When a legislator introduces a bill with the expressly stated purpose of making it unlawful for a mental incompetent to have a handgun, the initial reaction of most is that the bill should be supported. The devil, as they say, is in the details.
Representative Donzella James (D-35) introduced SB 34, a bill which ostensibly would make it illegal for a mentally incompetent or addicted person to possess a handgun or to sell a firearm to such a person "knowingly or recklessly." While this would appear to come close to mirroring federal law, Senator James's bill goes much, much further.
The definitions section has a very expansive view of persons who are mentally incompetent or addicted. Ever had a DUI? Addicted. The man who had a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge at the age of seventeen, who is now sixty five years old with no further convictions, not even a speeding ticket? Addicted. Arrested for public drunkenness at Marti Gras or after a college fraternity party? Again, addicted, and banned from possessing handguns for life under the proposal being pushed by Sen. James. Any person who has ever been convicted of an alcohol or drug related offense, including DUI, would be prohibited for life. SB 34's definition of "addicted" is so expansive that it includes any person who voluntarily enters an Alcoholics Anonymous program.
Such a law would obviously discourage persons facing addiction issues from seeking treatment for fear of losing their right to bear arms for the remainder of their lives.
Moreover, SB 34 makes it a crime to sell a handgun "recklessly" to a person who has ever had an alcohol or drug related charge, in addition to selling a handgun "knowingly" to such a person. Since "knowingly" is not the only intent standard contained in the bill, how does one avoid the charge of "recklessly" selling a handgun to someone who voluntarily sought treatment for alcoholism in 1966?
Believe it or not, SB 34 goes further. If you sell a handgun to your uncle, who sought alcoholism treatment decades ago and has been completely sober since, and your uncle later uses the handgun to commit a felony, any felony, SB 34 would permit you to be charged as "an accomplice to such felony."
If this bill simply mirrored federal law, it could be opposed on the ground that it is redundant and therefore unnecessary. As the bill is currently drafted, however, it is worse than redundant and should be opposed as violating fundamental civil liberties.
This is part 6 in a continuing series.
Part 1, HB 60 The distance between citizens and their government is growing larger is available by clicking on the link, or clicking here. <---- UPDATE: HB 60 quickly passed the House and is in the Senate. Contact your Senator to ask whether your life is less valuable than a retired city court judge, or whether a woman with a violent stalker is at less risk than a retired city court judge.