Cottrol discussed a number of such cases, including that of Melroy Cort, a double-amputee Iraq veteran who in 2006 was traveling to Walter Reed Army Hospital for treatment from Ohio. He was charged with possession of a pistol not registered in the District of Columbia (though he said he had a permit in Ohio), a felony that would not only have sent him to prison, but would have cost him his veterans’ benefits. Although, as Cottrol notes, prosecutors in the DC Attorney General’s office had discretion to drop the charges; they instead threw the book at him.
Fortunately for Mr. Cort, he was saved by jury nullification, but not everyone is so lucky.
[Prof. Cottrol’s] point: Strict gun laws with stiff penalties are just another example of the overcriminalization that has led to mass incarceration in America, particularly among minorities.
Read the whole thing. I’m glad this point is being made, because this has always been the unintended consequence of “enforce the laws on the books,” which I’m noticing NRA is retreating to again. Prof. Reynolds goes on to reiterate his proposal for federal civil rights legislation that would set the maximum penalty a state can assess for possessing or carrying a firearm on the part of someone not prohibited under federal law to $500. I think it’s a great proposal. The only downside I’d worry about is that the anti-gun states would start passing (more) strange and unusual gun regulations, seeing gun owners as a cash cow to be milked. But I’d prefer that situation to the current status quo that exists in those states.
Beyond that, I would like to pursue under the 14th Amendment a complete federal preemption on state and local regulation for the manufacture, sale, and possession of firearms anyone not prohibited under federal law from possessing firearms. Basically, if you’re not a prohibited person federally, you can buy and possess anything that’s legal under federal law. But we’re a long way from something that radical.