Friday, January 31, 2003

More on the Toledo man raided by the BATF.
As usual the press seems to only feel the need to report one side of the story. For the heck of it let's point out some examples of errors in reporting:
The first is that it seems no attempt was made to obtain Mr. Kirk's side of the story. This is a glaring omission in the light of quotes from the Toledo policeman & Mr. Kirk's neighbor.
The reporter makes mention of Normal Capacity magazines (usually called High Capacity, even though they typically were designed to hold a certain number of rounds by the factory) & states that they are illegal. But instead of explaining the law concerning them (they’re only illegal if manufactured after a certain date under federal law) or mentioning if it's a federal, state, or local law that prohibits them, a quote is given from the Toledo policeman explaining the supposed dangers of magazines that hold a large number of rounds. The statement by the officer is a bit dramatic, but depends heavily upon "what if" to justify the reason these magazines are "dangerous". Assuming that the magazines were in fact capable of holding 90 rounds per magazine, in order for the policeman’s' fear to be realized, the owner of the magazines must first convert the weapon which the magazines were designed for from semi automatic to full automatic, then shoot at some seemingly innocent person.
The reporter does make mention that the guns the BATF were looking for were not found as part of the raid, but instead of questioning why Mr. Kirk was held & why his property was confiscated he attempts to justify the suspicions of Mr. Kirk as a dangerous subversive by making reference to some seemingly ambiguous writing Mr. Kirk had lying around his home.

"He talked about Ruby Ridge, Waco, employee shootings in factories where somebody apparently went in and shot up a factory, fellow employees or managers or whatever, Tim McVeigh. He talked about the presidential shooting outside the White House. He called it the White House shooter,' said Allen."

If you read the above carefully you will see that in these notes that Detective Allen mentions none make any specific mention of evil intent. In fact, there seems to be no intent at all. It does not say what aspects or even what opinion Mr. Kirk had of these subjects only that he "talked about" them. The only specific reference to anything is that he "...talked about the presidential shooting outside the White House. He called it the White House shooter." That seems about as damning as calling the shootings in the D.C. area last fall the D.C. Sniper Shootings. In general the reporter & Detective seem to be attempting to damn Mr. Kirk by implication even though he seems to have said nothing particularly damning. Last I heard there was a constitutionally recognized right to talk & even write about any number of subjects & it was also commonly believed that should an opinion one way or the other on the above subjects been expressed that would have been constitutionally protected as well, as long as there was no intent of committing any harmful action.
If Mr. Kirk's writings would have been an analysis of what the criminals involved in some of the shootings did wrong, coupled with a plan to commit a crime correctly based on the same scenarios, & having a reasonable belief that Mr. Kirk intended to carry out those plans then perhaps the reporter would have been correct in reporting the writings of Mr. Kirk. But given the above all that was reported were the constitutionally acknowledged & protected writings of Mr. Kirk.
The quote by the neighbor seems to be in the same vein: trying to damn by implication rather than by fact. The neighbor is expressing an opinion about the need for Mr. Kirk or anyone to have a certain amount of property. Until a lot of laws change there is nothing illegal about owning or possessing a certain number of items, or a certain amount of property. There are many different reasons for people owning a large amount of arms, some of which the majority of use would deem legitimate. Gun collecting for example: just trying to own one copy of every arm used by the allies in WW2 would make a considerable collection, especially if one considers all the variants of certain types of weapons. Also some target shooting requires multiple firearms, & to be a truly consummate hunting aficionado, one must have several weapon types for the main categories of game to be pursued ( i.e. a .22 rimfire rifle &/or pistol for small game, a .22 centerfire rifle for varmints, a medium bore centerfire rifle/pistol for large game, a shotgun for fowling, etc... ). however the most compelling argument against using a quote like this in a news story is simply that it's no ones damned business if a person has 2 guns or 200 guns as long as he commits no crimes of violence with them. But the reporter in question throws in the quote to legitimize the idea that Mr. Kirk had an excessive amount of weapons & by questioning his reasons for having that many weapons it is implied that there can be no good purpose in owning an 'arsenal'. This tactic becomes very obvious as a means to prejudice the reader against something the reporter dislikes if one substitutes the word 'books' for 'guns'

"Well, I don't think anybody needs to have that many [books] to be honest with you. What's the sense of having that many [books]?" said Leslie Beavers, a neighbor.

Most people would find that a ridiculous statement to be quoted in a report about any police activity in this country. But guns have been demonized fairly effectively by the media in this country, so as long as the correct noun is used few would question the inclusion of an obviously biased opinion about an inanimate object.

"According to detectives, Kirk told police he was a gun dealer. But, court records show he was only a dealer between 1989 to 1992"
In a strictly grammatical sense Mr. Kirk was not dishonest in his statement. He said he was a gun dealer not that he currently is, & the next sentence verifies that he was a gun dealer. Although this could be just a misunderstanding of what Mr. Kirk meant, it could also be that he meant he is currently a gun dealer. But since the reporter did not contact Mr. Kirk to verify anything that was said, let alone get his side of the story, we can't be certain.

"He faces three felony charges because of the guns found in the house...Police say the also found 16 boxes of ammunition and magazines that hold 90 rounds, which are illegal...Agents did not locate the exact guns they were looking for, but they found the illegal gun parts, and some strange notes written by Kirk...Police charged Kirk with receiving stolen property because one of the guns came back as stolen. He's also charged with two counts of "possession of a dangerous ordinance" for the illegal magazines...And, police say he did not have handgun identification cards for the weapons found in his home."
This is a compilation of what the reporter claims Mr. Kirk did in violation of the law. Let's take them one at a time shall we?

"He faces three felony charges because of the guns found in the house."

Now that would mean he did 3 things that were illegal, but let's add up all the allegations:
1. One of the guns is assumed to be stolen, & he's been charged with receiving stolen property.
2. The magazines were illegal, presumably under federal law, but possibly under state or local law.
3. Since two "illegal" magazines were found, that's one count for each magazine
4. He did not have Handgun Identification Cards for the weapons found in his home. But the article made no mention of charges being filed for this reason.
5. Mention was made of 'strange notes' found in his home. This is not a crime, but the context implies something less than honorable in his having them.
6. There were 16 boxes of ammunition found. Again, nothing illegal or even uncommon, but it implies some nefarious purpose.
7. Police seized 30 guns from his home including a .22 derringer, a 9mm Uzi, some pistols & several high powered rifles. It is perfectly legal to own all the above as well as to own 30 or more firearms.

So even though Mr. Kirk was only charged with 3 crimes, 7 things were mentioned that at least imply some sort of wrongdoing, even though the actions weren't necessarily illegal.

The 16 boxes of ammunition mentioned in the story is really an inadequate description. First of all no mention is made of the size of the boxes, or the amount of ammunition in each box. It could have been 16 boxes of .22 LR ammunition with one cartridge of ammunition in each box. Or it could have been 16 boxes measuring 10'x10' filled to the brim with ammunition. There simply aren't any details to go on, only the vague sense that the reporter felt that 16 boxes of ammo was excessive. Actually for a 30 gun collection, 16 boxes are not unusual. In fact I know people who shoot competitively & they go through several 10's of thousands of rounds per year. It is not unheard of to have several thousand rounds of ammo on hand, especially if you have a weapon chambered in a caliber that is massed produced. Just like at Wal-Mart, buying in bulk is a lot cheaper for some of us.

Again, as a factual matter, I was wondering if anyone has ever seen a "25-millimeter pistol'? The reporter mentions a plurality of them. I am sure that .25 caliber pistols were found, but if someone has invented a pistol firing a bullet with a one inch diameter, please let me know. & please let me know if anyone has been crazy enough to attempt to fire it!

The above critique doesn't go into too much detail of the arrest & charges, but mainly concerns the lax reporting, or possibly the reporting with an agenda.
As far as the charges themselves:
If the magazines are illegal according to federal law, then the law should be struck down. As I will keep repeating until everyone can say it with me, “federal gun laws are constitutionally prohibited". If they are state or local then what you have is a law that makes possession of an inanimate object which by itself is fairly harmless an illegal activity. I'll expand on the reasons why this is wrong in other posts, but to keep this one brief I'll just say that it does hurt the efficiency of the militia & is contradictory to state & local interests.
If a gun was stolen & it can be proved that Mr. Kirk knew the gun was stolen then it's a legitimate charge, although something I'll get to in a minute may invalidate it.
Mr. Kirk's lack of a handgun identification card is not something I would call a crime. I assume that Ohio's handgun registration/permit system has the same racist roots that most other states registration/permit systems have, which does not endear the idea in general to me. But most people see no problem with having this last offspring of Jim Crow alive & well. Briefly any laws requiring registration or permission to obtain a gun or a type of gun are again harmful to state & local interests concerning the arming of the militia & since they impose conditions on the exercise of a right they should have been nullified by a court long ago.
The main thing that I notice is that the BATF obtained a search warrant to look for "illegal" machine guns. Not considering that this is enforcement of a federal gun law (everyone together now - federal guns laws are constitutionally prohibited”) it seems that despite not finding what they were looking for, they confiscated arms as well as writings. I would ascertain that since the objects specified in the search warrant were not found, then they had no authority to confiscate other objects that were not specified in the warrant. The idea is that when a search warrant is obtained, the place to be searched & the items to be searched for are to be clearly stated. If in the course of searching for something, say heroine, you come across something else that is obviously illegal, say marijuana, it is reasonable to confiscate the marijuana even though it was not specified in the warrant. However, if looking for heroine you also find a shoe, it is not permissible to confiscate said shoe.
So the agents of the BATF did not find the items specified on the warrant. That did not stop them from confiscating property which is not illegal to posses, such as firearms & writings. Therefore the admission of any of the non specified items into evidence should be denied. As to the magazines, federal law prohibits possession if they are manufactured after a certain date. State or local law may prohibit them completely, but no details of the law are mentioned, so we'll assume it's federal. Magazines manufactured after a certain date are marked "LEO Only" along with the date of manufacture. Since it is not mentioned if the magazines in question were marked in that manner, we'll assume that they weren't, which means that they were not in fact illegal to posses, the obvious question of legality of the law aside. (One more time,” federal gun laws are constitutionally prohibited) Also the question of how they were found should be brought up. Even if they were illegal to posses according to federal state or local law, if they were inserted into a weapon that was not the subject of the warrant, then prying to determine their legal status could be viewed as going beyond the bounds of the warrant. If the reporter would have been more thorough, perhaps we would have enough information to intelligent dissect these questions.

Now keep in mind that this story mentions nothing about "obstruction official business" or being charged with not having a handgun owners identification card as is mentioned in the previous story.

So the errors in reporting have been noted except for one: why didn't the reporter question any action on the part of the Law Enforcement Officials? They seemed to confiscate a large amount of property that was not material to any charges against Mr. Kirk, & even alluded a sinister nature to the property that he legally held. & while they did mention that the articles being searched for according to the search warrant were not found, no question was made of confiscating Mr. Kirk's property anyway.

233 years ago a revoltuion started brewing in this country with the help of the press over incidents much like this one. I do not prepose that the press should currently incite people to arms, but I would suggest that they report things fairly & point out wrongdoing on the part of the government.

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