Reprinted from www.libertylobby.org, home of The SPOTLIGHT archive
Legislation Needs Support
Important legislation to undo an especially evil and sneaky gun control law is languishing in the House Judiciary Committee's crime subcommittee, where it will probably die unless voters lift their voices.
Rep. Helen Chenoweth-Hage (R-Idaho) introduced H.R. 333 a year ago to repeal a provision slipped into law by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) without debate and with most legislators unaware that it was part of the bulky ominous appropriations bill.
Since 1968, federal law has denied convicted felons the right to own guns. The Lautenberg law denies gun ownership to people convicted of a misdemeanor if violence or the threat of violence -- a shouting argument, for example -- can be associated with the incident.
Under Lautenberg, if such a petty incident resulted in a misdemeanor even before the law was passed -- any time over the years -- you must surrender your gun and cannot buy another. This defies the Constitution's ex post facto doctrine.
Co-sponsors of the Chenoweth-Hage measure include Reps. Ron Paul (R-Tex.), Virgil Goode (I-Va.), John Doo little (R-Calif.), David McIntosh (R-Ind.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Jim Gibbons (R-Nev.).
The Lautenberg law has resulted in women losing their guns after a domestic argument, then being killed because they were unarmed. Numerous police officers have been thrown off the job, leading to more felonious violence in the streets.
"The Lautenberg law usurps the rights of states to assign penalties that match the crime," Rep. Chenoweth-Hage said. "It also imposes a new legal penalty on people who have already paid the legal penalties for old crimes."
For instance, people "who years ago pleaded guilty to domestic violence -- which depending on the locality could be no more than a loud public argument with a spouse or family member -- have lost their rights to owning a firearm under this law," she said.
"Judges hand out domestic violence convictions like candy these days," she said. "In Virginia, for example, the law mandates police to make an arrest when someone calls in on a 'violent' domestic dispute. A woman was arrested for throwing keys at her mother -- and missing -- during an argument. Such arrests are common and the complainant often does not have the power to drop these charges."
Some states define trespassing as "domestic violence." In another, a husband who mimicked the late comedian, Jackie Gleason, by shaking his fist in the air toward his wife and snarling "One of these days, Alice!" could be disarmed.
University of Maryland Professor Law rence Sherman told The Wall Street Journal: "When you touch people for the purpose of inflicting pain or the fear of pain -- many states will define that in their case law as an assault. Many of the arrests [for domestic violence] are based on such things as shoves" rather that being struck by fists or instruments.
Ironically, "the law has even taken firearms away from spouses who may have been the victims of abuse," Rep. Chenoweth-Hage said.
She presented this case for her legislation:
• Disarming a woman can have dead ly consequences. A Cheektowaga, N.Y., woman had her gun taken away when police arrived during an argument with her husband. She was at her mother's house when her husband threatened her. She brandished a pistol to ward him off. A few days later the unarmed woman and her mother were murdered by the husband as they were moving her children's clothing from the couple's house.
• Peace officers are losing jobs be cause they can no longer use a firearm. Often, they are for minor con victions that happened years ago. This significantly reduces the public protection from criminals with guns.
• Because Lautenberg is retroactive, thousands of people could unwittingly commit felonies for retaining their guns after the law of which they are unaware passed.
• Domestic violence charges are often bogus. Spouses often make false charges in child custody disputes, which are plea-bargained down to fines by an innocent party.
• In the past, only a felony conviction would bar gun ownership. Lautenberg sets the precedent of denying gun ownership for a misdemeanor and opens the door to adding more petty incidents to the list barring ownership.
The theory behind Lautenberg is that men must be disarmed to reduce an epidemic of wife-killing. But, according to the FBI, the rate of women killed by husbands or boyfriends since the mid-1970s has dropped almost 20 percent.
Lautenberg also "constitutes an unfunded federal mandate that imposes a huge cost on the states," Rep. Chenoweth-Hage said.
"Lautenberg raises a number of serious constitutional concerns," she said. "This is a state issue, not a federal issue. States already have the right and ability to disarm criminals, for felonies or misdemeanors.
"The federal mandates of Lauten berg do not pass the constitutional test of Article I, Section 8 (the Commerce Clause) as interpreted by the recent Supreme Court decision (United States v. Lopez). In addition, Lautenberg violates constitutionally protected due process because it retroactively imposes criminal penalties via ex post facto law," she said.