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Enforcing the Current Laws

In a different legal environment, I might be able to get behind Ahab here, but I can’t. Ahab states:

I’ll probably take some heat for supporting this, but the fact is that I’ve never supported violent felons, domestic abusers, or the mentally incompetent owning firearms. I am pleased that California made the decision to actually remove guns from the hands of people who were forbidden from owning them, instead of going after law abiding citizens to take their guns.

I don’t think it’s unconstitutional for certain classes of criminals, who have exhibited a tendency toward violence to have their civil rights taken away from them as part of their conviction. The problem is, The Lautenberg Act didn’t do that. It covered people convicted of a whole host of misdemeanors, that would not have necessarily included any actual domestic abuse, from having firearms retroactively, and without any subsequent due process. A man who pushed his wife aside, because she was blocking his exiting the home in a domestic quarrel twenty years ago (misdemeanor assault), loses his rights just as much as someone who put beat and bruised his wife (felony assault). Does that seem like a just law? Is it fair to prosecute someone for gun possession when many of these people have no idea they are even prohibited, because they were told the crimes were ‘minor’? Also consider someone I ran across on PA Firearms Owners Association forum who had become a prohibited person because he plead guilty to obliterating a VIN number, which is a felony, because he swapped the dash board out on a pair of cars. Dose it seem fair to prosecute him for gun possession?

I understand the public relations value in “Enforce the Laws We Already Have”, because it resonates with a public who doesn’t really understand the complexity of the issue, and gets them out of the mood for more gun control. We can’t deny the value of that. We also can’t deny that the message the Brady’s, and their friends in the media, will put out there if we try to change any of this is “The gun lobby wants to make sure wife beaters are well armed.”

I’ll recognize the value in the rhetoric, but I think it’s a mistake to get too enthusiastic about specific programs like the one California is currently undertaking, that’s sweeping up all manner of people, without any consideration to whether they are truly violent people who perhaps ought not be roaming our streets, or victims of an unjust and overly broad criminal code, that criminalizes nearly everything.

UPDATE: According to War on Guns, The CRPA originally supported this program, not believing it would be used to round up non-violent persons. These programs are a double edged sword, and gun rights organizations support them at their peril, or, more accurately, our peril. Regardless of its public relations value, it’s kind of hard to make a case for how bad some of these laws are if it’s the program you’re supporting that’s causing these people to get reached by the long arm of the law.

8 Responses to “Enforcing the Current Laws”

  1. “I don’t think it’s unconstitutional for certain classes of criminals, who have exhibited a tendency toward violence to have their civil rights taken away from them as part of their conviction.”

    Personally, I think if these certain classes of criminals are so dangerous, they should still be in jail. I know that may not be so feasible because of the way our criminal “justice” system “works,” but I think the question “if those people are so dangerous, then what are they doing out on the streets?” is still a worthwhile one to ask.
    As for the Brady Bunch saying we want to arm wife-beaters, we could very well come back and say the Brady Bunch doesn’t have any problem with wife-beaters being out on the streets instead of in jail or six feet under where they belong as long as they can’t get a gun. It could backfire, I know, but I for one am quite tired of letting those freedom-hating creatures define the rules of discussion.

  2. Sebastian says:

    I don’t really disagree, but that’s a public policy question, not a constitutional one under the second amendment, but possibly under the eighth amendment. You can deprive people of liberty after due process.

    Nonetheless, our society allows dangerous people out of prison, and the public overwhelmingly supports these laws, despite their ineffectiveness. I think there’s an 8th amendment case to be made that the punishment of barring people convicted of non-violent and non-serious offenses from their right to bear arms is excessive, but I wouldn’t suggest the second alone is an obstacle to that.

  3. In 1791, most people convicted of a felony would be deprived of oxygen. People that insane and considered dangerous were locked up in hospitals or poorhouses. Depriving them of guns is actually a less severe punishment. There is a good case that we have made too many crimes into felonies, but that is again a separate question, and as Sebastian observes, more an Eighth Amendment question, not a Second Amendment question.

  4. Ian Argent says:

    Gotta agree – too many felonies.

    I’m conflicted about loss of rights after release.

  5. Brass says:

    I’m on probation for a non-violent misdemeanor in CO. and they have taken away my right to even have a weapon in the house. Not sure how they get away with that one.

  6. Sebastian says:

    Is that permanently? Or just a condition of the probation? If it’s a drug conviction you might be screwed, as there are federal issues there.

  7. Brass says:

    Not permanent, just while I’m on probation. It was a traffic violation that had a less then one year sentence.

  8. Ian Argent says:

    In many placed, being on probation limits quite a few rights – IIRC and IANAL, but there’s some suppression of 4th amendment rights there too, no?

    At any rate, right now, rights can be deprived by “due process”…

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