For Release: Tuesday, March 21, 2000
The VPC today released Guns for Felons: How the NRA Works to Rearm Criminals. The 17-page study details the ways in which the NRA has helped make guns available to convicted felons through the federal “relief from disability” program. The study was released at an 11:00 AM press conference with: VPC Director of Federal Policy Kristen Rand; Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY); Representative John Conyers (D-MI), ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee; U.S. Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY); and, Handgun Control, Inc. President Mike Barnes. New legislation entitled ENFORCE Effective National Firearms Objectives for Responsible, Common-sense Enforcement Act introduced at the news conference would shut down the National Rifle Association-backed guns-for-felons program once and for all.
“The `relief from disability’ program has allowed thousands of convicted, often violent, felons to obtain guns – including terrorists, murderers, and rapists. By documenting how the NRA has not only defended, but expanded, this program to include gun criminals, this study exposes the NRA’s rhetoric about keeping guns out of criminal hands as hollow and just plain false,” said the VPC’s Rand.
Under the “relief from disability” program, convicted felons could apply for “relief” from the “disability” of not being able to buy or possess a gun. In 1986, as the result of the NRA’s flagship bill, the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act, the program was expanded to include felons convicted of gun crimes. From 1985 to 1991, thousands of felons received “relief,” at a cost to taxpayers of more than $21 million. In 1992, after the Violence Policy Center publicized details regarding it, the program was defunded by Congress. Since then, the NRA has fought to revive the guns-for-felons program.
Although the federal program has been defunded since 1992, as a result of the NRA’s Firearm Owners’ Protection Act felons have been able to petition the federal courts to get their gun privileges back. In 1997 the NRA successfully fought efforts to stop this wave of petitions currently flooding the federal courts.