July 2002

Downrange: 07/02

EXPLOSION INJURES CARTER. Ross Carter, a master gunsmith who has advised the Gun Tests staff on handgun and combat-shooting issues, and his companion Diane Hammond, were the victims of an explosion and fire at their North Arkansas home in early June. They were flown to the burn unit at St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, Missouri. At the time of this writing, Carter was in critical condition with third-degree burns over 50% of his body. Hammond was undergoing skin grafts. We consider ourselves lucky to know Carter, and have depended on him for honest, clear assessments of complicated issues regarding firearms design and application. We hope you’ll remember them in your thoughts and prayers.

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BILL SEEKS TO ENHANCE NICS. An unlikely team of federal legislators has joined in an effort to reform to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and improve its performance. Staunchly pro-gun U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) along with two anti-gun members of Congress, U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), have introduced companion bills in the House and the Senate to provide federal funds for states to enhance their record keeping databases on individuals who are prohibited from possessing firearms. The bills require states to add to their current database of criminal records those of individuals adjudicated mentally incompetent or who have domestic violence conviction records, and to make the information immediately accessible to the FBI when conducting its background checks on prospective gun purchasers. Federal agencies would also be required to provide NICS with mental health and domestic violence records. Because not all state records have been readily available, necessitating time-consuming manual searches by FBI personnel, legal gun buyers have encountered lengthy delays or received initial rejections in the background check system. The new requirements should help in speeding up the NICS processing operation by reducing delays, while at the same time ensuring that those legally barred from gun purchases are entered into the system and successfully identified before a sale.

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SMART GUNS IN NEW JERSEY. A committee in New Jersey’s State Senate is paving the way to make “smart” guns the only ones allowed to be sold in the state. While an unproved technology at present, and still undefined in the law, the proposed legislation would ban “dumb” guns three years after the new weapons were judged to be marketable by the state’s attorney general. Over the past three years, New Jersey committed $1.5 million to developing “smart” guns with funding to the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark. Currently, the best descriptions of smart guns are those that can only be fired by the owner.


-Todd Woodard