Florida cities fight to keep infringements local, Ghost Guns blamed for Saugus High School murders, Virginia Dem proposes another Gun Free Zone, Colorado Sheriffs refuse to enforce Red Flag Laws, 3D printed gun hits a Lo-Point.
Matthew Larosiere is the Director of Legal Policy at Firearms Policy Coalition. You can connect with him on Twitter @MattLaAtLaw.
Florida fighting off feisty municipalities
After the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school murders, a group of Florida municipal governments sought to overturn Florida’s 2011 preemption law, which generally prevented state and local governments from imposing criminal penalties on firearm ownership and possession more strict than state law. The object of the law was to save gun owner from having to navigate a patchwork of jurisdictions where their choice to keep and bear arms might land them in jail on one side of the street, and totally okay on the other.
Naturally, the desire of the cities was to “do something,” as we’ve seen time and time again. We now see the State of Florida, somewhat ironically, fighting off local attempts at stricter gun laws. The state filed briefs in an appeal from a trial court judgment that found parts of the preemption law unconstitutional.
The arguments focus on finer points of Florida constitutional law and the powers reserved to local government. I wish the focus was instead on the lack of any sound basis for a local government to engage in dangerous, divisive, and unconstitutional policy. It’s clear what the localities want to do. They’re interested in following in the footsteps of counties in Colorado and elsewhere in passing their own assault weapon bans, and other constitutionally dubious “public safety” laws which happen not to benefit public safety.
Fingers Point at Ghost Gun Used in Saugus High School Murders
Two weeks ago in Santa Clarita, CA, a 16-year-old killed two fellow students and injured three before killing himself. The awful crime itself isn’t the only reason this story is drawing attention, but also because the handgun the murderer used may have been assembled from a kit. According to the local sheriff, the firearm used in Saugus was a serial-less 1911, the type which can be made from a kit commonly available from a host of retailers.
Just like with 80 percent AR-pattern guns, there are a host of 80 percent handguns available, most of which have been available for years. There are Glock-based frames, M&P, and more. The sheriff believes the teenage murderer was able to order and assemble the gun himself. This hasn’t been proven, and it seems much more likely the firearm was lifted from his late father’s collection. I can say the 1911 kit build is not for the faint of heart (or wallet).
That said, I don't see how the ease of completion is relevant. It is, and always has been, legal for ordinary adults to make firearms for their own personal use. Home built firearms have been around about as long as our nation, and today in a country of 300 million people, we rarely ever see them used in crime.
Focusing on the difficulty of a particular firearm build implies that, were it easy, it would somehow be okay to regulate. I resist that forcefully. Technology may advance to the point where you can press a button in the morning and come home from work to a fully functional semi-automatic rifle. Regardless, murder remains illegal, and the right to keep and bear arms remains an essential human right. The two concepts are not in tension, in fact they complement one another.
It's mechanically easy to commit a lot of crimes, many of them carry stiff federal penalties. That shouldn’t be the point. Instead, we should focus on what more regulation would solve (the answer is very little), while at the same time expanding the scope of criminal law to degrees beyond the absurd levels we've already reached.
A ban or regulation on home builds would also necessarily infringe on the First Amendment activity of trading designs. On top of that, there is nothing more traceable about any other firearm the murderous/location/describer teen may have gotten hold of. What good would it do if, after the tragic fact, the ATF were able to say the firearm was last sold years before at a sporting goods store hours away? Nothing. The CSI-effect leads people to believe that law enforcement is able to follow every firearm. Once a firearm falls into private hands, it is no more traceable with a serial number than without.
The obsessive focus on the ghost gun used in this particular crime is a product of both the rarity of homemade firearm use in crime, and the need for each horrifying public murder to have some scapegoat to legislate away. If the teen really did assemble the gun himself, or even just take possession of it as he did, he broke a list of California laws the length of which we’d have trouble covering in a day.
Virginia Dem Proposes Banning Guns on Capitol Square
An aggressive, one-feature assault weapon ban is one of many proposals to wash through the newly Democrat-dominated Virginia state legislature. State Sen. Adam Ebbin has filed a bill to ban weapons on the state’s Capitol Square, where pro-gun activists have staged rallies for years.
Ebbin’s justification is that “these are areas that need to be secure...I think it’s better to err on the side of protection.” I agree. I think it’s better to err on the side of protecting the people’s rights, rather than making up nonsense reasons to jail people peacefully going about their business.
The bill, of course, grants special privileges to special people. Law enforcement, security personnel, military, and officers of the court are exempted, but notably not members of the general assembly. Anyone who violates the ban faces up to a year in jail, fines of up to $2,500, and seizure of any weapons discovered on Capitol Square.
Several Colorado Sheriffs Refuse to enforce Red Flag Laws
Colorado’s red flag law takes effect January 1, and according to a special on 60 Minutes aired last week, dozens of Colorado sheriffs and counties will refuse to enforce it.
We’ve talked about red flag laws and their awful consequences a lot. We’ve also talked about the toothless nature of most “Second Amendment sanctuary” provisions. If there isn’t an affirmative cause of action against local authorities who enforce these unconstitutional, immoral laws, even in a sanctuary, just know their assurances are wholly symbolic.
3D Printed Gun Hits a Lo-point
Last week, homemade gun legend CTRL+Pew, through the collaborative platforms of Deterrence Dispensed and Free Men Don’t Ask, released what may be his finest work to-date: the lo-point. A tongue-in-cheek named 3D-printable frame for hi-point firearms, the project was aimed at making self-defense even more affordable.
Hi-point firearms can be purchased new for under $200, but parts kits for hi-points can be had for as little as $30. With a cheap 3D-printer, $3 worth of plastic, and some skill and ingenuity, any person legally eligible to own a firearm, and who doesn’t live in a state that hates free speech, can lawfully have a (somewhat) effective firearm. Hats off, CRTL+Pew.