Bucks County DA Candidate has Ties to Ammo Restriction Efforts

votepartyHunters and shooters need to ask some serious questions of their local candidates for office between now and election day. One candidate for Bucks County District Attorney has deep ties to an outfit that pushed such extreme gun control that it would create a database of gun owners and also risk putting ammunition manufacturers out of business.

Democratic candidate Chris Asplen is currently Vice President of Gordon, Thomas, Honeywell’s Governmental Affairs Division (GTH), a position he has held since 2002. In 2007, Asplen’s office was hired to manage the legislative strategy of Ammunition Coding Services, a company that created a patent for bullet serialization, but could not make the technology work. Instead of finding a consumer for their technology, the company’s founders – lead by investor Russ Ford – hired GTH to pass laws in more than a dozen states to mandate the unworkable technology. State records show that Asplen’s lobby shop even tried to set up an ammunition registry here in Pennsylvania.

The “model legislation” pushed by Asplen’s office would have been a nightmare burden for ammunition makers and serious shooters.  The price hikes and lack of supply would all but kill off casual shooters.

The bill would require ammunition manufacturers to engrave a serial number on “the base of the bullet and the inside of the cartridge casing of each round” of ammunition for popular sporting caliber center-fire rifles, all center-fire pistols, all .22 rimfire rifles and pistols, and all 12 gauge shotguns.

This technology is so complex that the company’s founder Russ Ford even agreed with Cam Edwards during an NRA News interview in 2008 that they had been unable to do large scale testing, the only test examples were created by hand, and they didn’t even have evidence it would work to support the needs of not only the civilian market, but also police and military.

Cam Edwards: People have said, people in the know, people in the industry have said this is unworkable. That’s it. That is their answer. It doesn’t work. Now, if you think that it does, it’s up to you to prove it. But you have been unable to do so. And you’re pushing legislation that would again mandate this, legislation that ammunition manufacturers say would cause them to either go out of business or stop selling to the states that pass this. That’s you doing this.

Russ Ford of Ammunition Coding Systems: Thank you for highlighting that, Cam.

The legislation that Ford hired Asplen’s company to push would have not only mandated these markings that the industry said it cannot produce, but it also would have required gun owners to forfeit all non-encoded ammunition in their possession by making possession of regular ammunition illegal. For precision shooters or even casual plinkers trying to save a few dollars, reloading would have been completely outlawed if GTH had their way in Harrisburg.

Currently, shooters go through about 8 billion rounds of newly manufactured ammunition a year. But the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturing Institute estimates it would take three to four weeks to produce ammunition currently produced in a single day. Supplies would dwindle and prices would skyrocket.

Interestingly, Asplen’s client Russ Ford admitted in an interview that as the holder to the patent for the process, his goal was to make money off of these new mandates on the backs of lawful sport shooters & hunters.

Cam Edwards: On the Ammunition Accountability website, and on the Ammunition Coding Systems website, you mention a license fee, per round that would be charged to the manufacturer’s and then passed on to the consumers. What type of license fee are you looking at per round?

Russ Ford: Uh, we have discussed, uh, with, and this is where the, the wheels come off, huh, of the capitalist society. We have been entertained by financial planners, stock brokers, bond brokers, uh, business valuation people, and quite frankly, for me for me, it’s like looking at hieroglyphs on the side of a pyramid. I don’t understand all these parameters. We have talked about, uh, a tenth of a penny to a fifth of a penny a round for royalties. Whether that pans out is completely in speculation.

It’d be, It’d be nice to make money on this. It really would. This is America, we believe in capitalism, uh, uh, it would be nice to have a return on the investment and for the years we’ve put in on this.

Mr. Ford’s candor in admitting to make untold fortunes off of the backs of gun owners every year is refreshing, if not humorous in the NRA News interview.  However, at one point he justifies such “honesty” as an effort to be transparent and have a real discussion about gun control issues.  Cam Edwards calls him out on the fact that the lobbying website GTH created to promote the mandates, AmmunitionAccountability.org, has no link or public connection to the company’s for-profit site, AmmoCoding.com.  Rather than addressing the point, Mr. Ford tries to pick an argument over links with Cam during the questioning.  But, as Pennsylvania gun blogger Sebastian points out, the lack of transparency in the operation is a much bigger problem:

And to think, Russell Ford said on Cam’s show he wants this whole thing to be as transparent as possible.  Transparent as in we hire a lobbying firm to anonymously set up a web site to push for model legislation, and to lobby key legislators that have been quietly bought off, in order to be able to skim off the top of every one of the eight billion rounds of ammunition produced each year.  You have to admit, that’s quite an ingenious scam, that would make even the most talented con artist jealous.

There is certainly nothing illegal about the actions, but it is hardly a model of transparency.

Though Asplen’s group tried to make the argument that ammunition registries would be an important tool to law enforcement, a hearing in California cleared up that misconception very quickly.  The Law Enforcement Alliance of America, California Police Chiefs’ Association, California Peace Officers’ Association, Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs and Los Angeles Police Protective League all urged lawmakers to vote it down.  In Hawaii, the Attorney General called the system “unduly burdensome” and unworkable.

In fact, according to Mr. Ford, the only support that Chris Asplen’s company could find for the laws came from gun control groups such as the Brady Campaign and their Million Mom March division.

As a leader at GTH, it is fair to ask whether Mr. Asplen continues to support his client’s goals, especially in light of the public confessions that the technology is unproven, unworkable, and even detrimental to law enforcement.  Asplen does not mention whether he does value our Second Amendment rights in any campaign materials I can find online.  However, given that he has the power to use the position of District Attorney to call for more gun control – including registries his company has been pushing in Harrisburg – it is important that gun owners remember to get out and vote for their rights on Election Day.

NRA does not typically endorse in local races, so it is unlikely we will see a firm grade issued for either candidate in the Bucks County District Attorney’s race.  And, should Mr. Asplen like to clarify his support for gun owner registries, ammunition encoding, and bans on reloading for competitive shooters, we would be happy to pass any comments along.

In addition, we don’t have solid information on GOP candidate Dave Heckler’s position on the Second Amendment rights of Bucks County gun owners.  In one interview, he made a pledge to “target gun crime,” but does not appear to have elaborated on whether that would include calls for more gun control.  Again, statements are welcome by either candidate.

In the meantime, Bucks County gun owners, hunters, and sport shooters should prepare to turn out in large numbers on Election Day – November 3, 2009.  As an off-year election, turnout will be substantially lower than the record crowds in 2008.  We can make a difference and make clear that even when running for local offices, we will keep an eye out for any attacks on our rights.

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