Ban Sunset Congressional Dream Team?
So, now that
the post-election dust has settled, how are things looking
for us in the House, Senate, and White House? Let's start
with the President.
President Bush did voice support for the "current ban"
during his campaign, he appears to be backing away from
this stance now. During recent Senate testimony, Attorney
General John Ashcroft would not give a firm answer to the
relentless ban renewal questioning from Sens. Feinstein
(D-CA) and Schumer (D-NY), instead saying the White House
intended to study the issue further (in Washington, "study"
generally means "it's dead"). Feinstein was flabbergasted,
but Ashcroft rightfully cited the NIJ report released in
1999 that indicates the ban has had an "uncertain"
effect on crime ("uncertain" is a very charitable
way to put this... "nonexistent" is closer to
could provide a very convenient and plausible way out for
the President. After all, he reportedly said he supported
the "current ban". This legislation, passed in
1994, included a sunset provision and mandated that a study
be performed to determine its effect on crime. The reason
for this is obvious... to provide a mechanism to automatically
remove this restrictive infringement on Americans' rights
if not proven to have a significant public safety benefit.
Though somewhat reminiscent of something the previous administration
would pull, it is certainly within the realm of possibilities
that Bush could "refine" his position, clarifying
that he supports ALL aspects of the ban, including the expiration
provision and "burden of proof" of effectiveness.
Because the ban has not had a significant impact on crime,
it should not be renewed.
we cannot count on the President to veto a renewal bill.
At best, we should consider him a passive asset to our efforts,
because it is highly unlikely that he would twist arms in
Congress to get a renewal to his desk. While this may not
be a perfect situation (a promised veto would be ideal!),
things would be much worse if Al Gore had won the election.
on to the Senate, where we have a slight pro-gun majority,
a renewal MIGHT pass if it made it to the floor. But the
key phrase here is "if it made it to the floor".
When a new ban is introduced, it will then be referred to
the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it will undergo intense
scrutiny and debate. Both sides of the issue will have an
opportunity to testify during hearings. After these proceedings,
a vote is taken to determine the fate of the bill. It can
be sent back to the full Senate (where it would likely be
scheduled for a vote on final passage).
since the Senate is now under Republican leadership, Sen.
Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary
Committee. Sen. Hatch voted against adding the "Feinstein
Assault Weapons Amendment" to the Senate Crime Bill
in 1993, and also voted against final passage of this bill.
In addition, he voted against a 1999 amendment by Feinstein
to ban the importation of full-capacity magazines. While
he controls the agenda of the committee, this does not necessarily
mean he would, could, or should singlehandedly kill a renewal.
But, being firmly on our side, we can at least be assured
that we'd be given a fair shake. A Judiciary Committee run
by an anti-gun Democrat would almost guarantee a rubber-stamp
approval of Feinstein's bill, ignoring the vast array of
facts that point to the ban's ineffectiveness.
makeup of this committee is very interesting. Republican
members include reliably pro-gun faces such as Kyl (R-AZ),
Craig (R-ID), Chambliss (R-GA), and Cornyn (R-TX), pitted
against rabid gun haters Feinstein (D-CA) and Schumer (D-NY)
(the mother and father of the current ban), as well other
gun grabbers such as Durbin (D-IL), Kennedy (D-MA), and
definitely going to fly during that hearing!
only potential fly in the ointment here is Mike DeWine (R-OH),
whose voting record shows him to be disappointingly anti-gun
(though not nearly as bad as Schumer and Feinstein). He
could theoretically join with the Democrats on the committee,
giving them enough votes to send the bill back to the full
Senate with a favorable report. All of the remaining Republican
members have solid pro-gun voting records, almost all of
them having cast votes against the "assault weapons"
Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) is somewhat pro-gun, but
Majority Whip Mitch McConnell, who is responsible for coordinating
Republican votes and strategy in the Senate, is solidly
on our side, having a good pro-gun record and voting against
the ban in 1993.
look much better for us in the House of Representatives.
Not only do we have a decent pro-gun majority, we also have
a fantastic leadership situation. The Speaker of the House,
Denny Hastert (R-IL) voted against the ban in 1994, and
for the repeal in 1996, as did House Majority Leader Tom
DeLay (R-TX). House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) was not
in office then, but also is very pro-gun. In short, if a
ban renewal were to make it to the floor for a vote, it
would likely fail.
the House Judiciary Committee, we have what is probably
the closest thing to a perfect makeup as could be expected.
The committee is chaired by James Sensenbrenner (R-WI),
a reliable supporter of Second Amendment rights. Like Speaker
Hastert, Chairman Sensenbrenner voted on our side in 1994
and 1996. Every Republican on the committee, except for
Henry Hyde (R-IL) is strongly pro-gun. Of those, the members
who were in office for the 1994 vote on the ban, or 1996
repeal (about half the Republican members) all voted on
our side. And as if that weren't enough, one of the Democrats
on the committee, Frederick Boucher (D-VA), is also pro-gun
and voted our way in '94 and '96.
puts the House Judiciary Committee with a solid 21-15 pro-gun
majority. Though we do not want to sound over-confident,
it would be a miracle if a ban renewal made it out of this
should keep in mind that a repeal, passed by both houses
of Congress and signed by the President, is not necessary
for the ban to sunset. In fact, the exact opposite is true,
as the burden is on advocates of the ban to successfully
navigate their proposed legislation through a Congress that
is not at all warm to the idea of passing any gun control
measures. A renewal has to make it through the Senate Judiciary
Committee (where it quite possibly could be killed), be
passed by the full Senate (which might happen), survive
the House Judiciary Committee (which almost certainly will
not happen), and be passed by the full House (also highly
unlikely) before reaching the President's desk for his possible
it takes is for the bill to be stopped at ANY one of those
stages for us to be victorious. This is in stark contrast
to the drive to repeal the ban in 1996. The repeal passed
comfortably in the House, but was never voted on in the
Senate, and would have been vetoed by President Clinton
is critical that all gun owners in America be made aware
of our current situation. While a ban renewal is thankfully
looking highly improbable at this time, we still need to
mobilize as many of our Second Amendment troops as possible
to ensure success. Political apathy runs rampant among gun
owners, largely due to the fact that pro-gun legislation
over the past 8-10 years never seemed to get anywhere, but
this is one fight that we can, and WILL, win.
the Assault Weapon Ban