Friday, May 11, 2007
A one-sided hearing Thursday in the House Oversight & Government Reform Subcommittee on Domestic Policy, chaired by long-shot presidential candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Oh.), was used by anti-gunners as a platform for pushing the same, old, tired anti-gun restrictions.
The hearing - chaired by "F"-rated Rep. Dennis Kucinich - was entitled "Lethal Loopholes." To anti-gun activists, of course, a "loophole" is the lack of any restriction they support, and their testimony bore this out in spades.
As expected, Brady Campaign president Paul Helmke used his testimony to promote the gun ban lobby’s agenda, including a startling comment about the dangers of individuals buying or owning an "arsenal" of firearms. Helmke failed to enlighten the committee about how many guns would comprise an "arsenal," though his written testimony suggested it might be as few as ten guns. (Longtime readers will remember federal "arsenal licensing" as a part of the gun ban lobby’s "Brady II" legislation more than a decade ago.)
Helmke also attacked the private sale of guns, claiming that 40% of firearm transactions are off the books and that an unlicensed person "can sell a gun to a criminal or an escaped mental patient, no questions asked." Helmke omitted, of course, that an unlicensed seller who knows of a potential buyer’s criminal status could be imprisoned for up to 10 years. Helmke’s call for California-style controls also ignores the results in California itself, which has a murder rate 24% higher than the rest of the country.
Robyn Thomas of the Legal Community Against Violence also attacked private sales. She, too, called for broader restrictions on who can own guns.
John Feinblatt, "Criminal Justice Coordinator" for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, used the hearing as a platform to blast the Tiahrt Amendment - the critically important provision in the Justice Department appropriations bills that protects law enforcement officers and the integrity of criminal investigations by preventing inappropriate release of federal firearms trace data. But pro-gun Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) blasted Feinblatt for downplaying law enforcement support for the Tiahrt Amendment. The leaders of both the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and America’s largest police union -- the Fraternal Order of Police -- have recently written in support of the law.
Anti-gun "public health" researchers Daniel Webster and Susan Sorenson continued their movement’s long-running effort to prohibit more Americans from possessing firearms. In particular, Webster suggested that federal law should also deny guns to those with misdemeanor records.
In contrast to those seeking expansion of gun laws, Ron Honberg of the National Alliance on Mental Illness pointed out that current federal laws may impose an unfair burden on some people who may have had mental difficulties in the past, but who currently don’t pose a threat to public safety.
Committee Republicans, led by ranking member Darrell Issa (R-Cal.), noted the hearing’s lack of balance in a letter to Chairman Kucinich. That letter suggested the majority intended "to silence entirely the view of Second Amendment supporters by denying them the ability to present even a single witness," and suggested that the hearing should have focused on problems with the instant check system.
Whether the hearing will contribute to NICS reforms remains unclear. It did, however, serve as a reminder that anti-gunners will shamelessly take advantage of any opportunity to push for laws aimed at disarming law-abiding citizens.