For Release: Tuesday, July 11, 1995
The House Appropriations Committee today stopped a Republican-led, National Rifle Association-backed effort to re-fund a federal program at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) that put guns and explosives back into the hands of criminals. Today’s vote reversed a June 28th subcommittee party-line vote to restore the guns-for-felons program in the fiscal year 1996 appropriation for the Department of the Treasury.
The program was de-funded in fiscal years 1993, 1994, and 1995 after a Violence Policy Center (VPC) study, Putting Guns Back Into Criminals’ Hands, revealed that $21 million had been spent from 1985 to 1991 to restore firearm and explosive privileges to terrorists, murderers, rapists, drug dealers, gun traffickers, and child molesters.
One of the felons granted relief under the program in 1985 was Jerome Sanford Brower who was convicted of conspiring to transport explosives to Libya in furtherance of an international terrorism plot masterminded by former CIA agents Edwin Wilson and Francis Terpil.
Under federal law, those convicted of a felony are forbidden from possessing firearms and explosives. Yet under an obscure 1965 law, until 1992 felons could apply to ATF for “relief” from the “disability” of not being able to possess firearms or buy explosives from dealers. The reach of this law was expanded dramatically in 1986 following passage of the National Rifle Association-backed Firearm Owners’ Protection Act (FOPA). In addition, the FOPA amended federal law so that restoration of civil rights by a state automatically restored the privilege of firearm possession unless the state law or individual pardon expressly forbid it.
Based on 100 case files obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) from ATF, the 1992 VPC study found that 41 percent of the crimes sampled involved crimes of violence (16 percent), drug distribution or possession (17 percent), or firearm violations (eight percent). The crimes of violence included five sexual assaults, four homicides (three of which were vehicular), and five robberies involving weapons.
Using information obtained under the FOIA from ATF, the 1992 VPC study also revealed that of those granted relief from 1985 to 1989, 47 were subsequently re-arrested for crimes that included: attempted murder; first degree sexual assault; abduction/kidnapping; child molestation; illegal possession of a machine gun; trafficking in cocaine, LSD, and PCP; and illegal firearms possession or carrying.
VPC Director of Federal Policy Kristen Rand states, “This NRA-backed effort to restore the guns-for-felons program was pro-criminal and anti-law enforcement. Today’s full committee vote is a victory for common sense and all Americans concerned about crime.”