Friday, May 30, 2003

Mark Lancaster will go to trial soon. His crime? Possessing weapons suitable for militia use. Machine guns in fact. He committed no violent crime, made no threats, etc. In fact this is his first offense. Mr. Lancaster was the music minister at his local church. Not that being a music minister at a church is proof positive of your good intent, but this isn't a career criminal we're talking about.

You can all read the details here. The gist of it is that Mr. Lancaster would like to fight the charges on the grounds that the arms he possessed are constitutionally protected. He has some solid legal ground to stand on, as the Supreme Court applied a 'militia use' test when they heard an appeal to a lower court overturning the National Firearms Act in 1934. There are some other things as well that could be helpful. In fact, the National Firearms Act of 1934 is the easiest of all federal firearms laws to challenge simply because it is flawed.

1: It was enacted as a taxing clause. However the tax was & still is burdensome. An earlier ruling by the Supreme Court has stated that for a taxing measure to be legitimate, its purpose must be raising revenue, not discouraging an activity through punitive tax rates. In 1934 a Thompson submachine gun was a rather expensive arm at $175, a short barrlled shotgun or rifle could be had for $10 & a sound suppressor cost about $2. Tell me how a $200 tax on a $2 to $175 item is going to generate revenue?

2: The Supreme Court in a decision invalidating a poll tax, has said that a tax or fee cannot be laid upon a constitutionally granted Right. (I take exception with their use of the word 'granted' as it should more properly have been 'acknowledged' but that's a slightly different point.) So to specifically tax, even minimally, an object that is essential for the exercise of a Right is going beyond the bounds of what government can & should do. A general sales tax, if applied to all objects would not be violative of this, but a tax on a specific object is.

3: The Supreme Court has said that only arms suitable for militia use are protected by the 2nd amendment. Since machine guns are the main focus of the NFA & later federal laws, than they should be struck down as machine guns are uniquely suited to militia use. In fact so can short barrelled shotguns, rifles & silencers. The only reason the Supremes let this law stand was that they were unaware that short barrelled shotguns had military value & remanded it back to the lower court, in essence implying that if it could be proved short barrelled arms had militia use then they'd be protected as well & the law would be invalidated. They seemingly ignored the provisions of the NFA that dealt with machine guns. One assumes they knew they were there & simply ignored them as the focus of the challenge was on a short barrelled shotgun. Not having oppossing counsel helped the governments arguments as well, but that's yet another story.

4:The federal government was not enacted the authority to restrictively or prohibitively regulate the arms held by the people. The 2nd amendment further prohibits the federal government ( & post-14th amendemnt the states) from interfereing with a persons' ability to own &/or posses arms.

5: Through a distortion in the free market caused by federal laws & a freeze on the existing supply of legally available machine guns, the feds have discouraged the general welfare instead of promoting it. Having a populace armed equally as the military &/or police was one of the ideas that our country was founded upon. Should a tyrannical government ever attempt to harm the people the lack of arms suitable to defend against the military &/or police would be a serious detriment. The same applies to an invasion by a foreign power. true, these events are unlikely but the idea the founders & framers were operating on were preventative measures to help ensure that these scenarios would continue to be unlikely. By making it burdensome for the populace to have weapons capable of repelling a military attack the federal government is not merely neglecting a constitutional mandate but directly disobeying it.

Those are some of the arguments, albiet abbreviated as to why the NFA of '34 should be declared invalid. Hopefully Mr. Lancaster's attorney will have the sense to research them & expand upon them. In any event Mr. Lawrence needs your help. You can access his website here. Donate if you are able, but if nothing else drop him a note to tell him you're behind him on this & wish him well. remember, when a person challenges a law that affects our Rights, he's not just helping himself, he's helping all of us.

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