This week in gun rights – September 19, 2020
Matthew Larosiere is the Director of Legal Policy at Firearms Policy Coalition. You can connect with him on Twitter @MattLaAtLaw.
Ex-San Diego Sheriff’s captain pleads guilty to illegal gun sales; Police raid home in search for toy guns; Former Atlanta CFO Jim Beard indicted on fraud, weapons charges; Second Amendment Knife Case in Hawaii; Gun group files new petition to redhead case on New Jersey magazine capacity law; Return of guns in Virginia case demonstrates how red flag laws can be abused.
Ex-San Diego Sheriff’s captain pleads guilty to illegal gun sales
On Wednesday, Marco Garmo, a former captain for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office pled guilty to selling “off roster” guns in the state of California. The roster to which I’m referring is a list of handguns that the state has been so gracious as to permit dealers to sell to the general public, you know, after they’ve bested the other hurdles that the California legislature has put in place to prevent them from exercising their right to buy a gun. As part of Garmo’s deal, he’ll plead guilty to one count of selling guns without a license, receiving a sentence of no more than five years in federal prison.
It’s kind of a rough situation. There’s little reason to have such stringent licensing requirements, especially not in the case of private sales. Second, the California gun roster is unconstitutional and it prevents people from buying common handguns. It’s basically impossible to get a new handgun on the roster because the state requires it to have magical nonexistent technology, as well as requiring constant re-certification of older models. This has caused tons of common arms to fall off the roster.
Not only that, but the roster affords a special privilege to police officers, which allows them to resell non-roster guns, which is how Garmo was sidestepping the state law. Just because you work for the government in a certain capacity doesn’t mean that you should be subject to fewer legal restrictions; the right to own the firearm of your choice and the right to self-defense are natural rights, and they belong to everyone. That said, the law clearly sets an incentive that Garmo was responding to. People obviously want these guns, and they’re going to do whatever they can to get them. This incident just goes to show that the California legislature should repeal the registry altogether. It’s an embarrassment to the state that Garmo was punished for simply responding to incentives and trying to give people what they clearly desire.
Police raid home in search for toy guns
Back in June, a school principal in Rosedale, Maryland called the police on a 5th grader because he had some toy guns hanging on the wall in the background of his “virtual classroom.” Recently, the family of the student obtained a copy of the principal’s 911 call. According to the 911 transcript, someone spotted what they believed to be a firearm in the background and, according to principal Jason Feiler, even if it was fake, the schools had to “follow whatever rules [they] would have in the building.” Police responded to Feiler’s 911 call and upon entering the student’s bedroom, almost immediately recognized that the “firearms” on the wall were toys.
It would be an understatement to say that this incident is alarming, but with students continuing to attend classes online, it will likely become more common. By calling 911 and having the police “check in” on the property contained in the homes of students, schools are trying to circumvent Fourth Amendment protections that traditionally apply to the home. Not only is this an invasion of privacy, it puts the welfare of students and their families at risk, and for what reason? A student can’t shoot up a Zoom meeting. If education will continue to be delivered online against the will of the People, schools and inevitably, courts, will have to set ground rules to ensure that the right of privacy is honored until things get back to normal.
Former Atlanta CFO Jim Beard indicted on fraud, weapons charges
Jim Beard was the CFO for Atlanta Georgia under the city’s last mayor, Kasim Reed. Reed was unsurprisingly an anti-gun politician. In fact, in 2014 Reed countermanded orders from Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, declaring that all of the city’s facilities would be “gun-free.” I guess he forgot to tell Jim Beard, who was recently indicted for using city funds to purchase two machine guns. In addition to being charged with unlawful possession of machine guns, Beard is being charged with wire fraud, theft from the government, making false statements, and obstructing federal tax laws. Although the probability is small, it would be a fit of irony if Beard ends up using Leland Yee’s old cell to serve his time.
While it’s always fun to see government officials held to account for the nonsense crimes they enforce against the rest of us, let’s not forget that anyone should be able to buy any kind of gun they like. That said, they should buy them using their own money.
Second Amendment Knife Case in Hawaii
The right to keep and bear arms isn’t just about guns. It covers defensive wear like body armor, helmets and the like, as well as other types of lethal and “less-than-lethal” weapons. It is for this reason that I was disappointed to hear about the Hawaii federal district court’s decision in Teter v. Connors, where the court acknowledged that knives are covered under the Second Amendment right before it declared that the state’s law categorically banning butterfly knives is “constitutional.” I respectfully disagree, and I have to say that it’s glaringly obvious that they overlooked the portion of the Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller where it explained that categorical bans on the purchase and possession of certain arms—in that case, handguns—is in fact unconstitutional.
Gun group files new petition to redhead case on New Jersey magazine capacity law
On Monday of this week the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs filed its petition for rehearing of its challenge to New Jersey’s magazine capacity ban. The argument from ANJRPC is simple - when the appeals court last heard its case, it said in its decision that the magazines in question were typically possessed for lawful purposes. According to the Supreme Court’s three most recent Second Amendment decisions, arms protected by the Second Amendment that are typically possessed for lawful purposes like self-defense cannot be banned, so New Jersey’s ban on high-capacity magazines is unconstitutional. With COVID causing the wheels of justice to grind more slowly than usual, it may take a while for ANJRPC’s petition to be heard.
Return of guns in Virginia case demonstrates how red flag laws can be abused
In Frederick County, Virginia earlier this month, a man’s guns were seized after he was accused of drawing down on his son. This happened after a substantial risk hearing was conducted, for which neither the man’s father or the man’s son—the accusers—were present. According to the man subjected to the seizure order, he and his son had been at odds for some years after the man allegedly discovered that his son was having drugs delivered to his home. After the man’s father failed to renew his red flag petition, the man’s guns were returned to him. Disappointed with the result, the prosecutor involved in the seizure said that the result was “discouraging for the commonwealth,” but that he understood the verdict given the lack of testimony.
Do you see the problem with this situation? There wasn’t enough evidence to show that the man whose property was seized even pointed a firearm at someone, but thanks to the state’s anti-gun legislation, he was deprived of his property nonetheless. “Better safe than sorry,” right? Of course, we may never know the truth of the accusations, but we do know red flag laws provide an opportunity for people with vendettas and personal grudges—where there’s bad blood between family members, for instance—to weaponize the state against firearms owners. At least nobody got shot this time.