Bad Ideas

There’s an article by Jennifer Collins of Concurring Opinions describing why she thinks tossing out the gun ban might have a tremendous impact on crime-fighting The District:

I think it’s worth acknowledging the primary functions of the law as it’s used by prosecutors in DC: the gun ban is both a preventive detention statute and an intelligence-gathering tool. At one time when I was a prosecutor, we were prohibited from extending a plea offer in gun cases unless the defendant agreed to come into the office (with his attorney, of course) and be “debriefed” about his knowledge of criminal activity in the city. The statute was also a mechanism for locking up individuals perceived as violent, but against whom other cases could not be brought for whatever reason. It’s pretty simple to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an individual was in possession of a gun without a license and a lot tougher to prove that he committed a violent crime.

I have issues with this method just from a civil liberties standpoint.  The question should not be, as a society, what makes life easier for prosecutors and the police.  After all, it would make life for prosecutors easier to allow door to door searches of homes in bad neighborhood for drugs and guns, but we would, quite properly, find that unconstitutional and reprehensible.  This law is also guaranteed to disproportionately affect the law abiding.  If I were to be caught transporting a firearm through DC (DC claims FOPA doesn’t apply to them, stupidly enough), I have nothing to offer a prosecutor in terms of information or a deal, so they will just charge me with the weapons violation.  Robb is correct to point out:

I want the government to catch and prosecute criminals. What I fear is that Uncle Sam keeps broadening the definition of criminal to make it impossible to not be one.

I think government has an obligation not to cast such a large net that they catch the good people along with the bad.

But as Dave Hardy points out:

Those seem rather doubtful objectives for a law of this type… but even so, could have been met with almost any other form of law, even permissive CCW licensing. Odds are that persons suspected of ongoing violence already have a criminal record that would disqualify them, or at the very least, wouldn’t care for the attention that would follow filing an application.

I agree with Dave, and I think Ms. Collins overestimates the impact this will have on crime fighting.  How often are people being caught in their homes with a firearm rather than being pulled off the streets with a concealed firearm?  How often are people who are caught not already persons who are prohibited from possessing firearms?  Before assessing how large the impact would be, one would have to know these things.

One thought on “Bad Ideas”

  1. Dear Sebastian,

    While some of the comments on the original blog are unfortunate, and do make assumptions not necessarily in evidence here, the feelings expressed are understandable, if not entirely helpful. Over the years, I have seen the government grow more and more like a police state as they have been unable to reduce the “crime” that the government creates in the first place. Novel ideas such as road blocks, where every car is searched, zero tolerance policies in schools, Federal regulations that have become so cumbersome and conflicting that weaving between them absolutely requires a legal team, have come to characterize life in America today. It wasn’t meant to be this way, and for those of us who recognize that things are deteriorating, it is very frustrating. That people such as David Hardy, and yourself, can remain as positive as you do, helps to keep the rest of us from lashing out.

    On the other hand, no commentor used bad language, or made personal remarks about the author. Perhaps she needs to hear from the law abiding citizens from time to time, that the “style” of law enforcement she has adopted, or advocated for, are not in the spirit of a freedom loving people. Perhaps she needs to know that the average citizen is not interested in making the lives of his servants easier, but in achieving true (not social) justice.


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