The Gun Owners of America hopes to persuade House Speaker Newt Gingrich to allow a vote on U.S. Rep. Helen Chenoweth’s bill to repeal a ban on gun ownership by anyone with a domestic violence conviction.
Critics of the Idaho Republican contend her bill trivializes spousal abuse, but she said that may be the only defense of people who want to politicize the issue.
The Springfield, Va., lobby posted petitions on the Internet two weeks ago that charge Gingrich with ignoring the wishes of gun owners who helped Republicans take control of Congress three years ago.
Gingrich could instruct the House Judiciary Committee to bring to the House floor Chenoweth’s bill and measures repealing the ban on semiautomatic assault rifles and protecting gun owners’ right to use firearms to defend themselves, their families and their homes, the group said in its petition.
Eric Pratt, director of federal affairs for Gun Owners of America, said the group plans to present the petitions to Gingrich early next year.
A spokesman for Gingrich referred questions to a spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Dick Armey, who could not be reached for comment. Chenoweth said she did not know whether Gingrich was holding up consideration of her bill in the Judiciary Committee but that she would find out soon.
Two weeks ago, Chenoweth, Idaho Republican Michael Crapo and eight other congressmen asked Judiciary Chairman Henry Hyde of Illinois and Subcommittee on Crime Chairman Bill McCollum of Florida to conduct a public hearing on Chenoweth’s bill.
The measure has 34 co-sponsors, including Crapo. They contend U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s amendment to a budget bill last year penalizes Americans who already have faced justice, runs roughshod over the rights of states and judges in assessing penalties case by case and is an unfunded mandate to city, county and state police offices.
“We want to be clear,” they wrote in their letter. “We abhor domestic violence and believe that spousal and child abuse have no place in our society.”
However, the congressmen said Lautenberg’s amendment actually has disarmed many women who need protection from abusive spouses.
“Many police departments require officers to charge both parties in a domestic dispute, even if there is no sign of violence and neither party wants to press charges,” they wrote.
“Some of these cases are uncontested, with both parties paying a simple misdemeanor fine in order to put the incident behind them.”
The 10 congressmen cited the support of a number of groups for Chenoweth’s bill, including the Idaho chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, Idaho Sheriffs Association, Home School Legal Defense Association and Women Against Gun Control.
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