Emily gets her ammunition.

Emily Miller has successfully navigated that labyrinthine laws regarding how to legally purchase ammunition in Washington, D.C. The trick is that you can’t. You have to go somewhere else.

The guide says the sale and transfer of ammo is prohibited unless the seller is a licensed firearms dealer. Well, there’s only one legal gun dealer in the District, Charles Sykes, and he doesn’t sell ammo. He just transfers guns.

[...]

The registration packet does not mention the possibility of ordering ammo online. When I explored that route, I found many big retailers don’t ship to the District. [...] It’s not against the law for retailers to send ammunition through the mail to D.C. residents*, but it seems these stores are all afraid of running afoul of the jurisdictions with the stiffest gun-control laws.

Mere possession of a single round of ammunition for a gun you are not registered to own is punishable by up to a year in jail. This has nothing to do with public safety or crime prevention. As Emily says, “What’s the worst I could do with ammo, but no gun? Throw it hard and knock a tooth out?”

Also note how the DC Police feed her misinformation about Virginia’s gun laws. I am convinced that it is done deliberately. They don’t want the peasants to have guns, so they make the process of legally owning one as onerous and fraught with peril as possible.

The other big trick is lawfully possessing and transporting the ammunition.

In Washington, D.C., it is illegal to posses ammunition if you don’t have a gun registered. It is also unlawful to have ammo that is not in the same caliber or gauge as your legal gun. The penalty for holding a round of the wrong caliber is up to a year in jail — as stiff as the punishment for illegal gun possession.

[...]

Officer Harper told me that ammunition had to be transported in a separate container than locked gun and out of reach of the passenger seat. I put the ammo in a bag in the way back of my SUV.I was still concerned about correctly following D.C. laws, but I needed to save a few rounds to take home so that my gun was no longer just an expensive paper weight.

Check out her whole series, “Emily Gets Her Gun“, if you haven’t already. She illustrates just how the gun laws in our nation’s capital are ridiculously restrictive, and place an onerous burden on the exercise of a Constitutional Right.  They need to be abolished.

* One commenter at the article points out DC Code Title 7 Chapter 2502.02, under which it is probably is illegal, but there is the question of whether this DC law can be applied to an out of state retailer. I can understand why the retailers don’t want to find out.

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[Source: Washington Times article by Emily Miller, retrieved 2/28/12]

Second Amendment Foundation challenges interstate handgun sales ban

If you weren’t already aware, even after Heller struck down the handgun ban and onerous firearm ownership restrictions in the District of Columbia, DC residents have still had an unconstitutionally difficult time obtaining firearms. There are no gun stores in DC. Not a single one. In addition, federal law prohibits the direct sale of firearms to people who are not residents of the state in which the sale takes place. Instead, the sale must be handled through an FFL in the buyer’s state of residence – this requires an additional fee to an FFL willing to conduct the transfer. Until recently, there has been only one FFL in DC willing to do so.

Now there are none.

Since the lifting of the handgun ban in June 2008, Charles Sykes has processed more than 1,000 handguns for District residents. Sykes tells WTOP he’s stopped taking orders for now.”I’ve lost my lease,” Sykes said in a phone interview. “I’ll take care of the customers who already placed orders, but I don’t want to take any more until I know where I will reopen.”

Sykes is the sole proprietor of C S Exchange, the only licensed firearm dealer in the city that will transfer guns for individuals. Sykes doesn’t sell the guns — there are no gun stores in D.C. His company facilitates the transfer of guns from out of state stores into the District for a fee of $125 per gun.

DC’s zoning regulations, and specifically the restrictions on where a business dealing in firearms can be located (the linked story has a map), are making it extraordinarily difficult for him to find a new location.

Zoning regulations require gun dealers to locate in either a commercial zone or industrial zone. Most of the District is either zoned for residential use or is federal land. There is also the added restriction of dealers not being able to open a shop within 300 feet of any home, church, school, library or playground.

And once he finds an available lease, he still has to have the location approved by three separate government agencies: the ATF, the the Metropolitan Police Department, and the District’s Office of Zoning. There’s no guarantee that any new location will be approved by all three.

In fact, there is another FFL in DC who is willing to do transfers – but he’s been trying without success since 2008 to find a location.

Kevin Shepard owns Second Amendment Safety and Security, and has had a Federal Firearms License since 2008, but has not been able to find a location to open his business. He says the zoning requirements are too restrictive.

With the closing of C S Exchange, this now amounts to a de facto ban on firearms purchases by DC residents. So the SAF has stepped in.

The Second Amendment Foundation today filed suit in U.S. District Court in Virginia challenging the constitutionality of federal and Virginia provisions barring handgun sales to non-residents.SAF is joined in the lawsuit by Michelle Lane, a District of Columbia resident who cannot legally purchase handguns because there are no retail firearms dealers inside the District.

[...]

“This is an important issue in the era of the national instant background check,” said SAF Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb. “The NICS check should allow law-abiding citizens like Miss Lane to exercise their Second Amendment rights regardless their place of residence.”

“Americans don’t check their constitutional rights at the state line,” said Gura. “And since Michelle Lane is legally entitled to possess firearms, forcing her to seek a non-existing D.C. dealer to buy a handgun is pointless when perfectly legitimate options exist minutes across the Potomac River.”

“The Supreme Court has ruled that District residents have an individual right, protected by the Constitution, to have a handgun in their home,” Gottlieb noted. “The high court has also ruled that the Second Amendment applies to the states. Existing state and federal statutes violate both the spirit and letter of recent court rulings and the Constitution, and our lawsuit seeks to remedy that situation.”

This is an important point: The NICS is a national background check, the availability and results of which do not rely on one’s state of residence. Why should people be forced to have it done by an FFL in their home state, when the results would be exactly the same if it was done by any FFL in any other state?

But more important is the fact that this restriction means that DC residents who do not already own a firearm are banned from exercising a Constitutional Right based simply on the uncontrollable occurrence of one business losing it’s lease – something the city cannot guarantee will not happen again even if he finds a new, approved location tomorrow.

Alan Gura should be awarded the both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal for his actions in restoring the true meaning and supremacy of the Second Amendment (not that it will happen with the current administration). But even with everything he’s done, there’s still a long way to go. Support the SAF.

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(h/t SayUncle)

New move to ban guns in Virginia churches

Remember that Attorney General opinion I talked about the other day? Now one of our state legislators is introducing a bill to ban guns in churches in any circumstances, in response to that opinion.

State Sen. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico County, said he will file the bill in response to an advisory opinion issued last week by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who said guns can be carried into houses of worship if they are for personal protection.

His press release is equal parts alarmism, hyperbole, ignorance, and condescension.

Once again, the Attorney General governs by fiat and by his opinion rather than by the constitutional process of legislation.

He was asked for an interpretation of the current law, which is part of his job, not “governing by fiat”. My earlier post noted how vague the current law is – it’s essentially unconstitutional. With “good and sufficient reason” left undefined, any lawful purpose qualifies – and despite what you would no doubt prefer, Senator, self defense is still lawful in Virginia.

I cannot imagine a need to carry guns in places of worship where people go to seek peace, prayer and solace.

Ignoring the issue of needs vs. rights for the moment, you could ask the people who were at the New Life Church in Colorado on December 9, 2007. They had a pretty significant need, and I bet they were very glad that Jeanne Assam was legally allowed to carry her gun into the church with her. Or you can look at any of the other church shootings that have taken place around the nation. After all, anyone who bothers to pay attention knows how well victim disarmament gun free zones work.

Now, thanks to the Attorney General, if a faith community does not wish guns at their services, they will be forced to post signs and expend funds to ensure guns are not present. The assumption will be that guns can be there, even if they are contrary to the spirit of the religious service and the desires of the congregants.

*Gasp!* You mean the decision will have to be made by individual churches, and not the all-knowing government!? The horror of it all!

The assumption will be that if the church doesn’t forbid it, it’s allowed – just like it has always been, but without the government intimidation of a ridiculously vague law. Just like everything else, and just the way it should be. More to the point, if a church wants to encourage it’s members to carry at services – much like New Life Church apparently did – then it remains the decision of the church, rather than the government.

Next Session, I will put in a bill to not have guns in places of worship and then an honest debate on the merits of this policy can occur, culminating in a vote by all the elected representatives in the General Assembly. This serious decision can then be made by the people, not by a single individual’s political grandstanding.

Your bill would take that same decision out of the hands of the individual churches completely. Members of churches that encourage self-defense would be prohibited by law from carrying the most effective tool for the job while at the very church that encourages it. Churches that believe they have a reason to need extra security will be forbidden from having it, unless they can afford to hire an off-duty police officer.

I imagine groups like VCDL will make the people’s desires known – and get your pro-criminal anti-rights bill killed in committee, like it deserves.

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VA Attorney General rules on guns in church

First, for my non-Virginia readers, a little background. Carrying a gun in church, concealed or not, is not illegal per se – but it is governed by a very vague statute (Code of Va. § 18.2-283) which essentially leaves prosecution open to the prejudices of any officer that is called for or witnesses it. That statute reads:

If any person carry any gun, pistol, bowie knife, dagger or other dangerous weapon, without good and sufficient reason, to a place of worship while a meeting for religious purposes is being held at such place he shall be guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor.

The key to carrying in church being legal rests on one phrase, “good and sufficient reason”. What constitutes “good and sufficient reason” is not specifically defined anywhere in Virginia law.

My take has always been (keeping in mind that I Am Not A Lawyer) that the key phrase essentially makes the statute unconstitutionally vague. What is a good and sufficient reason for one person may not be good and sufficient reason for another. For example, imagine if the interpretation of that phrase were up to Joan Petersen. No reason at all, including God, Buddha, Ganesha, and Cthulu, all appearing together in front of her and explaining that I must take my gun to church or the human race will face a thousand years of untold pain and suffering, would be “good and sufficient reason”. After all, if there’s a gun in church, there might be a Gun Death(tm), and that is absolutely unacceptable to her – a thousand years of untold pain and suffering for the entire human race would be preferable!

Even if it’s not unconstitutional due to vagueness, there is still that lack of definition to overcome. What is “good and sufficient reason”? My second opinion (again, IANAL) is that – in the absence of an actual definition – “any lawful purpose” is “good and sufficient reason”.

Fortunately, we now have at least an official Attorney General’s Opinion (PDF warning!) stating that carrying for self defense satisfies the “good and sufficient reason” requirement. From Phillip Van Cleave in a VCDL email:

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has formally ruled that self-defense is considered “good and sufficient reason” for the lawful carry of handguns into a church during a service!  (Good and sufficient reason isn’t needed at other times.)  The ruling also stated that churches, as private property, can ban or restrict such carry (which is consistent with Virginia law and would make for a trespass charge if violated).

[...]

NOTE:  This is an Attorney General’s opinion.  It carries a lot of weight, but is not law and is NOT a GUARANTEE that a judge will agree.  In PRACTICE, however, this should pretty much settle the matter, especially if the General Assembly doesn’t overturn it with a change to the law next year (there is about a zero chance of that happening).

While not completely settled law, this is a great boon that will hamper any anti-gun police officer or Commonwealth’s Attorney who tries to take advantage of the law’s vagueness. It would be preferable for the law to be repealed completely, but this is a step forward. It’s also worth noting that Cuccinelli’s opinion quotes from the Heller decision, rather than resting only on Virginia’s Constitution and laws. Virginia’s churches are no longer “maybe, maybe not” victim disarmament gun free zones under the law – it is now up to each individual church to make that decision.

Which is just as it should be.

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SAF and Alan Gura targeting Westchester County, NY

They’re going after the “may issue” part of NY state law.

BELLEVUE, WA – The Second Amendment Foundation has filed a federal lawsuit against Westchester County, New York and its handgun permit licensing officers, seeking a permanent injunction against enforcement of a state law that allows carry licenses to be denied because applicants cannot show “good cause.”

The press release says it’s a “carry license” but several people in comments at Snowflakes in Hell have said that in NY the carry license is required just to own a handgun, and it gets ‘endorsed’ as to where you can carry (i.e., home only, home and business, hunting and target shooting, unrestricted, etc.).

The primary issue, of course, is discretionary issue of a license for a Constitutional Right. As disturbing as the idea of licensing a Constitutional Right is, the field isn’t quite “ripe” yet to eliminate it. Tackling “may issue” for mere ownership, however, is a logical next step.

(h/t Sebastian at Snowflakes in Hell)

Chicago Shenanigans

Sebastian at Snowflakes in Hell talks about Chicago’s gun registration and permitting process and, as expected, there are some wrinkles the city has thrown in to try and discourage or prevent people from completing the process. Some were expected – lots of paperwork (5 pages of forms), unusually short hours for the office handling the process (8:30 am to 3:30 pm), fingerprinting, 5 hours of “training” – but there are some unexpected ones, too. Like the vision requirement. That’s right, if your vision is not correctable to at least 20/50, you can’t legally own a gun in Chicago. Just to give you an idea what 20/50 vision means, look at this.

Snellen Chart

Snellen Chart

As you can see, 20/50 is certainly not good – it’s the fourth line from the top, counting the big “E” – but it’s certainly good enough to see and hit a human sized target at in-home distances – the only place guns are currently allowed in Chicago.

In the comments at Sebastian’s place, Fiftycal notes Chicago is violating the Privacy Act.

My quick review shows they want social security numbers. They do not indicate what for, which is a violation of the Privacy Act. To wit;

The Privacy Act regulates the use of SSNs by government agencies. When a federal, state, or local government agency asks an individual to disclose his or her SSN, the Privacy Act requires the agency to inform the person of the following: the statutory or other authority for requesting the information; whether disclosure is mandatory or voluntary; what uses will be made of the information; and the consequences, if any, of failure to provide the information.

But the real shenanigans? Apparently,  it’s also impossible to complete the forms. From commenter Melancton Smith at Sebastian’s blog.

Also note that currently the permit requires the license number of the State certified instructor.  That particular ‘license’ from the IL Dept of Professional Regulation (DPR) has no number, so the form cannot be completed even if one has the requisite training from a certified instructor.

How much do you want to bet they’ll deny every application that doesn’t have that non-existent number, even if the instructor physically comes in and shows their license to prove there is no number?

I bet there’s going to be at least one more lawsuit coming from this. I hope someone manages to get around at least some of these tyrants’ qualified immunity and bankrupt them personally.

Also, Chicago’s attempts to nullify McDonald have birthed a new category here – “Chicago Shenanigans.” Maybe Robb can come up with another cool graphic for everyone to use? It bet it’ll get a lot of use.

(h/t SayUncle)

Less than a week since McDonald…

and Chicago is being sued over it’s prohibitive gun laws yet again. This time it’s over the brand new laws passed to bring the city into “compliance” with the ruling in McDonald (which were, in fact, intended to nullify McDonald instead). The complaint can be found here.

It looks like they’re suing on eight counts.

  1. Count one goes after the definition of home that’s defined so narrowly.
  2. Count two goes after the requirement that they be 21 years of old, arguing it violates the constitutional rights of those adults over the age of 18 but under the age of 21 to keep and bear arms.
  3. Count three goes after the ban on gun shops.
  4. Count four goes after the ban on shooting ranges.
  5. Count five goes after the ban on having more than one operable gun in the home.
  6. Count six goes after the unsafe handgun roster that the Police are supposed to maintain under the new ordinance. The complaint argues that the “unbridled discretion” violates the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.
  7. Count seven challenges the ban on laser sights.
  8. Count eight actually goes after the prohibition on carry outside the home or fixed place of business.

The Plaintiffs are seeking a declaratory judgement, injunctive relief and attorneys fees.

I’m not surprised – in fact, I’ve been waiting for something like this. I’m just surprised they got it drafted and filed this quickly after the new laws were passed.

(h/t Sebastian at Snowflakes in Hell)

Alan Gura’s next target

Looks like it’s North Carolina’s emergency powers law.

The Second Amendment Foundation on Monday filed a federal lawsuit in North Carolina, seeking a permanent injunction against the governor, local officials and local governments from declaring states of emergency under which private citizens are prohibited from exercising their right to bear arms.

[...]

The lawsuit contends that state statutes that forbid the carrying of firearms and ammunition during declared states of emergency are unconstitutional. Plaintiffs also contend that a North Carolina law that allows government officials to prohibit the purchase, sale and possession of firearms and ammunition are also unconstitutional because they forbid the exercise of Second Amendment rights as affirmed by Monday’s Supreme Court ruling in McDonald v. City of Chicago, the landmark Second Amendment ruling that incorporated the Second Amendment to the states.

Press release here.

(h/t SayUncle)

Other People’s McDonald thoughts

Sebastian at Snowflakes in Hell has a good post up about Thomas’ concurrence in McDonald, and he makes one very good point that I wish the other justices had the intestinal fortitude to follow.

I wish we had four more on the Court like him, because I generally agree with Thomas that stare decisis should not stand when it’s in clear conflict with the text and meaning of the Constitution, as it is here. [emphasis mine]

As I noted yesterday, the majority essentially took the coward’s way out, refusing to overturn a plainly wrong decision and re-establish the clear meaning of the P-or-I clause of the 14th Amendment in favour of taking the easy path using previously established incorporation guidelines under the Due Process clause. They chose to bow to the legal false god of stare decisis rather than to follow the plain text and meaning of the Constitution, because the correct path would have lead to the need to reevaluate a large body of existing incorporation precedent. They chose the easy path over the right path.

Realistically, using the Due Process clause as a basis for selective incorporation is as much a stretch of the plain language of the 14th as the neutering of P-or-I was. The Due Process clause reads:

nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;

That clause makes no reference to the rights of citizens as guaranteed by the Constitution or the other Amendments, only to “life, liberty, or property.” Yes, it can be argued that many of the protections of the Bill of Rights are essential to liberty, and that to deprive someone of one of those protections deprives them of liberty. But there is the point – it must be argued, for each one, under Due Process. This process of Selective Incorporation is a farce, because the plain meaning of the P-or-I clause, and the clear intent of the amendment – as it was understood then and now – is to ensure that all the protections of the Bill of Rights are to bind the states, as well as binding the Federal government.

Any other interpretation cheapens the 14th Amendment, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution itself, and all eight Supreme Court Justices who did not choose to incorporate and restore the P-or-I clause should be ashamed for their failure to do what is right over what is convenient.

McDonald thoughts, Part I

I just started reading through it, but this paragraph caught my eye.

We see no need to reconsider that interpretation here. For many decades, the question of the rights protected by the Fourteenth Amendment against state infringement has been analyzed under the Due Process Clause of that Amendment and not under the Privileges or Immunities Clause. We therefore decline to disturb the Slaughter-House holding.

This is exactly what I was afraid they would do, and what I expected them to do. Essentially, they’re saying that “since there’s a way to incorporate this that’s been in place for decades, we aren’t going to look at anything else.”

Given the very large body of case law based on the nullification of P-or-I, they didn’t want to open that can of worms. Even with the near-universal opinion that the opinion in Slaughter-House was egregiously wrong,they chickened out of doing it the right way in favor of doing it the easy way.

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