Skip to comments.MORE INJUSTICE ON THE WAY (GUN CONTROL)
Posted on 06/11/2002 11:07:01 PM PDT by Pistol
More Injustice on the Way
Paul Craig RobertsJune 12, 2002
In 1999, Edward Tenner published "Why Things Bite Back," a provocative book about the unintended consequences of technology. Someone should write a similar book about law, because the unintended consequences are even more far-reaching.
Gene Healy, a Cato Institute scholar, recently provided a thorough exploration of the unintended consequences of one law, the new Bush-Ashcroft plan to federalize gun crimes, known as the Project Safe Neighborhoods program. The unintended consequences of this law are frightening.
The law originated in a strategy by the National Rifle Association and the Bush administration to forestall further anti-gun legislation by emphasizing tougher enforcement of existing gun laws. To this end, the legislation funds 113 new assistant U.S. attorneys and 600 new state and local prosecutors, whose only beat is to prosecute gun crimes. And there lies the unintended consequences.
As Healy rightly notes, one consequence is the over-enforcement of gun laws and a "proliferation of 'garbage' gun charges technical violations of firearms statutes on which no sensible prosecutor would expend his energy."
Conviction rates are the key indicator in judging the performance of U.S. Attorneys' offices. Unlike other prosecutors, whose bailiwicks cover all criminal offenses, the 713 Safe Neighborhood prosecutors are limited to one offense. Once they run out of serious gun crimes, they push on with technical and meritless indictments.
Meritless convictions were fast in coming. Last January, the Des Moines Register asked: "What sort of country would put a man in federal prison for 15 years for possessing a single .22 caliber bullet? Ours would." Dane Yirkovsky, a drug user and sometime burglar, was sentenced as an armed criminal for forgetting to dispose of a bullet that he found on a floor while installing a carpet.
Katica Crippen, a 32-year-old woman with a drug conviction, posed naked for her photographer boyfriend holding one of his guns as a prop. Police found the photos while surfing Internet porn sites. Her nakedness was no offense, but prosecutors interpreted holding a gun as "being in possession." Crippen was given an 18-month federal sentence for being an "armed felon."
Sentencing guidelines force judges to give unjust sentences for such non-crimes. Federal judge Richard Matsch, who presided over the Oklahoma City bombing trial, found Crippen's case on his docket. Outraged at the lack of prosecutorial judgment, he asked: "How far is this policy of locking up people with guns going to go? Who decided this is a federal crime?"
Reporter David Holthouse examined 191 Colorado federal firearm cases. The vast majority convicted as "armed felons" had no record of violent felonies. Most were drug possession charges. Only four had actually fired a gun during a crime.
In Richmond, Va., the meritless gun cases pursued by federal prosecutor David Schiller caused federal judge Richard L. Williams to observe that "90 percent of these defendants are probably no danger to society."
Prosecutors already had a hearty appetite for expansive interpretations of gun laws prior to Project Safe Neighborhoods. Candisha Robinson sold illegal drugs to undercover officers in her apartment. A subsequent search found an unloaded gun locked in a trunk in her closet. She was charged by federal prosecutors with "using" a firearm while committing a drug offense.
Readers might lack sympathy for unsavory characters, but unsavory character is no justification for unsavory indictments.
In the end, many law-abiding citizens will end up in jail for merely being gun owners or acting in self-defense. A spouse, maneuvering for the upper hand in a divorce proceeding, can place a gun owner in violation of gun laws merely by obtaining a restraining order. Prosecutors already bring first-degree murder charges against occupants who shoot threatening intruders in self-defense.
Healy notes other unintended consequences of Project Safe Neighborhoods. The law contravenes President Bush's endorsement of federalism and the Supreme Court's effort to resist Congress' inclination to federalize crime. Just after his inauguration, President Bush told the National Governors Association, "I'm going to make respect for federalism a priority in this administration." Bush neither respects federalism nor upholds the Constitution when he crosses 10th Amendment lines and federalizes petty gun crimes.
How can Republicans demand respect for the Constitution when the centerpiece of their crime-fighting program leads off by trampling all over it?
Another consequence, which might not have been unintended, is jury-shopping by prosecutors. Black juries resist prosecutors' efforts to convict based on expansive interpretations of laws and meritless charges. In contrast, white juries believe the prosecutor.
Federalizing gun charges lets prosecutors escape urban jury pools by moving cases to suburban federal district courts.
Healy advises President Bush to abandon Project Safe Neighborhoods, because it is an "affront to the Constitution and the rule of law." No one should be surprised when many of those prosecuted in the name of Safe Neighborhoods are hapless gun owners who are no threat to society.
Dr. Roberts' latest book, "The Tyranny of Good Intentions," has been published by Prima Publishers. Copyright 2002 Creators Syndicate, Inc. See NewsMax's special offer for "The Seven Myths of Gun Control."
>>>The law originated in a strategy by the National Rifle Association and the Bush administration to forestall further anti-gun legislation by emphasizing tougher enforcement of existing gun laws.
>>>Once they run out of serious gun crimes, they push on with technical and meritless indictments.
>>>No one should be surprised when many of those prosecuted in the name of Safe Neighborhoods are hapless gun owners who are no threat to society.
Upon initial review, this seemed like a reasonable law to enact. Now it appears, this law has gone over the line of reason and may be inflicting some seriously, excessive actions and burdens, on basically innocent people. I think a reevaluation by the Bush administartion, is in order.
B.S. As a lawyer - who both defended and prosecuted criminals for a decade, mostly in the 1990s - I can tell you that black jurors don't hesitate to convict criminals, black or otherwise.
The only "exceptions" are cases like O.J. where the guy has become an obvious "symbol of blackness." But even then, did being tried in the heavily-black Atlanta area get H. Rap Brown acquitted of shooting two officers this past year?
Racial jury nullification by black jurors may be happening in a couple of Sharptonized northeastern cities - but, to whatever extent it is, it's not much; state prisons are full of black inmates convicted largely by urban juries!
OK, some fine-tuning is in order. One change would be to have the prosecutors work on other cases also, not be dedicated to gun violations only. Eliminate the "make-work" problem but don't throw the baby out with the bathwater IMHO.
Reagan man was right on.
The feds need to get out of the gun business altogether. Unless it's circumstances where their jurisdiction is clear, such as foriegn smuggling etc.
The whole concept of "interstate commerce" was a gun grabbing fraud from the beginning, fabricated so that they could stick their butinsky nose where it doesn't belong. Using that fraudulent standard, "interstate commerce" can be used to regulate anything. It's an extra constitutional end run.
If a person is a "gun criminal" there is no reason on earth why the respective state can't handle him or her.
The NRA really stepped on it's dick with this one as well as the "assault weapons" ban. They ought to know by now that there is not one single gun law that this country needs added to the thousands upon thousands that we already have. Not a single one.