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Gun Owners' Victories Since the 2004 Elections

Elections matter. Precisely because of our work and success in the 2002 and 2004 elections, we were able to lay the groundwork for the victories that you will read about below. Now the question before us is, "What will the future hold?" Two years from now, will we be reporting on more victories in our quest to protect and preserve the Second Amendment? Or, will our update contain bad news for gun owners? Election Day -- Tuesday, November 7 -- will be when the next chapter in the history of the Second Amendment will be written. Your work in the coming weeks will be what spells the difference between pro- and anti-gun candidates on Election Day. Thus, you will write the future legislative history of the Second Amendment.

Following is a list of the major federal victories we have seen during the 109th Congress:

· Enactment of the "Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act." Within a year of Hurricane Katrina hitting the Gulf Coast, Congress passed the NRA-backed H.R. 5013, sponsored by Representative Bobby Jindal (R-La.), by an overwhelming 322-99 vote. This bill amended federal emergency laws to prohibit federal, state, and local authorities from confiscating lawfully-owned firearms during emergencies or disasters. Senator David Vitter's (R-La.) amendment to prohibit the use of funds appropriated under the Homeland Security appropriations bill (H.R. 5441) for the confiscation of lawfully possessed firearms during an emergency or disaster passed the U.S. Senate by an historic 84-16 vote. The Jindal bill was substituted for the Vitter amendment in the conference committee and President Bush signed it into law on October 4.

· Enactment of the "Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act." President Bush, marking the culmination of six years of hard work by NRA-ILA and gun owners nationwide, signed "The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act" (S. 397) into law on October 26, 2005, thus ending the campaign of politically motivated lawsuits designed to bankrupt law-abiding American firearm manufacturers and retailers. The Senate passed S. 397 by a 65-31 vote on July 29, 2005 and then by the House by a 283-144 vote on October 20, 2005.

· Enactment of the "Tiahrt Amendment." This amendment protects gun owners' privacy by prohibiting the release of firearm trace data to any entity except a law enforcement agency conducting a bona fide criminal investigation involving the firearm.

· Enactment of a tax exemption for custom gunsmiths. During the same week the Senate passed S. 397, NRA-ILA helped win an important but less-publicized victory for small custom gunsmiths. A massive highway construction bill (which President Bush promptly signed into law) contained an amendment that exempts manufacturers of fewer than 50 firearms from "manufacturing" excise taxes.

· House Passage of H.R. 5092. The NRA-backed "Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE) Modernization and Reform Act," by Representatives Howard Coble (R-N.C.) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.), passed the U.S. House of Representatives by an overwhelming bi-partisan 277-131 vote. H.R. 5092 was drafted in large part to address BATFE abuses at Richmond, Virginia area gun shows last year, which were detailed in three oversight hearings by the House Crime Subcommittee this spring. The measure will help curb BATFE's efforts to revoke dealers' licenses for minor paperwork errors, establish new guidelines for BATFE investigations, and improve the appeals process for dealers. It will also provide more accountability and much-needed reform to this federal law enforcement agency.

· Enactment of critical hunting and conservation legislation. Sportsmen and wildlife scored a critical victory when House and Senate negotiators approved a provision in the 2007 Defense Authorization Act that will save the herds of elk and mule deer on Santa Rosa Island (the second largest of California's Channel Islands) from court-ordered eradication. With encouragement from NRA-ILA, this Congress correctly determined it is in the public interest to maintain this sanctuary for these two remarkable species of animals.

Clearly, the past two years represent one of the most successful congressional sessions that gun owners have ever had. But make no mistake--all of our hard work and vital victories must be protected! This year's elections are critically important, as their outcome will determine whether our hard-fought gains will stand or fall.

The House Judiciary Committee has just sent several important pro-gun reform bills to the floor, but if control of the Congress changes hands, the new chairman of that committee would be John Conyers of Michigan-the only House member still serving who voted for the Gun Control Act of 1968, voted against the Firearms Owners' Protection Act of 1986, denounced crime-fighting proposals (such as Project Exile) that to his way of thinking "unwisely place a great emphasis on enforcement programs," and has repeatedly called for a national ban on handgun ownership and possession!

And while many bills start out in Judiciary, they must all pass through the House Rules Committee before they go to the floor. The Rules Committee is a nearly all-powerful body that sets the ground rules for how a bill will be debated on the House floor-and on the amendments that can be offered. In line to fill that gate-keeping role: Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.). Rep. Slaughter is a persistent cosponsor of anti-gun bills, including a bill to ban on .50 caliber rifles, and another to reverse the Bush administration's policy of destroying instant check records on law-abiding gun buyers.

Of course, the last check on this anti-gun attack would be the House leadership itself. But don't look for much hope there, because would-be Speaker Nancy Pelosi also has a decades-long anti-gun track record. Pelosi, a close ally of fellow San Franciscan Dianne Feinstein, co-chaired the 1992 Democratic platform committee that endorsed gun bans, gun licensing, and gun registration, and joined Conyers in opposing expansion of Project Exile enforcement programs against violent criminals. Pelosi's sorry record on Second Amendment issues was underscored by one of her first acts on joining her party's leadership; when she was elected House Minority Whip, she hired a former Handgun Control, Inc. spokesman as her communications director.

None of these pro-gun victories would have been possible with Pelosi, Conyers and Slaughter in control of the U.S. House of Representatives. The message for gun owners and sportsmen is obvious. Elections matter, and votes count. We cannot take our past victories for granted; we must continue the fight. Pro-Second Amendment candidates can only win if NRA members lend their support to those who support our gun rights and hunting heritage.
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