10/06 Wyoming Dumping A Federal Gun Ban
Federal legislators have long thought they were in charge of the nation’s local cop shops.
Just look at their campaigns. Opposing candidates trade charges that the other is soft on crime or is not compassionate enough toward criminals. They both assume, usually without even thinking, that the U.S. Congress grants constitutional authority to enact criminal legislation at the federal level.
Do the feds have such authority? I have not been able to find that in the Constitution. Neither could the founders. For example, James Madison, one of the chief architects of our Republic, argued that there was original federal jurisdiction for crime laws only in the areas of postal fraud, counterfeiting, piracy and treason.
Lautenberg gun ban disarms people for pushing-shoving cases
Unhappily, that has not kept both parties in Congress from enacting criminal laws for which they have no grant of power from We the People. One such example was an anti-gun law that was snuck into the federal code by Sen. Frank Lautenberg in 1996. With no debate, a vote on a 2,000-page appropriations bill provided Lautenberg’s vehicle for him to amend. Most members of Congress had absolutely no idea the measure was in the bill.
Shortly after that, GOA heard from a state police cadet. He was unceremoniously canned from the academy. Why? He had a Lautenberg disability. Namely, years before, he had been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor. In his case, it was a shouting match with his father that had been resolved when his dad called the cops. Once they had taken him in, they insisted that they had to proceed to trial. Rather than go through that, both father and son wanted to call it quits, and so dad paid the small fine and off they went. That was all there was to it — until Lautenberg.
The state police admitted the young man to their academy because he had passed a background check. Until the 1996 Lautenberg ex post facto law, federal statutes never prohibited gun ownership for those with minor domestic infractions — however long ago those misdemeanors occurred (another unconstitutional feature of this law). Tyranny occurs when officials change the rules and penalize previously legal behavior — such as the Lautenberg law does.
Enter Wyoming Senator Cale Case. He has a constituent who in 2003 was unable to get a hunting license because he flunked the background check which showed a domestic violence misdemeanor conviction. No hunting with guns for him!
After a lot of planning and consulting with the state attorney general, prosecutors, a group representing domestic violence victims and the public, Case got his bill passed by the legislature unanimously. To cut to the chase, his constituent now has his hunting license because he can legally own a gun in Wyoming.
Wyoming law neuters Lautenberg gun ban
Case’s measure works this way. An individual with a Wyoming domestic violence misdemeanor conviction may apply for a concealed carry firearms permit in Wyoming. If there be no other disqualifications that would prohibit the applicant from owning a gun, the prosecutor and the victim are both notified of the application. If neither of them have any objection, the concealed carry firearms permit is issued.
The federal Brady Law (Lautenberg was an expansion of that law) says that a background check is not required for a gun purchaser if the buyer has a concealed carry permit issued during the last five years. Voila! In Wyoming, the individual who had been disabled by federal law is now enabled to own a gun and hunt and carry a concealed firearm.
Of course, the anti-gun Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) is trying to keep the Wyoming statute from being enforced. The BATFE has taken the state of Wyoming to court and the matter is now in the U.S. District Court for the state of Wyoming.
GOF working to repeal federal gun control in Wyoming
Gun Owners Foundation (GOF) is right there beside the Wyoming attorney general — the state official responsible for defending the law.
The GOF brief points out that the BATFE has no grounds for objecting to Wyoming’s action. The state is at liberty to expunge a Wyoming criminal record, and that is explicit in the federal law as well as in the record of congressional intent.
Indeed, Wyoming will only partially expunge such convictions — just for purposes of getting a concealed carry firearms permit. If the individual is convicted of an additional violent crime, the domestic violence conviction would not have been expunged for that purpose. That means that the prior conviction could be used to enhance the penalty for some future conviction.
The victims group and the prosecutors in Wyoming supported Cases’ bill because they saw that it would promote their interest. With the Lautenberg measure as the only law, prosecutors and victims alike were often reluctant to press a domestic violence charge. They frequently felt that the punishment did not fit the crime, especially since many of these misdemeanors only involve shouting, pushing or shoving incidents.
Cases’ bill makes the punishment for a domestic violence misdemeanor much more appropriate for the offense. After a year of good behavior, the guilty party can petition for a concealed carry permit. So he does not face a lifetime of being disabled from protecting himself with a gun.
At the same time, he has a record which could hit him hard if he is convicted of a future violent crime. Moreover, he is subject to a hearing if the prosecutor or the victim has concerns about his violent behavior. The hearing could result in blocking the application for the permit.
One of the ironies of the BATF lawsuit against Wyoming involves the former head of the bureau’s director, Carl Truscott. His name appears as the plaintiff in his official capacity when the suit was filed. Events have overtaken the lawsuit. Mr. Truscott has since resigned from the BATF under a cloud of financial impropriety involving the use of taxpayers’ funds for his own use.