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“(P)olitical squeamishness about defining responsible gun ownership drives our failure to hold negligent gun owners accountable. It leads to statutes that protect recklessness among manufacturers and sellers, enables legislation that encourages gun proliferation, and shackles a legal system that ends up seeming more concerned about running afoul of the firearms lobby and its adherents than in protecting the public.” – Amanda Gailey in Why Are States Reluctant to Prosecute Gun Negligence as a Crime? [at newrepublic.com]

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48 Responses to Quote of the Day: Crime and Punishment Edition

  1. The relevant question is: Why are DAs so eager to plea-bargain away violent gun crime or felon-in-posession? The more gun criminals and felons-in-posession are in prison, and the longer they remain in prison, the fewer homicides will occur.

    • In most gun hating cities the PD gets the DA to drop the gun charge FIRST and then agrees to plead out to the offense with the shortest time attached. The slut-weasel DA , who also hates guns, always agrees. Then that same DA snares a legal gun owner on a paper violation with no other charges to plead on and thus throws the book as in the case of Shaneen Allen.

      • Why offer a plea at all if they hate guns and illegal possession is a slam dunk case? Pleas are for cases where trials may be lengthy, expensive, and their outcomes uncertain, or where they’re trading up to catch a bigger fish.

        • The prosecutor is less-so in an ideological position than he is in a production position. His career depends little on the service of justice; rather, it depends on pleasing his superior.

          The urban prosecutor’s environment is quite unlike that of Mayberry’s where the DA himself prosecutes all the cases and only has one serious case per year. The urban prosecutor must dispose of thousands of cases and the only way to do so is to summarily dismiss the weakest cases and plea-bargain almost all the rest. The prosecutor scores a win if he gets the accused to plead guilty on anything; spitting on the sidewalk if necessary. The accused scores a win if he reduces his risk of being sentenced to prison for a long time; and this is irrespective of whether he is innocent or guilty.

          The criminal justice system is – like the legislative process – akin to making sausage. Only those who work on the inside really understand what happens. Only when the voters gain some insight will anything change.

          PotG have a motivation to shine a light on this ONE aspect of the criminal justice system. Criminals commit gun crimes; BC’ed gun owners do NOT commit gun crimes. The uncommitted voter needs to turn his attention on the failure to prosecute felon-in-posession or crimes-using-guns; until this happens the Antis will continue to tar BC’ed gun owners with the brush that belongs elsewhere.

        • I can’t claim any inside knowledge here but I’ll offer a conjecture. So, you have this suspect who is accused of an armed robbery of a store. He is a member of the community. Your jury is going to be drawn from the community of which the suspect is a member. You decide to go for the max. The suspect’s lawyer calls your bluff and says he will go to trial. The lawyer figures that there is a good chance that the jury will acquit or at least hang. Now, you have to decide whether to make the investment of time to build the case in order to be confident that the jury will convict.
          There is no percentage in calling the defense lawyer’s bluff. A win in an expensive jury trial is no better than a plea agreement on a much lower charge. If you get the reputation of being non-negotiable then all the defense lawyers can gang-up on you and demand a jury trial for every client.
          Once the wheels-of-justice establish a pattern and practice of doing things in a certain way then all the pressures are on each cog – including the prosecutor – to conform.

          On the rare occasion that you get a law-abiding citizen with a straight gun-law violation there is no room to plea-bargain down. You can’t get Shaneen to plead guilty for spitting on the sidewalk. You either dismiss the charge or crucify her. The political hierarchy of prosecutors in this State (e.g., NJ) expects you to go for crucifixion.

          That’s the way the system works; and, it will continue to work that way unless and until the voters demand action for prosecution-sense in America.

      • I whole-heartedly agree. What do we have to do to get someone (e.g., John Lott) to undertake the tedious effort of pouring through a sample of gun arrests and following them through to conviction? If we had data on the propensity of DAs to negotiate-away the gun-crime aspect then we would be able to get through to the uncommitted voter.

        The foregoing evidence would seem to stand in sharp contrast to the cases such as Shaneen Allen where the gun-charge is the ONLY charge and the accused’s rap sheet is empty. Shaneen Allen’s charge was “Choir Girl in Possession”; what was her treatment as contrasted with some other dude’s Felon-in-Posession” charge?

  2. Because a crime requires (or at least should require) intent. Even criminal negligence requires that the party knew or should have known that their actions could lead to a prohibited act.

    Also:

    “Every year many gun owners, like Wilson, unintentionally cause death and injury yet face no legal consequences. In criminal and civil courts, the legal system often fails to hold negligent gun owners accountable for such harm.”

    First, “many” is misleading in the extreme. “Dozens” of NDs in the first couple months of the year has to be put into context of the ~100 million people that own or live in a house with guns. As to the level of prosecution, that probably has something to do with the fact that the majority of NDs either hurt no one, or hurt the person who caused it. The ones you hear about on the news are the outliers. Let’s face it, a guy shooting himself in the leg isn’t newsworthy unless you’re running it up against internet cat videos.

    EDIT: The lead story in the article describes a situation where prosecution does seem like it would have been appropriate. A series of negligent and careless acts led to a tragic outcome. negligent homicide would seem to be appropriate in that case, but again this is not the norm.

      • Manslaughter requires mens rea.
        Manslaughter doesn’t require planning.
        For example, if someone jumps in front of your car and you run them over and kill them, that is not manslaughter.
        If you are the person hit by a car, and you get up and in a state of rage, kill the driver, that would be manslaughter.
        If you were the person hit by a car, then you later tracked down the driver and killed the driver, that would be murder.
        That’s simplifying this a great deal, but it’s the basic premise.
        In all three cases, someone has died, but because of the state of mind, the charges and penalties are very different.

        • I am not a lawyer and I don’t play one on the internet but I think you are wrong about manslaughter requiring mens rea. Criminally negligent manslaughter or homicide doesn’t require mens rea. In Arizona it is A.R.S. §13-1102 “Negligent Homicide” http://www.azleg.gov/ars/13/01102.htm. Other states may define it differently.

          It requires criminal negligence defined as:

          (d) “Criminal negligence” means, with respect to a result or to a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense, that a person fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result will occur or that the circumstance exists. The risk must be of such nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.

          So the question becomes whether the person’s actions (ie not following the four rules) represents a gross deviation of the standard of care for a reasonable person. I would say yes but that is just my opinion.

        • Generally speaking, any criminal charge requires a “mens rea”–all that means is a culpable mental state. Intent, knowledge, recklessness, and negligence are all examples of a mens rea.

    • Why is a charge of criminal negligence not enough? Why do these people insist that “special” negligence charges be created specifically when guns are involved?

      If I could guess, it probably has something to do with their desire to get the conviction to result in addition of the defendant to the prohibited persons list so that they will flunk a 4473.

  3. As soon as you take a hard line on negligent swimming pool owners, negligent household chemical owners, negligent stairway owners, negligent automobile owners, and etc., then maybe we can talk.

    Death and injury due to negligent firearms discharges are a statistical blip. The State has (or should have) far more pressing issues with which to deal, and that would much more effectively further the compelling State interest in preserving the lives of its citizens.

    • I agree. If something is “criminally” negligent, the tool shouldn’t matter.

      Negligence laws should be about negligence… not guns, not pools, not cars, etc. Making laws specific to “guns” is just another way to specifically demonize them and their owners despite the fact that they are probably the least likely object to result in a negligent injury.

    • +1

      Negligence is negligence. I don’t think a gun owner should be prosecuted for shooting himself in the foot, etc. I do think if they are going to prosecute negligence they should do it uniformly instead of just going after gun owners.

        • I agree, but I think that, at least in the UK, manslaughter laws should stand. Negligence leading to death is a whole different ball game to negligently allowing algae to cluster in your pool. Negligent gun use, leading to death or otherwise, should not be treated any differently.

      • I agree, negligence is negligence. If some jackwagon playing Old West cowboy and twirling his revolver manages to pull the trigger and shoot himself in the foot, then he should be criminally prosecuted just as severely as if he had put that round through my living wall. After all, negligence is negligence.

        If intent follows the bullet, then so does jackwagonry.

  4. Negligence is negligence and damage is damage, no matter what inanimate objects are involved. Gun negligence and damage should not be a special category. Gun owners and users should not be held any more, or any less, responsible for problems they cause.

  5. It makes sense. An accidental death of a child by a gun is much worse than death by being backed over by a vehicle.

    Hmmm, wait a minute, isn’t that just an accidental death by different means?

    No matter, it just feels worse, that’s all that’s important.

  6. Four boys rummaged through the truck, left, then returned to look for things to steal.

    The author and others seem to think that should have been the fault of the gun owner.
    This sort of stupidity is why they should never get the statutes they want.

    A thief comes into my property, finds my property, proceeds to get hurt by my property and that’s my fault. Up yours.

    • I agree. The author of the original article seems to believe, and wants others to believe, that since the truck was unlocked it was the owners fault. I’d like to ask if her (their) opinion would change if the truck had been locked.

      Or further, what if the truck had been locked AND the gun had been locked in a case. In either of these situations if the boys had broken into the truck and then broken into the case and shot one another, does she think the liability have transferred to the boys?

      Sadly, I suspect that Amanda Gailey would still think the gun owner liable.

  7. States are happy enough to prosecute negligence with firearms all over the country. They just have a rather different definition of “negligence” than the Ms. Gailey and her friends do.

  8. The New Republic, home of the “Baghdad Fabulist”. They are moonbats too, just a better class of moonbats than your run-of-the-mill HuffPo devotee.

    • Wow. Now that’s telling her. You should probably add the point about her being barefoot and pregnant to seal the sterotype of you being an un-educated, toothless, butt crack showing gun owner so favored by the anti-freedom liberals.

      • Oh you poor thing! Did I trigger some neuroses and disturb your delicate sensibilities? Why don’t you go to your “safe room” and curl up in a ball (after you make me a sammich).

  9. Does she really have to ask the question. If you prosecute everyone who has an ND regardless of intent, guess what you have: A lot of LEOs locked up in our jails. Frankly, police training with firearms is abysmal, so the kind of enforcement she suggests would inevitably crowd our prisons and reduce the size of our police forces. 🙂 Tell me if I am wrong. 🙂

  10. I see no evidence that there is a reluctance to prosecute negligent gun owners. In fact it seems they are more eager to prosecute negligence (or perceived negligence) by otherwise law-abiding citizens than they are to prosecute actual crime committed by criminals.

  11. “seeming more concerned about running afoul of the CONSTITUTION and its adherents”

    Fixed it for you ma’am.

    Your basic lack of understanding why we resist so vehemently is why a truly meaningful conversation has yet to take place.

  12. The fact that she mentions the proliferation of gun ownership alongside everything else reveals that she considers it to be at least as bad as negligence, and her other points are just BS to try to “prove” we should ban gun ownership. Really, way too easy to see through this one.

    NEXT!

  13. This white socialist if she had her way the black prison population would be even higher. Then she would say it’s racisssttt to have so many dangerous black criminals in prison who kill and steal from other black people. She is just another black and white perfect world utopian.

  14. FTA:

    Many people unfamiliar with guns assume that they are designed with simple safeguards against unintentional shootings, but this is not always the case. Glock handguns, for example, have no external safety: If a round is chambered and the trigger is squeezed, the gun fires. As Aaron Walsh, a criminal defense attorney in Augusta, Georgia, put it, “With any other product in the world there would be no Glock company because they would be sued out of existence. You don’t have a safety? That can’t be right.”

    So….We should be able to sue Ford for making vehicles that go faster when you press the gas?

    My head hurts.

    • “People unfamiliar with guns” don’t realize that the revolvers that have been around for well over a century now never had an “external safety” . Is Mr. Know-it-all Defense Attorney saying that Colt would have been “sued out of existence” but for some tort law reforms that were only passed within the last decade or so?

    • …or Chrysler for making transmissions that do not require the break to be pressed in order to engage. My son, then about four, took our minivan for a ride – took out our neighbor’s mailbox before it hit an apple tree.

  15. She’s right! Let’s start by aggressively prosecuting all federal, state, and local LEO who have had an ND.

    Not going to happen? Then PO, statist hack.

  16. Thank you Amanda, but We didn’t ask.

    Hold all gun grabbers PERSONALLY responsible for anything that happens to you, or your diminished enjoyment of your time on this planet due to violence perpetrated on the innocent and unarmed.

  17. “Amanda Gailey is the director of Nebraskans Against Gun Violence and has contributed pieces on gun violence to Salon. She teaches English at the University of Nebraska.”

    Need we say more?

  18. Poor little philosopher queen wannabee, supercharged with an excess of hoplophobia, still can’t figure out the reason for the occurrence of gun-related accidents. It’s not the NRA or the “gun lobby” that’s to blame, little lady.

    It’s global warming! And white privilege! And men!

    Now go lie to Rolling Stone about being raped, okay Ms. Gailey? ‘Cause I’ve had about enough of whiny, sniveling clowns like you.

    Harsh comment to follow.

  19. Ok… I’m having a problem with the logical disconnect in her claims. Where is the connection between holding owners responsible for the actions and protecting manufacturers or promoting “proliferation?”

    At least the bit about the gun lobby makes (sort of) sense. If a “lobby” is comprised of some 100+ million voters, you may just consider listening to their concerns.

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