Weekly Update:

A Publication of the Michigan Militia Corps

Volume 4, Issue 3

January 22, 1997

Gun Sales Soar as Australians Cash in on Disarmament Plan

By Chris Oliver Wilson, London Daily Telegraph

LONDON - The Australian government's campaign to disarm its gun- owning population has descended into farce.

Firearm owners are collecting generous compensation for handing in newly banned guns, then buying equally lethal but legal weapons with the cash.

The gun lobby's success in evading the ban is making a mockery of legislation passed in the wake of the massacre of 35 persons in Port Arthur, Tasmania, by lone gunman Martin Bryant last April.

Gun dealers across the country have been inundated with shooting enthusiasts brandishing government compensation checks, often worth thousands of dollars. They are buying powerful new lever-action and bolt action rifles, which have ranges of up to 400 yards.

"It is a fiasco," said Cohn Elkington, a New South Wales gun dealer whose sales have soared. "Many owners are handing in banned guns and buying 10-shot repeating firearms of the same caliber. They're as lethal and not a lot slower to reload than the prohibited semiautomatic guns. The government is wasting its money."

Around 250,000 of the 4 million firearms in public ownership have already been handed in, and $90 million paid out. Mr. Elkington estimates that more than 150,000 new guns will be bought with the money.

The government has budgeted $375 million for the disarmament program.

The money is being raised by a special levy of $22.50 on every adult.

Oily Westcott, a fencing contractor 'cam Perth, Western Australia, handed in his pump-action shotgun in exchange for about $400. His next stop on receiving the money was Doug Barnes' Gun Mart, where he admired a Swift .22 bolt-action rifle with a view to buying one later.

Mr. Westcott is convinced that behind the federal government's campaign lies a hidden agenda.

"They want Australia gun-free in the buildup to it becoming a republic," he said, conspiratorially. "This is a way of controlling the population. Next they'll clamp down on fishing."

The move to make Australia a republic would break traditional ties with the British crown.

According to Mr. Westcott, the measures will not stop another massacre like that at Port Arthur, which shocked Australia as much as the Dunblane school tragedy did Britain.

Many relatives of the victims of the Port Arthur killings feel that the new laws do not go far enough. Jenny Tibbenham, 34, whose mother Winifred was gunned down when Bryant went on the rampage, said: "Only country people should have guns and then only one-shot weapons."

The implementation of the new measures has also been criticized. Rebecca Peters, chairman of the main anti-firearms lobby, the National Coalition for Gun Control, said: "The states don't work together and they don't like to feel they are being put under pressure by anyone."

Politicians' zeal for the measures was deflated when they found the strength of opposition at home, especially in rural Queensland, Western Australia and Northern Territory.

Russel Cooper, police minister for Queensland, said the prime minister's plans were flawed with "massive logistical problems."

His state has been the last to press ahead with the buyback scheme, which is starting only now, four months late.

IRS Targets Outspoken Groups

By Rowan Scarborough
The Washington Times, January 26, 1997

The Internal Revenue Service is conducting intrusive audits of high- profile conservative think tanks and advocacy groups, some of which are named as "enemies" in internal Clinton administration documents.

A spot survey of right-of-center nonprofit groups shows at least seven being scrutinized by the IRS, which can revoke an organization's tax exempt status and essentially put it out of business.

A comparable check of prominent liberal groups found no such scrutiny.

A government source said congressional aides have made preliminary inquiries with the IRS. Based on a review of files, the aides have left open the possibility that groups are being targeted based on their ideology.

Among those under investigation are the Heritage Foundation, Citizens Against Government Waste, the National Rifle Association and a group headed by one of the Republican Party's most outspoken figures. That group has declined to go public about the audits, which began shortly after President Clinton took office in January 1993 and continue today.

All the organizations have one thing in common: They actively oppose Clinton policies.

The IRS is headed by Margaret Milner Richardson, [correction: she just resigned, no new commissioner has been appointed yet.] a former corporate tax lawyer and a close friend of first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. Mrs. Richardson worked on the 1992 Clinton campaign and plans to leave the IRS when a new commissioner is named.

"There should be a full-scale congressional investigation and hearings to determine whether the Clinton administration has politicized the IRS audit process," said Mark Levin, the president of the Landmark Legal Foundation, a conservative watchdog group.

"I think it's significant two of the organizations mentioned in the White House counsel's 331-page 'enemies' document are being audited today," he said. "This administration has demonstrated in the past that it is more than willing to use the law enforcement apparatus to punish perceived enemies.

Dom Laponzina, an IRS spokesman for the Washington D.C. area, said politics play no role in the agency's audit decisions.

"I would assume your readers understand part of the job of the IRS is not only to audit profit-making corporations, but also non-profit organizations who enjoy the privilege of not paying taxes," he said. "The law requires that those organizations be audited periodically to determine if they merit that kind of treatment."

In a 1995 internal White House report, the counsel's office singled out two of these groups as being hostile to Mr. Clinton and responsible for unflattering reports about him and Mrs. Clinton.

The Western Journalism Center was prominently named. The center has promoted reports skeptical that White House Deputy Counsel Vincent W. Foster Jr. died of a self-inflicted gunshot.

Western Journalism's director, Joseph Farah, said IRS agents began auditing his books last summer. He said they asked questions seemingly unrelated to tax issues, such as the centers relationship with reporter Christopher Ruddy, who has written a number of reports criticizing the police probe into Mr. Fosters death.

Mr. Farah quoted one agent as telling the centers accountant, "Look, this is a political case, and the decision about your tax-exempt status will be made at the national level."

In a recent meeting with IRS officials, Mr. Farah said a supervisor said the agent only meant the Washington headquarters would have to answer "technical questions."

On Oct. 22, Mr. Farah went public about the audit with an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal. "They were coming after me, and I didn't want to go down quietly," he said.

Mr. Farah said that after his column was published, the IRS eased up and stopped demanding so many documents.

On Mr. Clinton's appointment of a campaign worker to run the IRS, Mr. Farah said, "If you wanted to politicize the Internal Revenue Service, she [Mrs. Richardson] was a great choice."

Phil Truluck, the Heritage Foundation's executive vice president, said IRS agents began an audit in the fall after Democrats complained that GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole signed a Heritage fund-raising letter.

Like the Western Journalism Center, Heritage is mentioned in the White House's conspiracy report. The report said the think tank has ties to millionaire Richard Scaife whom the report portrays as a behind-the-scenes GOP power broker.

Groups such as Heritage and Western Journalism designated as 501 (c)3 nonprofit groups by the IRS, are prohibited from participating in partisan politics.

Mr. Truluck said the Dole letter represented a long-standing practice: A celebrity signs a letter and gets the mailing list of everyone who responds.

"No one has ever alleged anything wrong with this," he said. "It's been standard business operation. And there is nothing wrong with it."

The IRS agents mentioned seeing a wire service report on the Democratic complaints, Mr. Truluck said. "They tell us they sit back and read these things in the paper, and if they think they ought to look into it, they look into it."

About the IRS motives, he said: "I'm not going to get into it. I'm not going to get into any speculation one way or the other. It's not prudent to do that."

A spokesman for a nonprofit group run by a nationally known Republican declined to discuss its audit for fear of antagonizing the IRS. The spokesman said the probe began two months after Mr. Clinton took office and has cost the group more than $200,000 in legal fees.

"All of a sudden, the issues you take on, you have to be more careful about," the spokesman said. "I would say the IRS probably knows even if they don't win their case, they can probably shut you down for two years because there is no timetable for them to finish."

Bill Powers, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association, said the IRS began auditing the politically powerful group in February 1995.

The NRA is a frequent target of liberal Democrats, who partly blame the gun-rights group for the Republican takeover of Congress in the 1994 elections.

Rick Hendershot, a certified public accountant in Manassas, VA, whose clients include conservative and liberal advocacy groups, said two of his conservative groups are being audited and one is about to be. He said none of his centrist or liberal organizations is the subject of an IRS audit.

Today's Classroom: Boosting Esteem, Not Ability

By Carol Innerst
The Washington Times, January 26, 1997

This year's college freshmen are full of self-esteem, which is to say they are feeling extraordinarily good about themselves and their capabilities.

Unfortunately, their self-satisfaction doesn't reflect reality, say researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles who annually take the pulse of America's college freshmen.

"This improved self-concept may be more the result of current self- esteem raising programs in kindergarten through 12th grade than actual gains in ability," said Linda J. Sax, an assistant professor of education at UCLA and associate director of the fall 1996 survey, released Jan. 13 by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA's Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.

"Nevertheless, healthier self-confidence levels - no matter the source - contribute to success in college," she said.

At the risk of bursting bubbles, Alexander W. Astin, a UCLA professor of education and survey director, said, "It seems reasonable to assume that these rising academic expectations and educational aspirations are at least partially attributable to grade inflation in high school."

Despite rising grades, achievement indicators such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress show that students don't know as much as they think they know or need to know.

Abuse of Forfeiture Statute Sparks Wider Investigation

By Mike Blair

An influential congressman is reexamining some laws which assume you are guilty before you have ever had a trial.

The abuse by Louisiana officials of the state's forfeiture law has apparently sparked Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, to delve into abuses of both federal and state forfeiture laws.

In Louisiana's case, Hyde was highly critical of the abuses that have been exposed.

"It is a classic conflict of interest," Hyde said, referring to Louisiana judges who are receiving money directly from the forfeitures to determine if the seizures are legal in the first place.

According to sources in Louisiana, judges receive 20 percent of the loot seized in forfeiture cases.

While the focus thus far has been on Louisiana, we have received numerous reports over the years of the criminal abuse of forfeiture laws, in which personal property can be seized by law enforcement authorities, particularly in drug-trafficking cases. Abuse of similar laws is believed to be widespread in states across the nation.

It has also been reported nationally that there has been abuse of federal forfeiture laws as well, some cases of which have been highlighted in the past in the national media. The funds and other assets, such as automobiles and homes, of those involved in drug-trafficking are supposed to be used to help finance the so-called "war on drugs" across America.

However, few can defend the law in Louisiana, as one example, where judges, district attorneys and the police have been sharing in the seized assets for their own personal use.

One Louisiana district attorney, as an example, used seized assets to buy an expensive salt water fish aquarium for his office.

In Louisiana, as well as many other states, there have been numerous cases of motorists being stopped, arrested and their property seized, although there were no drugs found in their vehicles.

Others have found themselves the victims of the laws when descended upon by federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and other officials when arriving at airports and searches of their persons revealed large sums of cash, which the law enforcement agents determine, frequently without cause, is drug money.

Those finding themselves the victims of the criminal use of forfeiture laws must usually post a bond and it is up to them to prove the property is not related to drug dealing.

In other words, contrary to constitutional rights, in the case of forfeiture laws it is frequently a case of being guilty until proven innocent.

Judges Can Consider Unproven Crimes In Sentencing

By Tony Maure
USA Today, January 7, 1997

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that judges may sentence a convicted defendant to more time in prison based on information about other alleged crimes - even if the defendant is acquitted of those other charges.

Alan Ellis, a San Francisco criminal defense lawyer, called the 7 - 2 decision outrageous. "I don't think any U.S. citizen would want to be put into a position where he goes to trial, is found not guilty, and then it ends up not meaning anything when he is sentenced," said Ellis.

But the court's ruling ratifies a fairly common legal position. All but one federal appeals court have ruled that judges can use a lower standard of proof in sentencing than the jury would use to determine guilt.

In one of two cases before the justices, Vernon Watts of Sacramento, Calif, was found guilty of drug trafficking charges but acquitted of using a firearm in the crime.

In deciding on his sentence of 23 + years in prison, the judge said a "preponderance of evidence" confirmed Watts' firearm use.

"A jury's verdict of acquittal does not prevent the sentencing court from considering conduct underlying the acquitted charge, so long as that conduct has been proved by a preponderance of the evidence," the court's unsigned ruling said.

Justice John Paul Stevens, one of two dissenting justices, said, "The notion that a charge that cannot be sustained by proof ... may give rise to the same punishment as it had been so proved is repugnant."

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