Mission statement:

Armed and Safe is a gun rights advocacy blog, with the mission of debunking the "logic" of the enemies of the Constitutionally guaranteed, fundamental human right of the individual to keep and bear arms.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Illinios gets tough on crime . . . victims

Back to my regular scheduled programming--my series about the Illinois Politburo's General Assembly's assaults on personal liberty. Today we'll talk about HB 1696, which doesn't really seem to have a name, as far as I can tell, so I'll just call it the Turning Crime Victims Into Criminals Act. Catchy, isn't it?

Anyway, this bill, if passed into law, would make it a criminal offense to fail to report, within 72 hours, the theft of a firearm. We've seen laws like this passed at the municipal level (I think Los Angeles has such a law), and there's some pressure to pass them at the state level in places--Connecticut is one such state, and I believe I've read somewhere that the California legislature is considering bringing the entire state down to LA's level in that regard, but as far as I'm aware, no state has passed such a law yet.

Why is this a bad thing, you ask? Wouldn't you want the police to know if your firearm(s) had been stolen? Personally, yes, I would. But the fact that I would do something does not mean that I should be happy about being compelled by law to do so.

I see a great deal of potential for abuse in this legislation. For example, the owner breaks the law if more than 72 hours passes between his discovery of the theft, and his reporting of it. But how can it be proved when he became aware of it? Does it come down to a question of when "he should have known"? So now, gun owners risk criminal culpability if they don't check on all their firearms every so often? What happens if you're away from the house for a few days?

By moving any amount of responsibility for a stolen gun to the person from whom it was stolen, this legislation could be seen as just the first step toward laws like those in Australia and Canada, requiring firearms to be stored in vaults, subject to police inspections (without warrants, I believe). What happened to placing the responsibility for a crime squarely on the shoulders of the perpetrator of the crime? Criminalizing gun ownership won't happen overnight, so the civilian disarmament lobby is willing to be patient and incremental in the implementation of their agenda.

Another aspect of this bill might require some explanation for people fortunate enough to live outside Illinois. Since about 1968 (not a good year for gun rights), Illinois has required every gun owner (and every ammunition owner) to have a Firearm Owner's Identification (FOID) card. Actually, the evils of the FOID Act are worth an entire blog entry of their own, so I'll forego a more detailed explanation for now, and go straight to FOID's relevance to this bill. Not only would a gun owner's failure to report theft of a firearm be a crime, but that crime would be grounds for revocation of the owner's FOID, meaning he could not buy guns or ammunition, and any guns he already owned would render him a felon (for possessing firearms without a valid FOID).

Still another problem with this bill would be its apparent potential for conflict with the Fifth Amendment. If, for example, a resident of one of the Illinois municipalities that bans possession of handguns for the lowly masses had decided that his safety was more important than compliance with draconian gun laws, and that handgun was then stolen--what does he do? The new law would compel him to incriminate himself for violation of the handgun ban. That is clearly unconstitutional, as I imagine the courts would agree. Keep in mind also that if SB 0016 passes, by the way, there are going to be plenty of otherwise law-abiding citizens all over the state who would be legally compelled to incriminate themselves on a felony violation.

There are plenty of real criminals running loose on society--let's not make new ones out of people who have no criminal intent.


Anonymous said...

You speak of Canada, where they have to store their guns in vaults. Did you know about one man who had his collection stolen from a steel and concrete vault? Took the thieves two days to do it while he was down in Florida. When he came back, the cops arrested HIM for "unsafe storage"! It's clear that the gov't thinks the only "safe storage" is to not have guns at all.

Kurt '45superman' Hofmann said...

Thanks, Crotalus. I hadn't heard of that particular incident (if I had, I would probably have mentioned it), but I suppose it shouldn't surprise me.

Back when my health permitted, I used to vacation in Canada every summer, and loved it. I know several Canadians (including some serious pistol shooters)--they're great folks--but I sure don't like what their legal rights are, or what passes for due process up there. Unfortunately, Illinois seems to aspire to the same model.