House Passes Gun Control Bill
House tempers background checks for guns
By JIM ABRAMS, Associated Press Writer
1 minute ago
WASHINGTON - The House Wednesday passed what could become the first major federal gun control law in over a decade, spurred by the Virginia Tech campus killings and buttressed by National Rifle Association help.
The bill, which was passed on a voice vote, would improve state reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to stop gun purchases by people, including criminals and those adjudicated as mentally defective, who are prohibited from possessing firearms.
Seung-Hui Cho, who in April killed 32 students and faculty at Virginia Tech before taking his own life, had been ordered to undergo outpatient mental health treatment and should have been barred from buying two guns he used in the rampage. But the state of Virginia had never forwarded this information to the national background check system.
If it moves through the Senate and is signed into law by the president, the bill would be the most important gun control act since Congress banned some assault weapons in 1994, the last year Democrats controlled the House. In 1996, Congress added people convicted of domestic violence to the list of those banned from purchasing firearms.
The bill was the outcome of weeks of negotiations between Rep. John Dingell (news, bio, voting record), D-Mich., the most senior member of the House and a strong supporter of gun rights, and the NRA, and in turn, with Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (news, bio, voting record), D-N.Y., a leading gun-control advocate.
"This is good policy that will save lives," McCarthy said.
The NRA insisted that it was not a "gun control" bill because it does not disqualify anyone currently able to legally purchase a firearm.
The NRA has always supported the NICS, said the organization's executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre. "We've always been vigilant about protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens to purchase guns, and equally vigilant about keeping the guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally defective and people who shouldn't have them."
Under a gun control act that passed in 1968, the year Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. were killed, people barred from buying guns include those convicted of a crime punishable by more than one year in prison, illegal drug users, those adjudicated as mentally disabled, and illegal aliens.
The legislation approved Wednesday would require states to automate and share disqualifying records with the FBI's NICS database. The bill also provides $250 million a year over the next three years to help states meet those goals and imposes penalties, including cuts in federal grants under an anti-crime law, to those states that fail to meet benchmarks for automating their systems and supplying information to the NICS.
The NRA did win some concessions in negotiating the final product.
It would automatically restore the purchasing rights of veterans who were diagnosed with mental problems as part of the process of obtaining disability benefits. LaPierre said the Clinton administration put about 80,000 such veterans into the background check system.
It also outlines an appeals process for those who feel they have been wrongfully included in the system and ensures that funds allocated to improve the NICS are not used for other gun control purposes.
"It was necessary to make some accommodations to address the concerns of gun owners," said House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (news, bio, voting record), D-Mich., adding that he would be closely monitoring the provision on restoring gun rights to veterans judged to have mental disabilities.
Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said his group supported the legislation, noting that the Virginia Tech shootings "tragically demonstrated the gaps in the system that allowed a dangerous person to be armed."
He said he hoped Congress and the gun lobby would go a step further and extend background checks to all gun sales, not just those licenses dealers covered by current law.
The only dissenting vote in the short House debate on the bill was voiced by GOP presidential aspirant Ron Paul (news, bio, voting record) of Texas. He described the bill as "a flagrantly unconstitutional expansion of restriction on the exercise of the right to bear arms protected under the 2nd Amendment.
McCarthy, in an emotional speech, said that "this has been a long, long journey for me." She ran for Congress on a gun control agenda after her husband was gunned down on a Long Island commuter train in 1993.
The GOA's thoughts on this.
The GOA's thoughts on this.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Wednesday started out as a routine day in the U.S. Congress, with
Representatives attending congressional hearings, meeting with
constituents, perhaps devising clever new ways to pick our pockets.
At 8:30 in the morning an email went out to House Republicans
indicating that a gun control bill, recently introduced by Rep.
Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), was on the Suspension Calendar (normally
reserved for "non-controversial" bills).
Many Representatives didn't see that email until it was too late.
Less than three hours later, the bill passed by a voice vote. The
bill in question, H.R. 2640, is a massive expansion of the Brady Gun
Control law, the subject of many previous alerts by Gun Owners of
Its passage in the House is a case study in backroom deal making,
unholy alliances and deceit. A sausage factory in a third world
country with no running water has nothing on today's U.S. Congress.
The Washington Post reported earlier this week that a deal had been
struck between the NRA leadership and Democrat leaders in the House.
The headline read: "Democrats, NRA Reach Deal on Background-Check
Red flags went up throughout the pro-gun community. Who was party to
this "deal," and how many of our rights were being used as
The McCarthy bill, at the time, looked to be going nowhere. The
general consensus among pro-gun Congressmen was that any gun bill
offered by McCarthy was simply DOA.
After all, if there were such a thing as a single issue Member of
Congress, it would have to be McCarthy. Rep. McCarthy ran for office
to ban guns; Hollywood made a movie about her efforts to ban guns;
and she is currently the lead sponsor of a bill that makes the old
Clinton gun ban pale by comparison.
Even many Democrats wouldn't go near a McCarthy gun bill. They have
learned that supporting gun control is a losing issue. Enter Rep.
John Dingell (D-MI), the so-called Dean of the House, having served
since the Eisenhower administration. Dingell is also a former NRA
Board member, and was in that capacity tapped to bring the NRA
leadership to the table.
The end result of the negotiations was that this small clique among
the NRA leadership gave this bill the support it needed to pass.
But why was it necessary to pass the bill in such an underhanded
fashion? If this is such a victory for the Second Amendment, why all
the secrecy? Why was a deal forged with the anti-gun Democrat House
leadership, keeping most pro-gun representatives in the dark? Why
was the bill rammed through on the Suspension Calendar with no
recorded vote with which to identify those who are against us?
For starters, it would be a hard sell indeed for the NRA leadership
to explain to its members what they would gain by working with
McCarthy. If this legislation had gone before the NRA membership for
a vote, it would have been rejected. For that matter, if it went
through the House in the regular fashion, with committee hearings and
recorded votes, it would have been defeated.
Consider also what the bill is: GUN CONTROL! The lead sentence in an
Associated Press article accurately stated that, "The House Wednesday
passed what could become the first major federal gun control law in
over a decade."
The bill's supporters can talk all they want to the contrary, but
forcing the states to hand over to the federal government millions of
records of Americans for the purpose of conducting a background check
is certainly an expansion of gun control.
This is a bill designed to make the gun control trains run on time.
Problem is, the train's on the wrong track. We don't need greater
efficiency enforcing laws that for years we have fought as being
Sure, there are provisions in the bill by which a person who is on
the prohibited persons list can get his name removed, but not before
proving one's innocence before a court, or convincing a psychiatrist
that he should be able to own a gun (though most psychiatrists would
be more likely to deem a person mentally defective for even wanting
to own guns).
Sad thing is, this bill, which spends hundreds of millions of your
dollars, will do nothing to make us safer. More gun control laws
will not stop the next deranged madman. What will stop a killer is
an armed law-abiding citizen. In the wake of the Virginia Tech
tragedy, we should be considering removing barriers that prevent
honest, decent people from carrying their lawfully possessed
We don't know where the next shooting will occur; that's something
the killer decides. So whether it is in a school, a church, a
shopping mall or a government building, we should urge our elected
officials to repeal so-called gun free zones and oppose more gun
Instead, we end up with a bill supported by Handgun Control and Sarah
Brady, Chuck Schumer, Teddy Kennedy, Carolyn McCarthy, and the rest
of the Who's Who of the anti-gun movement, and all the while the NRA
leadership maintains that this is a win for gun owners.
This is a Faustian bargain, which will repeatedly haunt gun owners in
the years to come.
But you should realize why they had to do it this way. Your activism
has resulted in an avalanche of grassroots opposition against this
bill. Gun owners have raised their voices of opposition
loud-and-clear, and many congressmen have been feeling the heat.
The fight is not over. They still have to run this through the
Senate. Already, there is a small cadre of pro-gun senators who are
ready to slow this bill down and do everything they can to kill it.
To be frank, a bill that has the support of all the anti-gun groups
and the NRA will be tough to beat, but we will continue to fight
every step of the way.
Although we've suffered a setback, we want to thank all of you for
the hard work you've done. Your efforts derailed the McCarthy bill
for the past five years and we would have prevailed again were it not
for the developments described above.
Be looking for an upcoming alert to the U.S. Senate. GOA will give
you the particulars of the bill that passed the House, and we will
provide you suggested language for a pre-written letter to your two
Stay tuned. There is more to come.