Matt covered the ongoing mess in Virginia earlier this morning, where the reciprocity issue for gun permit owners is being essentially tossed on the trash heap, but I’m sorry to say that their story is only the tip of the iceberg. Having lost the battle of public opinion on the importance of Second Amendment rights and losing repeatedly in the courts at the federal level, gun rights opponents have been crafting new strategies to chip away the constitutional rights of gun owners at the state level. (This is traditionally the line of attack where they’ve enjoyed the most success.) Since the Democrats want to score big points with the gun grabbers in their base and there’s a big election on the horizon, you can count on these stories making the news all year long.
One of the first – and more interesting – assaults is taking place in California this week to ring in the new year. Promoted as an effort to curb gun violence committed by the mentally disturbed, family members of gun owners will be able to ask a judge to summarily suspend any citizen’s Second Amendment rights for a period three weeks if they feel that he might be a danger to others. (Washington Times)
Proposed in the wake of a deadly May 2014 shooting rampage by Elliot Rodger, the bill provides family members with a means of having an emergency “gun violence restraining order” imposed against a loved one if they can convince a judge that allowing that person to possess a firearm “poses an immediate and present danger of causing personal injury to himself, herself or another by having in his or her custody or control.”
“The law gives us a vehicle to cause the person to surrender their weapons, to have a time out, if you will,” Los Angeles Police Department Assistant Chief Michael Moore told a local NPR affiliate. “It allows further examination of the person’s mental state.”
This is a fairly clever approach by the anti-gun lobby because it ties in to the one area where there is broad agreement between both sides of the gun control debate. Everyone is concerned over legitimately insane, dangerous persons having access to firearms, and that’s the lever being applied with this new legislation. The obvious problem with it is the same as we’ve seen with all other private reporting protocols. It’s true that you might wind up taking some weapons away (briefly) from a potentially dangerous, unstable person, but the net immediately becomes so wide that it’s open to rampant abuse. When New York passed the odious Safe Act in 2013 it allowed for reporting of “potentially dangerous” gun owners and the state’s list of individuals stripped of their rights quickly swelled to the tens of thousands. Anyone with a grudge in California can now pick up the phone and make a claim resulting in the cops coming to confiscate guns in a matter of hours. After that, the burden falls on the gun owner to prove that they’re not crazy in order to get them back. (This is essentially the exact opposite of how things are supposed to work, where the burden of proof should be on the government to establish that you are crazy before suspending your rights.)
Out in Washington state there’s a completely different approach being taken in Seattle, and it has thus far survived one round of court challenges. There is a major new tax going into effect on the purchase of all guns and ammunition which is ostensibly being levied to fund gun-violence research and prevention. (Yahoo News)
On Tuesday, King County Superior Court Judge Palmer Robinson ruled that a new tax on guns and ammo would go into effect on Jan. 1, in a case gun rights activists brought against the city. Robinson’s decision aligned with City Council’s unanimous vote in August, approving a tariff of $25 per gun and 2 or 5 cents per round of ammunition for sellers.
In the eyes of NRA members — the plaintiffs, alongside the Second Amendment Foundation and the National Shooting Sports Foundation — Robinson’s ruling flouted the law. But during the case’s hearing, a lawyer defending the city testified that the levy is perfectly kosher. The key is the difference between taxation and regulation, the Seattle Times reported.
Attorney William Abrams stated, “Taxation is to raise revenue, and cities have broad powers to raise revenue through a variety of taxes.”
The tax is also being described as a path to make gun dealers pay for the damage they have caused. That’ a chilling argument to see being successfully made in a court of law, but we can expect a lot more of it this year.
If this one survives a challenge all the way to the Supreme Court it’s going to spell trouble for Second Amendment supporters around the nation. Rather than trying to restrict the purchase and ownership of firearms, Seattle is looking to just make it harder for anyone to be able to afford to do so. To accomplish their goal, they’re jacking up the price on all firearms and ammunition in the form of a tax. Can they do it? Well, the states have been able to tax whatever they like for a long time and do so at rates which vary wildly. Look no further than tobacco and alcohol taxes for examples, along with other “sin taxes.” Of course, you don’t have a constitutional right to smoke or drink beer, so there may be an argument to be made here, but gun sales are already taxed the same as virtually any other product. This might be a tough battle to fight.
Going back for a moment the the declared reason for the tax, we’re going to be seeing a renewed push for the phony idea of “gun violence research and prevention” data collection. The Washington Post recently ran a long op-ed from former GOP congressman Jay Dickey and Mark Rosenberg, former director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the CDC. In it, they plod through the usual litany of complaints over evil Republicans stopping the Center for Disease Control and Prevention from “researching” gun violence. They use the long discredited comparison to studying car accidents to help develop new requirements for safety belts and child car seats, while saying, look! We haven’t banned cars yet!
This is an obvious red herring, of course. There were many factors in automobile accidents which weren’t well understood in the fifties and sixties and new safety features were not only needed, but well within our grasp from a technological standpoint. There isn’t any real mystery left about guns… if you point one at someone and fire it they’re going to be struck by a bullet. We’ve got a pretty solid grip on what bullets do to people. Making guns “safer” through technology brings us back to the revolving door of the “smart gun” discussion which is still a long way from being viable, assuming it ever will be.
The entire demand for gun safety research is a smokescreen to provide some sort of pseudo-science support behind the effort to ban gun ownership. Don’t be fooled by it for a minute and don’t ease up the pressure on Congress to keep the existing ban on such “research” in place. Oh, and just to put some icing on the cake, New York has introduced a new bill to limit the amount of ammunition you can buy to twice the capacity of the firearm every three months. Welcome to Amerika!