Monday, August 11, 2003

I've been informed of this post over at SayUncle. It links to this article about one Francis Warin.

Mr. Warin is in jail. He was arrested on charges that he violated the NFA of 1934. But there's a little more to it than that.

"Francis Warin had a nagging habit.
Nearly 30 years ago, he toted a submachine gun into Toledo’s federal courthouse and made a simple demand: Arrest me.
He got his wish.
Two months ago, the Ottawa County man mailed a homemade gun and silencer to an assistant U.S. attorney. To ensure there was no confusion, he sent the package by certified mail, complete with his return address.
Warin again got his wish: He was arrested once more.
Now the 72-year-old gun-rights advocate is fighting to get out of the Lucas County Jail - staging a hunger strike to try to force authorities’ hands."

Why would Mr. Warin do this you may ask?

"The French immigrant insists his actions make sense. They’re part of his on-again, off-again quest to challenge what he perceives as restrictions on the right to bear arms as covered by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
His accent still thick after 42 years in America, the balding professional weapons designer believes the courts have stripped the Second Amendment of its meaning, and he’s willing to be the legal guinea pig to fix it.
'Civil cases don’t go anyplace,' Warrin told The Blade in an interview in jail. 'So what are you left with?' "

It gets better.

"Back in the 1970s, he had to practically beg to be indicted.
And the latest indictment took four years of taunting: threatening to bring a bomb to the FBI, boasting of illegal silencers he had made, and even taking out a newspaper ad to question why he hadn’t been indicted."

This guy believes so strongly that he not only was willing to go to jail in an effort to challenge the law, but he took out a friggin' newspaper ad about it? Before I listen to any other NRA apologists I want to see the check they wrote to help Mr. Warin's defense. Yes, you could argue his strategy may have been imperfect, but if the NRA had 1/10 the resolve that Mr. Warren did I could be blogging about something trivial & actually have enough spare time to reload & shoot as I would like.

"Prosecutors successfully argued before a local magistrate that Warin - the man who for years struggled to get arrested - is now too dangerous to let free.
'You just don’t know what a person like this is capable of doing,' said Tom Weldon, an assistant U.S. attorney Toledo. 'If he’s this desperate to gain attention, what’s next?' "

Yes. Keep him locked up. After all he is dangerous, challenging the governments' laws & all. Why if he were set free the 72 year old man might do something crazy like tell people why teh governments' laws aren't just. He might even wander into some crack-poy attorneys office who believes him & offers to help. (Note to any crack-pot attorneys - you could do worse than lending Mr. Warin a hand.)

To summize a bit, Mr. Warin was prosecuted in 1974 for his method of contesting the NFA of '34. His attempts at the district & appellate court level were unsuccesful & resulted in very anti-gun decisions which are cited frequently by the anti-gun groups.
However because of his situation the judge took pity on him & not only sentenced him to probation instead of jail time, but waived his restrictions on possessing weapons. Which, considering Mr. Warin designs weapons for a living & could not work if he were prohibited from them it was a very nice thing to do, especially considering the judge just ruled that a very bad law that's flawed in ways too numerous to mention was in fact constitutional.

However some years later Mr. Warin had his firearms seized because he offerred to bring the FBI a non-functional bomb. A judge decided that the previous judge's waiver on the prohibitions on possessing weapons only applied to his probationary period & Mr. Warin, being a convicted felon, had no Right to Arms.

So that appears to be the primary motivation of Mr. Warin's latest efforts - outrage that he is denied his Right to Arms because he challenged the governments restrictions on everyone's Right to Arms.

What does Mr. Warin wish to accomplish out of this? read on.

"He dreams of a full-fledged hearing on his case before the U.S. Supreme Court. The pro-gun interpretation has been adopted by a growing number of scholars and even Attorney General John Aschroft - making it more likely the high court could eventually step in."

That's all? He simply wants his day in court, albeit the highest court of the land, so he can attempt to correct an injustice?

"But Warin’s prosecution likely won’t be that test case.
Ms. Zemmelman gives it a "zero" chance. So does noted gun-rights advocate Stephen Halbrook, a Virginia attorney who has fought in many high-profile gun cases.
He scoffs at Warin’s tactics.
'I don’t know of any responsible Second Amendment advocates who would suggest that anybody get arrested,' he said."

Halbrook. The NRA attorney who tried to run interference of two CATO instute lawyers challnge of the D.C. gun ban..In any event who the hell is he to condemn a tactic that he hasn't the intestinal fortitude to try? If he was pointing out the flaws in Mr. Warin's attempts in court I might listen to him. Might. But to casually dismiss an act of civil disobediance by a man who is on the same side you claim to be on?

Like I said, Mr. Warin may not be successful in accomplishing his goals, but he's trying. He's not sitting back waiting for the perfect composition of the Supreme Court, he's not collecting fees from a multitude of clients who are in violation of numerous firearms laws. He's not making money off laws that restrict the Rights of the people. He has no vested interest in making sure there are at least some gun laws that violate a persons' Rights. His job security wouldn't be threatened if the Second Amendment got proper treatment in the courts.

Halbrrok may be a fine lawyer, but as some older members of my family would say, he's about 10 switchins shy of being growed up. ('Switchin' refers to disciplining a child using a hickory or similar wood switch. It is a very effective way of correcting certain attitude & character problems that young children may suffer from. Unfortunately past a certain age 'switchins' are of no effect. therefore do not take it as my suggesting that someone should give Mr. Halbrook a 'switchin'. It's simply too late to do any good - at least for Mr. Halbrook.) For more on the NRA I refer you to this section of my archives.

"Before being wheeled back to his cell, Warin said he has no regrets. His explanation comes with a simple shrug.
'I had to do what I had to do,' he said."

Mr. Warin is not alone. while their methods may not have the approval of the NRA, there are others who for good or bad have made attempts to challenge firearms laws they felt were violative of their Rights. Rick Stanley has done so, albeit over a Denver city law rather than a federal law. Don Bird is trying to get his challenge of California firearms laws to the Supreme Court. & a gentleman named Haney challenged the NFA of 34 through an act of civil disobediance similar to Mr. Warin's. Haney was the other second amendment case, along with Emerson, that President Bush asked the Supreme Court not to hear. & as you may remember, they didn't grant them a hearing. (thanks to The Smallest Minority for the link to the Haney case.)

Mr. Warin & the others mentioned may or may not have the most sound legal strategy. I have heard very little of the actual arguments they plan to or have made in court concerning the constituionality of the various firearms laws they challenge. But instead of condemning them why don't we help them? Try to correct them where their arguments may be a little weak? Pony up some cash so they can afford a decent lawyer to argue their case?

No matter though, they should all have our respect for their attempts at correcting unjust laws. After all, they are in jail & risking a loss of their remaining Rights as much for you & I as for themselves.

For more on the problems with the NFA of 1934 look here & here.

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