Currently Browsing: Law

Dual Citizenship Laws

Tam was wondering how two Americans, recently killed in the hostilities in Gaza, were legally serving in the IDF while retaining citizenship. I am far from an expert in this, but there have been a number of Supreme Court cases involving this topic of dual-citizenship for those of you interested. But my understanding boils down to this: you generally won’t lose your citizenship unless you renounce it or take some action in a manner that shows intent to give up citizenship. US law and policy is generally favorable for people holding dual-citizenship, residing abroad, and serving compulsory military service, which Israel requires. I also think you can even join a foreign military voluntarily, since routine oaths are generally not sufficient to cause the loss of citizenship.

What’s interesting is that the State Department policy that allows one to keep citizenship as a result of a “routine oath” is just that — State Department policy. The case law is less clear as to when one renounces one’s US citizenship or not. Take the case of Vance v. Terrazas, where a dual-US/Mexican national lost his US citizenship when he signed a form having to reaffirm his Mexican citizenship when he went to college there.

What does this have to do with guns? I direct you to question 11(j) on ATF Form 4473, “Have you ever renounced your United States citizenship?” I’m not sure there’s much case law on prosecutions for lying on 11(j), but I could be wrong. I think serving compulsory military service of your dual country is probably fine, but if you voluntarily joined a foreign military, or took any action that could be interpreted, through preponderance of the evidence, that you had intent to give up your citizenship, you could find yourself facing a long time in federal prison if you answer that question incorrectly on 4473. It’s a good idea for dual citizens to be cognizant of any oaths or actions that may have been taken that could be interpreted as intent to surrender citizenship.

Philadelphia Legal Smackdown

Remember two years ago when it came out that Philadelphia disclosed personal information about some license to carry applicants in violation of state law?

They were people who were initially denied licenses and were in the process of appealing the denial, and many of them seemed like highly questionable denials.

Well, several of those folks did call lawyers who worked to sue the city and ended up with a great settlement.

From Josh Prince, one of the four attorneys on the case:

…the City will pay $1.425 million to the class and will be separately responsible for the costs of administering the settlement… Further, and of similar importance, the City has agreed to a number of policy changes…:

  • Not to disclose LTCF applicant information either electronically or in-person;
  • Annual training of the Philadelphia Police Department and Philadelphia License and Inspection Board of Review on the confidentiality of LTCF applicant information;
  • Customer service training for the Philadelphia Gun Permit Unit;
  • Posting a copy of the LTCF Application Notice on its website and where LTCF applications and appeals can be submitted or obtained, as well as, providing a copy to anyone who has his/her LTCF denied or revoked;
  • The City will not required references on the LTCF application and will not contact any references listed on the LTCF application;
  • The City will not require lawful immigrants or US Citizens with a US Passport to provide naturalization papers;
  • The City will not require any applicant to disclose whether he/she owns a firearm during the LTCF application process;
  • The City will not deny an application because the applicant answered “no” to any question regarding whether the applicant had been charged/convicted of any crime where the applicant received a pardon or expungement from the charge or conviction;
  • The City will process all LTCF applications within 45 calendar days;
  • The City will remit $15.00 to any applicant who is denied within 20 days;
  • The City will not require LTCF applicants or holders to disclose to law enforcement that they have an LTCF, that they are carrying a firearm or that they have a firearm in the vehicle; and
  • The City will not confiscate an LTCF or firearm, unless there is probable cause that the LTCF or firearm is evidence of a crime. In the event an LTCF or firearm is confiscated, the officer must immediately provide a property receipt, which shall include the pertinent information

All of the attorneys in this case deserve huge kudos: Benjamin R. Picker, Jonathan Goldstein, Jon Mirowitz, and obviously, Josh Prince.

Abramski Opinion Released Today

The Supreme Court has finally weighed in on Abramski v. United States today, and it was a 5-4 decision written by Kagan for Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor with Scalia dissenting and joined by Thomas, Roberts, and Alito. If you’re looking for more background documents on the case, here’s the SCOTUSblog page.

SCOTUS: Police Can Shoot Someone in a High-Speed Chase

The Supreme Court says that a police-inflicted death penalty for someone who leads police on a high-speed chase is justified. It was a unanimous decision. It’s the law in many cases that police can use deadly force to stop a fleeing suspect , but that’s usually limited to someone who has committed a forcible felony. Pennsylvania’s law, for instance, is the following:

However, he is justified in using deadly force only when he believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to himself or such other person, or when he believes both that:

(i)  such force is necessary to prevent the arrest from being defeated by resistance or escape; and

(ii)  the person to be arrested has committed or attempted a forcible felony or is attempting to escape and possesses a deadly weapon, or otherwise indicates that he will endanger human life or inflict serious bodily injury unless arrested without delay.

You can read more about the case over at Scotusblog. What concerns me is that the high speed chase started when the driver got pulled over for a broken headlight. This wasn’t the case of a fleeing and dangerous felon. The passenger in the car was killed as well, but her claims weren’t at issue in this case; the Court only ruled about whether the driver’s rights were violated. I would hope the passenger would have a claim.

Before the Gun Bans Came the Hatpin Bans

Before women got on board with the right to defend themselves with firearms, they turned to another tool which was widely available to them and could be easily concealed while still easily accessible – the hatpin.

Smithsonian ran a feature in April about the menace of women armed with hatpins. When Leoti Blaker boarded a stage coach in NYC in 1903, an older man was next to her. She noticed that at every bump, he seemed to move closer. Finally, he ended up squeezed next to her and then suddenly moved his arm to wrap around her lower back. Needless to say, this was beyond inappropriate for the time, and the grab was not welcomed at all. So, she pulled out her hatpin and “plunged it into the meat of the man’s arm.” He withdrew his arm, suddenly found plenty of space to move away before he jumped off at the next stop.

Blaker apparently told the local paper, “I’ve heard about Broadway mashers and ‘L’ mashers, but I didn’t know Fifth Avenue had a particular brand of its own…. If New York women will tolerate mashing, Kansas girls will not.”

The piece highlights that the press went wild with stories around of women using hatpins for self-defense, and men in government did not react well. The story highlights that the Chicago Vice Commission earned the ire of women when they turned the blame for assaults on the victims and argued “that unchaperoned women should dress as modestly as possible—no painted cheeks or glimpse of ankle—in order to avoid unwanted attention.” When women objected to being told that they were to blame for attacks and promoted the idea of using self-defense by hatpin, that’s when the men decided that they had enough.

Members of the press helped push a panic on the matter. The magazine spotlights one newspaper’s sarcastic response to women thinking they can defend themselves: “We look for the new and imported Colt’s hatpin or the Smith and Wesson Quick-action Pin.” When I searched for the term in the newspaper archives online, I found plenty of other articles that could have come from today’s anti-gun op-eds. A Chicago Record Herald editorial that also ran in a 1910 copy of the Savannah Tribune (GA) argued:

People take greater risks every day of their lives from other things than hat pins. But that isn’t the point. The hat pin risk is stupid, needless and reckless. It imperils eye, and one single human eye is worth more than all the dagger hat pins in the world.

No woman with any regard for other people’s rights would wear one. No woman who does wear one is entitled to any complaint if the city finds a good legal means of stopping her.

Doesn’t that sound like the argument that you don’t “need” a semi-automatic rifle? And then they add in the public shaming by arguing that only women who don’t respect other people would wear them, and they certainly don’t deserve a voice in opposing any new laws targeting their right to hatpins and self-defense.

Only, in 1910, women didn’t have any means to stand up to these men who wanted them defenseless because women didn’t have a right to vote. Chicago was one of the higher profile cities to target women’s hat pins in 1910 when Alderman Herman J Bauler pushed an ordinance that would declare the pins a “public nuisance.” The Montgomery Advertiser (AL) reported on his comments:

Hidden in a mass of plumage or hair [the hatpin] comes under the designation of concealed weapons.

Bauler got his way. By a vote of 68-2, Chicago classified wearing any hatpin with an exposed length of more than half an inch beyond the hat in public as a misdemeanor where women were subject to arrest and fined $50 ($1231.80 in 2013 dollars, according to an inflation calculator). Women booed and hissed the vote, but what could they do?

In Missouri, lawmakers pulled victims of hatpin “accidents” out of the woodwork to promote their effort to ban the tools. They pushed the stories in the media and used the argument that making their lives easier was more important than women securing their hats or having access to these “concealed weapons.” According to the Smithsonian piece, other cities also opted to regulate hatpin use or size, including Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and New Orleans.

By 1912, the anti-hatpin hysteria in men was making the millinery trade nervous and The Millinery Trade Review ran a piece that was picked up by the Idaho Stateman stating:

The millinery trade has the opportunity of making a concession to the public that will be appreciated and that is the reducing the size of the “deadly hat pin,” as the long hat pin is now termed by the press and men folk in general. …. Importers and manufacturers should produce a shorter pin, or a cap to fit on the end of a long pin, which could be attached to the hat by a light weight chain, so as to extend to the end of the pin wherever it protrudes from the hat. By making such a concession the trade would remove the excuse for the law makers of the country passing foolish laws to regulate the size of the hat pin.

Of course, these added features would only drive the cost of hatpins up so that poor women wouldn’t have access to “legal” hatpins. One reference I found mentioned that these lower income women were forced to use things like small pieces of potato to try and comply with the law. Wow, doesn’t that sound just like the war on cheaper handguns and the effort to mandate “smart” guns that many people can’t afford?

Ultimately, the hatpin fears largely went away when World War I broke out. Afterwards, the next great female to fear wasn’t one armed with a hatpin, but flappers, according to Smithsonian.

For more information on hatpins, here’s a guide on how to wear one (mostly with later style hats, so the pins don’t need to be as long) and there is even The American Hatpin Society for collectors. (h/t to Sarah who I know from the Annual Firearms Law Seminar for linking the Smithsonian piece when it came out and recognizing the same types of comparisons to anti-gun arguments today)

Perry County Finds Itself in Hot Water Due to Audit

There’s an interesting situation going on Perry County, Pennsylvania. Auditor Kimberly McMullen may have put the county in some hot water due in a recent interview.

First, she’s demanding permission from the County to spend $6,700 in legal fees to have lawyers research whether she’s allowed access to the confidential files of license to carry holders. (The sheriff won’t hand all of the records over because he notes that that it’s against the law to release the personal information.) The County gave her $2,000 to pursue it instead. Second, she told the media that the law supposedly changed last year and that she would have had access before that “change.”

Well, attorney Josh Prince is doing the taxpayers of Perry County a favor and helping them save $2,000 on legal research. He sent a letter to the auditor making clear that the license to carry applicant information is not to be released to her.

However, McMullen’s claims that the records were available in previous years caught Prince’s attention since he noted that the section of law he cited hasn’t changed since 1997. Oops. McMullen may be regretting that claim since Prince included this little gem in the letter:

Thus, the confidentiality of firearms license information is nothing new and the County and its respective Departments, employees and agents are liable for any disclosures that have occurred. Based on your statement to reporter Sean Sauro that prior to a year ago, all this information was available via right-to-know law requests, I am requesting all information on previous LTCF applicant disclosures by the County and its respective Departments, employees and agents.

So, sorry Perry County taxpayers. Because your auditor doesn’t know the law, now you have to spend resources going through all paperwork to see if the confidential information has ever been released before. Oops.

“Maybe it was the phony penises.”

That was not the first sentence I expected to read when I opened up an article about a gun club lawsuit in federal court. Regardless, it was the opening sentence, and it was an accurate description of one of the issues raised in a lawsuit filed by members of the Philadelphia Gun Club against animal rights activists who are accused of “stalking, harassment, trespass, intimidation, defamation, libel and privacy invasion.”

The club’s attorney says that the activists have researched personal lives of club members to leave fake reviews on Yelp and other sites when those people own small businesses. They also reportedly spy on these people even after they leave the club grounds. The guys who shoot at the club are not public figures, so there’s a pretty good case there. Not to mention, leaving a fake review online is an issue that’s gaining traction in courts around the country.

Local Improvements in Gun Laws

Firearms attorney Josh Prince recently sued Erie, PA when they enforced a local ordinance banning guns on some of their town property in violation of the state’s preemption law. While it may seem like a small effort for gun rights, it did apparently scare the leaders of a town 432 miles away into not only stopping a march toward banning guns on government property, but also repealing old laws in violation from the books. (h/t to Josh Prince)

The New Way of Thinking about Law

I have to strongly recommend, as odd as it might sound, this post over at Free Range Kids for some interesting reading on the way one mother believes many Americans view the use of laws, specifically registry laws. The post has nothing to say about guns or gun laws, but I think it’s very insightful and applies to many of the ways that anti-gun advocates view gun laws, even when they know they won’t work to reduce crime. Here is a sample, but you should go read the whole thing:

I think what we’re really seeing here is just our country’s punitive mindset. It’s like we cannot imagine any way to express to somebody that we don’t like what they are doing except for calling it “abuse” and putting them on a registry. …

The point of laws should be public safety, not public humiliation, but more and more of our laws and moving in the direction of seeming to be more about shaming and humiliating and branding people who made decisions we don’t like rather than actually protecting the public from truly dangerous people.

I think the Connecticut gun owner registration picture we saw is a great example of how this works in our issue. Law enforcement officers know that the person who is going to use a firearm to rob or murder a person isn’t going to register it. They also know that they are unlikely to catch them with the unregistered firearm before (or during) the crime. But, this kind of perp line is designed to shame the gun owners who are not dangerous and pose no threat to society. Even better for the anti-gun advocate is the fact that creating such a scene makes it easier for them to judge and try to shame the non-threats over the simple fact that they disagree with the decision these men and women made to own guns in the first place.

If the oppressive laws keep you from buying more guns or send you packing out of the state, well, that’s just even better from their point of view. Now they can try and shame you without actually facing the consequences of such a decision or having people challenge them to what it means.

As I said, the letter at Free Range Kids has nothing to do with gun laws, but I think it does accurately represents the way that many voters now think about how they would like the force of law to work. The letter published there does a great job of highlighting ways that the slippery slope of this way of thinking could end up making you a criminal on a public humiliation registry for just about every common decision that someone somewhere might not like.

The Legalities of the New Executive Order

Mosin-NagantI’m seeing some confusion circulating among people in the blogosphere and on social media as to the effects of Obama’s executive order on reimportation. It should be noted that this would only apply to a small subset of firearms that were sold to foreign countries. Ordinarily, military arms are illegal to import into the United States unless they are determined by the attorney general to be “particularly suitable for sporting purposes,” which the Attorney General has since 1989 (via another executive order) interpreted to mean only suitable for hunting. However, there’s a provision of the Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986 that made it legal to import any firearm that is a Curio and Relic, regardless of its sporting purpose suitability. This means anything that’s on the C&R list, or anything more than 50 years old is importable by law. This EO won’t do anything to affect the import of surplus military arms that originated overseas, like the Mosin-Nagant, Enfields, or Mauser. Even the M1 Garand and M1 Carbine are C&R, and are therefore blanket importable, regardless of what the Attorney General may want to determine about its sporting purpose.

But by law the State Department gets to have a say when it comes to weapons that have been exported by our government to foreign governments. If those governments wish to dispose of those firearms by selling them to private importers in the United States, they have to have sign-off from the State Department. That’s where this EO comes in. Basically, the Korean government still has a lot of M1 Carbines and M1 Garands sitting in warehouses that they’d like to sell to US collectors or to the Civilian Marksmanship Program. The Obama Administration has been unwilling to sign off of any of these re-importations to date. All this executive order does is make that official policy. In short, it doesn’t actually change much from the status quo. Without the requirement for State Department signoff, those M1s would be legal to import without any permission from the US government.

It’s still a dick move by the Obama Administration, but don’t feel like you need to go scrambling through your sofa cushions for loose change to go panic buy all the Mosin-Nagants you can get your hands on. Those are safe.

« Previous Entries