In Sacramento, California, a state appeals court last month struck down the heart of a state law that banned 62 models of so-called “assault rifles,” saying the ban violated the equal protection provisions of the Constitution because many of the guns were no different from guns sold legally.
“The listed guns are no more dangerous in the hands of criminals than the functionally indistinguishable guns,” said the decision, issued on March 4 by the Third District Court of Appeal, in Sacramento.
The ruling, written by Justice Fred Morrison, also suggested that other provisions of the law might be unconstitutional, and asked a lower court to review them.
“This is the death knell” for the statute, said Chuck Michel, a Los Angeles lawyer who represents the gun maker Colt Manufacturers, one of the plaintiffs. “This is a victory for any citizen who doesnâ€™t like symbolic, feel-good laws that are filled with technical flaws.”
The law was enacted in 1989 after a crazed gunman armed with a so-called “assault rifle” killed five pupils at an elementary school in Stockton.
Also in California, pro-gun Assemblyman Tom Bordonaro lost a special election for the U.S. congressional seat left vacant by the death of Rep. Walter Capps. Cappsâ€™ widow, Lois, won the seat. Bordonaro, though, announced he would run again for the congressional seat in the regular election later this year.
In Washington, D. C., the U. S. House of Representatives, by a roll call vote of 350 to 59, agreed to the motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill (H.R. 424) that would impose mandatory minimum sentences for possession of a gun while committing a violent crime or drug-trafficking offense.
The measureâ€™s supporters said it is designed to correct what they consider a flawed interpretation of the 1994 crime law by the U. S. Supreme Court.
The original crime bill created a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for anyone who “uses or carries” a firearm in the commission of a crime. In the 1995 decision Bailey v. United States, the Court ruled that government prosecutors must demonstrate “active engagement” of the firearm in commission of a crime.
The new measure would stipulate that the provision would apply not only to those criminals who brandish or fire a gun, but also to those who just “possess” one while committing a violent crime. The 1994 law covered those who “use or carry” a firearm.
In addition, it would impose new mandatory minimum sentences beyond those for possessing a gun during a crime.
Brandishing a firearm during a crime would be punishable by a 15-year minimum sentence. Firing it would result in a sentence of 20 years. In the case of a second conviction for possession, criminals would face 20 years in jail, while a second offense for brandishing a weapon would result in a 25-year sentence.
Rep. Bill McCollum of Florida, Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, responding to concerns that the legislation would affect negatively citizens who use guns in self-defense or those who possess a gun in proximity to a crime scene, said “the answer is no.”
“The government must prove,” he said, “that the gun furthered or was used during and in relation to the commission of a federal violent crime or drug-trafficking offense.”
Rep. Phil Crane of Illinois, holder of CCRKBA Gun Rights Defender of the Year and CCRKBA Lifetime Achievement Awards, said the bill “gets tough on the right people.”
In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, gun-grabbing politicians are considering filing an unprecedented lawsuit against gun manufacturers that they say is designed to recover costs of firearms violence.
Anti-gun Mayor Ed Rendell reportedly is eager to speak with other cities interested in doing the same.
A draft of the proposed Philadelphia suit, reports Joyce Howard Price in THE WASHINGTON TIMES, shows it would be modeled after actions that dozens of state attorneys general brought against the nationâ€™s largest tobacco manufacturers to recover the costs of treating smoking-related illnesses.
If filed, the Philadelphia suit, which would target the nationâ€™s nearly four dozen gun manufacturers, would argue that gun makers have created a “public nuisance” by knowingly flooding cities with more handguns than they could expect to sell to law-abiding citizens.
Tom Wales, a federal prosecutor who chaired the unsuccessful campaign for the anti-gun Initiative 676 in Washington State last year, defending the campaign as promoting safety, wrote in THE WASHINGTON POST that “the most obvious lesson may be that a statewide campaign will be successful only if efforts go forward in several states simultaneously or are launched in contentious election years.”
Commenting on Walesâ€™ column, Dave Jensen wrote in THE WASHINGTON POST that “I-676 was not about safety. It was about licensing gun owners, and about some government body deciding who can retain his civil rights and who cannot.
“Although some big city elected officials called â€˜police chiefsâ€™ endorsed I-676, the majority of rank and file law enforcement in Washington State rejected it as bad law.”
The defeat of I-676 was a major victory for the CCRKBA National Headquarters Staff in 1997.