Friday, May 16, 2003

The Justice Department plans to increase prosecutions for gun crimes. This is due in part to a report from Americans for Gun Safety which criticizes the Justice Department for being lax about enforcing federal gun laws. In case you're not familiar with Americans for Gun Safety, they claim to be a group that supports an individuals Right to own arms but does it via a sensible approach. I am sure there are some who do see their way as sensible, Sarah Brady for example. To the rest of us they appear to be Fuddites. Don't be fooled by their talk of Rights. What they advocate are privileges, not Rights. But I digress.

"The department plans to commit $900 million to the initiative over three years and has added more than 600 prosecutors and agents to aid in the effort, officials said."

Which coupled with the BATF's switch to the Justice Department means more woes for gun owners. the BATFE is the new kid on the block & very eager to prove it performs a valuable service, so I suspect that they will do everything they can to increase their numbers of arrests. Usually they'd go on an arrest binge such as this to increase the numbers of arrests they made (hence an increase in job security) but with many of the cases thrown out of court. Now with a lot of dollars & new prosecutors looking to justify their jobs I suspect that more arrests will lead to trials.

"The officials said Mr. Ashcroft had also sought to step up prosecutions of would-be owners who lied on background checks, and the number of prosecutions for false statements rose 8 percent last year, officials said."

So technical & paperwork violations are becoming more of a reason for prosecution. Of course this would cover a convicted felon who tries to purchase a gun & lies about his felony when he fills out the form, but it also would cover the law abiding person who mistakenly puts the wrong address on the form.

"Jens Ludwig, an associate professor of public policy at Georgetown University, said although advocates pointed to a pilot program in Virginia as a model, that program "has not been as successful as is widely believed." Although his comment drew a rebuke from Mr. McNulty, the professor said his own research did not support the idea that a push to remove illegal guns from the street had contributed greatly to a significant drop in firearms murders in the late 1990's in the Richmond, Va., metropolitan region."

In effect Prof. Ludwig is saying that Project Exile, which is the unnamed program from Richmond, Va. that he makes reference to, isn't an effective means of reducing unjustified gun violence. So more or less the program is a feel good measure that potentially does more harm than good.

"The new study, which analyzed information from the Justice Department from 2000 to 2002, found that illegal possession and use during a crime accounted for 85 percent of the more than 25,000 federal firearms cases in that period."

What bothers me is the 15%. I feel that use of a gun during a crime should be the only reason to prosecute a person who owns or possesses a gun, but even allowing the convicted felon/illegal possession charges to be seen as legitimate, then what the hell is the other 15% about?

According to the AGS study:

"In The Enforcement Gap: Federal Gun Laws Ignored, AGSF found that just two statutes, both related to street criminals in possession of firearms, account for 85% of federal gun prosecutions. The rest - laws intended to punish illegal gun trafficking, firearm theft, corrupt gun dealers, lying on a criminal background check form, obliterating firearm serial numbers, selling guns to minors and possessing a gun in a school zone - are woefully under-enforced."

illegal gun traffickers - people who operate outside an unconstitutional prohibition on their liveleyhood.
firearm theft - a legitimate cause for prosecution.
corrupt gun dealers - gun dealers who do not 100% respect the governments authority to enforce unconstitutional gun laws
lying on a criminal background check form - anything from a serial killer claiming he never broke any laws to a person writing in the wrong zip code by mistake.
obliterating firearm serial numbers - a person who decides to alter his own property w/o the permission of the government
selling guns to minors - a 21 year old sells a pistol to his 20 year old brother.
possessing gun in a school zone - prosecuted for being prepared to prevent another Columbine High School massacre?

Meanwhile Maine catches criticism from the AGS study because only 10% of prosecutions involve guns.

"U.S. Attorney Paula Silsby responds that the statistics don't show how many of those crimes were pursued at the state level, or how few gun crimes Maine has to begin with.

"Maine's problem, unlike other states, is not a lot of violent crime committed with firearms. The number one violent crime problem in this state, according to every law enforcement official that you talk to, is domestic violence," Silsby said."

Facts should never get in the way of a good 'study'. But if it's any consolation Silsby "plans to creatively apply gun laws to reducing domestic violence, by reminding would-be abusers in an ad campaign that people convicted of domestic assaults lose the right to own a gun. "

Of course if Silsby actively promoted the idea of women defending themselves & proclaimed an amnesty from prosecution for defense against domestic violence then perhaps it would actually reduce the domestic violence cases.

In Louisiana they plan on increasing the number of gun law prosecutions.

"...acting U.S. Attorney James Letten...[said] 'I've met with the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) and said our office would gladly prosecute anyone who committed a provable lie on a federal form, whether they were successful in getting firearms or not,"

Again, I foresee a bunch of 60 year old veterans on trial for putting the wrong zip code or drivers' license number on the federal form.

"Justice Department spokeswoman Barbara Comstock said the agency is increasing prosecution of gun law violators, with substantial increases last year in cases brought for illegal gun trafficking, obliterating the serial number of weapons and making false statements on background checks.
'Our message is clear: Gun crime means hard time,' Comstock said. 'The forces of law and justice will take down and prosecute offenders, and they will face the consequences of their actions."

The forces of law & justice? One of them will surely prevail, it's unfortunate that they're not on the same side though.

So being extra careful is good advice to avoid legal hassles. Speaking of advice, this article gives some do's & don'ts for aquiring weapons with minimal government hassle. It covers both the legal & illegal methods. It is not legal advice & in fact it describes ways in which the law can be broken. I include it here because it is useful knowledge to have.

"I realize that some people might worry about professional freelance thugs using the information here to obtain guns to rob or assault with. But hell, they already have guns, don't they? And if not, they have no qualms about simply stealing one. My suggestion to any such persons is that they find a more ethical line of work, before they get ventilated by someone they thought would be an easy victim."

If the above intrigues you then read the whole thing.

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