HAIR-TRIGGER RATIONALE : AN OBSCURE GUN-CONTROL MEASURE SAILED THROUGH CONGRESS LATE LAST YEAR, TAKING GUNS AWAY FROM MEN AND WOMEN WITH ANY DOMESTIC VIOLENCE RECORD. WHEN IT WAS APPLIED TO POLICE AND THE MILITARY, HOWEVER, THE SUPPORTERS STARTED MAKING EXCEPTIONS THAT UNDERMINE A LAW THAT SOUNDED BETTER THAN IT IS. LOCAL VIEW.Byline: Fred Romero
IT has long been held that if you allow personal bias to turn a debate away from the facts, good intentions run the risk of getting caught on the slippery slope 'slippery slope' Medical ethics An ethical continuum or 'slope,' the impact of which has been incompletely explored, and which itself raises moral questions that are even more on the ethical 'edge' than the original issue of unsupported argument. And when the topic under discussion is a hot-button issue Noun 1. hot-button issue - an issue that elicits strong emotional reactions
issue - an important question that is in dispute and must be settled; "the issue could be settled by requiring public education for everyone"; "politicians never discuss like gun control, the downhill slide can reach avalanche avalanche, rapidly descending large mass of snow, ice, soil, rock, or mixtures of these materials, sliding or falling in response to the force of gravity. Avalanches, which are natural forms of erosion and often seasonal, are usually classified by their content such proportions.
Turn the heat up a little more with colorful catch phrases such as ``assault weapon,'' ``plastic gun,'' ``cop-killer bullet'' and ``Saturday night special Saturday Night Special
A slang term used to refer to a surprise takeover attempt.
The term alludes to the fact that many takeover bids are announced over the weekend in order to avoid too much publicity. ,'' not to mention the wrenching figures offered - albeit somewhat selectively - for the number of people killed and wounded every year by guns, and you have the makings of a media dream - a story that grows more interesting each week and holds the attention of a large segment of the population.
The influence of provocative, if not somewhat misleading adjectives aside, gun control is also a big vote-getter for many politicians who want to be identified with an issue that has legs, and increasingly we are seeing more examples of creative gun-control legislation introduced at all levels of government.
Some of these laws are directed at identifying people who should not own a gun, based on some disqualifying dis·qual·i·fy
tr.v. dis·qual·i·fied, dis·qual·i·fy·ing, dis·qual·i·fies
a. To render unqualified or unfit.
b. To declare unqualified or ineligible.
2. criminal violation or past misconduct.
Realistically, an argument can be made that people at the lower end of the social scale are sometimes affected more by these laws than are people in the middle- and upper-income brackets, but this fact is usually lost in the rhetoric that always seems to precede every new law.
What is also overlooked by the pundits is that conventional wisdom, as well as history, shows that gun-control efforts based on emotion are nothing more than a Band-Aid cure for a much bigger problem, which, in the long run, doesn't change a thing except to more narrowly define the rights of law-abiding citizens.
After a law is passed, the bad guys thumb their noses at our feeble fee·ble
adj. fee·bler, fee·blest
a. Lacking strength; weak.
b. Indicating weakness.
2. Lacking vigor, force, or effectiveness; inadequate. See Synonyms at weak. attempts to control their actions (that's why they're called bad guys), and they set about finding other ways to get the guns they need to continue committing their ugly crimes. Yet the laws keep coming in the hope that some good will be realized.
Take a look at a recently approved federal gun law (tagged onto a congressional spending bill), which, ostensibly os·ten·si·ble
Represented or appearing as such; ostensive: His ostensible purpose was charity, but his real goal was popularity. , was meant to keep guns out of the hands of mean people.
While you were busy trying to make a living, run a house and pay your bills before the second ``payment-due'' notice came in the mail, a formidable sounding law, called the Lautenberg Amendment to The Omnibus omnibus: see bus. Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997, was written and submitted to Congress this past autumn, with the intent of curbing domestic violence.
Although the law was never publicly campaigned to the same degree as most gun-control proposals usually are, it was supported by people who felt they were doing the right thing, and it was easily passed in a flurry of year-end legislation.
Who among us would argue that far too many women and children are the victims of brutish brut·ish
1. Of or characteristic of a brute.
2. Crude in feeling or manner.
3. Sensual; carnal.
4. men who vent their anger is very inappropriate ways? Certainly not your local police and definitely not your man or woman in Washington.
And as long as we are passing a law to take away guns from men who beat their spouses in between swigs of beer while watching TV, we might as well add a clause to the law that says it is completely retroactive Having reference to things that happened in the past, prior to the occurrence of the act in question.
A retroactive or retrospective law is one that takes away or impairs vested rights acquired under existing laws, creates new obligations, imposes new duties, or attaches a : No matter how far back the offense occurred (and regardless of the circumstances surrounding any plea bargain plea bargain n. in criminal procedure, a negotiation between the defendant and his attorney on one side and the prosecutor on the other, in which the defendant agrees to plead "guilty" or "no contest" to some crimes, in return for reduction of the severity of the or uncontested charge), if you have ever been convicted of an act of domestic violence, then you, Sir or Madam, will lose your right to own, ship, transport or possess a gun or ammunition ever again.
No questions, challenges or protests allowed.
Much of the media supported the law, and they told us we should feel safer because fewer bad people would have a legal right to own a gun and the police would have another tool to fight crime with. They also applauded our duly-elected representatives for standing up to the gun lobby and for ``sending a message'' to gun owners in general and the NRA NRA
(National Rifle Association of America) organization that encourages sharpshooting and use of firearms for hunting. [Am. Pop. Culture: NCE, 1895]
See : Hunting specifically: If you beat your wife, you can't own a gun.
Comes now the rest of the story.
Much to the dismay of tens of thousands of people who were affected by the new law, the wording makes no distinction between those who were convicted of wife beating vs. a lesser offense.
A person who is or was convicted of having a minor but reported tussle with their spouse or live-in lover, is just as culpable Blameworthy; involving the commission of a fault or the breach of a duty imposed by law.
Culpability generally implies that an act performed is wrong but does not involve any evil intent by the wrongdoer. under the new law as a person who is charged and convicted of kicking their spouse in the head in a major domestic fight.
Under the new law, all that is required for someone to lose their Second Amendment rights is a guilty verdict for simple assault or assault and battery, provided the victim fits the general category for domestic violence, whether or not state statute or local ordinances A local ordinance is a law usually found in a municipal code. In the United States, these laws are enforced locally in addition to state law and Federal law. See also
Not surprisingly, anti-gun advocates everywhere cheered the law, and they were ecstatic at seeing an additional number of people included on the list of those who can't own or possess a firearm firearm, device consisting essentially of a straight tube to propel shot, shell, or bullets by the explosion of gunpowder. Although the Chinese discovered gunpowder as early as the 9th cent., they did not develop firearms until the mid-14th cent. .
As the old saying goes, if you want to win a war, you must do so by whatever means necessary and, in this case, supporters of gun control had a big sword to swing.
What no one counted on, however, was that the sword cuts both ways.
Even the police
Right after the law was passed, countless police agencies across the country set about going through their files to see who had been naughty or nice, and a lot of otherwise good citizens got the shock of their lives when they received a formal notice in the mail informing them that they had to turn in their guns.
On the face of it the new law was working as designed (jargon) working as designed - (IBM) Conforming to a wrong or inappropriate specification; useful, but misdesigned. Frequently used as a sardonic comment on a program's utility or as a bogus reason for not accepting a criticism or suggestion. , but soon embarrassed police found out it may be working too good.
At the federal level, the BATF BATF
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms This is an extensive list of small arms — pistol, machine gun, grenade launcher, anti-tank rifle — that includes variants.
: Top - 0–9 A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
1. An official of a bureaucracy.
2. An official who is rigidly devoted to the details of administrative procedure.
bu credit, saw the law from an entirely different angle, and what it came up with chilled the blood of even cops who support gun control.
Through an inadvertent oversight in the new law, active police officers who also had a record of misdemeanor domestic violence were found to be just as much at risk of losing their guns as any other malfeasant mal·fea·sance
Misconduct or wrongdoing, especially by a public official.
[Anglo-Norman malfaisance, from Old French malfaisant, malfeasant, present participle of malfaire citizen, even if the police officers in question needed their firearm(s) to perform their sworn duty.
A more in-depth study revealed that even members of the military who had a conviction for domestic violence technically fell under the same rule of law, and the legal right and duty of these men (and women) to carry a gun could be in doubt.
By now the picture was starting to come into focus all too clearly. For reasons known only to those who seek to disarm society, the law - which looked so good on paper - came back to haunt gun-control advocates who thought they were doing the right thing.
The initial reaction to this statutorial oversight by our duly-elected legislators was predictable. Under intense and immediate pressure from numerous law enforcement administrators and police unions, they set about to put together emergency legislation to clean up the law so as not to unnecessarily restrict police and other armed professionals from doing their jobs.
But the rules of the game were now compromised; how could the law apply to one segment of society and not another?
Any argument proposed in favor of exempting police officers convicted of domestic violence had the effect of looking like a double standard if the exemption didn't also apply to the average citizens.
`A double standard'
Conversely con·verse 1
intr.v. con·versed, con·vers·ing, con·vers·es
1. To engage in a spoken exchange of thoughts, ideas, or feelings; talk. See Synonyms at speak.
2. , if a citizen with a history of domestic violence cannot legally own or possess a gun, why should a cop be any different? Or, for that matter, why should a soldier in the military not be held to the same level of accountability as everyone else covered by the law?
Tough questions, to be sure, but questions which were needlessly brought about by a small, highly vocal group of people intent on pushing for increased restrictions on the rights of otherwise law-abiding citizens, whose only measurable crime was to have the misfortune of having been involved in a reported family dispute that got carried away. Remember, we're talking about misdemeanor offenses here, not the myriad felony felony (fĕl`ənē), any grave crime, in contrast to a misdemeanor, that is so declared in statute or was so considered in common law. crimes already covered by appropriate gun-control laws nationwide.
Even as you read this, the wheels of politics are turning, and it isn't pretty. One of the largest police unions in the country, the Fraternal Order of Police The Fraternal Order of Police is a US-based organization of sworn law enforcement officers. It is the world's largest organization of rank and file sworn officers, with over 2100 local lodges and over 325,000 members. (FOP), has taken the lead in trying to undo the damage the new law poses to hard-working cops.
The FOP isn't saying that the law is unfair to all citizens, just cops who need their guns to perform their jobs. They also argue, that without the exemption, many law enforcement officers would be in jeopardy of losing their jobs if they aren't allowed to legally carry a gun. Lord knows, the FOP is trying to do right by the professional men and women it represents, but taking the position that cops should be exempt from the law makes no sense at all and, in fact, runs the risk of sounding elitist e·lit·ism or é·lit·ism
1. The belief that certain persons or members of certain classes or groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority, as in intellect, social status, or financial resources. .
Forgive the past
A better idea would be to admit the law is wrong and unfair to everyone, not just cops, then change it so it applies only to the most severe cases of domestic violence. At the very least, the law should not be retroactive and unfairly punish people who have maintained a clean record for a reasonable amount of time.
Admittedly, there are many special interests involved in this fight: the military, federal, state and local law enforcement; anti-gun extremists; and victims of domestic violence.
Every one has a solid reason for its opinion, and every one thinks its cause is more noble than the others, but no one has yet been heard to express concern over the right of the individual citizen gun owner caught in the middle of what has become a high-stakes power game.
And why should they? For many folks, standing up for the Second Amendment doesn't rate quite as high as saving a whale or, perhaps, getting gross polluters off the highway.
Facts, logic and reason notwithstanding, we are at a curious crossroads in American history; we can either choose to maintain the principles of freedom, established many years ago by the Founding Fathers, or we can opt for the quick fix by continually trading away our liberty, bit by bit, for the promise of security.
Photo: No caption (Color) (The capitol as target practice)