Washington museums confounded by new state background check law
The unforeseen circumstances of laws passed by frightened voters in knee-jerk emotional hysteria often lead to morning-after regret once reality sets in.
Such is the case in Washington, where a small museum near the Canadian border must remove its World War II-era weapons from an exhibit to avoid violating Initiative 594, the new voter-approved law requiring background checks on gun transfers.
The Lynden Pioneer Museum, near Belliongham in the state’s northwest corner, wrote on its Facebook page in mid-November that it would risk violating Initiative 594 to keep the 11 rifles past Dec. 4, when the law takes effect. The weapons will be returned to the collectors who lent them.
“I read through the law about 10 different times looking for a loophole,” museum director Troy Luginbill told the Bellingham Herald on Nov. 26.
The law passed ton Nov. 4 with 59 percent of the vote. It requires background checks on all sales and transfers, including private transactions and many loans and gifts, with exceptions for transfers between family members and antiques.
Lynden’s museum, which has one full-time employee, does not immediately have to comply and do background checks. But the museum said it is concerned about the financial burden of performing background checks before returning weapons to their owners once the exhibit ends next May.
The law exempts antiques, but the museum’s rifles are too new to qualify. The definition includes only weapons produced before 1898.
Museums elsewhere in the state are pondering similar predicaments posed by the new law.
Fort Walla Walla Museum Executive Director James Payne told the Bellingham Herald that his museum has World War II-era weapons that it plans to use in an upcoming exhibit. He wondered what would happen if he wanted to loan the weapons to another museum.
“How do you do a background check on an institution?” he asked.
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STATE LEGISLATION ROUNDUP
GOP-led New York Senate has SAFE Act in crosshairs
With Republicans now in control of New York’s state Senate, State Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, told the Allegany County Board of Legislators on Nov. 25 that the Senate would re-examine the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act in 2015.
Republicans have already negotiated some of the terms presented in the initial SAFE Act, Young said, and the current law would have featured more restrictions in it—pistol permit renewal every two years instead of every five years—had the GOP not won the majority of the seats during this year’s election.
In Florida, a House Republican is bringing back a proposal that could lead to some public-school employees or volunteers carrying guns on campus.
Sarasota Republican Greg Steube last week filed the proposal (HB 19) for consideration during the 2015 session. Under the bill, a school superintendent, with the backing of the local school board, could authorize a “school safety designee” to carry a concealed weapon on school property.
In Georgia, a proposed law, dubbed the “Guns Everywhere Law” by gun control advocates, would permit residents to carry weapons anywhere, including schools, airports, churches, and government buildings.
The National Rifle Association called the guns everywhere law “the most comprehensive pro-gun reform legislation introduced in recent history” while GeorgiaCarry.org Executive Director Jerry Henry said the law would “restore our right to carry and be allowed to protect ourselves anywhere we go.”
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21 State Attorneys General challenge Maryland Firearms Safety Act of 2013
A coalition of 21 state attorneys general led by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey filed a friend-of-the-court brief on Nov. 21 in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., in support of an appeal by gun owners groups that was rejected in August by the U.S. District Court in Baltimore.
Morrisey, a Republican, said in a statement released to the Associated Press, that the Maryland Firearms Safety Act of 2013, if upheld by the courts, would undermine a core part of the Second Amendment by banning popular firearms that can be used for self-defense. The law bans 45 different types of semi-automatics as “assault weapons” and put a 10-round limit on magazines.
“States must band together at times when they see citizens’ rights being diminished or infringed upon,” Morrisey said.
The state has until Dec. 31 to file its written response.
Other state attorneys general signing onto the suit are from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.
In Florida, the state chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics is seeking a rehearing in front of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in its continuing “docs v blocks” challenge of Florida’s reinstated “gag law,” which forbids doctors from asking patients if they own firearms.
The law was initially passed in 2011 but it was overturned after a group of doctors filed a lawsuit that claimed the law violated their First Amendment rights. That ruling was then appealed and the law reinstated in July 2014. The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals justified Florida’s Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act by saying patients shouldn’t be subject to “irrelevant inquiry and record-keeping” by their doctor.
Florida’s AAP claims the law not only infringes on their free speech, but restricts them from doing their job.
In California, State Attorney General Kamala Harris and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence filed papers Nov. 26 in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals demanding the court reconsider their effort to intervene in a case that could dramatically loosen California’s restrictions on concealed handguns.
Harris and the Brady Bunch want an 11-judge “en banc” panel to review a three-judge panel’s ruling from early November which barred the Bradyites from intervening in the case. The anti-gun crusaders want to challenge some sheriffs’ and police chiefs’ policies for determining “good cause” when considering applications for concealed-carry permits.
Some California sheriffs require applicants to prove a specific threat to their safety to get a concealed weapon; others don’t. The lawsuit the Brady Bunch wants to intervene in stems from a 2008 lawsuit against the San Diego Sheriff’s Department by independent journalist Edward Peruta and other citizens who wanted concealed weapons permits but were denied. In February, the three-judge panel found San Diego’s concealed carry permit process to be unconstitutional because it violated the Second Amendment.
While San Diego County opted not to appeal, Harris and the Brady Center want to do so. Earlier this month, the three-judge panel dismissed their intervention because t’s too late to join the case and the case never questioned state law constitutionality, only local law enforcement interpretation of that law.
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Colorado suffers consequences of bad law as Magpul leaves for Texas
Magpul Industries Corp., which manufactures ammunition magazines and accessories, announced on Nov. 26 that it has purchased a 16,000-square-foot building near Austin, Texas, and plans to relocate its corporate headquarters there from Colorado next year.
The company’s local real estate broker, Matthew Delahoussaye, confirmed to Austin Business Journal that Magpul employees will be moving into the West Austin office building in early 2015.
Delahoussaye credited Texas Gov. Rick Perry for attracting the company to Austin after Magpul’s executives threatened to leave Colorado when more restrictive gun laws were passed there. Magpul has stated on its website since January 2014 that it was seeking incentives from the state of Texas to move there.
The company generates 200 direct jobs and 400 supply-chain jobs and contributed an estimated $85 million annually to Colorado’s economy.
The Denver Post reported about 100 Magpul employees were notified in October that they would lose their jobs.
Magpul, founded in 1999, said it would move from its longstanding headquarters in Erie, Colo., because the Colorado Legislature passed more restrictive gun laws, including a ban on ammunition magazines larger than 15 rounds.
The company had already moved its manufacturing operations to Cheyenne, Wyo., making good on a vow to leave Colorado in response to the state’s sweeping gun control legislation.
Magpul’s manufacturing and distribution center is slated to open in January in Cheyenne. A 50,000-square-foot addition is expected to be completed in December on the 185,000-square-foot facility. In September, the Wyoming State Loan and Investment Board approved an $8.3 million grant to help Magpul move its manufacturing to Cheyenne
The company will retain a presence in Colorado with an administrative office that will serve as a regional support office.
Gun Rights Examiner Dave Workman writes in a Nov. 28 blog that Magpul’s announcement is “the kind of announcement for which Wyoming and Texas were thankful yesterday while Colorado will be left with a gaping hole in its economy.”
“One might argue that there has been justice in Colorado,” Workman writes. “Anti-gunners in the legislature adopted laws that seriously impact one of the state’s lawful businesses for the sake of symbolism. That business pumped millions of dollars into the economy. Now that business is leaving, and that is justice of a different sort.”
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