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Revenge of the gun haters

Dr. Michael S. Brown
web posted February 25, 2002

Politics and public opinion may have turned against the anti-gun lobby, but their burning hatred for guns and gun owners hasn't cooled. Laws passed during the anti-gun witch hunts of the 1990's provide them with a satisfying way to take punitive action against harmless gun owners.

Chicago has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, which may be one reason it had more murders than any other American city in 2001. Mayor Richard Daley often unleashes verbal attacks on the gun industry to distract attention from his failure to address the real causes of crime.

The Chicago Anti-Gun Enforcement (CAGE) Task Force was formed under the pretense of interdicting illegal gun running to Chicago gangs. The task force has obtained unprecedented access to federal gun purchase records and is compiling a list of gun owners in the region who may be in violation of complicated state gun laws. CAGE officers have already begun to appear at the homes of honest gun owners, whose papers are not in order, to confiscate their firearms.

Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan

Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan has staged questionable sting operations in which ordinary citizens are given false information about gun laws, then enticed into selling guns to undercover agents without completing the proper paperwork. It is no coincidence that Ryan is running for governor.

In Maryland, the state's rabidly anti-gun attorney general issued a creative new interpretation of a 1996 court decision regarding which persons are disqualified from gun ownership. State police are denying permits and confiscating firearms from people with minor convictions that are decades old.

A popular neighborhood activist who received a "Citizen of the Year" award in 2000 was recently denied the gun permit he needed for his job as a private detective and security guard. His only offense was a scuffle with an anti-war fanatic in 1969. Maryland state policemen appeared at the home of another good citizen to confiscate his guns when it was discovered that he had a minor 1983 conviction for a shoving match over a disputed property line.

In California, gun owners are bewildered by new laws that make certain firearms illegal to own. Unfortunately, officials do not agree on which guns are banned, leaving gun owners fearing arrest under laws that can be selectively enforced.

In each of these cases, it is painfully obvious that real criminals are not affected. Self-serving government officials are targeting ordinary citizens, because they are easy targets for action that appeals to the big-city media. It is much more difficult to prosecute real criminals and the inner-city nature of most crime makes for politically incorrect arrests. We can also speculate that these efforts are intended to extract a measure of revenge for the rout of the anti-gun lobby.

At the national level the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, known as ATF, controls every one of the nation's licensed firearms dealers and has long been criticized for overzealous enforcement by gun rights activists. In order to comply with changes in federal gun laws, ATF quietly decided to change the standard gun registration form that has been used for years. Beginning on February 19, 2002, no sales would be approved unless they were recorded on the new forms.

Not only were many dealers unaware of the change, someone "forgot" to send out the forms. Retail gun sales came to a screeching halt across the country. The new forms were eventually provided, but there was no way to replace the retailers' lost revenue or the time lost by thousands of lawful buyers. Folks at the Brady Campaign probably had a good laugh.

None of these situations would have occurred without the laws passed in the emotional anti-gun frenzy of the last decade. These laws now provide mean-spirited, anti-gun politicians and bureaucrats with many ways to seek revenge against the gun owners who dared to fight for their rights in recent elections and public opinion battles.

In the long run, these moves will backfire as more people realize how far the absurd reality of gun law enforcement varies from the utopian intent.

Dr. Michael S. Brown is an optometrist and member of Doctors for Sensible Gun Laws. E-mail the author at rkba2000@yahoo.com.

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