primaries, said he believes the only guns that need to be controlled are those so large they must be pulled behind a vehicle.

The anti-gunners did come up with some new innovative legislative initiatives in '92 -- initiatives we can expect to see repeated in '93. For example, Rep. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., introduced HR-5633, which opponents dubbed the "FFL Veto Bill." Among other things it would have given local law enforcement officials the authority to deny approval of federal firearms licenses in their area. In other words, its passage would have halted gun sales in vast areas of the nation -- everywhere there is an anti-gun police official.

Another dandy, HR-2922 would have at least tripled or quadrupled the price of munitions-grade lead under the guise of helping children. Interestingly, all of its primary sponsors and co-sponsors were anti-gun.

Among the most extreme measures introduced were those by Rep. Major Arvens to repeal the Second Amendment and Sen. John Chafee to ban handguns. As bad as they are, they do not stand any chance of passing now or in the near future.

Perhaps the biggest pro-gun victory in Congress in '92 came as Rep. Bill Brewster, D-Okla., led the good guys to a 255-160 vote to reject legislation that would have banned hunting on the Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge in Virginia.

New Market Opens Up

The year 1992 also was billed as the Year of the Woman," and that may have been equally true on the gun issue. Throughout the year more and more reports came in of an increasing number of women purchasing firearms. Michael Beard, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Handgun Violence, told The Saginaw News in Michigan that women hold the future of the gun issue in this country.

One woman who had especially good year was Marion Hammer, who in late April was elected the NRA's first woman officer in the 121-year history of the organization. Ms. Hammer, who also is executive director of United Sportsmen of Florida (USF), was elected second vice president of the NRA. Since vice presidents usually advance, she could become the NRA's first woman president in four years. Can you image what the media will say about that?

Violence In The Industry

For gun dealers ad manufacturers, 1992 brought a mixed bag. Evidence continued to show that being a gun dealer requires extra precaution. The slaying of two employees at Lloyd's Sport Shop in Minneapolis in June marked the fifth time in less than a year that robbers had killed gun store employees while stealing guns.

Certainly the most courageous person to speak out during the year -- and this author's nominee for gun dealer of the year -- was Ron Hess, owner of Ron Hess Arms Co. in Norfolk, Va., who shot and killed a would-be robber back in May during a violent struggle.

As reported earlier in SI, the man attempted to kill Hess but had trouble figuring out how to deactivate the safety on his stolen gun.

Legislative efforts to protect the gun industry -- and other industries -- from ridiculous liability suits failed despite widespread support. They will be renewed in '93.

Perhaps the most positive development of the year was the clear indication that the firearms industry has decided to actively join the fight to preserve gun ownership in this country. Richard Feldman, executive director of the American Shooting Sports Council, told the 1992 Gun Rights Policy Conference that the firearms industry has stopped letting its customers fight its battles for it.

"A year ago the American Shooting Sports Council represented 47 companies in the firearms industry," Feldman said. "Today we represent over 150. I hope that next year when I come before you, I can say that we represent every pro-gun company in this country and that we're out there fighting this fight with you because collectively there is no way we can be beaten.

"There may be an anti-gun movement in this country -- and they're strong and they're getting stronger. And there's a pro-gun movement in this country, and we're strong and we're getting stronger. But there's something we've got that they don't have. There is a firearms industry, but there's no anti-gun industry ...

"This industry has traditionally relegated its role to its customers. Well, no more. We are out there -- we are at those hearings. We're in this fight with you ..."

A fight it was in '92 -- even if a riot and a hurricane did overshadow political events. Most pro-gun leaders in the country believe 1993 -- and the likely outcome of the Presidential election which still looms on the horizon as this magazine goes to press -- will bring an even tougher fight.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Schneider, Jim
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Dec 1, 1992
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