It’s Summertime Campaign Season and the ‘Do Something’ Legislating Is Easy
It’s the summer before mid-term elections and that means Congressional candidates who are not girding for primary challenges are gearing up for November’s general elections.
And you know what that means: Lot’s of show-and-tell proposed legislation from incumbents introduced during gaudy press that have absolutely no chance of passing but that’s not important.
What is important is the sponsor is doing something for all voters and constituents to see and hear on TV.
Which explains why Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif. ) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) — two longtime gun control zealots — have co-sponsored HR 6075, The Keeping Gun Dealers Honest Act, a classic show-and-tell bill that calls for greater penalties, greater Department of Justice authority and mandates more inspections of gun dealers.
Under the bill, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) would gain greater authority, allowing them to make these inspections up to three times per year, have greater discretion in gun licensing and demand more serious record-keeping to crackdown on gun trafficking.
The legislation is based on a Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence report which found that just 5 percent of gun dealers end up providing 90 percent of guns used in crimes in the United States.
“We have seen the devastating consequences of not holding gun dealers who engage in illegal sales practices accountable,” Markey said in a statement accompanying the bill. “By increasing inspections and penalties, we can decrease the number of guns falling into the wrong hands. And by strengthening accountability measures for all gun dealers and equipping ATF with the tools to enforce the law, we can prevent further gun violence from occurring.”
Eleven Senate democrats have signed onto the bill as co-sponsors, while companion legislation has been introduced in the House.
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LOTT OF SENSE
Defense Distributed Ruling Illustrates Gun Control’s ‘Fool’s Errand’
When the U.S. Justice Department announced on July 10 it had agreed to “surrender to the First Amendment arguments” made by Defense Distributed in challenging its ban on sharing instructions on how to make guns with 3D printers, it spelled the beginning of the end of gun control as we know it, writes economist, political commentator and gun rights advocate John R. Lott in a June 21 Fox News op-ed.
“The federal government has finally recognized the obvious — that sharing instructions on how to make guns with 3D printers counts as constitutionally protected speech,” he writes. “Despite little fanfare, this is an important victory for First Amendment rights. It also represents a real blow to the increasingly futile cause of gun control.”
Cody Wilson, founder of Texas-based Defense Distributed, set the lawsuit — Defense Distributed v. United States Department of State — in motion in May 2013 when he posted the design of a plastic gun, the Liberator, on the internet.
In just two days, 100,000 copies of the handgun blueprint were downloaded from Wilson’s website. The most occurred in Spain, followed by the U.S., Brazil and Germany.
Shortly after, the Obama State Department served Wilson with a letter threatening criminal prosecution for violating federal export controls. Wilson immediately complied with the order, but there was no way to stop further downloading, Lott writes.
“People are going to download these files whether they’re legal or not,” he writes. “As we’ve seen with movies, file sharing is unstoppable. The most pirated TV program in 2017 was the seventh season of “Game of Thrones,” with more than 10 million illegal downloads in most weeks.
In the Justice Department’s settlement, Wilson can provide printing instructions “for public release (meaning unlimited distribution) in any form.”
Essentially, Lott writes, anyone with access to a metal 3D printer “can make guns functionally and aesthetically indistinguishable” from any store-bought gun. Such metal printers are available for less than $2,000.
“How the government will stop people from obtaining these printers isn’t exactly obvious,” Lott muses. “Proposals to require background checks, mandatory serial numbers and even a registration process for printers are easily defeated. Even if printers are registered with the government, what is going to stop gangs from stealing them? And the designs for making your own printer have been available on the Internet for years.”
Lott predicts the settlement is just the first of many court rulings and regulatory concessions to the reality that technology will always outpace the capacity of government to adequately regulate.
“The goal of eliminating guns is ultimately a fool’s errand,” he writes. “This settlement may bring some awareness to the futility of gun control regulations that only disarm the law-abiding.”
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NRA, SFA Spearhead Suit Challenging Seattle Gun Storage Law
The National Rifle Association (NRA) has joined the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) and two city residents in suing Seattle over a city “safe storage” law that requires gun owners to lock up their firearms.
“Seattle simply can’t break the law to adopt an ordinance as a political statement,” SAF founder Alan Gottlieb said in a statement accompanying the lawsuit, which was filed in King County Superior Court last week.
The lawsuit challenges a law, proposed by Mayor Jenny Durkan and adopted unanimously earlier in July by the Seattle City Council. The law says a gun owner could be fined up to $500 if a firearm is not locked up and up to $1,000 if a minor, “at-risk person,” or unauthorized user, accesses the weapon.
Gun owners can also face a fine of up to $10,000 if someone uses the weapon to injure someone or commit a crime.
In addition to the city, the lawsuit names Durkan and recently chosen Police Chief Carmen Best personally as defendants.
“If they think we are intimidated, they are mistaken,” Durkan said in a tweet, adding that she “will continue to fight for our kids.”
The lawsuit was not unexpected, said representatives of a law firm, Orrick LLP, that has vowed to represent Seattle at no charge.
“Frankly, this is no surprise,” City Attorney Pete Holmes said in a statement. “The Mayor and Council are trying to prevent children from accessing guns with this Safe Storage legislation. If the NRA and SAF want to be on record fighting responsible gun ownership, that’s their choice.”
The NRA and SAF have sued Seattle before after its city council adopted objectional ordinances.
In 2010, Seattle introduced a ban on firearms in city parks, resulting in successful suits that induced a ruling the law was unconstitutional, violating citizens’ right to bear arms.
Last year, however, the Washington Supreme Court upheld Seattle’s tax on guns after the city induced lawsuits by imposing a $25 tax per firearm and two or five cents per round of ammunition.
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IN THE COURTS
’Surprise’ Ruling Could Put Duncan v Becerra On Supreme Court Radar
A divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has upheld a lower court’s injunction against enforcing a 2017 California law that requires gun owners to turn over “assault weapons” to law enforcement.
If California appeals, the July 18 ruling in Duncan v. Becerra may evolve into a significant case with national implications.
“The stage may be set for Brett Kavanaugh’s first Second Amendment test as a justice,” writes David French in National Review on July 19, referring to President Donald Trump’s nominee to succeed the retiring Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court.
French said the Ninth Circuit Court’s ruling offers “a legal surprise” to civil rights advocates, noting “it gave us a legal shock, when a divided panel of its judges affirmed last year’s federal district-court injunction temporarily blocking enforcement of California’s confiscatory ban on so-called large-capacity magazines.”
Under the 2017 California law, anyone who possesses a legally purchased magazine capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition must either remove the magazine from the state, sell it to a licensed firearm dealer, or hand it over to law enforcement.
Those who retained their magazines after the law went into effect — which was initially scheduled for July 1, 2017 — risked a fine or up to one year’s imprisonment.
“The district court’s (2017) 66-page opinion was a legal tour-de-force that not only dismantled California’s justifications for the ban, but also reiterated and reinforced the constitutional and historical basis for the right to keep and bear arms,” French writes.
A key element of the upheld district court ruling is “the phrase ‘gun violence’ may not be invoked as a talismanic incantation to justify any exercise of state power,” French writes. “Implicit in the concept of public safety is the right of law-abiding people to use firearms and the magazines that make them work to protect themselves, their families, their homes, and their state against all armed enemies, foreign and domestic.
“To borrow a phrase,” he continues, “it would indeed be ironic if, in the name of public safety and reducing gun violence, statutes were permitted to subvert the public’s Second Amendment rights — which may repel criminal gun violence and which ultimately ensure the safety of the Republic.”
French sees potential for a precedent-setting ruling in the case if it goes before the Supreme Court.
“While gun owners in California can breathe a temporary sigh of relief, the fight is far from over,” he writes. “If the Court takes the case — and that’s far from certain; SCOTUS has been reluctant to review recent Second Amendment decisions — it will have an opportunity to reset the gun-control debate. If it rules that weapons in common use for lawful purposes enjoy categorical constitutional protection, then most assault-weapons bans and large-capacity-magazine bans would fall. Prohibitions against the sale of ‘dangerous and unusual’ weapons — machine guns, for example — would remain.”
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