Thursday, July 19, 2007

HR 2640 (One More Time)

There has been some rather alarming commentary about this bill but it is a bit hard to sort the wheat from the chaff so I reproduce below the very well-informed Clayton Cramer's post on the matter

Gun Owners of America points to an incident in Pennsylvania that they say is the reason that we shouldn't pass HR 2640:
Newspapers last month reported that Horatio Miller allegedly said that it could be "worse than Virginia Tech" if someone broke into his car, because there were guns there. It is not clear whether he was making a threat against a person who might burglarize his car, or if he was simply saying that the bad guy could do a lot of damage because of the guns he would find there. Nevertheless, Miller wasarrested, but not charged with anything.

The comment Miller made was certainly not the smartest thing to say. But realize, we don't incarcerate people for making stupid statements in this country -- at least not yet. Miller was a concealed carry permit holder who, as such, had passed vigorous background checks into his past history. Miller does not have a criminal record.

Regardless, the county district attorney did not like what he had said, so, according to the Harrisburg Patriot News on June 20, "I contacted the sheriff and had his license to carry a firearm revoked. And I asked police to commit him under Section 302 of the mental health procedures act and that was done. He is now ineligible to possess firearms [for life] because he was committed involuntarily."

Get that?

Pennsylvania is operating exactly the way Rep. McCarthy's bill (HR 2640) could treat all Americans. You might be thinking, I've never had a mental illness... I'm not a military veteran... I've never been on Ritalin... hey, I have nothing to worry about under the McCarthy bill. Right?
There are several problems with this:

1. Current law and regulation (as I have previously discussed) required a person to be adjudicated by a court or other due process situation. The D.A. calling the police and telling them, "lock this guy up" doesn't qualify. At a minimum, this guy may have some trouble getting his carry permit back, but if the D.A. thinks this makes him permanently ineligible to own a gun, he better go check the federal statutes and regulations on this.

2. HR 2640 hasn't been passed--and yet this guy has already been disarmed for life, according to Gun Owners of America. HR 2640 doesn't change the existing law at all about what categories of commitment disable you from gun ownership. It only expands the reporting. Let's say that somehow the D.A. managed to persuade a court (not the police) to involuntarily commit this guy. Anywhere in America, under the current federal law, he can't own a gun. Since many states are failing to report this, he might pass the federal background check, and be able to buy a gun. But if he comes to the attention of authorities, he's now in the same pile of trouble as a convicted felon in possession. HR 2640 doesn't change anything in terms of legality.

3. However: HR 2640 provides a procedure by which someone involuntarily committed might be able to get his rights back again (assuming that Congress funds the program, which they might or might not do). Right now, once you have been adjudicated mentally incompetent or involuntarily committed with appropriate due process, you are unable to ever own a gun. There is no procedure for getting this straightened out--ever. HR 2640 makes it at least possible.

Florida: Naked Man shot dead: "A naked man was shot to death in West Palm Beach as he lunged at a resident who was trying to protect a woman and her children. The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office said Jonas Morisma may have been under the influence of drugs when he ended up at the woman's apartment complex early Tuesday. Witnesses told police Morisma first attacked a tow truck, banging on the driver's windows and tearing off its lights. He then reportedly began banging on apartment doors and punching through windows. Police say Morisma was disrobing while doing all this. A resident came out of his apartment with a gun and told Morisma to leave as the woman and her children sought cover nearby. According to authorities, that's when Morisma lunged at the resident, who fired one shot. Police have not released the name of the man who shot Morisma to protect him from retaliation."

Mississippi: Black thug shot in guts: "A man Jackson County deputies found shot in the stomach Saturday has been charged with burglary and attempted aggravated assault. Deputies responded to call at 4317 Knowlcrest drive in reference to a possible intruder, according to a news release from Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd. Deputies discovered Shontile Leprice Keys, 24, 5119 Meridian, Moss Point, with a gunshot to the stomach. Keys was take to Singing River Hospital, Pascagoula. It was determined Keys had broken into the residence to await the arrival of the homeowners, according to the report. When the homeowners arrived, Keys attacked them but he was eventually shot, the report said. No bond has been set and Keys remains in the hospital, according to the report. "

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