From the NRA's email
Senate Passes NICS Improvement Act, House Concurs
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
After months of careful negotiation, pro-gun legislation was passed through Congress today. The National Rifle Association (NRA) worked closely with Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to address his concerns regarding H.R. 2640, the National Instant Check System (NICS) Improvement Act. These changes make a good bill even better. The end product is a win for American gun owners.
Late yesterday, anti-gun Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), failed to delay progress of this pro-gun measure. The Violence Policy Center, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and other gun control and gun ban groups are opposed to the passage of this legislation because of the many pro-gun improvements contained within.
The NICS Improvement Act does the following to benefit gun owners:
Permanently prohibits the FBI from charging a “user fee” for NICS checks.
Requires all federal agencies that impose mental health adjudications or commitments to provide a process for “relief from disabilities.” Extreme anti-gun groups like the Violence Policy Center and Coalition to Stop Gun Violence have expressed “strong concerns” over this aspect of the bill—surely a sign that it represents progress for gun ownership rights.
Prevents reporting of mental adjudications or commitments by federal agencies when those adjudications or commitments have been removed.
Requires removal of expired, incorrect or otherwise irrelevant records. Today, totally innocent people (e.g., individuals with arrest records, who were never convicted of the crime charged) are sometimes subject to delayed or denied firearm purchases because of incomplete records in the system.
Provides a process of error correction if a person is inappropriately committed or declared incompetent by a federal agency. The individual would have an opportunity to correct the error-either through the agency or in court.
Prevents use of federal “adjudications” that consist only of medical diagnoses without findings that the people involved are dangerous or mentally incompetent. This would ensure that purely medical records are never used in NICS. Gun ownership rights would only be lost as a result of a finding that the person is a danger to themselves or others, or lacks the capacity to manage his own affairs.
Improves the accuracy and completeness of NICS by requiring federal agencies and participating states to provide relevant records to the FBI. For instance, it would give states an incentive to report those who were adjudicated by a court to be "mentally defective," a danger to themselves, a danger to others or suicidal.
Requires a Government Accountability Office audit of past NICS improvement spending.
The bill includes significant changes from the version that previously passed the House, including:
Requires incorrect or outdated records to be purged from the system within 30 days after the Attorney General learns of the need for correction.
Requires agencies to create “relief from disabilities” programs within 120 days, to prevent bureaucratic foot-dragging.
Provides that if a person applies for relief from disabilities and the agency fails to act on the application within a year—for any reason, including lack of funds—the applicant can seek immediate review of his application in federal court.
Allows awards of attorney’s fees to applicants who successfully challenge a federal agency’s denial of relief in court.
Requires that federal agencies notify all people being subjected to a mental health “adjudication” or commitment process about the consequences to their firearm ownership rights, and the availability of future relief.
Earmarks 3-10% of federal implementation grants for use in operating state “relief from disabilities” programs.
Elimination of all references to Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives regulations defining adjudications, commitments, or determinations related to Americans’ mental health. Instead, the bill uses terms previously adopted by the Congress.
On Wednesday evening, by unanimous consent, the U.S. House accepted the Senate amendment to H.R. 2640. The legislation is headed to the President's desk for his signature into law
From gun grabber Josh Sugarmann of VPC:
Much has been made of the bill's bi-partisan, triangulating support: Democrats! Republicans! The National Rifle Association! The Brady Campaign! Beyond this cheery bon temps, little public attention has been paid to what the bill actually does beyond its title. And that's because if you start looking at the details of the bill--especially after NRA-backed changes made by Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn--it becomes clear that the measure is nothing less than a pro-gun Trojan Horse. That's why my organization, the Violence Policy Center, and other national gun control groups, have voiced their strong concerns about the version of the bill that was passed by Congress. Concerns that have been validated by none other than the NRA which, after the bill's passage issued a press release which crowed:
And GOA is also unhappy:
Gun Owners of America and its supporters took a knife in the back yesterday, as Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) out-smarted his congressional opposition into agreeing on a so-called "compromise" on HR 2640 -- a bill which now goes to the President's desk.
The bill -- known as the Veterans Disarmament Act to its opponents -- is being praised by the National Rifle Association and the Brady Campaign.
The Brady Bunch crowed "Victory! U.S. Congress Strengthens Brady Background Check System." The NRA stated that last minute changes to the McCarthy bill made a "good bill even better [and that] the end product is a win for American gun owners."
But Gun Owners of America has issued public statements decrying this legislation.
The core of the bill's problems is section 101(c)(1)(C), which makes you a "prohibited person" on the basis of a "medical finding of disability," so long as a veteran had an "opportunity" for some sort of "hearing" before some "lawful authority" (other than a court). Presumably, this "lawful authority" could even be the psychiatrist himself.
Note that unlike with an accused murderer, the hearing doesn't have to occur. The "lawful authority" doesn't have to be unbiased. The veteran is not necessarily entitled to an attorney -- much less an attorney financed by the government.
So what do the proponents have to say about this?
ARGUMENT: The Veterans Disarmament Act creates new avenues for prohibited persons to seek restoration of their gun rights.
ANSWER: What the bill does is to lock in -- statutorily -- huge numbers of additional law-abiding Americans who will now be denied the right to own a firearm.
And then it "graciously" allows these newly disarmed Americans to spend tens of thousands of dollars for a long-shot chance to regain the gun rights this very bill takes away from them.
More to the point, what minimal gains were granted by the "right hand" are taken away by the "left." Section 105 provides a process for some Americans diagnosed with so-called mental disabilities to get their rights restored in the state where they live. But then, in subsection (a)(2), the bill stipulates that such relief may occur only if "the person will not be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety and that the GRANTING OF THE RELIEF WOULD NOT BE CONTRARY TO THE PUBLIC INTEREST." (Emphasis added.)
Um, doesn't this language sound similar to those state codes (like California's) that have "may issue" concealed carry laws -- where citizens "technically" have the right to carry, but state law only says that sheriffs MAY ISSUE them a permit to carry? When given such leeway, those sheriffs usually don't grant the permits!
Prediction: liberal states -- the same states that took these people's rights away -- will treat almost every person who has been illegitimately denied as a danger to society and claim that granting relief would be "contrary to the public interest."
Let's make one thing clear: the efforts begun during the Clinton Presidency to disarm battle-scarred veterans -- promoted by the Brady Anti-Gun Campaign -- is illegal and morally reprehensible.
But section 101(c)(1)(C) of HR 2640 would rubber-stamp those illegal actions. Over 140,000 law-abiding veterans would be statutorily barred from possessing firearms.
True, they can hire a lawyer and beg the agency that took their rights away to voluntarily give them back. But the agency doesn't have to do anything but sit on its hands. And, after 365 days of inaction, guess what happens? The newly disarmed veteran can spend thousands of additional dollars to sue. And, as the plaintiff, the wrongly disarmed veteran has the burden of proof.
Language proposed by GOA would have automatically restored a veteran's gun rights if the agency sat on its hands for a year. Unfortunately, the GOA amendment was not included.
The Veterans Disarmament Act passed the Senate and the House yesterday -- both times WITHOUT A RECORDED VOTE. That is, the bill passed by Unanimous Consent, and was then transmitted to the White House.
Long-time GOA activists will remember that a similar "compromise" deal helped the original Brady Law get passed. In 1993, there were only two or three senators on the floor of that chamber who used a Unanimous Consent agreement (with no recorded vote) to send the Brady bill to President Clinton -- at a time when most legislators had already left town for their Thanksgiving Break.
Gun owners can go to http://www.gunowners.org/news/nws9402.htm to read about how this betrayal occurred 14 years ago.
With your help, Gun Owners of America has done a yeoman's job of fighting gun control over the years, considering the limited resources that we have. Together, we were able to buck the Brady Campaign/NRA coalition in 1999 (after the Columbine massacre) and were able to defeat the gun control that was proposed in the wake of that shooting.
Yesterday, we were not so lucky. But we are not going to go away. GOA wants to repeal the gun-free zones that disarm law-abiding Americans and repeal the other gun restrictions that are on the books. That is the answer to Virginia Tech. Unfortunately, the House and Senate chose the path of imposing more gun control.
So our appeal to you is this -- please help us to grow this coming year. Please help us to get more members and activists. If you add $10 to your membership renewal this year, we can reach new gun owners in the mail and tell them about GOA.
Please urge your friends to join GOA... and, at the very least, make sure they sign up for our free e-mail alerts so that we can mobilize more gun owners than ever before!