The Quality of Mercy

Many people, including gun-rights people, have suggested that CNN deserves to get off on this one.  The laws are bad, they say.  The laws are wrong and should not be enforced. 

On that, I have no argument at all.

But mercy is something that you apply to someone who requests quarter.  Someone who is either innocent or reformed.  Someone who will not get up, dust themselves off, reload their gun, and shoot you in the back.

CNN as an organization is anti-gun.  The simple fact that they ran this story proves it.  They are not repentent.  They are not sorry.  They are not seeking to change their ways and live a virtuous life.  And they shall reap what they have sown.

There's another party here, though.  The seller, almost certainly taken advantage of by CNN, may have exposed himself to liability as well -- depending on exactly how CNN's reporter handled the details.  (In short, if there was a straw Texan involved, the seller is OK; otherwise, he's in trouble).  But I have little doubt in the absence of conflicting information that this individual is a firearms enthusiast who just wanted to sell a legal firearm, and either was fooled by the straw Texan or didn't quite know the details of the law. 

Based on the facts as we understand them, nailing this individual with a felony for his part in the transaction is not justice.  And that's what we need to push for here: justice for all.

Remember, it could have been any one of us.  And if the gun bigots have their way it will be ALL of us. 

So how do we make things right?

First of all, if the BATFE does charge the seller in this case (no word on that yet, and it's likely to be a while before we know for sure) we can make a committment to help out with his defense.  It's only fair, since we brought down the heat.  Just keep that in mind for the future, folks.  If you've called up the BATFE to urge a prosecution, you owe this guy a favor should they go after him. 

Second, our message needs to be clear.  Obviously, we would all like to see CNN nailed on their technical violations of the GCA'68, since we all put so much effort into complying with an essentially useless law, and they put so much of theirs into creating more criminal hazards for us. 

From a PR perspective, CNN will garner a lot of negative publicity from this. But we can't take that to the bank.  We need to think about  what  changes we can offer to reform the laws.  So I'm calling for ideas.   We all know that this area of the law is a mess, and it leads to innocent people without any ill intent becoming criminals.  What can we do to improve it?
  1. If we are OK with restrictions on firearm possession by felons, how can we better enforce that without infringing on firearms rights?  One possibility would be a designation on a state-issued identification card (eg, driver's license) for felons who are prohibitted from firearms possession.  Seller checks buyer's license, and the sale is OK if the license is not marked "FELON"; no restrictions on interstate sales as long as the license is checked.  This has the advantage of avoiding the backdoor registration mechanism that the present 4473 + NICS is.  Thoughts? 
  2. Make technical violations of GCA'68 into tickets, paperwork violations with nominal fines, rather than felonies, at least for cases lacking any ill intent.  There is no reason to threaten honest citizens with a felony that bars future gun ownership forevermore simply for making an honest mistake.  The responsibility for not possessing a firearm needs to rest on the shoulders of the felons themselves, because they will always be able to obtain a firearm by means fair or foul.
I'm sure we can come up with other improvements.  There are lots of ways the current laws don't make sense.  But we need to demonstrate that we have proposals to fix them, if we want to make any lasting gains from CNN's mistake.

This entry was published Sat Sep 24 10:43:35 CDT 2005 by TriggerFinger and last updated 2005-09-24 10:43:35.0. [Tweet]

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