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The legislative year in review.

Santa Claus came a little early this year for America's gun-owners and dealers. As a matter of fact, he arrived on Oct. 28 - the day Congress adjourned without passing any major anti-gun legislation.

The day before adjournment, the conference committee that hammered out the differences between the Senate and House versions of the Omnibus Crime Bill removed the anti-gun language added in the Senate.

As reported earlier, in May the Senate decided by one vote to keep the language of Sen. Dennis DeConcini's (D-AZ) S-747 in its crime bill (S-1970). That would have banned the sale and import of specific "assault weapons" for three years.

Rep. William Hughes (D-NJ) had added his own stringent anti-gun provision to the House crime bill (HR-5269) in Judiciary Committee. However, anti-gunners in Washington were shocked on Oct. 4 when the House voted 257-172 to replace Hughes' language with a much milder amendment to HR- 5269 offered by Rep. Jolene Unsoeld (D-WA).

The Unsoeld provision banned the manufacture and assembly in this country of guns "identical" to those banned from import and made with imported parts.

What made this defeat especially bitter for the anti's was that Unsoeld is considered a good liberal.

And the margin of the defeat led to an rather odd spectacle in a town accustomed to that sort if thing. After months of pushing for a vote, there was Hughes fighting keep his own bill, HR-4225, from going to the floor for a vote. He didn't want to go into 1991 with the stigma of his bill having been voted down.

The pro-gun lobbyists I spoke with after Congress had adjourned were jubilant. Actually, I haven't encountered people this giddy since my teenage daughter held her last slumber party.

"Getting through this session of Congress without a gun bill is just short of miraculous! To say I'm pleased is putting it mildly," exclaimed John Snyder, chief lobbyist and director of Public Affairs for the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA).

"Considering what we were up against, it was a good session for gun owners," declared Jim Baker, director of the Federal Affairs Division of the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA).

"I'd like to thank all those people who wrote and called their Senators and Congressmen," Baker said. "But I would also like to urge them to keep their pens and telephones handy because we expect the anti-gunners to begin their attack as soon as the new Congress comes back into session in January."

As Snyder put it, getting through this session without a gun bill was almost a miracle. It also marks a most appropriate time to look back over this past year and briefly examine what's happened.

Amid all the sound and fury over proposed gun legislation, a quiet revolution also has been occurring this year

and it's one of special interest to dealers.

For decades the anti-gunners have accused the gun industry of blocking gun control in Congress and around the country. The truth is that with some notable exceptions, the gun industry as a group has behaved more like Farmer Brown's cow (or some people might say like Farmer Brown's chicken) than like a tiger during this period.

In short, the gun industry has generally not gotten involved in the political fight even in the face of some bills that would literally have shut down some of these companies. And occasionally when a company did get involved, it left gunowners and dealers alike wondering whose side it was on. But this year appears to have been a turning point in industry involvement. Maybe after years of false accusations of being political activity, some companies decided they might as well go ahead and do it. A more likely scenario is that these companies have recognized the growing financial and political resources of the anti-gun movement as a very real threat to their (and your) business.

Industry's involvement in the gun issue was one of the topics discussed before the 400 people in attendance at the 1990 Gun Rights Policy Conference held Oct. 19-21 at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Phoenix, AZ. This annual conference is co-sponsored by the CCRKBA and the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), in conjunction with Gun Week.

In the past, the only company helping fund this conference was Beretta U.S.A. This year they were joined by Colt's Manufacturing Co., Inc., O.F. Mossberg & Sons and Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc.

One of the panels was composed of industry representatives and addressed the topic: "Gun Rights and the firearms Industry: Is There Really a Conflict?"

Patrick Squire, Esq., vice president and general counsel for Colt'3, opened the discussion by frankly admitting that, Industry in 1967 and 1968 took positions with respect to the law that eventually became known as the 1968 Gun Control Act that many people within the (pro-gun) movement saw be self- serving positions, and the industry has been tarred with that brush ever since."

Squire, who has a long history of pro-gun political activity, noted Colt's has been very active this year in opposing various pieces of legislation.

And, according to Emanuel Kapelsohn, Esq., Colt's has not been alone. Kapelsohn is executive director of the American Shooting Sports Coalition, which represents industry in the political arena.

Kapelsohn noted "... We have members who have just overextended themselves in a million ways in this past year in this fight we're all involved in....

"Springfield Armory, H&K, Smith and Wesson, RSR, Ellett Brothers - a number of companies - have on more than one occasion devoted the time of almost all their employees to making phone calls (to dealers) and working on mail campaigns.

"I can think of times when H&K has in effect shut down business operations and put all of its employees to work making phone calls

"Industry has become a lot more sophisticated over the past year about what it has to do in the political effort," Kapelsohn added.

Some of the other highlights of 1990 have included:

* The year opened with a real shocker on Jan. 5 when Sen. Jim McClure (R-ID), the leader of the pro-gun forces in the Senate, announced he was retiring after this term.

* On Jan. 14, Parade magazine, which appears in Sunday newspapers around the country, carried an anti-gun article by Warren Burger, former chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and a weirdly worded call-in poll.

* On Feb. 2, National Drug Policy Director William Bennett rejected calls for further restrictions on semiautomatic firearms during a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Not only did that lead to a heated exchange with Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), it also signaled that the Bush Administration would not be pushing any anti-gun measures this year.

* In writing the opinion for the majority in U.S. v. Rene Martin Verdugo-Urquide case on Feb. 28, Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist made it clear that the term "the people" in the Fourth Amendment means the same as it does in the First, Second, Ninth and Tenth Amendments.

This insight into the mind of the Supreme Court is considered significant because of the possibility that body may be ruling on the "true" meaning of the Second Amendment sometime in the future.

* Throughout the spring and summer came reports of millions of illegal firearms in the Soviet Union, a nation where strict gun control has been a national policy for seven decades.

* In April, Sonny Jones announced a national boycott against two major cosmetic companies, Estee Lauder, Inc., and Noxell Corp., for their financial support of anti-gun causes. Jones is SAF's director of Women's Affairs and editor of Women & Guns magazine.

* Also in April came the shocking news that Handgun Control, Inc., had collected $6,589,476 for federal lobbying in 1988 - and that the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence formerly known as the National Coalition to Ban Handguns) had raised $434,797. That $7 million total was well above the $4.2 million raised by national pro-gun groups.

* On April 25, Colt's President Richard Gamble defended the company's decision to resume distribution of Colt's Sporter formerly the (AR-15) to the civilian market.

"The new Colt's Sporter is designed and manufactured for target competition, hunters and sportsmen and is not an assault rifle," Gamble stated.

* Spring also found Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis Sullivan telling The Los Angeles Times that gun-related violence is a "public health" problem and he could see himself taking a stand on gun control that would be opposed by President Bush.

* May 30 saw New Jersey's Gov. James Florio sign the worse state bill of the year, a measure banning numerous semiautomatic "assault weapons," large-capacity magazines and even BB guns.

* One of the sweetest state victories came on June 5 when California Attorney General John Van de Kamp was defeated in the Democratic gubernatorial primary in that state. Van de Kamp had made his anti-gun position a cornerstone of his campaign.

* Alan 1. Mossberg, president of O.F. Mossberg & Sons, Inc., announced at a June 25 press conference in Washington, D.C., that his company favors a federal law mandating gun locking devices on all of the nation's estimated 200 million firearms. Some pro-gunners criticized the action.

Mossberg cited his company's distribution of Cablelocks as proof of its dedication to safety.

* During the summer, the anti-gun Center to Prevent Handgun Violence tried to put pro-gun groups and the White House at odds by claiming that Supreme Court nominee David Souter supported the "militia only" interpretation of the Second Amendment. Pro-gun groups dismissed that claim as nonsense. In fact, the CCRKBA supported Souter's nomination.

* A Gallup Poll released in September showed widespread support for hunting. There were other victories (such as saving the Dircctor of Civilian Marksmanship program) and other defeats (such as gun laws in states like California and Rhode Island).

Perhaps John Snyder described 1990 best when he said, "We fought an incredible holding action this year. Now if we can just figure out how to take the offense next year."

Some of the Major Threats in Congress in 1990:

Bill: HR-467

Provisions:Mandated a seven-day waiting period for handgun purchases.

Fate: Died in House Rule Committee when Congress adjourned.


Provisions:Banned importation, manufacture and sale of any handgun that was not approved by the Secretary of the Treasury as "suitable for sporting purposes"

Fate:Defeated in the House Judiciary Committee.

Bill: HR-1154

Provisions:Prohibited the importation of certain semiautomatic firearms and large-capacity magazines and ammunition belts. Gave Secretary Congress of the Treasury full discretion in adding firearms and accessories to the list.

Fate:Died waiting to go to floor of the House when adjourned.

Bill: HR-1190

Provisions:Banned the domestic production, import and future sale of numerous semiautomatics. Gave Secretary of Treasury wide discretion in adding others.

Fate:Died in the House Judiciary Committee.


Provisions:Banned the manufacture, possession and transfer of restricted firearms," which were defined as those deemed not Congress .suitable or adaptable to sporting purposes" by ATF. All semiauto rifles which permit the addition of a silencer or bayonet without modification to the gun would have been prohibited.

Fate:Died waiting to go to floor of the House when adjourned.


Provisions:House Omnibus Crime Bill

Fate:Combined with Senate bill and passed without anti-gun provisions.


Provisions:Banned manufacture, import and sale of long list of semiautomatic firearms. Registered such currently owned guns.

Fate:Defeated on Senate floor, 82-17


Provisions:Banned the sale and import of specific "assault weapons" for three years.

Fate:Added to the Senate Omnibus Crime Bill but then removed in Conference Committee.


Provisions:Senate Omnibus Crime Bill.

Fate:Combined with House bill and passed without anti-gun provisions.


Provisions:Set up stringent regulations for the use of lead.

Fate:Died in the Senate after it was modified to protect shooters from potential ammo ban.
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Title Annotation:firearms legislation in Congress
Author:Schneider, Jim
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Dec 1, 1990
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