In what observers are calling a novel approach against gun control, two groups have launched a petition drive to force the Department of Justice to enforce gun rights with the same zeal it enforced civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s.

The groups – Citizens of America and – say they would like to see Attorney General John Ashcroft back his earlier voiced support for the Second Amendment with action.

“Mr. Ashcroft says the right to bear arms is an individual right,” says Brian Puckett, head of COA, “and we’re saying if that’s so, then he should be enforcing that right in states where our right to keep and bear arms is being denied, in the same way the federal government enforced civil-rights laws in the ’50s and ’60s.

“Denial of rights is costing lives, not simply forcing people to drink from separate water fountains or go to segregated schools, and we want action, not more words,” he added.

“On many occasions the U.S. Justice Department has sent teams of lawyers to force states, municipalities, agencies and officials to obey civil-rights statutes, resulting in laws being overturned and in legal actions against individuals,” said a statement published on the KABA website.

Officials from both groups say they are targeting California first because it is the nation’s most populous state and has some of the most authoritarian gun-control laws on the books.

“A big concern is that people will think this only applies to California – it doesn’t,” David Codrea, co-founder of COA, told WorldNetDaily. “If we’re successful, precedent will be set for the entire nation, or a Supreme Court case will be initiated, so it’s important for people from every state to know they have a stake in the outcome.”

“California is the state we chose because it is the largest in population, has tremendous political influence and has many gun ‘laws’ that are blatantly unconstitutional,” said a KABA statement. “However, if we are successful, the precedent set in this action would affect all states.”

“It is time to establish once and for all that we have a right to own and use guns, that we can’t be required to be licensed or registered, and don’t need some bureaucrat’s permission to own them,” said the statement.

In a May 17 response letter to National Rifle Association officials, Ashcroft said that as attorney general, it was his opinion that the “text and the original intent of the Second Amendment clearly protect the right of individuals to keep and bear firearms.”

But California and other states have, over the years, banned weapons that were previously protected by law and by the Supreme Court, the groups say. Weapons that aren’t banned outright require registration with state and federal agencies – an “infringement” that is in violation of the right to own guns, both groups say.

“Relief from this denial of our constitutional rights cannot be obtained through the California government’s executive branch,” said the petition, nor can it “be obtained through the California government’s judicial branch” or from “the federal courts in California,” which are overseen by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court, all because of anti-gun rulings in the past.

“A basic, protected right is being blatantly and severely infringed upon by unconstitutional edicts, bearing the name and form of law, that are oppressively enforced by the executive and judicial authorities of this state,” said the petition.

Consequently, the petition asks Ashcroft and the Justice Department to intervene by using “any and all powers at his disposal to redress the above-mentioned grievances by enforcing the Constitution of the United States, and to take any necessary action against the state of California and its officials to immediately restore the free exercise of the individual right to keep and bear arms in California and across the United States.”

Though prohibiting law-abiding citizens access to firearms is dangerous all the time, Puckett says the danger for ordinary citizens is amplified in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York City and at the Pentagon.

“First, we must be especially vigorous in protecting our rights and demanding that they not be infringed,” Puckett told WND, “at a time when so many people are frightened enough that they are willing to give away their liberties and rights.”

“Secondly,” he said, “it’s becoming obvious … that the government cannot protect us every day in every place, that that the only hope for ordinary citizens facing determined madmen, criminals, terrorists or enemy agents is immediate access to efficient, effective weapons. Taking away the weapons of ordinary citizens makes it easier for one armed terrorist to control any situation.”

Puckett also said he believes relaxing gun control laws would go a long way toward enhancing homeland security.

“This would make us safer as we go about our daily lives,” he said. “This has been proven over and over again in Israel.”

Larry Pratt, director of Gun Owners of America, agreed with Puckett, noting that constitutionally, it is a congressional duty to “call forth the militia” in defense of the U.S. homeland.

“A Boston University professor, Randy Barnett, wrote in the National Review Online recently that the Congress [ought to] take seriously the responsibility that was delegated them by the people to provide for the militia,” Pratt said, “meaning, getting guns into the hands of the people.”

Barnett, on Sept. 18, wrote: “The next time someone tells you that the militia referred to in the Second Amendment has been ‘superseded’ by the National Guard, ask them who it was that prevented United Airlines Flight 93 from reaching its target. The National Guard? The regular Army? The D.C. Police Department? None of these had a presence on Flight 93 because, in a free society, professional law-enforcement and military personnel cannot be everywhere.”

“Terrorists and criminals are well aware of this – indeed, they count on it. Who is everywhere? The people the Founders referred to as the ‘general militia.’ Cellphone calls from the plane have now revealed that it was members of the general militia, not organized law enforcement, who successfully prevented Flight 93 from reaching its intended target at the cost of their own lives,” Barnett wrote.

COA and RKBA both say the nation may only have a narrow window of opportunity to get many gun-control laws repealed.

“If President Bush would happen to lose office in 2004, Mr. Ashcroft would be replaced,” Puckett said. “Maybe he’d be replaced with someone else who also does not believe the Second Amendment conveys an individual right to keep and bear arms.”

Officials said they were currently contacting leaders of other gun-rights organizations to ask them to join in the petition project.

“I hope people approach gun-rights organizations they belong to and encourage the leadership to support this effort,” Codrea said. “What we’re asking of people can be done with minimal effort and time, and we aren’t asking for a dime. Anyone who won’t pitch in under these conditions ought to seriously reexamine their commitment to freedom.”

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