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While many liberals, especially presidential candidate Bill Bradley,
decry the Clinton Administration’s compromising on their favorite issues
such as affirmative action, welfare, health care, and ever-increasing
funding for social programs, they should at least give him high marks
for never even considering any compromise on the issue of gun control.

You can be sure that in Bill Clinton’s final State of the Union
message he will not only push his latest crime initiatives, which he
unveiled on Jan. 18, but additional gun control proposals. This week’s
legislative proposals are a response to the complaints by the NRA and
many in Congress that the Reno Justice Department is soft on
gun-wielding criminals. According to The New York Times,
these latest legislative proposals “are intended to counter a major
argument advanced by the National Rifle Association and other critics of
gun control laws: that new gun restrictions are not needed because
scores of existing laws are rarely enforced.” Thus Clinton and his
willing attorney general are now peddling new figures aimed to counter
NRA’s accusation that this administration fails to prosecute felons with
guns.

The Clinton gun offensive led off with guests appearing on the early
morning talk shows. Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder touted the
increase in prosecutions from 1998 to 1999. Cleverly he used statistics
from differing time periods to try and take credit for reductions in
violence with firearms: the 25 percent increase in federal prosecutions
from 1998 to 1999 and the 35 percent decrease in “gun violence” between
1992 and 1999. The reason he didn’t mention the rate of federal
prosecutions since 1992 is that under the first six years of Clinton’s
administration such prosecutions dropped precipitously.

Let’s look at the figures: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms
(BATF) referrals for prosecution of federal law violations have declined
nearly by half during the first six years of the Clinton-Gore-Reno
administration. In 1992 BATF sent 9,885 firearms violation cases to
federal prosecutors, while six years later in 1998 only 4,391 cases were
sent, a drop of 44 percent. Now they have audacity to tout that the
number has gone back up to the previous year. In addition firearms
cases sent to federal, state, or local prosecutors have dropped 53.5
percent between the same time period, a drop from 12,084 to 5,620 cases.

The change toward more firearms prosecutions is only one small facet
of the Clinton proposals. In addition he will ask for a budget increase
of $280 million to:

  • Hire 500 more BATF agents

  • Hire 1,000 federal, state, and local prosecutors to focus on gun
    crimes

  • Expand the comprehensive gun-tracing program from the current 38
    cities to 51

  • Create a ballistics information network to trace ballistics data
    of guns used in crime

Next week’s State of the Union proposals will include limiting
sales at gun shows, mandating safety locks for handguns, banning the
importation of high-capacity magazines manufactured before 1994, and
prohibiting violent juveniles, even if they are not found guilty of a
felony, from owning guns for the rest of their lives.

Again, Clinton will try to convince Congress to appropriate money to
develop smart-gun technology. Last year Congress refused to approve his
request for $4 million, thus this year he has decided to request more
– $10 million.

If all this smells like political posturing, it is. The Clinton-Gore
administration wants to put the Republicans on the defensive regarding
gun control for the next 10 months. It wouldn’t surprise me to see
Democrat gun control proposals being brought forth weekly accompanied by
the usual media fanfare.

As we have witnessed for the past several years the sure ticket for
media attention is a politician promoting anti-gun proposals. Remember
Philadelphia Mayor Rendell. He used the threat of lawsuits against the
manufacturers for 18 months as a way to get nationwide publicity for
himself. Although he put the National Conference of Mayors on record
supporting lawsuits, he and the city of Philadelphia never filed suit.
His political payoff was election as general chair of the Democratic
National Committee on Sept. 25, 1999. Thus he became the spokesperson
and fundraiser-in-chief for the Democratic Party nationwide. It appears
that the road to Democratic Party stardom is through the promotion of an
anti-gun and anti-firearms industry agenda.

The firearms industry is meeting this week in Las Vegas at their
annual industry tradeshow, the SHOT Show. Also attending the show are
BATF and FBI representatives, on hand to help spin the Clinton
announcement. They informed the group that one reason
for so many attempted illegal purchases by convicted felons not being
prosecuted was that many of the purchasers were “grandfathers who were
convicted of a ‘youthful indiscretion’ decades ago.”

Additionally more press than normal, including mainstream press such
as ABC television, have sought credentials for the SHOT Show. ABC,
working on a Peter Jennings special on firearms, has a crew in Las Vegas
covering the tradeshow. The big news at the show has been announcements
by the leaders of two of the biggest firearms companies. Bill Ruger,
CEO of Sturm Ruger, announced that his company would not sell to dealers
who sold their product at gun shows, while Smith & Wesson President Ed
Schultz suggested that the manufacturers could “go out, talk to, and
meet our opponents, while earnestly trying to understand what motivates
them and how we can impact the issues.” His comments, first published
in the Jan. 17 Wall Street Journal, were quickly followed by an
interview on NBC evening news. Although early reports from Las Vegas
suggested that another meeting has been scheduled for Friday between
manufacturers, and their opponents, the Los Angeles Times reported
yesterday that the meeting has been canceled because “handgun
manufacturers are refusing to admit Clinton administration officials to
the negotiations.”

In addition, according to ABC News,
Glock, the Austrian gun manufacturer, is planning to assist in the
implementation of the administration’s proposal to maintain a ballistic
database. Beginning this April Glock intends to create its own database
by using a fired shell casing from each newly manufactured gun, matching
it with the serial number of the Glock pistol and sending the
information to BATF. “The gunmaker will use a laser scanner to get the
markings and put them in a database so if the gun is used in any crime
in the future, whether or not that gun is recovered, law enforcement
officials will be able to use the shell casings to trace the gun to the
original owner and possibly subsequent owners, and to the place where it
was purchased.”

Although Smith & Wesson and Glock appear to be ready to compromise
with their adversaries, there was some good news for gun owners. Robert
Delfay, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), in
his remarks at the opening banquet stated, “Historically, we have not
been politically active as an industry. That must change and will
change. This upcoming election will impact our industry, and we must
have an impact on this election.” Furthermore Delfay announced that
NSSF was forming a political action committee that would support any
Republican that opposed either Al Gore or Bill Bradley.

At the close of the third week of the new millennium the state of the
Second Amendment is as precarious as it was at the close of the 20th
century. The sides appear drawn. On one side are the Clinton
administration, the Democratic Party leadership and both its
presidential candidates, and the anti-gun lobby comprised of Handgun
Control, Inc., the Violence Policy Center, and most of the major media.
On the other side are the NRA, NSSF, and millions of gun owners.
Somewhere in the middle are several gun manufacturers who agree that the
lawsuits directed against them are without merit, but who appear to be
willing to hedge their bets to maintain their businesses. All these
factions will keep skirmishing for the remainder of 2000. For they all
agree that the test of the Second Amendment’s future is a very important
election 10 months from now.

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