SKELTER GUN LAWS PUT SOME IN JAIL, OTHERS OPENLY CARRY
July 19, 2004
1:02 AM Eastern
Rick Stanley, a Denver, Colorado businessman and former political candidate, was arrested for openly carrying a gun in violation of Denver Revised Municipal Code 38-117.5(b) on December 15, 2001 during a rally celebrating the Anniversary of the Bill of Rights. Stanley was arrested again in Thornton, Colorado on September 7th, 2002, for violating a Thornton City ordinance, not allowing guns on a person in plain sight. Stanley was convicted on felony counts in both cases and faces prison time. Stanley's lawyers tried to argue that the the Thornton ordinance became invalid after Gov. Bill Owens signed a law last year that limited the ability of local governments to regulate firearms.
Article II, Section 13 of the Colorado State Constitution reads: Section 13. Right to bear arms. The right of no person to keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person and property, or in aid of the civil power when thereto legally summoned, shall be called in question; but nothing herein contained shall be construed to justify the practice of carrying concealed weapons.
In many smaller towns in Idaho, Montana, Arizona, New Mexico, Missouri and Kansas, citizens wearing a gun is not an uncommon sight. Farmers and ranchers in rural areas of those states routinely wear their guns in public without causing even a second glance by fellow citizens.
On July 2, 2004 in Reston, Virginia, local police received a 9-11 call from scared citizens who reported six men eating a meal at a Champps restaurant - all were wearing a gun. When law enforcement arrived, the men explained to the police that "they were just exercising their rights as citizens of the commonwealth." A similar episode occurred at a Starbucks in Fairfax County, Virginia. Police officers wrongly confiscated weapons from two college students and charged them with a misdemeanor.
The next day the police realized their mistake, returned the guns and shredded the charges against the students. Carrying a gun in public is legal in the State of Virginia and it's not uncommon to spot individuals in and about the state with guns worn on their hip. No permit is required in Virginia to openly carry, but one must have a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
Openly carrying weapons is "not a good idea," said Kristen Rand of the Violence Policy Center in Washington. "This is the gun lobby's vision of how America should be. Everybody's packing heat and ready to engage in a shoot-out at the slightest provocation." According to the Violence Policy Center in Washington, DC: "Each year, more than 28,000 Americans die in gun suicides, homicides, and unintentional shootings as a result of the ready availability, and accessibility, of specific classes of firearms. Gun violence is more than a crime issue; it is a broad-based health crisis of which crime is merely the most recognized aspect."
"Guns and firearms need to be looked at from a public-policy perspective," said Dr. Eric Sigel, medical director of the Adolescent Medical Clinic at Children's Hospital and a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility. "We need to take the gun debate out of the political realm." Sigel cited statistics that indicate guns are the second leading cause of teen death after motor vehicle accidents.
In 1999, more than 4,700 teens ages 16 to 19 died in highway crashes. Teenagers represented 10 percent of the U.S. population in 2000 and accounted for 14 percent of all motor vehicle deaths. An updated accounting by the The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2001 more than 3,500 teen [drivers] died in car wrecks; 2,400 of their passengers were killed. And 2,800 other people died in accidents when it was a teen driver.
Dr. Blaze Welch, speaking on the issue of public health and guns (search), states that according to the Journal of the American Medicine Association (JAMA), doctors kill more people than auto accidents and guns. Dr. Welch also said, "The number of people that doctors kill per day from medical malpractice is roughly equal to the amount of people that would die if every day, three jumbo jets crashed and killed everybody on board."
The numbers presented by the Violence Policy Center in Washington, DC are at direct odds with actual gun statistics presented by Dr. John Lott, in his book, The Bias Against Guns. Lott is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Before joining AEI, Dr. Lott was a senior research scholar at Yale University's School of Law and has held positions at the University of Chicago, Stanford University, UCLA, the Wharton Business School, and Rice University.
The numbers and incidents used in Lott's book are from actual police and FBI statistics:
"During the year 1999 there were 31 accidental gun deaths for children under 10 in the USA. Only 6 of these were cases of children shooting the gun--across the entire country in one year. Several hundred children are killed on bikes every year. In 1999, over 1260 children under 10 years old died in auto crashes. Statistically, cars are 1000 times more likely to kill a child than death by a gun. Another 370 children died from being hit by cars while walking. In 1999, 484 children died from residential fires. In 1999, of children under the age of five, 92 were drowned in bathtubs. Guns are used positively for society 4.5 times more than negatively against society."
At the federal level, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court has ruled that the Second Amendment was not adopted "to afford rights to individuals with respect to private gun ownership or possession." The Ninth Circuit's decision declaring weapons were only allowed for the states to maintain militias, conflicts with a 2001 decision from the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court based in New Orleans, which has stated that individuals have a constitutional right to guns.
In a May 17, 2001 letter to the NRA, United States Attorney General John Ashcroft, America's top law enforcement officer wrote, "[L]et me state unequivocally....the Second Amendment clearly protect(s) the right of individuals to keep and bear firearms." (search).
Peter Mancus, a Second Amendment advocate and practicing attorney for 33 years, writes in a letter to the sentencing judge asking that the verdict against Stanley be vacated: "There is only one Supreme Law in this nation: The Constitution...By definition, those local laws are subservient to the Supreme Law, and, when they conflict, the Supreme Law, by definition, remains supreme. Nothing trumps the Supreme Law–nothing."
In further citing the law, Mancus goes on to say, "Article IV, Section 2 of the United States Constitution states, “The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states.” In other states, it is legal to open carry without a permit. Hence, it is a denial of Equal Protection of the Laws from citizens in some states to be able to do–legally–that for which Stanley was originally prosecuted for doing in Colorado. The Fourteenth Amendment made the Bill of Rights applicable to and binding on the states, including Colorado, and their sub-divisions, which includes Denver."
Openly wearing a gun in Reston, Virginia is legal. Openly wear a gun in Denver or Thornton, Colorado and you will be convicted and sent to jail as is the case with Rick Stanley. The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court says the right to own and bear arms is an individual right, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court says it isn't. Such capricious, arbitrary prosecutions and decisions over the Second Amendment has millions of guns owners upset over what they claim is clearly and succinctly stated in the Second Amendment and want these prosecutions stopped.
Some organizations want all Americans disarmed: "We'll take one step at a time, and the first is necessarily - given the political realities - very modest. We'll have to start working again to strengthen the law, and then again to strengthen the next law and again and again. Our ultimate goal, total control of hand guns, is going to take time. The first problem is to slow down production and sales. Next is to get registration. The final problem is to make possession of all handguns and ammunition (with a few exceptions) totally illegal." Pete Shields, founder of Handgun Control, Inc., New Yorker Magazine, June 26, 1976, page 53.
Currently, there are more than 300 major guns laws and an incalculable number of local ordinances on the books (search) relating to one sentence comprising the Second Amendment: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
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