Monday, March 18, 2013

Rush To Gun Control Producing Bad Laws



Read the column here.

Of course, the primary effect (so far) of the call for more restrictive gun laws is panic buying on the part of the public.  I routinely browse the local gun shops – and by that I mean those area retailers selling guns, the big chain stores and the locally owned ones – and the trend has been apparent since December across them all, showing no sign of lessening: rifle and shotgun racks that used to be full have been seriously depleted (especially of anything that could be remotely considered a “black gun;” pistol cases are virtually empty; and ammunition shelves are noticeably bare (particularly of .22LR, .223Rem., .25ACP, 9mm, .40S&W, and .45ACP).  Whenever a shipment from a distributor comes in, the wares are immediately bought out.  In fact, retailers have resorted to moving their racks, displays, and remaining merchandise around so as to disguise the empty spaces.

This is a verbatim quote from the New York Sheriffs Association web site concerning the method used to pass the SAFE Act: “It is the view of the Sheriffs’ Association that anytime government decides it is necessary or desirable to test the boundaries of a constitutional right that it should only be done with caution and with great respect for those constitutional boundaries. Further, it should only be done if the benefit to be gained is so great and certain that it far outweighs the damage done by the constriction of individual liberty. While many of the provisions of the new law have surface appeal, it is far from certain that all, or even many, of them will have any significant effect in reducing gun violence, which is the presumed goal of all of us. Unfortunately the process used in adoption of this act did not permit the mature development of the arguments on either side of the debate, and thus many of the stakeholders in this important issue are left feeling ignored by their government. Even those thrilled with the passage of this legislation should be concerned about the process used to secure its passage, for the next time they may find themselves the victim of that same process.”  See http://www.nysheriffs.org/articles/sheriffs%E2%80%99-response-ny-safe-act.

Last time I checked, the count of counties that have either passed resolutions opposing the SAFE Act or are contemplating such measures is at 52, out of 62 in the state, and the list of such municipalities is almost as long.  The Sheriffs Association has been joined by the New York State Association of Counties and the New York State Association of County Clerks in opposing the law.  Ditto the New York State Conference of Local Mental Hygiene Directors.  Granted, some of this opposition has to do with the state passing unfunded mandates down to the county and municipal levels, but not all.  Even the Department of Veterans Affairs has indicated that its doctors will not comply with the law’s “mental health” provisions for fear that veterans will not seek treatment if they think that their Second Amendment rights may be at issue.

Be that as it may, this past week a single member of the Albany County-based Supreme Court denied a request for a temporary injunction of enforcement of the SAFE Act on the basis of jurisdictional grounds.  That ruling is under appeal and as far as I know the 29 April deadline is still in effect for the state to demonstrate to the full Court how the law is constitutional.

And that bit about unfunded mandates is important.  As states dump more and more and paperwork, background check mandates, and licensing requirements on county and municipal governments, just who is supposed to fund the new bureaucracies and increased workloads?  Gun owners, that’s who, by virtue of myriad new fees, fines, and taxes.  If showing a free government-supplied ID to vote is analogous to a poll tax, as so many assure us, how is charging taxes and fees to citizens to exercise their Second Amendment rights as a matter of policy any better?

From a civil libertarian point of view, many of the proposals under consideration in the various states are rife with constitutional problems as they: shred any pretense as to a right to privacy; potentially create de facto, and in some cases de jure, databases of who owns guns, what kind of guns they own, and even if they have ammunition for them; allow warrantless law enforcement searches of gun owners’ homes to routinely conduct “safe storage” inspections (though any definitions of safe storage are conspicuously absent); rendering private property unusable or illegal without due compensation (either by rendering guns and/or magazines inoperable or removing them from the state); slow-motion confiscation by grandfathering current gun owners in and allowing them to keep their weapons, but forbidding them to sell or otherwise transfer them to anyone else, even through inheritance; and yes, even outright confiscation.

Here is just a small sampling of such proposals:

Dianne Feinstein’s Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 (S.150)

New York SAFE Act (S2230/A2388)

Maryland SB281 – require digital fingerprints to obtain a license for all gun purchases

Missouri SB124 – would require parents to notify their child’s school district (public, private, or charter) if they own guns

Missouri HB545 – confiscation

Colorado SB13-196 – makes users, owners, sellers, distributors, and manufacturers of firearms liable for harm caused by any firearm that was under their control at one point in time, but is later misused by someone else
(it is easy to access the other Colorado bills from this link)

Colorado HB1224 – bans magazines with a capacity of more than 15 rounds, magazines owned prior to the ban can be kept but cannot be transferred or sold.

Colorado HB1226 – prohibits concealed carry on public college campuses; this is important because the Colorado Supreme Court has already ruled that a previously enacted state law that did the same as this proposed one was unconstitutional

Colorado HB1229 – requires a background check to be conducted by a licensed firearms dealer before any sale or transfer of a firearm, “transfer” includes lending a firearm to a friend or family member on a temporary basis.

Washington SB5737 – The exact language of this bill as introduced language read as follows: “In order to continue to possess an assault weapon that was legally possessed on the effective date of this section, the person possessing shall ... safely and securely store the assault weapon. The sheriff of the county may, no more than once per year, conduct an inspection to ensure compliance with this subsection.”  Once word of this provision leaked out, two of the three sponsors of the bill claimed that they had no idea the provision was in the bill (the third admitted nothing one way or the other) and it was stricken.

Washington HB1588 background check and fee for any transfer between non-dealers including family members, meaning something as innocuous as the gift of a shotgun from father to son has to go through the state’s regulatory and permitting bureaucracy

Oregon HB 3200
Storage inspections as above; gun owners allowed only one such weapon
Finally, of course, the lists of “military features” used by the various states to denote “assault weapons” are arbitrary and completely devoid of meaning insofar as the actual functioning of the firearms at issue is concerned.  But what else is new?

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