September 2000

Friday, September 1st, 2000

“Accidental deaths caused by doctors and hospitals in America reached 120,000 per year,” stated Rep. James A. Traficant, Jr. of Ohio in a July 26 speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. “Meanwhile,” he continued, “gun deaths have dropped 35 percent. In fact, accidental gun deaths dropped to 1,500 last year.

“Think about it. We have got hospitals slicing and dicing American people like Freddie Kruger, and Congress is passing more gun laws. Beam me up. There is something wrong in America when one is 80 times more likely to be killed by a doctor than Smith & Wesson. Maybe we need a gun in surgery.

“I yield back the fact that the Second Amendment was not written to cover just duck hunters.”
Pro-gun Rep. John D. Dingell of Michigan sent an August 2 letter to anti-gun U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno asking her “why the Department of Justice is not doing more to prosecute” individuals who violate federal law prohibiting them from obtaining firearms.

In June, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported on Federal Firearm Offenders and on Background Checks for Firearm Transfers. According to these reports, the National Instant Check System (NICS) identifies and denies convicted murderers, rapists and other violent criminals who attempt to purchase firearms from Federal Firearm License (FFL) holders. Such an attempt by such individuals itself is a violation of federal law, 18 U.S.C. 922(a)(6). Less than one percent of those so rejected, however, are prosecuted at the federal level.

“I want to know why,” said Dingell, “when the law clearly states it is a federal felony to falsify information on a firearm transfer application, the Justice Department has chosen not to prosecute these offenders. In 1999, 86 percent of the people rejected by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) had lied on their application and are thereby punishable by law, yet less than one percent were prosecuted. NICS is one of the most effective tools we have to crack down on gun criminals and prevent crime, but it only works if we use it.”

In the letter, Dingell responded to Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder’s statement that “the Brady Law has stopped 536,000 felons, fugitives, domestic abusers and other persons not legally allowed to have a gun from getting a gun,” by noting that stopping the sale of a gun to a prohibited person is only one factor of an effective strategy to reduce violent criminal behavior. Prosecuting those felons, fugitives and domestic abusers who attempt, by falsifying their application to purchase a firearm, is equally important.
“In a pleasantly meandering conversation over lunch in San Francisco last summer,” reports nationally syndicated columnist George F. Will, “Condoleezza Rice, then still provost of Stanford but already unofficially what she now is officially, George W. Bush’s senior policy adviser, was asked her thoughts about gun control. ‘I am,’ she answered crisply, ‘a Second Amendment absolutist.’ Growing up in Birmingham, Alabama in the early 1960s, when racial tensions rose, there were, she said, occasions when the black community had to exercise its right to bear arms in self-defense, becoming, if you will, a well-regulated militia.”
In defying the publicly expressed will of certain Members of Congress, the Clinton-Gore Administration said it will continue paying local governments to buy back guns from private owners despite orders from budget appropriators in the House of Representatives to end the program.

In June, Rep. James Walsh of New York, Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee which oversees the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), along with Rep. Alan Mollohan of West Virginia, the Ranking Member, and Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, the House Majority Whip, wrote HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo that funding the gun surrender program, known as “Buyback America,” was not authorized by law, a position supported by the General Accounting Office, a nonpartisan congressional research agency.

Walsh stated that HUD is misspending federal funds by diverting $15 million earmarked for a program designed to fight drugs in public housing to pay for “Buyback America.”

Walsh said that, “drug elimination funds are for eliminating drugs…Gun buyback programs, whether you agree or disagree with them, do not qualify under that funding scheme.” He noted also he felt that, “gun buybacks are sort of silly” because criminals are not going to turn in their firearms for the HUD-suggested price of fifty dollars.

President Clinton, on the other hand, stated that, “despite HUD’s clear authority to carry out this important program, the gun lobby and other opponents of common-sense gun safety measures continue to challenge this initiative.”

Walsh denied he has been pressured by the gun lobby on the issue. He said the Clinton-Gore Administration “has found the gun lobby to be an excellent whipping boy, but I have not consistently supported or opposed the gun lobby. This is just an appropriator’s responsibility to make sure that funds are spent appropriately.”