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CITY OF DETROIT - BREAKING THE LAW IN THE NAME OF THE LAW
On April 6, 1999, the Wayne County Sheriff's Department broke the law when it tried to run a gun dealer and long-time Second Amendment activist out of business and into jail.
Two officers entered Laney's Guns and Supplies along with an underage 18-year-old who played the role of an ineligible buyer. One of the officers, Walter Epps, had a counterfeit permit to purchase with a false name from the City of Detroit. This reminds me of the warning against counterfeiting by average citizens - the government hates competition.
When the 18-year old said he wanted to buy a gun, Laney asked him if he had a permit to purchase. When he said, no, Laney told him he had to be 21 to buy a pistol. Epps said he had a permit, and he proceeded to buy a handgun.
The undercover officer passed the background check and took possession of the handgun, which he later sold to the underage buyer after they left the store. Laney was subsequently charged with violating the Michigan strawman purchase law prohibiting a qualified buyer from buying a gun for an unqualified buyer.
The court of original jurisdiction threw the case out. The government appealed to the Michigan Court of Appeals and won a two-to-one decision against General Laney, the owner of the store. Now Laney faces the additional burden of an appeal to the state Supreme Court. Many states prohibit appeals by the government to prevent malicious prosecutions such as what Laney has been forced to endure. Unfortunately, law-abiding citizens do not enjoy such protections in Michigan.
A majority of the justices on the Court of Appeals thought it would be just fine to apply federal law against General Laney, as opposed to simply using their own state law. By what authority could the judges do this? Well, to them, the issue of authority was not as important as getting results. Federal law has a more expansive definition of what a strawman sale is, so obviously, they found it in their best interests to use language that would help justify the entrapment of an innocent man.
The truth of the matter is that the surveillance taping at Laney's Guns and Supplies gave no evidence that Laney had even the slightest idea that he was dealing with an ineligible buyer. Thus, it was really quite irrelevant that the undercover officer later sold the gun to an underage person without Laney's knowledge.
Laney had acted within the law. A background check had been run on the gun buyer. Laney had received a green light to sell the gun, and he had meticulously recorded the transaction, entering the sale in his books.
This is the kind of official chicanery that should convince anyone that gun control laws need to be repealed. Cops need to be free to do real cop work, not pursuing the malicious prosecutions of out-of-control prosecutors.
The Michigan Court of Appeals majority also exhibited (by referring to non-applicable federal law) the same kind of cavalier view of their oath of office that has infected, by their own admission, four of the justices on the U.S. Supreme Court (Ginsburg, Breyer, Souter and O'Connor). These judges have on one or two recent decisions enthused about the foreign laws they referred to in coming to their decision. All of these judges have violated their oaths of office by looking for legal precedents in codes that are foreign to their respective jurisdictions. Their admissions should be the grounds for immediate impeachment.
The object of this malicious prosecution is a long-time pro-Second Amendment activist, General Laney. Laney has testified in Lansing on behalf of pro-self defense legislation and been active in local advocacy groups. He has sponsored training for women at his store and range and he has helped start a black sportsmen's group. Laney is a guy the city seems to want to either bankrupt through legal fees or put in jail. They may not care much which is the outcome.
General Laney desperately needs our financial help. You can help to defray his legal expenses by giving a tax-deductible contribution to Gun Owners Foundation and mailing it to the GOA office (8001 Forbes Place, Springfield, VA 22151). Please write Laney on the memo line of the check. If you wish to make a credit card contribution, please call 703 321 8585. To contribute online, go to http://www.gunowners.com/laney.htm.
© 2003 Larry Pratt - All Rights Reserved
Larry Pratt has been Executive Director of Gun Owners of America for 27 years. GOA is a national membership organization of 300,000 Americans dedicated to promoting their second amendment freedom to keep and bear arms.
GOA lobbies for the pro-gun position in Washington and is involved in firearm issues in the states. GOA's work includes providing legal assistance to those involved in lawsuits with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the federal firearms law enforcement agency.
Pratt has appeared on numerous national radio and TV programs such as NBC's Today Show, CBS' Good Morning America, CNN's Crossfire and Larry King Live, Fox's Hannity & Colmes, MSNBC's Phil Donahue show and many others. He has debated Congressmen James Traficant, Jr. (D-OH), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Vice President Al Gore, among others. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country.
He published a book, Armed People Victorious, in 1990 and was editor of a book, Safeguarding Liberty: The Constitution & Militias, 1995. His latest book, On the Firing Line: Essays in the Defense of Liberty was published in 2001.
Pratt has held elective office in the state legislature of Virginia, serving in the House of Delegates. Pratt directs a number of other public interest organizations and serves as the Vice-Chairman of the American Institute for Cancer Research.
"This is the kind of official chicanery that should convince anyone that gun control laws need to be repealed. Cops need to be free to do real cop work, not pursuing the malicious prosecutions of out-of-control prosecutors."