The Republican instinct to “get tough on crime” is almost like a poorly programmed subroutine that executes any time they feel imagined heat on the gun issue. Granted this is just agreement among the four person negotiating team, which comprises two mouth foamers and two soft Republicans:
The bill strengthens the law prohibiting material false statements in connection with purchasing a firearm and strengthens penalties for purchasing a gun with intent to transfer it to someone involved in violent crime or drug trafficking.
This is already a crime. You can do five years for some, and ten years for others. It’s not well enforced. So how is raising it to 25 years going to help anything? If you’re not enforcing the existing law, enhancing the penalty isn’t going to do squat.
It would also outlaw illegal purchasers of firearms from smuggling weapons out of the country.
Already a crime, it’s just not enforced. Ask Eric Holder, who is still walking the streets a free man despite his DOJ breaking numerous federal laws in Fast and Furious.
The legislation is largely based on a bill Gillibrand has been working on for the past four years. It cracked down on both the sale and purchase of guns likely to be used in crimes and lowered the mens rea thereshold for prosecuting offenses. Sellers and purchasers can be found guilty if they think — instead of know — the firearms will be used in crimes.
And how exactly does that work? Meas rea is important, because it requires the state to prove you were aware of the crime you’re committing. Strict liability offenses for serious crimes on any subject matter ought to be very suspect. For instance, if you were pulled over in a rental car where someone had stuffed a kilo of coke into the wheel well, you technically can’t be convicted for it unless they can convince a jury you were aware it was there. Knowing is an important element of possession. If possession were a strict liability offense, you could still go to jail in that situation, since all the prosecutor would have to prove is that they pulled a kilo of coke from the wheel well, and you were renting the car. So lowering the standard from “knowing” to “thinking” is essentially creating a strict liability offense.
Let me explain how this would work in the Gillibrand bill context, if I understand it correctly. If you sold a gun to someone, and they told you ahead of time they were going to rob a bank with it, that makes you guilty. You knew, and if that was in an e-mail or note, or someone can credibly testify about your knowledge, that gets over the mens rea requirement. So how does a standard of “think” even work? Do you have to tell or document somewhere, “I think that guy might use that to rob a bank?” Can the government just assert you should have been thinking that, and there is essentially no barrier to the crime being a strict liability offense?
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