I found a letter from myself to my parents and sister here, dated Sept. 28, 1986. I was then in DC, working for Interior and starting out a new family.
Stuff I'd long forgotten about FOPA passing the House. Since the antigun Rep. Hughes was chairman of Judiciary and wouldn't report it out, we had to get a discharge petition (to discharge his committee from considering the bill) passed, which took 218 signatures, a majority of the House. Under the then-rules, the House leadership got to see the signatories, but one else got the list.
We solved that by asking a number of friendly Reps to go down, look at it, memorize five names apiece and later write them down.
Two signatories withdrew their names after Hughes told them he'd kill bills that they wanted.
The number of signatories kept increasing, and Speaker Tip O'Neil called Hughes in and told him he was the most incompetent chairman in the House, he was letting a landslide develop. Hughes asked O'Neil to help, and he refused, told Hughes to report out a water-down version of FOPA and he'd see that it went to the floor immediately.
Two days later John Dingell, who didn't mind getting physical, actually dragged two Congressmen down and made them sign. Right after, Larry Craig (then a Rep) dragged two more down, literally.... and the clerk announced they couldn't sign because Dingell's pair had made it 218, and the petition had passed.
Craig started to debate the point, then he heard someone behind him cursing a blue streak. It was Rep. Hughes, who had heard the clerk's pronouncement, standing there red in the face and cursing. It was only the eighth such discharge petition to succeed in the previous quarter century.
Yes, I remember you mentioning that when we traded letters about FOPA. (Think I still have the letter.) That memory stimulated an idea: that I recommend to you that you write a book about FOPA, or your experiences with gun control legislation generally. Would be a valuable contribution to a subject lacking in written history, indeed lacking in any kind of objective or critical treatment.
Posted by: Eldon Dickens at August 17, 2013 07:16 PM
What FOPA was suppose to do and how it has ended up are two different things. Just two examples, the Hughes amendment screwed every one in the NFA community. Along with that the safe passage provision of the FOPA for firearms owners has turned out to be a joke in states like IL, NY, NJ, and MD. What looked like a good idea in 1986 has not turned out to be not such a good one in 2013.
Posted by: Jim K at August 18, 2013 06:39 AM
...Excuse my ignorance, but what is FOPA ?
Posted by: Dave D. at August 18, 2013 09:32 AM
Firearm Owners Protection Act.
Posted by: Hartley at August 18, 2013 09:48 AM
I have to disagree. Didn't FOPA led to a flood of gun imports previously prohibited by GCA 1968? I know a friend of mine, a non-gun owner, who bought his first firearm, a Lee-Enfield rifle recently imported thanks to FOPA, and he later became an active FFL dealer (thanks to FOPA) who specialized in selling C&R imports. Anecdotal evidence true enough, but I can't help but wonder about the snowball effect for gun-rights that the loosening of FOPA created. A quarter million so-called "kitchen table" dealers!
Among the reforms intended to loosen restrictions on gun ownership were the reopening of interstate sales of long guns on a limited basis, legalization of ammunition shipments through the U.S. Postal Service (a partial repeal of the Gun Control Act), removal of the requirement for record keeping on sales of non-armor-piercing ammunition, and federal protection of transportation of firearms through states where possession of those firearms would otherwise be illegal
The story related about Hughes obstructionism of FOPA helps explain why the poison pill Huges amendment was swallowed anyway.
And even regarding NFA weapons, wasn't the immediate impact of FOPA a flood of new machineguns registered before the Hughes amendment became law, swamping the previously existing supply of registered weapons? So even regarding machineguns, FOPA was a mixed bag.
Posted by: Brad at August 18, 2013 08:33 PM
If not for FOPA, your friend could have had a $900 M16 instead of an obsolete, worn out Enfield. I'm pretty sure only an anti could be happy about that outcome.
Posted by: Brian at August 19, 2013 06:56 AM
"...federal protection of transportation of firearms through states where possession of those firearms would otherwise be illegal."
Try that in NY, IL, MA, MD, NJ, CA and a couple of other states and you will see what a failure that provision has become.
Posted by: Jim K at August 19, 2013 09:21 AM
Good post here. To Eldon Dickens, I agree with documenting David Hardy's personal memories in a way that they will survive to posterity. One of Dave's great advantages is that he has an awesome sense of humor. He is able to make otherwise dry history come alive. Dave is always one of the most memorable and witty speakers at any conference or seminar. Most people who talk about gun control history (especially NRA history) have personal agendas that destroy the value of their information, but Dave is able to talk in a way that avoids the agenda problem.
Posted by: Thanks at August 19, 2013 10:07 AM
I second Mr. Dickens's suggestion above for an article outlining what happened with the passage of FOPA. I would love to know more about the insider details such as what you wrote about.
I still hold it against Charlie Rangel as he chaired the House during the FOPA debate for passing the disgusting Hughes Amendment in the middle of the night, on an obviously 'nay' voice vote and refusing a recorded vote.
If not a full-length book, than a series of articles for Shotgun News, Small Arms Review, or other gun magazines. Perhaps even something in one of the NRA magazines. I think it's fascinating 2A history, since we are still living with its consequences today.
On a side note, House Maj Leader Tom DeLay stuck it back to Rangel in the early 2000s when he called a quick vote on Rangel's reinstatement-of -the-draft bill. Rangel never expected R leadership to bring it up for a vote, but they did to embarass him since he was lambasting the Rs on Iraq War issues, and put the House on record on this issue to shut him up. It got so bad in the debate Rangel eventually was forced to vote against his own bill.
Ha, ha, Charlie. Serves you right...gunnies never forget. Or forgive.
Posted by: Poshboy at August 19, 2013 11:14 AM
Anyone who has ordered bulk ammo over the internet (or mail order at the time just after FOPA) has FOPA to thank.
Overall I agree that FOPA did more good than harm, even with the NFA issues.
Posted by: Earl Harding at August 19, 2013 02:40 PM
After the NRA let the Hughes amendment sail through without even a whimper not one dime in donations has crossed from my hand to theirs.
Posted by: Jim K at August 20, 2013 03:54 PM
FOPA was, on whole, a good law. It DID rein in a lot of abuses by ATF.
The Hughes amendment, onerous, tyrannical, and objectionable as it is, and the fact that certain states blatantly ignore the travel components of FOPA, STILL doesn't offset the rest of FOPA.
As for the NRA allowing the Hughes amendment to "sail through without even a whimper", that is utter BS. While Hughes was bandying the idea about, the fact is that it entered the legislative record as something that could be actually opposed at the very last minute and was fraudulently deemed passed by a bigot. No realistic opportunity to oppose it.
Posted by: Geodkyt at August 21, 2013 03:08 PM
Have you heard any from the NRA in the past 26 years trying to make good on their promises to address the Hughes amendment? Nope, not word and you never will.
It was all about protecting the Fudds and their guns.
The FOPA as it stands today was a wasted effort.
Posted by: Jim K at August 23, 2013 10:03 AM