Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Gun Confiscations

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obama gun grab

This past week, President Barack Obama went to the pool report microphones at the White House to share his reaction to the October 1 attack on Umpqua Community College by a madman who killed 8 students, a college professor and himself.

But rather than giving his usual canned remarks about his “thoughts and prayers” for the dead, injured and their families and his tired demand for more gun control laws that would prove useless in stopping a mad gunman, gang members and criminals from getting guns on the black market to commit their crimes, he led with a political statement.

He said that the “business as usual” declaration that we shouldn’t politicize a mass attack incident would no longer do and that politicizing the incident was exactly what he would do – even before the dead had been counted… the injured tended to… relatives were notified… and the police had a chance to complete their investigation of the shooter.

Obama declared that we should strengthen gun laws that only law-abiding gun owners obey… expand the National Instant Criminal Background Check system to add more groups of people to the list of “prohibited persons” banned from gun ownership and that we sweep aside the gun rights lobby (a.k.a. the National Rifle Association NRA) to “do what’s right for the country.”

Then he made a suggestion that went a step further – a “nuclear step” further – by saying what we should do is mimic Great Britain and Australia and confiscate guns in private hands. That’s what these two countries did in the mid-1990s so why not here.

The Second Amendment notwithstanding, Obama referenced the bans thus:

“We know that other countries, in response to one mass shooting, have been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings. Friends of ours, allies of ours — Great Britain, Australia, countries like ours. So we know there are ways to prevent it.”

And Obama is not the only one suggesting we confiscate guns in private hands. He is getting support in the news media too. For example, on October 1 the left leaning online website Slate wrote that:

Australia enacted their gun ban in response to an attack on April 28, 1996, wherein a gunman “opened fire on tourists in a seaside resort in Port Arthur, Tasmania.” Thirty-five were killed and 23 others wounded in the attack. Twelve days later Australia’s government banned guns, period.

The next day, another news website Vox explained how Australia:

“…confiscated 650,000 guns” via a “mandatory gun buyback” program which forced gun owners to hand their firearms over for destruction. Vox claims the result was that “murders and suicides plummeted’ and suggested such a path might be an option for America.

Vox ignored the fact that “firearm-related murder and non-negligent homicide” began to drop in America in the mid-1990s too. But the decrease in violent crime in America did not correlate with a gun ban but with an explosion in the number of guns in private hands.

The Breitbart News Network writes that:

“The Congressional Research Service reported that the number of privately owned firearms in America went from 192 million in 1994 to 310 million privately owned firearms in 2009.”

Subsequently, the “firearm-related murder and non-negligent homicide” rate fell from 6.6 per 100,000 in 1993 to 3.6 per 100,000 in 2000 and finally to 3.2 per 100,000 in 2011.

So what is President Obama to do?

He would like to go house-to-house confiscating privately owned guns but the image of federal officers, using the addresses printed on background check forms to bang down doors and seize weapons would not look good on the evening news and could lead to violence.

The answer could be incrementalism. Using an “Executive Order”, Obama could incrementally carve out blocks of Americans – say veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (using military records) or those treated for anxiety or depression (ObamaCare records) – and begin there.

There is nothing in Obama’s history as President to rule out his habit of ignoring the rights of law-abiding Americans to get what he wants or making up or changing laws he doesn’t like.

The question is, will he invoke Executive Action to change what the Second Amendment means as he had done with ObamaCare, illegal immigrant amnesty or the nuclear deal with Iran? No one can say.

But if he does decide to begin the piecemeal confiscation of lawfully owned firearms from law-abiding gun owners, he’ll have to move fast because his term in office will end in just 16 months — more than enough time to begin the confiscation process before all American gun owners catch on.

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There is an old saying in Washington, D.C. – a few billion here and a few billion there and pretty soon you’re talking about a whole lot of money.

The same can be said for low-key efforts underway right now across the nation by state and federal governments to seize legally owned firearms from law-abiding people and rush them to destruction while slow moving legal actions and seizure appeals playout.

No one knows how many lawfully obtained and owned firearms have gone missing from private hands but the loss of even one should send shivers down the spines of Second Amendment activists and gun owners because once gun confiscations begin, they are hard to stop.

So says Michael Roberts who was ordered to surrender 21 firearms – family heirlooms – that the Torrance Police Department seized in 2010. The seizure occurred after his doctor filed a restraining order against him following a dispute that Roberts had with a member of the doctor’s staff. Roberts did not contest in the case and the matter was dropped.

Once the case was resolved, Roberts filed paperwork with the towns Law Enforcement Gun Release program on four separate occasions… obtained clearance from the California Department of Justice… and produced two court orders commanding the return of his guns – but the Torrance Police Department would not to comply.

With the backing of the National Rifle Association and California Rifle and Pistol Association, Roberts filed a federal lawsuit in May 2014 over the $15,500 worth of firearms seized by police. In the end, he got the money but not the guns. The police had his irreplaceable collection of family heirloom firearms destroyed.

Second Amendment lawyers say the problem is not rare and it is growing. According to Attorney Chuck Michel who represented Roberts in the case:

“NRA and CRPA constantly get calls from law-abiding people having problems getting their guns back…”

“The state Department of Justice wrongly tells police not to give guns back unless the person can document ownership of the gun and it is registered in the state DOJ’s database. But the law doesn’t require this.”

Michel added that gun owners often can’t comply with these requirements because police themselves routinely fail to enter the firearms into the DOJ’s database and most people don’t have receipts for the guns they own. Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, says that:

“This kind of below-the-radar bureaucratic gun confiscation is a growing Second Amendment and property rights violation problem, particularly in strict gun control states like California, New Jersey and Massachusetts,”…“People can’t afford to spend tens of thousands of dollars on legal fees to get back a $500 firearm.”

Two buttress his point; Gottlieb shared his most recent case involving Rick Bailey, a 56-year-old Navy veteran from Glendale, Arizona. Bailey had his entire collection of 28 firearms valued at $25,000 seized by police because of an unrelated ongoing dispute with a neighbor.

After Bailey complained to the city that his neighbor parked his landscaping company’s dump trucks in front home, the neighbor filed a harassment order against Bailey. That gave police the reason they needed to show up and seize his gun collection. Gottlieb said:

“Mr. Bailey is devastated by this situation. We seem to live in an environment when someone’s life can be turned upside down on an allegation that should have been thoroughly investigated before any action was ordered by a court.” …“We’re helping Bailey in his appeal of the judge’s order so he can not only reclaim his valuable firearms, but also some of his dignity as well.”

Gottlieb listed a number of other incidents across the country that tells the story of illegal gun confiscations by authorities including:

  • Louisiana where then New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagen ordered gun confiscations citywide following Hurricane Katrina that devastated the city in 2005,
  • Massachusetts where residents who had their guns taken because of restraining orders or other reasons and must pay thousands of dollars in storage fees to private companies until their legal issues are resolved regardless of guilt,
  • Kentucky where a law passed in 2014 allows police to take firearms from those accused – not convicted – of domestic violence crimes, And;
  • Ohio where in August 2011, police seized 13 firearms valued at $15,000 from U.S. Army veteran Francesca Rice while she wasn’t home. The seizure resulted from a “situation involving Rice’s absence from a VA hospital where she had been receiving treatment.” No charges were filed and despite repeated requests, her firearms were never returned.



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