Wednesday, March 3, 2010

PHOTO: 'Toy' rifles seized by federal agents in Tacoma

By John de Leon - The Seattle Times - February 24, 2010

Earlier this month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Port of Tacoma seized a shipment of 30 toy M-4 automatic rifles that had arrived on Oct. 20 in a 40-foot ocean container.

The shipment's manifest listed the contents as "Toys and Parts" and was shipped from a manufacturer in Taiwan, according to a Customs and Border Protection news release. The rifles were the same size, weight and look of an M-4 automatic rifle, which is used by the U.S. military. The rifles had no serial numbers and did not have an orange-blaze tip which is required for all imported of toy guns.

Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) tested the files and determined they were tooled to shoot plastic balls. However, ATF also found that the internal components could easily be refitted with original machine gun components, making the rifles capable of firing live ammunition. ATF lab results indicated the rifle to be a WE-Tech, Model AWSS M4CQBR, Airsoft M-4 copy.

ATF also confirmed the shipment did not arrive with the proper permits to enter the U.S.

The machine guns were turned over to the ATF to be destroyed.

"These rifles could have had far-reaching and potentially devastating ramifications if they had gotten into the hands of individuals who wanted to do harm in the American population", Customs and Border Protection Area Port Director Rolando Suliveras Jr. said in a news release.

Gun show owner, police at odds over recommendations

By  Tony Plohetski - The Austin-American Statesman - January 19, 2010

Gun show owner, police at odds over recommendations. Show owner says police advice heavy-handed.

An Austin police effort to curtail the illegal sales of firearms at a weekend gun show sparked an angry response from the event's organizer and raised concerns about whether the department overstepped its authority.

Several police recommendations about the operation of the show were intended to curtail crime there and should not have been viewed as requirements, authorities said Tuesday.

But the show organizer said he thought that law enforcement officials were instructing him to adopt rules that violated state and federal law, including a requirement that only licensed gun dealers be allowed to sell firearms. He said he begrudgingly enforced the recommendations.

The dispute, which began late last week, has since sparked a controversy that is playing out on Web sites and radio talk shows.

Darwin Boedeker, owner of Texas Gun Shows, said he is collecting petitions from people who support gun shows without such requirements and will present them to the Texas attorney general's office.

"All they are doing is keeping the honest man from being able to do what is afforded to him by the Constitution," Boedeker said. "We have a right to buy and sell firearms as citizens of America, as legal, law-abiding citizens. That right is being infringed on us."

According to state and federal law, the private sale of guns is not illegal unless the seller knows the buyer is prohibited from purchasing a weapon, which includes being a convicted felon or an undocumented immigrant.

Gun dealers must have a license.

Austin police said that last year, while assisting federal agents in combating the sale of guns to undocumented immigrants, they recorded a number of illegal transactions. The repeated offenses at the site — a former Sam's Club location on North Lamar Boulevard — prompted police to refer the location to the department's nuisance abatement unit, which works with owners to reduce the number of crimes on their properties.

Police officials said they met last week with representatives from H-E-B, which handles the lease of the property, and with Boedeker, during which they outlined recommendations for reducing crime at the site.

The suggestions included permitting only licensed gun dealers to sell firearms, providing private security to prevent parking lot gun sales and defining a process for people other than licensed dealers who want to sell a gun at the show.

"We merely gave suggestions to reduce the amount of criminal violations that were occurring at this property," Austin police spokesman Cpl. Scott Perry said.

Boedeker said H-E-B representatives told him to follow the recommendations during the two-day show, which featured about two dozen vendors Saturday and Sunday.

"What they did was strong-arm H-E-B into making me do what I did," he said. "The problem is that it is unconstitutional to say I can't sell my private firearm to another individual."

H-E-B spokeswoman Leslie Lockett said Tuesday that police told company officials Monday about a possible illegal gun sale during the weekend and have decided that gun shows should not be hosted at the site until the issue is resolved.

Boedeker said he will look for a new venue to host shows.

He said that in the past couple of days, he has received numerous calls from across the state and nation from people who want information about what happened.

"There are a lot of upset people who want to know the truth," he said.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Feds Fight Back on Montana Made Guns Lawsuit

Federal government argues that Montana should not be allowed to exempt itself from gun control

By MATT GOURAS Associated Press Writer - January 21st -

Montana doesn't have the authority to exempt itself from national gun control laws, the federal government argued in new court filings, hoping to beat back a movement from states adopting the Firearms Freedom Act.

The Department of Justice, in a brief filed this week in U.S. District Court in Missoula, said that federal gun control is a "valid exercise of Congress' commerce power under the Constitution."

The agency asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed last year by gun advocates in Montana who argued the state should decide which rules, if any, would control the sale and purchase of guns and paraphernalia made in Montana. The state would then be exempt from rules on federal gun registration, background checks and dealer-licensing.

The lawsuit followed overwhelming support in the state Legislature for an act that declared Montana's sovereignty on the issue. That Montana Firearms Freedom Act was subsequently signed by Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

Gun advocates want a court declaration preventing federal agents from enforcing federal gun laws on Montana-made equipment. They said it's disappointing the Justice Department would seek a dismissal of the suit rather than arguing its merits.

"The first import of this response is that the legal game is now on," said Gary Marbut of the Montana Shooting Sports Association.

Tennessee adopted a clone of the Montana act, which has been proposed in many other states.

The Justice Department argued in its brief that the state act is pre-empted by federal gun control. It also said the advocates don't have standing to bring the lawsuit.

The brief said the 1934 National Firearms Act was first put in place to regulate guns that could be "used readily and efficiently by criminals or gangsters."

Congress followed it in 1968 with a gun control act aimed at decreasing serious crime, and further strengthened its control over interstate commerce, the brief points out.

Those laws and others all mean to keep tabs on guns that easily pass between state borders, the Justice Department argued.

"To achieve this goal, Congress put in place a comprehensive scheme to regulate the movement of firearms in commerce," the government lawyers wrote in their brief.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Gun control group gives Obama an ‘F’

By Michael O’Brien - The Hill - January 19, 2010

President Barack Obama on Monday received a failing grade from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence for running away from gun control.

The group, which endorsed Obama in 2008, gave him an “F” on every issue it scored, including background checks, gun trafficking, guns in public, the federal assault weapons ban, standing up to the gun lobby and leadership.

“It’s been a very disappointing year for us, especially considering what he campaigned on,” the group’s president, Paul Helmke, said during an appearance on MSNBC.

When Obama was elected, gun rights supporters feared the new president would take away their guns; their worries spiked gun sales in the days and weeks before Obama’s inauguration. The National Rifle Association (NRA) said Obama would be the most anti-gun president in U.S. history.

But the Brady Campaign, a leading advocacy group for stricter gun laws, said Obama actually has done little to clamp down on firearms since being elected. Instead, the president has signed into law two bills that favored gun-rights supporters.

“This year they ran away from the issue, and actually signed two repeals of good gun legislation,” said Helmke.

Obama signed legislation this year that would allow guns in national parks and on Amtrak trains.

The two gun measures were attached as amendments to larger pieces of legislation — a bill cracking down on credit card companies and a transportation appropriations bill, respectively — that the president generally supported.

A spokesman for the White House did not directly respond to the Brady Campaign’s criticism in an e-mail. He said Obama supports and respects the Second Amendment, and defended the administration, saying it had taken “common-sense steps” to keep streets safe and stem the flow of illegal guns.

White House spokesman Ben LaBolt pointed to the administration’s work to stanch the flow of firearms across the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as its efforts to change the law to enhance investigations into illegal gun trafficking. He said the $787 billion economic stimulus bill and the 2010 budget funded billions for police officers.

“The Recovery Act and the administration’s 2010 budget included a major investment in law enforcement, including billions in funding for communities to hire police officers and to improve their ability to fight crime,” LaBolt said.

Gun rights supporters flexed their muscles several times this year in Congress. Aside from the two bills signed by Obama, gun rights groups also blocked legislation to give District of Columbia residents a vote in the U.S. House by attaching an amendment to repeal D.C.’s handgun ban.

Many Democrats from states carried by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008 support gun rights and value grades they receive from the NRA.

That atmosphere in Congress likely made it difficult for the administration to take on gun rights supporters.

For example, the administration backed off signals by Attorney General Eric Holder that it would seek to reinstate an assault-rifle ban that had expired.

“As President Obama indicated during the campaign, there are just a few gun-related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to reinstitute the ban on the sale of assault weapons,” the attorney general said at the time.

Two months later, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs walked back the pledge.

“The president believes there are other strategies we can take to enforce the laws that are already on our books,” Gibbs said.

Helmke said that the Obama administration hadn’t yet reached out to the gun control group, and that he doesn’t expect the White House to do so anytime soon.

He also criticized the administration for backing off campaign promises on guns, including the ban on assault rifles.

The Brady Campaign’s report card, and its leader’s critical remarks, come as Obama faces criticism from a number of liberal groups that say the president has ceded too much ground to centrists and Republicans during the healthcare debate. Liberals also have criticized Obama for increasing troop levels in Afghanistan.

Groups like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) have run ads in the midst of the healthcare debate chiding Obama and some Democrats in Congress for having agreed to drop a public health insurance option. And members of Obama’s own party have bucked the president by opposing funding for the president’s troop surge in Afghanistan.

New poll at odds with gun rhetoric

By: Frank Luntz and Todd Barrett - January 23, 2010 - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The culture war over the right to bear arms isn't much of a war after all. As it turns out, there is a lot everyone agrees on.

A new poll of gun owners and National Rifle Association members makes it clear that they share many attitudes and beliefs with Americans who don't own guns. In particular, the vast majority of gun owners not only believe that law-abiding Americans have the right to own guns, but they also believe that government ought to be doing more to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

The poll, conducted by The Word Doctors, a national research and communications firm, and commissioned by the bipartisan coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, shows that gun owners in general and NRA members in particular share the belief that commitment to the Second Amendment goes hand in hand with more vigorous law enforcement and common-sense solutions that prevent criminals from getting guns.

For instance, 69% of NRA members and 86% of non-NRA gun-owners support closing the "gun show loophole." The loophole allows some vendors at gun shows to sell guns without conducting the federal background checks that all licensed gun dealers perform. Gun shows provide hunters, collectors, sportsmen and gun enthusiasts with a great place to shop - but as the Department of Justice has reported, 30% of guns in illegal gun-trafficking cases are linked to gun shows.

Mayors of small and large cities and police from throughout the country strongly support closing the gun show loophole. Now we know that gun owners - including NRA members - do, too. The only question is: Are their elected representatives listening?

The poll also found support among NRA members and other gun owners for numerous other policies to strengthen safety, security and law enforcement, including allowing the FBI to block gun sales to individuals on the terror watch list, requiring gun owners to report lost and stolen guns to police and providing local police departments with more data analysis of gun trafficking patterns.

The poll confirms what is almost always true: The American people have far more common sense than the politicians in our state capitols and in Washington. They support policies that solidify and protect their Second Amendment rights while also protecting their communities from criminals and illegal behavior. And they recognize that more can be done within the bounds of the Second Amendment to punish the guilty and protect innocent lives.

So, why has the "culture war" over guns remained a media mainstay?

In politics, myths are hard to slay. In this case, that is true not only because conflict makes for good copy but also because the appearance of conflict is real, since the NRA has not (yet) supported the common-sense policies backed by gun owners and non-gun owners alike. And many legislators, fearful of the gun lobby's wrath, have toed the line.

But the new poll should be a wake-up call for legislators and the NRA leadership alike.

For legislators, the poll shows that gun owners will overwhelmingly back them on common-sense gun policies to prevent and punish illegality as long as the Second Amendment is protected. And for the NRA leadership, it shows that efforts to defeat these policies will be highly unpopular - even among the organization's own members.

After a bruising partisan battle on health care, it might seem strange to suggest that gun laws - long-considered a third-rail political issue - could bring all sides to the negotiation table. But centrists in both parties have an opportunity to join the American people in recognizing the culture war over guns is more myth than reality.

Frank Luntz, a Republican and principal of The Word Doctors, is a pollster whose clients include more than two dozen Fortune 500 companies and CEOs. Tom Barrett, a Democrat, is mayor of Milwaukee and a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a bipartisan coalition of more than 450 U.S. mayors.

Obama Pushing a "Radical's Radical" to the Federal Bench

-- Vote could come as early as Monday

Gun Owners of America - Thursday, November 12, 2009

He has been called "extreme" by some.  But to others, he's beyond extreme... he's a "Radical's Radical."

Whatever he is, he could become President Obama's next choice for the federal judiciary.

This radical is Judge David Hamilton, and he's been nominated for a position on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Hamilton has made many political enemies on the right, seeing that his politics are to the far left of the political spectrum.  Oh yes, judges aren't supposed to be political, but this one has engaged in quite a bit of leftist activism.

His biggest opponent on Capitol Hill is Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Based on his analysis of Hamilton, gun owners should be very concerned about a judge who is all to willing to "amend the Constitution."  According to Senator Sessions:

"Judge Hamilton stated in a 2003 speech that the role of a judge includes writing footnotes to the Constitution: "Judge S. Hugh Dillin of this court has said that part of our job here as judges is to write a series of footnotes to the Constitution. We all do that every year in cases large and small." In explaining this statement to Senator Hatch, Judge Hamilton wrote that he believes the Framers intended judges to amend the Constitution through evolving case law."
Of course, we have seen this pattern time and time again.  Judges ignore the clear wording of the Constitution -- in essence, amending the Constitution through each new case they decide.

The courts then become the vehicle for rewriting the Second Amendment!

Not surprisingly, Judge Hamilton's politics are to the extreme, far left.  He spent a brief stint as a fundraiser for ACORN, the organization that was an aggressive supporter of Barack Obama in the presidential election.  In addition to all the evils surrounding ACORN is the fact that the organization has lobbied against Second Amendment rights -- as seen by the New Jersey chapter supporting a one-gun-a-month ordinance in Jersey City.

Certainly any judicial nomination put forth by our anti-gun President is suspect, but it's interesting to note who his chief backer is in the U.S. Senate.  It's none other than Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, who holds an "F" rating from Gun Owners of America.

Lugar has never failed to support one of Obama's anti-gun nominations, as evidenced by his votes for Attorney General Eric Holder, State Department lawyer Harold Koh, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and the incredibly wacky Regulatory Czar Cass Sunstein.

On policy questions, Senator Lugar is no better.  To wit, he voted against repealing the gun ban in Washington, DC this year.

Considering Hamilton's extreme track record, it’s no wonder that Senator Lugar -- in introducing Hamilton to his colleagues -- begged his fellow Senators to ignore the judge's policy views.  Lugar asked them not to base their votes on "partisan considerations, much less on how we hope or predict a given judicial nominee will 'vote' on particular issues of public moment or controversy."

Instead, Lugar asked his colleagues "to evaluate judicial candidates on whether they have the requisite intellect, experience, character and temperament that Americans deserve from their judges...."

In other words, ignore Judge Hamilton's liberalism and just vote for him because he's so smart and because he's such a nice guy!

Judge Hamilton's rulings have made a lot of enemies on the political right, especially the one in Hinrichs v. Bosma where, according to a November 3 editorial in The Washington Times, he "prohibited prayers in the Indiana House of Representatives that expressly mentioned Jesus Christ... yet he allowed prayers which mentioned Allah."

Gun owners have much to be concerned about, as well.  Anytime a judge who believes in rewriting the Constitution is elevated to sit as an appellate judge, that's a scary thing -- especially given the fact that most cases never reach the U.S. Supreme Court and are, thus, decided at lower levels in the federal judiciary.

The Second Amendment faces a decisive year in 2010

Democrats set to push more foolish regulation

By Wayne LaPierre - Washington Times - Monday, January 4, 2010

The Second Amendment faces a decisive year in 2010. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has called for new semi-automatic gun bans - despite their decade-long record of fraud and failure, and despite his own Justice Department's failure to fully or even half-heartedly prosecute federal firearm felonies.

Mr. Holder and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have demonstrated their willingness to use cooked statistics to blame Mexico's violent drug war on Americans and their Second Amendment rights.

Anti-gun leaders in Congress have introduced bills to ban guns, license gun owners, register guns, tax bullets, serialize ammunition, shut down gun shows and a hundred other schemes. They're still there, proposing every nonsensical gun law they can imagine that only affect law-abiding citizens, while criminals go about their evil business unfettered.

Meanwhile at the United Nations, global citizen-disarmament nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and freedom-fearing dictatorships worldwide maneuver to impose their will on you through international treaties. But it is a new year.

And, in a very crucial way, 2010 may be a year unlike any other in American history - when the Second Amendment could, finally and truly, be recognized as a right for all Americans.

A year-and-a-half ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment confers an individual right to bear arms for self-defense for every citizen. The ruling struck down Washington D.C.'s draconian gun ban and gave District residents the right to own a firearm in their homes for personal protection. But, this ruling only applied to federal enclaves.

On March 2, the court will hear arguments in McDonald v. City of Chicago, in which the court should rule the Second Amendment is a fundamental right, incorporated under the 14th Amendment to apply to state and local governments. This landmark ruling would put the Second Amendment on par with most of the rest of the Bill of Rights.

That's because most provisions of the Bill of Rights do apply against actions by state and local governments. So far, these include not just the First Amendment's protections for freedom of religion, speech and assembly, but also the Fourth Amendment's protection against unlawful searches and seizures, the Fifth Amendment's protections against double jeopardy and self-incrimination, the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment and more.

As the court noted in the 2008 ruling that overturned the D.C. ban, "Nowhere else in the Constitution does a 'right' attributed to 'the people' refer to anything other than an individual right."

And in that same decision, the court recognized, " ... the inherent right of self-defense has been central to the Second Amendment."

Indeed, the right of self-defense is the single most basic human right of all. The ability to defend oneself is a guarantee of the right to "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" held dear by Americans since the forging of our nation. It is why the Second Amendment, and the individual right of self-defense, was so important to our founding fathers.

The Supreme Court agreed and reaffirmed it.

This year, by incorporating that right to apply to the states, the court has an opportunity to ensure that all Americans can exercise their Second Amendment freedom. No matter where they live!

The need to incorporate the Second Amendment against state and local government caprice should be as self-evident today as it was for courts in the past to protect the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments to the Bill of Rights.

In the past, the U.S. Supreme Court has seen fit to incorporate nearly all of the Bill of Rights, and as the most fundamental, natural right of them all, the Second Amendment right to arms to protect your life deserves incorporation every bit as much.

Wayne LaPierre is the executive vice president and chief executive officer of the National Rifle Association of America.