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The 1990s - a decade of legislative change is coming.

The 1990's are well underway and signs of change are in the air. One of those changes is that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms will be assuming the firearms excise function from the Internal Revenue Service this year.

ATF, which already has the special occupational tax collection duties for some firearms licensees, is expected to assume full responsibility for firearms and related excise taxes by Oct. 1, the start of fiscal year 1991.

The bureau has already taken over the excise tax functions related to the alcohol and tobacco industries. The income tax responsibilities will remain with the IRS for all three industries.

ATF is also reportedly moving on a faster timetable in its plans to decentralize the functions of the regional firearms and explosives coordinators, whose duties are being shifted either to the main licensing operation in Atlanta or to the local ATF offices.

Decentralization is supposed to lead to better service.

ATF spokesman Jack Killorin indicated that toll free 800 numbers are being set up in Atlanta to handle questions related to license applications and renewals. The other function will be handled by the special operations inspector at the local offices. Industry coordination functions will be handled by the first line supervisors at the nearest office.

On the legislative front, the anti-gunners are back with their anticipated bag of proposals: "assault weapon" bans, handgun bans, national waiting periods, etc.

However, a couple more unusual measures were introduced just before Congress adjourned last November. Sen. Paul Simon (D-IL) filed S- 1702 to require mandatory minimum sentences for the use of sawed-off shotguns and rifles or prohibited devices in a crime'

The bill would impose a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for the use of a sawed-off long gun during the commission of a drug trafficking crime or crime of violence. It would impose a 30-year sentence if the crimes were committed with any destructive device as defined in the National Firearms Act.

Although pro-gun groups generally support mandatory sentences for the criminal misuse of firearms, this bill represents an interesting admission that the 1934 ban and registration system is a failure as a tool for reducing crime.

Also introduced in mid-November was HR-3757, described as the "Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990," by Rep. Edward Feighan (D-OH).

This bill would make it illegal to bring or discharge a gun within 1,000 feet of the grounds of an elementary or secondary school. Exemptions are provided for guns used in school-approved programs or by government officers, as well as unloaded guns that are in a locked container or a locked firearms rack in a motor vehicle.

No one is denying that illegal firearms in the schools are a problem in some large cities, but pro-gunners worry that the law could end up snaring otherwise innocent people - the hunter who drops his child off at school while on his way to the field or the private security guard who picks up his child on the way home from work. There would appear to be some question whether a locked trunk would be an adequate safeguard under this bill - even though it might fulfill other state and local firearms laws.

Feighan's anti-gun background and his attempt to link this bill to the nation's drug problems also make gun groups nervous.

In introducing the bill, the Ohio Democrat told his colleagues in the U.S. House, "Eliminating guns from schools will, at least, protect teachers from the most lethal form of violence. And because drugs and guns often are found in close proximity, eliminating guns will contribute to the war against drugs."

Feighan seems to totally ignore the fact that students who bring guns to school to threaten other students or teachers are already violating a host of other laws. Enforcement would appear to be the key to the problem.

Undoubtedly, there will be a major drive for waiting periods this year. In reviewing stacks of clippings from around the country, I've noticed more and more newspapers lining up in favor of action early this year on the Brady Bill, which provides for a seven-day waiting period for handgun purchases. And you can bet those editorials are being orchestrated by the anti-gun groups.

However, I think the center of attention will again be on banning so-called assault weapons - simply because that's where the anti's think we are most vulnerable. (It was almost amusing to watch the debate among Kentucky anti-gunners over whether they should first try to ban assault weapons and then go after handguns.)

The "assault weapons" issue became a hot topic in Canada late last year following the killing of 15 women at the University of Montreal by Marc Lepine, a deranged 25-year-old man who had just recently been approved for firearms purchases by Canadian police. Lepine was armed with a Sturm, Ruger Mini-14 "Ranch" rifle in .223 caliber.

Among the proposals being pushed in Canada are: a mandatory "cooling off" period for each purchase in addition to the time it takes to acquire the needed Firearms Acquisition Card (FAC); a third-party character reference on the FAC application; registration of ammunition purchases; mandatory training; a ban on "large capacity" magazines; a shorter renewal period on FAC's (now renewable every five years); and a separate FAC application costing $100 for each new gun.

Yet there is no evidence that any or all of these steps would have prevented Lepine's actions.

Lepine had been rejected for enrollment in the Canadian military because of "anti-social tendencies" during the winter of 1981-82.

Neal Knox, the feisty and articulate director of the Firearms Coalition - and former executive director of the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) - has completed some fascinating research on the these mass murderers and the use of prescribed psychiatric mind-altering drugs. Such drugs may have been taken by a number of these men, including John Hinckley Jr.

On Nov. 22, a coroner's jury in Louisville, KY, ruled that the mind-altering drugs with which Joseph Wesbecker was being treated "may have been a contributing factor" in the murder of eight former co-workers and his own suicide.

Turning to fully automatic firearms for a moment, it has finally happened. After 55 years in which there had not been a single case of a legally owned and registered machinegun being used by the owner in a crime, an incident finally occurred last year.

A 13-year veteran of the Dayton, Ohio, Police Department has been charged with using a machinegun to kill a police informant.

The former officer, Patrolman Roger Waller, (who resigned, effective January 2, 1990) has pleaded not guilty in the case. However, police claim he used his own fully automatic registered MAC-11 .3 80 to kill the informant. The authorization for the transfer had been signed seven months earlier by the Dayton police chief.

Reportedly, the only other previous case involving a legally owned machinegun was one in which the gun had been stolen from its owner and later used in a crime.

Finally, we can expect James and Sarah Brady to continue pushing gun control this year. However, they lost a major decision in court late last year.

A Washington, D.C., Court of Appeals ruled that Brady and retired D.C. police officer Thomas Delahanty cannot recover damages from R.G. Industries, Inc. (or its German parent company, Roehm), the manufacturer of the handgun used in the attempted assassination of President Reagan in 1981.

The latest tip for gun dealers from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) is that ATF compliance inspections on firearms licensees' records have disclosed the following types of omissions and discrepancies on Forms 4473 occur repeatedly:

-The complete address of the purchaser is not shown.

- The date of birth is either omitted or often is shown as the date of the transaction instead of the date of birth.

- Incomplete information is entered for the place of birth (for example, the city but no state is listed - or the state but no city).

-Answers to questions 8a through 8h are often omitted.

A "yes" answer to any of these questions indicates the purchaser is prohibited from purchasing and/or possessing a firearm under federal law and the sale should not be made.

However, if the purchaser answers "yes" but has been granted relief by ATF from the disability to which the "yes" answer refers, the sale is allowed. The seller should obtain and keep a copy of the grant of relief in these sales. If the purchaser refuses to answer any of the questions 8a through 8h, the sale should not be made.

Licensees are reminded that it is their responsibility to ensure that Section A of Form 4473 is properly completed and signed by the purchaser in all instances.

Persons desiring further information may write to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Firearms and Explosives Division, Room #7205,12th and Pa. Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20226.
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Title Annotation:includes related article
Author:Schneider, Jim
Publication:Shooting Industry
Article Type:column
Date:Feb 1, 1990
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