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The "Blame and Punish Gun Owners Act"

Friday, July 16, 2010

Anti-gun politicians have often looked for ways to penalize law-abiding gun owners rather than go after violent criminals.  Now, through "lost or stolen" laws, they increasingly want to punish gun owners who are crime victims.

These laws, which have already been passed in some California and Pennsylvania towns, make it a crime if a stolen firearm is not reported to police, typically within two or three days. In practice these ordinances place a legal gun owner at risk of prosecution for being the victim of a crime, and do nothing to stop or hinder the theft or illegal sale of stolen firearms by real criminals.

Now, anti-gun Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) has introduced H.R. 5736, what she calls" The Firearm Owners Responsibility Act," but which would be far more aptly called "The Blame and Punish Gun Owners Act."

H.R. 5736 would make it a federal crime if a law-abiding gun owner fails to report, within 72 hours, the loss or theft of a legally possessed firearm.  If a firearm is lost or stolen and the loss is not reported within 72 hours of when the owner becomes aware of the loss, the penalties would apply. The time limit would not allow for any mitigating circumstances, such as travel time or the inability to contact authorities.  For example, a hunter who loses a firearm during a wilderness emergency could face criminal penalties, even if it takes more than 72 hours just to return to civilization.

The reporting requirement would not simply require a call to local law enforcement, but also to the U.S. Attorney General (i.e., the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives). So, if a burglary victim calls his local police -- as most crime victims would do -- but fails to also notify the U.S. Department of Justice, the person would violate the law. The requirement to report to the federal government would also allow the U.S. Justice Department to collect information about law-abiding gun owners and provides no limit on what can be done with that information by anti-gun officials.

Perhaps the most outrageous element of H.R. 5736 is that it specifically exempts criminals from its impact.  The bill clearly states that it would apply to a person who "lawfully possesses or owns" a firearm.  So, a legal gun owner who fails to report a theft would face a fine, imprisonment or both.  But if the thief himself later loses the gun, he would not be required to report the loss, and would face no penalty whatsoever for failing to report it.  While the bill was probably written this way to avoid issues of self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment, it is unfortunate that Rep. McCarthy doesn't show equal concern for the Second Amendment.

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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.