RMGO to Challenge Brady Registrations

The Colorado Freedom Report:  A libertarian journal of politics and culture.

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RMGO to Challenge Brady Registrations

by Ari Armstrong

The following article was published in the December 2000 edition of the Colorado Gun Owner.

Brady registration checks have utterly failed to reduce crime. Instead, they have kept some peaceable citizens disarmed and they have begun the process of registering gun owners with the federal government. Principled politicians will act to immediately repeal the Brady registration scheme.

But Rocky Mountain Gun Owners will not wait for politicians to fulfill their oaths to the Constitution and protect the rights of gun owners. Because Brady registration checks violate the Colorado Constitution, RMGO will initiate a lawsuit to exile the failed program from the state. Expect to hear more on this effort shortly before Amendment 22 is scheduled to go into effect on March 31, 2001.

Unfortunately, the national disarmament lobby recently succeeded in expanding the Brady registration system in Colorado with Amendment 22, which will impose Brady registrations on private sales at gun shows. RMGO spearheaded the campaign against Amendment 22 and helped defeat it in 21 Colorado counties, but SAFE and Handgun Control dumped nearly a million dollars into the state in support of the measure.

However, the greatest obstacle to defeating the gun control initiative was the support given to it by turncoats within our own camp and by organizations that supposedly oppose gun control. Prominent Republicans like Governor "Gun Control" Bill Owens and even George W. Bush threw their support behind the Brady expansion initiative. Owens campaigned actively for the new gun control, even rushing to be the first to sign the petition.

The National Rifle Association finally came out against the proposal, but only after sending mixed messages to gun owners by supporting the idea of background checks. During last year's legislative session, some NRA leaders said publicly they wouldn't bother fighting such a measure. Just one month before the November election, Charlton Heston told Outdoor Life magazine that he favored mandatory background checks for anyone purchasing firearms at gun shows -- Heston was even quoted by SAFE in their ads for Amendment 22!

The mailers finally sent out by the NRA were ineffectual. They never addressed any substantive problem with background checks, focusing instead on minutia. Aimee Rathburn, head of the local NRA affiliate, said during a televised debate with Aristed Zavaras that Brady checks never deny law-abiding citizens their rights to purchase a firearm, a statement easily proven false: RMGO staff field a dozen calls a week from citizens who were wrongly denied by Brady.

But the NRA's wishy-washy opposition to Amendment 22 is hardly surprising, since the NRA helped write the original Brady law. Rather than stand and fight our enemy, the NRA has decided to join them by establishing a firearms owner registration system, the pre-cursor to the confiscation of our firearms.

The NRA's politics of appeasement has failed for decades, yet the group's leaders bury their heads in the sand and turn again and again to the same failed strategies. Will NRA leaders ever learn that standing on principle is the only way to succeed?

Fortunately for Colorado gun owners, "one man with courage is a majority," as Thomas Jefferson put it. Even though the anti-gun lobby Sane Alternatives to the Firearms Epidemic (the name of which likens gun ownership to a disease) won more votes for Amendment 22, its support is very shallow, with most voters completely ignorant of the actual workings of Brady registration checks. The knowledge and conviction of principled gun owners runs deep.

The problems with Amendment 22 illustrate what's wrong with the entire Brady registration system. According to Arnie Grossman, co-founder of so-called SAFE, Amendment 22 is just the "first step" toward even more laws. For instance, Grossman said during an October 24 radio interview he'd like to see other private sales monitored by government.

In fact, the national anti-gun lobby explicitly states the purpose of the gun control initiative here in Colorado is to push for more federal gun control laws.

HCI wants to ban all handguns and semiautomatics. Rosie O'Donnell wants to ban every gun in America and throw every gun owner in prison, so she gave $10,000 to SAFE. In addition, an east-coast billionaire paid for an Arizona politician to tell Coloradans how to vote. Why all the sudden interest in Colorado law by anti-gun activists who don't even live here? For the national anti-gun lobby, Colorado is just a means toward the end of more federal anti-gun laws.

Pete Shields as Chairman of HCI once said, "We're going to have to take this one step at a time, and the first step is necessarily going to be very modest... The (next) problem is to get handguns registered. And the final problem is to make possession of all handguns and all handgun ammunition totally illegal."

Make no mistake: Amendment 22 is about registering gun owners with the government. That's why it states: "A licensed gun dealer who conducts a background check on a prospective transferee shall record the transfer." Of course, these records are available on demand to the ATF, and they must be surrendered to the ATF when the licensed dealer goes out of business. The FBI has been keeping tabs as well. Amendment 22 is just another step toward the registration of every gun owner with the federal government.

The final effect of Amendment 22 will be to increase crime. Two independent studies show the national background check system has failed to reduce crime. Yale scholar John Lott's study found background checks increased one category of violent crime -- rape, by 3.6 percent.

Background checks don't stop criminals, who get their guns through theft or the black market. However, because of faulty records, background checks routinely deny law-abiding citizens their right to purchase a firearm for self-defense. Some who are wrongly denied are placed at increased risk of victimization.

Background checks are run through the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, which relies on horribly inaccurate records. 70 percent of denials through background checks are based on incomplete arrest records. Even a Western Slope police officer has been wrongly denied because of flaws in the records.

When a person is wrongly denied, he or she must then prove innocence to the CBI. Saddling honest Coloradans with the presumption of guilt is abhorrent. Those wrongly denied must hunt down old police and court records to prove themselves innocent, a process so arduous that most who could obtain a reversal don't even bother.

No, this proposal would not have stopped Columbine, as even SAFE supporters Bill Ritter and Bruce Goodman admit. Robyn Anderson, who bought some of the guns used in the crime, would have passed a background check, and she showed photo ID to buy her guns. The Columbine tragedy was caused by a great many deeper cultural problems, and to use our freedoms as a scape-goat is sheer folly.

Brady registration checks have nothing to do with stopping crime. Criminals laugh at these types of gun control laws, which serve only to keep some victims disarmed. Amendment 22 would serve only to harass honest gun owners, and it is just one more step toward the anti-gun lobby's stated goal of universal registration and gun bans.

Amendment 22 is but one more branch on the poisonous weed of the Brady law.It's time to pull out the Brady registration scheme by its roots, so that the Tree of Liberty can again flourish.


Ari Armstrong is the Research Director for Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.

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Rocky Mountain Gun Owners
Colorado's largest gun rights organization
PO Box 3114
Denver, Colorado 80201
Phone & Fax (303) 432-3006
http://www.rmgo.org exdir@rmgo.org
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