The American Bar Association (ABA) has long supported restrictions on the rights of gun owners. While it has defended the due process rights of some very unpopular groups, including, enemy combatants, terror suspects, and convicts on death row, in 2017 the ABA decided that gun owners should not be afforded similar due process protections.
This year, the ABA decided it should increase its assault on the Second Amendment, and perhaps other constitutional protections.
Under the guise of “gun safety regulations,” the ABA adopted three resolutions that should call into question the group’s claim that it seeks to “[e]liminate bias in…the justice system.” It seems that “bias” against gun owners is OK.
The first resolution takes on the most recent anti-gun bogeyman; “ghost guns.”
This term was invented by anti-gun California State Senator Kevin de Leon (D), originally to describe homemade plastic firearms manufactured with the use of a 3-D printer. Following efforts by gun control activists and the mainstream media to provoke the public, “ghost guns” has become an umbrella term for all unserialized firearms. Gun control proponents have shown particular interest in regulating unserialized homemade firearms made through the use of a 3-D printer and those constructed from an unfinished frame or receiver.
Apparently, the ABA has abandoned the plastic firearms aspect, as its release does not mention them, and appears focused on “any unfinished firearm frame or receiver.”
Under 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(3) the definition of a firearm includes “(A) any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; [or] (B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon…”
As is made clear by federal law, the frame or receiver of a firearm is the only part that is legally considered a “firearm.”
Gun control advocates contend that this system permits those who would otherwise be prohibited from possessing firearms to make their own firearms, circumventing the background check provisions of the Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act. Anti-gun activists also contend that unserialized firearms inhibit law enforcement’s ability to trace firearms back to their initial point of sale through the ATF’s National Tracing Center.
But any attempt to require serialization in this context would have no impact on criminals. In Haynes v. U.S., the United States Supreme Court ruled that a convicted felon could not be convicted for his failure to comply with the registration provisions of the National Firearms Act, as doing so would implicate his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Any requirement that a gun owner alert the federal government to the manufacture of a firearm, such as supplying proof of serialization, could not be enforced against those prohibited from possessing firearms.
In reality, as with most anti-gun proposals, the ABA is really targeting law-biding gun owners. Making and customizing your own firearms is an American tradition, which is why the provisions of the Gun Control Act do not prohibit individuals from making firearms for non-commercial purposes.
If the federal government were tasked with determining what constitutes “manufacturing” in the non-commercial context, it could implicate the ordinary behavior of millions of gun owners. In the commercial context, ATF has already set a low bar for “manufacturing” that has forced some gun dealers to refrain from assisting customers with simple gunsmithing tasks.
For instance, ATF has concluded that a gun dealer who adds some aftermarket accessories or finishes to firearms in inventory before resale is manufacturing firearms and must be licensed as a manufacturer.
Anti-gun Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) has taken this issue to heart, and recently issued a tortured opinion that would appear to support the ABA’s resolution.
The other egregious positions the ABA has taken are requiring law-abiding citizens to seek permission from the government before they can acquire a firearm, and then require those law-abiding gun owners who have received permission to obtain a firearm to store them in a government-approved fashion.
Seriously, does the ABA need a refresher course on our right to keep and bear arms?
With regard to permission to acquire a firearm, this anti-gun association “urges authorities to require people to apply for a permit from a designated law enforcement or public safety agency before they are given a permit to purchase a firearm.” The ABA’s resolution is unclear as to whether one would be required to apply for such a permit every time one wants to purchase a firearm, or if the initial application approval would result in something akin to a license being issued.
The ABA does want applicants to be fingerprinted and run through a background check at the time of applying for permission to exercise a constitutionally protected right. Of course, anyone who purchases a firearm from a licensed gun dealer is already subject to what would presumably be the same background check, so this really sounds like a licensing scheme for gun owners.
Perhaps the ABA feels that a “permit” sounds less authoritarian than a “license.”
This “permit/licensing” scheme would apply to ALL firearm transfers, so what the ABA is ultimately getting at is promoting so-called “universal” background checks, which are at the top of virtually every anti-gun organization’s wish-list. And, as we were told by President Obama’s Justice Department, “universal” background checks are unenforceable without a comprehensive national registry of firearms.
Requiring a “permit/license” to exercise a constitutionally protected right should be considered anathema to an organization that purports to be committed to “defending liberty.”
As for the ABA’s storage requirement, this creates the potential for even more constitutional violations. The resolution calls for all levels of government to “define the requirements of safe storage of a firearm” and “require firearm owners to meet those requirements.”
What this proposal overlooks is the fact that gun safety and storage is a matter of personal responsibility, and every person’s situation is different. It is unreasonable for the government to impose a one-size-fits-all solution. More importantly, mandatory storage laws invade people’s homes and force them to render their firearms useless in a self-defense situation by locking them up.
Furthermore, while the ABA refers to its proposal addressing “gun safety,” fatal accidents due to unauthorized access to firearms are exceptionally rare, especially when compared to other accidental fatalities.
But the big question is, after the government dictates the requirements as to how firearms in your home are to be stored, how will it ensure you “meet those requirements”? Is the ABA suggesting periodic spot-checks? How would that comport with the Fourth Amendment’s assurance that American citizens “be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures….”?
Or is their idea for “gun safety” to prosecute someone after the fact, when an unauthorized or prohibited person gains access to a firearm that is not stored in a manner approved by the government? If a single woman, living on her own, has her home broken into, and a handgun she kept stored in her nightstand is stolen and used in a crime, is she to be held responsible if that type of storage doesn’t meet government standards? If that’s the case, then it would seem the ABA now supports crimes for being…crime victims.
These resolutions from the ABA are simply continuations of the association’s objection to lawful gun ownership. Whatever “bias” they wish to eliminate from the justice system clearly does not apply to their own bias against law-abiding gun owners.