NRA Criticizes ATF

Remarks by Joseph Phillips, Director of Federal Affairs, NRA Institute for Legislative Action, at a January 5, 1995, press conference in Washington, D.C.

When the National Rifle Association of America and other constitutional rights organizations first joined together to urge that President Clinton establish a national commission to investigate abuse of power on the part of federal law enforcement agencies, the date was January 1993.

It is now January 1995.

The need for a national commission on government violence is now two years too late for too many victims, and President Clinton is still not listening.

There is often disagreement between NRA and the American Civil Liberties Union, another leading coalition member, on a host of issues ranging from the Second Amendment to criminal justice reform. But on the issue of government violence, there is agreement. Federal government power is being aimed at honest citizens, the liberties of those citizens are being abused and the lives of those citizens are being threatened.

I will give you just two examples of why this commission is too many years too late.

At four o'clock in the morning of July 13, 1994, dressed in their Ninja-style outfits, agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms stormed into the bedroom of Monique Montgomery, aged 21. The BATF says it was looking for drugs in the home of the St. Louis woman, but it found none. The BATF says it was looking for illegal guns, but it found none. Instead -- after a investigation that was six weeks in the making -- it found a woman -- alone and deep asleep -- in her bedroom.

According to press accounts, two agents hit that bedroom with guns drawn, shields up and high intensity lights glaring. The agents claimed that they knocked and announced themselves ... before breaking down the woman's door. Hearing such a commotion and being startled as anyone would with such a bizarre scene at four in the morning, Miss Montgomery did what most reasonable Americans would do. She armed herself with a firearm she lawfully owned for personal protection.

The agents claim to have, quote, repeatedly identified themselves and told her to drop her weapon, unquote. But this is the same BATF which set the time for the raid at four in the morning -- to maximize the victim's disorientation. So the victim had no choice but to be disorientated and confused. And, according to the BATF, the agent, quoting again, didn't have any other choice, unquote, -- but to shoot her.

And shoot her he did. Four times.

Long before Ms. Montgomery was released from the hospital after being shot in the chest and hip, the agent who shot her was back on the job.

And now, quoting from a St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial, ATF officials may have perfectly good explanations. But in the wake of the Branch Davidian raid in Waco, Texas, ... citizens have reason to ask two more questions: Did the agents handle this raid the right way? Has the ATF learned any lessons in patience? Unquote.

The BATF must learn a lesson, not just in patience, but in constitutional rights. Federal law enforcement -- like state and local law enforcement -- exists to preserve and protect our liberties as well as our lives. The 3.5 Million members of the National Rifle Association grow increasingly concerned about the cavalier attitude of many elements of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The signs of abuse of power are unmistakable. It is time for Americans to read the signs and demand an accounting.

But just as a national commission is too late to help Monique Montgomery, it is also too late for Louie Katona from Bucyrus, Ohio.

The Katona family is a poster family for Middle America. Louie's wife is a devoted mother. Louie himself owns a real estate agency. He was a part-time police officer and a full-time community contributor. But he is also a gun collector.

Based on a trumped-up charge that he falsified certain BATF forms, BATF entered his home. During the raid, his wife, Kimberly, became understandably agitated and upset. An overzealous agent pushed his wife against a wall. Within hours, Kimberly, then several months pregnant, began bleeding. She soon miscarried.

Did BATF apologize to this family? No. Instead, BATF pressed criminal charges against Katona. This past April, a judge threw the charges out of court. The Katona family has civil action pending against ATF.

The reasons for the Constitution are many, but one primary reason is to limit raw government power that we have seen nearly destroy the Katona family and nearly kill Monique Montgomery.

It is time to readjust the scales of power in this country. Those scales must always weigh in favor of the people's rights, not the government's power. For Monique Montgomery and the Louie Katona family, the scales of power nearly crushed them out. We must right that wrong.

For too many Americans, a national commission on government violence is too many years too late. Let us not keep Americans -- or their constitutional rights -- waiting any longer. NRA joins ACLU, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, the Independence Institute and others in urging President Clinton -- one more time -- to right the scales of justice.

Thank you.

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