Bad Laws Get Ignored on All Sides

Joe Huffman quotes John Stossel about how people tend to ignore bad laws, and notes that’s probably what’s going to happen with I-594. I would easily bet that Pennsylvania’s ban on the private transfer of handguns is the most often broken gun control law in this commonwealth, if we could have absolute clairvoyance to know that kind of thing. It is most often broken by those who have no criminal intention and by people who are otherwise no threat to society. Often times they are unaware that their property is not like other property, and they can’t just sell it at will. Other times they have no idea that even lending a gun to a friend is illegal if that friend doesn’t have a License to Carry Firearms. I was certainly unaware of this in my early days of gun ownership.

This is why the transfer ban on handguns is almost never enforced, even when broken by very dangerous people who do have criminal intent. You see that in Washington State and Oregon now, where you have a lot of sheriffs who say they will not enforce the new law in their jurisdiction. Even Philadelphia, which is very anti-gun, does very few prosecutions of people for violating the transfer ban, even when the violator was pretty clearly knowingly furnishing a handgun to someone who can’t legally possess one.

All banning private transfers accomplishes is to breed contempt and disrespect for the law, and for we Pennsylvanians, it’s been doing that for so long ignoring it has become part of the landscape on all sides, including the criminal justice system. So why have it? Really, because it’s about the best the other side can hope for.

7 Responses to “Bad Laws Get Ignored on All Sides”

  1. Eggo says:

    I’ll have to tactfully ask a few mates what the sheriff intends to do in our county. I know for a fact that a fair few of his friends and family are just ignoring it so far.

  2. Aces says:

    The problem with ignoring a bad law, such as I-594, is that it changes you as a person. I was raised to do “the right thing”. And in some rare cases that meant following the spirit of the law over the letter of it. I live in WA, so with I-594 on the books, I find myself mostly on the sidelines when it comes to private party firearm purchases. If I’m buying new, then it’s through a FFL anyway. But when I learn of people wishing to sell some of their collection of guns, it’s a shame that they now get put back into registries, by using a FFL. (For those that don’t know, in WA if it’s a handgun, there’s a “Blue form” that gets sent to olympia & the local police chief.) And before I-594, I kept paperwork to document buying or selling a firearm. that same paperwork could get me charged with a crime now. I recently heard about a 1911 someone I know was thinking of selling. I’ve never owned one, and was strongly tempted to buy it. So does that mean keep no paperwork? Falsify documents to say I bought it before I-594 was passed? or use a FFL, and get this gun back on a registry list? Every option but the last one eats away at the moral person that I am. Slippery Slope time. What did I decide? I let it go. I’ll only buy new for now, until either the law gets repealed, or something happens that make us all no longer care about following the laws of man. Sad times…

    • Sebastian says:

      I’ll be honest, I’ve never had an occasion to want to transfer a handgun in PA, so I haven’t really had to confront the issue myself. I’ve done private transfers of long guns, but that’s legal here. I keep pistols, even ones I never shoot, because they don’t take much room.

      I would not recommend to anyone they admit to committing crimes on an open and public forum. But I would say there’s nothing immoral about selling your property to someone else without government permission. It’s illegal because they say it is, not because it represents any deeper moral understanding. The legal distinction between the two is “malum in se” (wrong in itself) and “malum prohibitum” (because we say so)

    • Alpheus says:

      To add to Sebastian’s answer, I would also point out that there’s more than one level of resistance. It might be legally immoral, but legal self-defense, to go ahead and purchase that 1911 and establish the paperwork to make it a “legal” transaction.

      On the other hand, I-594 prohibits *any* transfer. If you’re at an informal gun range, and you are with friends plunking at tin cans, then swapping guns around, and handing guns to people who have never held them before (or have rare occasions to shoot them) should be done without question. Even if every such transfer is illegal (*despite* every person goes home with the guns they started out with!) paperwork in this case would be completely pointless. Such disobedience is even *crucial* because it helps the gun culture to grow.

      • HSR47 says:

        One should never assume that “legality” = “morality” — there are many cases where entirely moral behavior is proscribed, while entirely immoral behavior is not only legal, but is a widely accepted practice.

  3. Carl from Chicago says:

    Aces, I tend to think much like you do, that following laws is the right thing to do even when one has strong reason to believe the law unjust. I further reasoned that if I began breaking laws based on my own sense of justice, I would be falling onto the slippery slope of moral relativism. I guess as I have aged, I have come to realize how fleeting are the works and laws of people, and indeed even how fleeting morality itself is. Morality is little more than longstanding agreements among people about the nature of right and wrong. As our viewpoints become more diverse this morality is indeed going to become more relative.

    One example of this was the time I lived in Chicago. The first year I moved many of my firearms out because of county bans on them. I agonized a great deal over this including the notion of following laws and ordinances I disagreed with. I finally decided that I was not going to let the bastards (those who enacted and supported the bans) get me down. So I went and fetched my guns and magazines and didn’t much think about it anymore. Maybe part of all this is that as I age, I care a bit less about pleasing others, including the laws of others. So it goes for petty and obviously sham gun laws that affect me. I can just more easily say “f- you” to those laws now, and really mean it. Now that I live in Kentucky, I have not much had to agonize over these issues.

  4. SDN says:

    Once again, the point of those laws isn’t to actually enforce them, it’s to have them on the books in case they need an excuse to remove those they consider effective.