Protest planned against federal gun bill
By JIM MANN/Daily Inter Lake
Published: Saturday, March 14, 2009
There's a low, grass-roots rumble building over new gun control legislation in Congress, and a former Flathead Valley state senator intends to raise the volume.
Jerry O'Neil is planning a show-trial demonstration against Rep. Bobby Rush, a Democrat from Illinois who is sponsoring Blair Holt's Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act of 2009.
O'Neil said details of the demonstration are still being worked out, but he intends to hold it March 28. He has been recruiting help for the event in an e-mail campaign.
"I've got quite a few people who will help me. I'm not going to do it myself," said O'Neil, a paralegal who served in the state Senate for six years. "We're saying Bobbie Rush is a danger to society and we want to give him a trial."
The bill, named for a Chicago teenager who was shot to death on a school bus in 2007, includes sweeping changes for background checks in gun purchases, a federal firearm licensing requirement and a firearms tracking system.
While the bill faces an uphill battle, with likely opposition within the Democratic majority, it still worries O'Neil and others.
"I don't know if it has any chance," O'Neil said. "But I'm afraid that the public may accept that something that's half as extreme will somehow be acceptable."
The bill has the attention of U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont.
"Since the middle of January, my office has fielded hundreds of phone calls from constituents concerned about HR 45," Rehberg said in a press release.
In a speech on the House floor this week, Rehberg said the legislation would create "a database that would make the collection of guns by government agents an easy task."
He added, "This is a first step, but it's one we must not take. Gun owners are not criminals, they are patriots. I will oppose this measure and others like it as an affront to our liberty and the Constitution."
O'Neil said he has yet to pick a location for his demonstration, but it will be held the same day as a gun show at the Flathead County Fairgrounds.
"If I can arrange it, I would like for this to happen at the gun show," he said.
Concerns about gun-control legislation have likely driven a remarkable national increase in gun sales since Democrats swept into power in Congress and the White House last November.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the FBI's criminal background check system for gun sales showed a 23 percent increase in February over the previous year, a 29 percent increase in January, a 24 percent increase in December and a 42 percent increase in November. That month, a record 1.5 million background checks were performed.