NRA Explore
APPEARS IN Legal & Legislation

Get Ready For RICO

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

RICO. That acronym for the Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act of 1970 represents the single most dangerous threat to gun rights looming on the near political horizon. It is the hidden centerpiece ofU.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer’s, D-N.Y., anti-gun-rights legislation--S. 77--and the absolute short-term lobbying target of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s axis of 160 urban mayors throughout the country.

RICO, when it was enacted in 1970, was intended to make prosecutions of organized crime figures easy, and was called the “hydrogen bomb” of federal criminal law.

It lifts all manner of normal due process and lowers the burden of proof needed to convict defendants. And it empowers federal authorities to freeze all assets of RICO defendants upon mere indictment so that they are denied the means to pay for a defense.

One measure of any law--no matter how well meaning the sound of its title--is how it will be administered in the wrong hands. For RICO, the wrong hands could well be the next presidential administration. Or it could be a rogue blue-state mayor or urbanU.S. attorney.

Remarkably, there is nothing in RICO that is not already illegal. Rather, it creates a new layer of criminal acts called “derivative crimes” based on what the law spells out as “predicate” crimes, which include violation of any law or even regulation specifically named as “predicate” under RICO statutes. Two such “predicate” offenses within a 10-year period is the standard for creating a RICO prosecution.

For RICO to kick in, there is no requirement of conviction involving an original “predicate” allegation.

RICO also provides federally assisted avenues for “racketeering” civil actions under which individuals or organizations can sue other individuals or entities and collect triple damages.

Such suits--especially when tied into RICO provisions providing loose allegations concerning “racketeering conspiracies”--would resurrect the big-city agenda to kill outright or extort total control over lawful firearms commerce in America.

Among the bizarre legal theories that drove a series of New York City lawsuits against the firearms industry was the absurd notion that a conspiracy existed among lawful firearms producers and distributors to intentionally “overproduce guns” to ultimately fill a huge illegal gun market run by criminals circumventing federal law. It was, of course, an insane theory, but clearly with RICO as a tool, a future attorney general in, say, a Hillary Clinton administration, could revisit such theories and likely prevail.

In fact, were S. 77 or any similar legislation expanding RICO to become law, RICO provisions could wipe out any protections against new punitive lawsuits that were ostensibly ended by enactment of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act of 2005.

But there is an even more evil side to RICO civil action--punitive suits to take down opponents on purely political hit lists.

In fact, were S.77 or any similar legislation expanding RICO to become law, RICO provisions could wipe out any protections against new punitive lawsuits that were ostensibly ended by enactment of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act of 2005.

Keep in mind that a series of civil RICO actions was indeed brought by the National Organization for Women against individuals and groups alleged to be involved in peaceful picketing of abortion clinics, claiming “extortion” as the predicate offense. Ultimately, theU.S. Supreme Court threw out those actions, but considerable damage was done to many groups and individuals all the same.

As for the immediate short-term goals of Bloomberg and Schumer, look no further than S. 77. The same RICO civil litigation tools that are ready-made for destruction of the firearm industry could also become the means to vindictively pursue individual gun owners.

One of the best descriptions of the criminal law aspects of RICO can be found in a 2004 monograph by William L. Anderson and Candice E. Jackson, published by the Independent Institute:

“[I]t has been used--with federal judges, members of Congress, and the press acting as cheerleaders--to overturn the protections inherent in due-process guarantees of theU.S. Constitution … in a RICO case, those charged are treated as guilty until proven innocent.”

If applied to federal gun control statutes as prescribed in S. 77, RICO would open the way for unprecedented civil liberties abuses against Americans who practice the Second Amendment.

Remember, to trigger a RICO prosecution, federal authorities only need to claim “a pattern of racketeering activity” based solely on allegations of two or more RICO predicate violations within a 10-year period.

For a federal firearm dealer living under Schumer’s S. 77, such a “pattern” could entail two simple paperwork errors involving anything Schumer might claim to include “illegal gun trafficking” within a decade, or any number of unknowing, innocent business mistakes.
Once RICO comes into play, the dealer, or an accused individual, is subjected to a whole new set of procedures and rules that make defense difficult, if not nearly impossible.

While the current burden of proof for conviction of a Gun Control Act “predicate” charge is the high constitutional bar of “guilt beyond reasonable doubt,” the burden of proof for the racketeering “derivative crime” is merely that required in civil cases--guilt based on the “preponderance of evidence.” There is, of course, an enormous difference.

But what makes RICO so dangerous for firearm owners and those in the lawful trade of firearms is that knowledge--“state of mind”--is neither a defense nor a requirement for prosecution.

Where many predicate crimes require overwhelming proof that they were committed “willfully”--that is, intentionally, with full knowledge of the law and its consequences--RICO derivative crimes require no such state of mind. Nothing. A breach of the law alone constitutes the sole evidence considered by a court.

Yet there is another “state of mind” issue that also factors into the inherent dangers of RICO--the malicious state of mind of those who would abuse the law to federally prosecute gun owners.

What RICO Could Really Mean

It is obvious how RICO could be used against any business entity or person in the lawful chain of federally licensed commerce. Yet what about individual gun owners?

What about the danger to any organization a RICO defendant might be associated with or have membership in? Under RICO, federal prosecutors could claim such an entity is a related “racketeering enterprise.” Gun clubs. Collectors’ associations. The NRA. All could be in danger.

For firearm collectors, and especially for ordinary, casual firearm owners who know little about federal gun laws, there are already provisions on the books that present a terrible potential danger for individual gun owners under RICO.

For example, it is a federal felony to transfer a firearm from one individual across state lines to another without going through a federally licensed dealer for the transaction.

Here’s a plausible RICO scenario:

As a birthday gift, a grandfather in Belpre, Ohio, gives a 1930s vintage Savage .410 single-barrel shotgun to his

TRENDING NOW
Ohio: NICS Compliant Standard Now Recognized for All Valid Ohio Concealed Handgun License Holders

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Ohio: NICS Compliant Standard Now Recognized for All Valid Ohio Concealed Handgun License Holders

Yesterday, Attorney General Mike DeWine announced that Ohioans who possess a valid concealed handgun license no longer have to submit themselves to additional background checks when purchasing firearms.  The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and ...

Sen. Schumer Introduces Gun Control Bill After Brady Campaign Tantrum

Friday, May 20, 2016

Sen. Schumer Introduces Gun Control Bill After Brady Campaign Tantrum

For the past several months, Brady Campaign President Dan Gross has been repeatedly telling anyone who will listen that support for gun control is at a “tipping point.” Gross’ theory suffered a blow this week as the Brady Campaign ...

Outrage of the Week: Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin Blocks Efforts to Restore Rights to Veterans

Friday, May 20, 2016

Outrage of the Week: Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin Blocks Efforts to Restore Rights to Veterans

We have long reported on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) scandalous practice of reporting to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)  any VA beneficiary who has had a “fiduciary” appointed to help the individual ...

West Virginia: Permitless Carry Went Into Effect on May 24!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

West Virginia: Permitless Carry Went Into Effect on May 24!

On May 24, the provisions of House Bill 4145, West Virginia’s permitless/constitutional carry legislation, take effect.  Please refer to NRA-ILA’s HB 4145 Fact Sheet for important information on this monumental pro-gun reform.

North Carolina: Right to Hunt and Fish Legislation Introduced

Thursday, May 26, 2016

North Carolina: Right to Hunt and Fish Legislation Introduced

Yesterday, Senate Bill 889 was introduced in the North Carolina state senate.  S889 seeks to amend the North Carolina Constitution to affirm that it is a right of the public to hunt, fish and harvest ...

California: Anti-Gun Bills Sent to Assembly Suspense File Scheduled to be Heard Tomorrow, May 27

Thursday, May 26, 2016

California: Anti-Gun Bills Sent to Assembly Suspense File Scheduled to be Heard Tomorrow, May 27

On Friday May 27, the state Assembly Committee on Appropriations is scheduled to hear all the bills sent to the suspense file.  There are five anti-gun bills that greatly impact gun owners, sportsmen, and Second ...

NRA Endorses Donald Trump for President of the United States

News  

Friday, May 20, 2016

NRA Endorses Donald Trump for President of the United States

The chairman of the National Rifle Association's Political Victory Fund, Chris W. Cox, released the following statement on Friday:

Maryland: Governor Hogan Signs Pro-Gun Bill into Law

Friday, May 20, 2016

Maryland: Governor Hogan Signs Pro-Gun Bill into Law

Yesterday, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed House Bill 312 into law.

South Carolina: Time Running Out for South Carolina Right-to-Carry Recognition

Thursday, May 26, 2016

South Carolina: Time Running Out for South Carolina Right-to-Carry Recognition

The South Carolina Senate is set to adjourn next week, so there is little time left to act on  H. 3799.  While the bill is on the Special Order calendar, anti-gun state Senator Marlon Kimpson (D-42) is leading the charge ...

Political Report | Media Ignore Facts In Dismissing NRA’s Concerns About Supreme Court Nominee

News  

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Political Report | Media Ignore Facts In Dismissing NRA’s Concerns About Supreme Court Nominee

When it comes to issues that gun owners care about, media seem to compete for the most outrageous claims. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that while readership of traditional newspapers and trust in ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -
NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.