25th Annual Gun Rights Policy Conference
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ATF and Gov’t Regulations
“Carry on, carry often and carry everywhere.”
Following the Fast and Furious discussion, the conversation stayed on the ATF track with a presentation on ATF and Government Regulations.
Mark Westrom, president of ArmaLite, detailed his concerns about “people in ATF who are really good folks.”
“Behind any organization are organizational imperatives,” he said, “and these are the things that really worry me.”
He cautioned about “regulatory creep.” Organizations want to create laws or regulations that permanently resolve some problem. He said that in every organization, you have people who are “highly opinionated” and “occasionally they do stupid things.”
Rules and regulations see changes with every administration. He said Project Gunwalker appears to be a problem resulting from initiative and careerism; that is, a product of someone’s desire to create program to ensnare the bad guys and advance their careers in the process. Unfortunately, he said, “people got killed.”
He was followed by Gun Week National Correspondent Bob Lesmeister, who noted that gun dealers might be leery of the ATF after Fast and Furious. However, he said this operation was not the first time the agency got involved in something troubling.
More than 10 years ago, he recalled, a career police officer who had a federal firearms license had run into problems with ATF. One ATF staffer apparently lied on the stand in a case involving the officer, whose career was endangered as retaliation.
Lesmeister noted calls for dismantling ATF and turning its duties over to another agency. He said no other agency can take on that burden, especially while the war on terrorism continues.
Another problem with ATF, he suggested, is a history of troubled operations, not the least of which was the raid on the Branch Davidians in Texas.
“Until Eric Holder is replaced,” he said, “I don’t think we can expect many changes in ATF’s attitude.”
Andre Queen, executive director of the Chicago-based Fidelity Investigative Academy, said his group gets into trouble because it supports Second Amendment rights. The people running the government today learned their political skills in Chicago, and that this should “scare you.” He talked about the City of Chicago’s “convoluted” gun licensing program.
“The ordinance was created in such a way as to make it virtually impossible for people to get a permit,” he said.
Queen said people need to look at what’s happening in Chicago and the tactics used in that city to subjugate the citizens living in that city.
“We’re winning today, but we need to be vigilant,” he stressed.
He blamed City of Chicago politics for the fact that Illinois does not now have a concealed carry law or permit system.
“If Fast and Furious had not been found out,” he said, “the guns going across the border into Mexico would have been used as a rallying point to tell Americans how bad we should all feel for allowing American guns to…kill Mexican citizens, and because we’re Americans and we always take the moral high ground, we need to do something about it. And that would call for more gun control.”
He said that gunowners need to be unified and stay together. Anywhere gun laws hurt the rights of one gunowner, Queen added, it hurts all gunowners.
CCW & Gun Free Zones
The final panel of the day discussed concealed carry and gun free school zones, with Mark Walters, host of Armed American Radio, leading the segment.
He blamed media lies and how the Brady Campaign has lied about gun rights. Recalling the effort to open national parks to carrying firearms for personal protection, Walters noted that former Brady Campaign President Paul Helmke lobbied against the law, insisting that the nation could not allow more dangerous people to carry guns in parks.
“There are not more dangerous people in parks,” he said.
The same strategy is being used by Dennis Henigan, now acting Brady Campaign president, to oppose national concealed carry reciprocity. Average gunowners are not dangerous individuals, he said.
Walters recalled an incident in which he was the intended victim of an intended carjacking in Florida. He was armed that day, and after drawing his legally-carried pistol, the would-be carjackers “fled in a puff of blue tire smoke.”
“Carry on, carry often and carry everywhere,” he said.
Author Alan Korwin told the audience that he is from Arizona, where there is “constitutional carry,” and he called that “the next step for you guys.”
“It’s a freedom that is indescribable,” Korwin said.
He called Illinois the “last piece in the jigsaw puzzle,” and said it would be good when the state adopts some form of carry legislation.
Korwin suggested that pro-gunners should consider themselves “pro rights.” He accused the press of creating the “assault weapons” term.
“Assault is a type of behavior, not a type of firearm,” he said.
Korwin said the use of words is a weapon. He said the term “gun free zone” is wrong, a “Utopian dream that is absolutely off the wall wrong.” The Gun Free School Zones Act, adopted during the Clinton administration, is a fantasy. He said people who violate the zone would lose their gun rights but for one thing: The law is not enforced and it was never intended to be enforced.
There is legislation authored by Congressman Ron Paul to repeal the Gun Free School Zones Act.
Attorney David Gross with the Minnesota Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance was next at the microphone. He said the fight for gun rights is about freedom. In 2003, the state adopted shall-issue concealed carry and now the state has 86,000 carry permits, and he predicted the number will improve dramatically.
He called Minnesota “a great place. It’s not on the way to anywhere,” he joked.
Minnesota’s state constitution does not include a right to bear arms tenet, but his group pushed the state legislature to declare that the Second Amendment applies.
Gross, a former member of the NRA board of directors, said gunowners in Minnesota and elsewhere are winning the cultural war. He calls Gun Free Zones “victim disarmament zones” or “OSHA zones for criminals.”
“In Minnesota,” he said, “the legislature decided to ignore (the Gun Free Zone).”
Minnesota’s law allows armed citizens to drop off and pick up students, and Gross said Minnesota activists will be pushing to change that because the state never had a gun free school zones law.
A late addition to the panel was David Burnett, public affairs director for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus (SCCC). He called Chicago one of the last islands that is hostile to concealed carry.
He lauded the Second Amendment Foundation for court victories, and said that “our freedom to keep and bear arms has never been stronger.”
However, one of the largest remaining gun free zones in this country is the college campus. There are robberies, assaults, rapes and killings on college campuses, and he said the group is looking at the number of sex offenders who live near college campuses. He called college campuses target rich defense-free environments.
During the past year, SCCC has doubled the number of schools that allow campus carry. They stopped Colorado State University from enacting a gun ban on campus. He said more than 130 colleges participated in the Empty Holster protest to symbolize defenselessness against predators on campus.
“For a bunch of students on a shoestring budget, we’ve done pretty well,” he said.
There has been help from SAF, NRA and others, but he urged people to contribute.
Next issue: The GRPC wraps up with reports on media bias, knife rights, patient privacy, the Supreme Court, women in the gun rights movement and open carry.
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