This is TTAG’s weekly roundup of legal and legislative news affecting guns, the gun business and gun owners’ rights. For a deeper dive into the topics discussed here, check out this week in gun rights at FPC.
Second Amendment rally-goers protected from appropriate attire
Turnout for Lobby Day in Virginia was massive with thousands of gun owners from several states traveling to Richmond, Virginia to show opposition to the state legislature’s slew of new gun control laws, and support for the natural rights of Virginians.
The event was virtually issue-free, and protestors even picked up their own trash at the end. Out of the thousands of people present, only one was arrested; a 21-year-old female who was charged with a felony for violating a law dating back to the Civil Rights era which forbids people from wearing a mask in public for the purpose of concealing one’s identity.
As for why the young woman was wearing the mask, temperatures that day ranged from 25 to 36 degrees, with winds averaging about 12 miles per hour. Scores of individuals were wearing masks, including law enforcement.
Reports indicate the woman who was charged was asked to remove the mask and did not, but again, scores of people, and law enforcement, were wearing similar cold weather gear. The law was intended to de-mask klansmen and includes a clear exception for situations where wearing a mask is “deemed necessary for the physical safety of the wearer or other persons.”
We aren’t completely aware of all of the circumstances, but wouldn’t be terribly surprised were this a case of state actors perverting the law to give force to their own whims or fragile egos.
Virginia House Democrats shoot down pro-gun legislation, Senate passes first round
Despite the aforementioned protest, the Virginia House Democrats defeated two proposed bills, HB 1470 and 1471, which would have permitted individuals to carry firearms in a house of worship as well as to carry without a permit if otherwise eligible to obtain a concealed carry permit. Both bills were voted down along party lines with the exception of one Republican who voted against permitless carry.
Not only have Virginia Democrats left Virginians of faith vulnerable to assault, but they are also on track to enact legislation to drive up the cost of gun ownership in Virginia.
The first two pieces of legislation to pass the Senate (on purely partisan lines) are bills 70 and 35. SB 70 mandates universal background checks for “any sort of firearm transfer, sale or not,” while SB 35 enables localities to place still more restrictions on firearms possession. The third bill, SB 69, limits the number of handguns people are permitted to buy per month, “with exceptions being entities like law enforcement.”
There are a number of problems with these bills. SB 70, for instance, harms the poor by increasing both the burden and direct cost of firearms transfers. Even if the exchange is a gift from a family member to another, the individual receiving the firearm will have to find the time and money to travel to a dealer and bear the attendant fee.
SB 35 sows the seed for local governments to trod upon constitutional rights with no oversight, making a minefield of intrastate travel for gun owners. Finally, SB 69 arbitrarily limits regular Virginians while exempting “special people” like law enforcement, despite no evidence that law enforcement are any “safer” than ordinary people.
These bills won’t reduce crime or make anybody safer, but they will negatively impact regular citizens. Particularly those in vulnerable communities.
Rhode Island pushing for destruction of safety training cards
Obtaining a firearm in New England is an oft laborious process, and Rhode Island is no exception. Prior to buying a blaster in The Ocean State, applicants must participate in a firearms training course, completion of which earns what is commonly known as a “Blue Card.”
Under current law, the department managing these records is required to destroy applications within 30 days of submission. Unsurprisingly under the pretext of public safety, the state’s various police forces are complaining that this makes it difficult to track firearms owners.
Well shucks. It’s almost as if you aren’t supposed to be doing that.
Complaints about the process arose after an elderly man used a firearm to murder one and injure two others prior to committing suicide. The police, in their infinite wisdom, somehow impute that had this maniac obtained a firearm safety card (he had), he wouldn’t have committed murder.
Despite how laughable that argument is, Rhode Island’s governor assembled a panel to investigate “gun violence,” (#DOSOMETHING) which predictably recommended that the state establish and maintain a database of Blue Cards.
Effectively tracking gun owners is not only a waste of taxpayer dollars, but will likely have no impact on violent crime while placing the state in a position to more efficiently execute firearms confiscations down the road, leak personal information, and otherwise. Those are not doubt seen as features rather than bugs by the bill’s proponents.
Rhode Island Senate Committee spooked by “ghost guns”
In another act of sheer Plantation State genius, the Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved a bill on Tuesday that would “make it illegal in Rhode Island for any person to manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, possess, transfer or receive any firearm that is [wholly] made from plastic, fiberglass or through a 3D printing process.”
Senate Bill 2004 also bans “ghost guns,” which will not include firearms that aren’t required to have a serial number in compliance with the 1968 Gun Control Act. Having been passed, the bill is now headed for the House Judiciary Committee.
Rhode Island’s obsession with homemade arms is nothing short of weird. Homemade firearms are virtually unrepresented in Rhode Island crime statistics. Second, “wholly plastic” firearms are already federally regulated, and further regulation is dumb.
Third, the Gun Control Act exempts non-FFL firearm builders from the serial number requirement anyway. Inquiring minds want to know what’s behind Rhode Island’s fetishistic fixation with homemade firearms, because whatever it is, it sure ain’t based in fact or data.
Rogue arms enthusiast develops hi-powered plastic pistol
Somewhere in this country lives Ivan the troll, a rogue gunsmith and 3D printing enthusiast who brought us the Plastikov, the world’s first 3D-printable AKM receiver, and other designs. This week he unveiled on twitter a 3D-printable frame for the Browning Hi-Power, a classic semi-auto service pistol that has served the world over, from the interwar period to the present day.
Very excited to share the latest 3D printed Hi-Power frame test results!
I’ve put one whole mag (13 shots) through it, with no visible wear or damage.
Thread 👇 pic.twitter.com/gGeBMSnp5n
— Trollworks™️ by Ivan (@Ivan_Is_Back) January 24, 2020
It’s fitting that an arm which served predominantly on the freer side of the cold war may finally be decentralized. Kudos, Ivan. Some politicians would urge you, dear reader, not to Google his name in search of his “Safe Place” so we’ve done it for you.
Gun-grabbing governor bans toys in New Jersey
In a move unsurprising to New Jersey gun owners or anyone familiar with the state, Governor Phil Murphy has just signed a bill into law making it illegal to sell “realistic toy guns.” The new legislation will ban certain colors, require that the toys be marked with an orange strip, and will set certain barrel specifications.
Aside from being incredibly annoying, these regulations will have no practical impact because the legislature and governor have apparently failed to consider that anyone might simply decide to design or otherwise customize real firearms to match these specifications.
They have also failed to consider that even if the toy gun is designed to look “less realistic,” it may not matter to law enforcement, who might shoot first and check for colored strips later.
Federal court decides a single DUI is enough to destroy your Second Amendment rights
Earlier this week the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, issued its decision in Holloway v. ATF, concluding that an individual with a single DUI conviction on their record may no longer purchase a firearm.
Raymond Holloway was convicted of an aggravated DUI in 2005 for having a blood alcohol content twice the legal limit. Because the particular statute Holloway was convicted of provides for up to five years imprisonment (despite that virtually never being the sentence), the feds consider it a “serious crime,” one that strips those convicted of their gun rights.
Such a conclusion is absurd given the intent of Congress when it passed the Gun Control Act of 1968, which was aimed at limiting firearms access for violent criminals; why else would Congress have granted an exception for finance-related felonies?
Can drinking and driving be reckless? Yes. But in and of itself a DUI charge from nearly two decades ago simply cannot be reasonably construed to indicate that an individual intends or is likely to commit violent crimes using a firearm or otherwise cannot be trusted with a gun. It is absolutely unfathomable that a non-violent misdemeanor conviction should deprive someone of their constitutional rights in perpetuity.
Toledo Police Department releases information regarding their ShotSpotter program
Six months ago the Toledo, Ohio Police Department rolled out its ShotSpotter program. ShotSpotter is a sound-receiver system that sends an alert to police when a gunshot is detected within a certain radius.
According to the police, “36 guns have been taken off the streets because of illegal gunfire.” The police also attribute over 50 arrests to the new program, which currently has only one device in one location. As a result of these confiscations and arrests the police chief has expressed interest in expanding the program.
There are a couple of things to unpack here. First, Toledo is an incredibly poor, violent city. As of 2017, 27.8% of Toledo residents live in poverty, and violent crime occurs at a rate of 1,192 per 100,000. The police department is bragging about confiscations and arrests, but the way the program is actually enforced remains unclear.
In other cities where ShotSpotter devices are more widespread, the program’s efficacy has been questioned. The program is also expensive – ShotSpotter charges $65,000 and $90,000 per square mile, and in an 84 square mile city, a program like ShotSpotter will cost Toledo a fortune. But middling efficacy and high cost aren’t the worst features of ShotSpotter.
Programs like these normalize surveillance in densely populated cities, aiding in the creation of a police state at the expense of the taxpayer. When combined with other programs like databasing, video surveillance, and social media monitoring à la the NYPD, the government is able to track the movements of all its subjects, and history has shown that power of this nature is routinely abused.
Matthew Larosiere is the Director of Legal Policy at the Firearms Policy Coalition.