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Congressional Record, Volume 131, Number 90, July 9, 1985



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United States of America Congressional 'Record PROCEEDINGS AND DEBATES OF THE 99 CONGRESS, FIRST SESSION Vol. HI WASHINGTON, TUESDAY, JULY 9, 1985 N* 90 Senate Mr. HECHT. Mr. President, I rise in opposition to this amendment. Of the various amendments which we can expect to consider during the disposi^ tion of this bill, few are so repugnant to America's gunowners that they would kill the bill. The pending amendment, however, would, in my opinion, kill this legislation. Make no mistake about it: The adoption of this amendment will cause, S. 49 to be pulled down, leaving the' vote on this amendment as the pivotal gun vote of the 99th Congress. The reason this amendment would kill the bill is clear: It would constitute1 a major step toward establishing a system of handgun registration which could be accessed nationally through systems which have been developed or' may be developed by the Department of Justice and other law enforcement entities. The central compromise of the Gun1 Control Act of 1968 was that records concerning gun ownership would be I maintained by dealers, not by the Fed-eral Government and not by State or local governments. By dealers only, except in circumstances such as the closing of a particular dealer's business. This amendment would destroy that central compromise. It would allow centralized police files containing the names of handgun owners. There is nothing in the amendment which provides for the destruction of the lists of names after the cross-checks are made, and, consequently, I believe it is reasonable to assume that the names forwarded for these cross-checks would be maintained and computerized. Once the names of all handgun owners are computerized, the Senators need to understand further that there is no prohibition in this amendment which would prevent their being accessed by other law enforcement authorities. There is simply no viable reason why citizens must register their name to participate in a constitutionally guaranteed freedom. As the Declaration of Independence states, these rights are God given, not government given. That distinction is important, because those who believe certain freedoms are bestowed on us by the Government* may also use the same rationale to restrict them. This amendment carries the same theme which many other of the amendments to this bill contain: they impute intent to an inanimate object. Because the worst is feared, some would say that guns must be regulated regardless of whether constitutionally guaranteed freedoms are trampled. If the same line of reasoning were followed, regulation might next be considered necessary for a kitchen drawer full of knives. This amendment has a litany of objectionable, and impractical features. First, because convicted felons are already prohibited from purchasing guns, the law applies only to law abiding citizens who have no felonious 2 criminal record. Further a criminal who wanted to obtain a gun illegally could easily do so, with no waiting period. Second, inherent in the amendment is the assumption that everyone is a criminal, or has, or will have, criminal intent. Third, the amendment could increase victimization by delaying self protection for threatened law abiding citizens. Fourth, it violates the purpose of the Gun Control Act of 1968 which states: ... it is not the purpose of this title to place any undue or unnecessary federal restrictions or burdens on law abiding citizens with respect to the acquisition, or use of firearms appropriate to the purpose of hunting, trapshooting, personal protection, or any other lawful activity. . . Fifth, it violates the purpose of this bill which is to: . . . protect the firearms owners of Constitutional rights, civil liberties, and rights to privacy . . . Mr. President, we can all devise mechanisms which arguably would lead to more effective law enforcement. Mandatory minimum sentences for felony convictions would go further in that direction than most other measures we could enact, in view of the large percentage of violent crimes which are committed by persons who have previously been convicted of such crimes or who are free on bail. Finally with respect to guns. Congress decided in 1968 to reject a system of centralized registration. To destroy that pivotal compromise at this time would kill this legislation.