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Bush-Ashcroft Plan to "Help" Fight Gun Crime

Josey1Josey1 Member Posts: 15,758
edited May 2002 in General Discussion
There Goes the Neighborhood: The Bush-Ashcroft Plan to "Help" Localities Fight Gun Crime
by Gene Healy

Gene Healy is an attorney and senior editor at the Cato Institute.



Executive Summary

The centerpiece of President Bush's crimefighting program is an initiative called Project Safe Neighborhoods. That initiative calls for the hiring of some 700 lawyers who will be dedicated to prosecuting firearm offenses, such as the unlawful possession of a gun by a drug user or a convicted felon. The basic idea is to divert firearm offenses from state court, where they would ordinarily be prosecuted, to federal court, where tougher prison sentences will be meted out. Project Safe Neighborhoods will also provide funding to escalate gun prosecutions at the state level.

Praise for Project Safe Neighborhoods comes from quarters as diverse as Handgun Control, Inc. and the National Rifle Association. Unfortunately, those disparate parties have united in support of a singularly bad idea. Project Safe Neighborhoods is an affront to the constitutional principle of federalism. The initiative flouts the Tenth Amendment by relying on federal statutes that have no genuine constitutional basis. Moreover, the program will very likely lead to overenforcement of gun laws and open the door to prosecutorial mischief affecting the racial composition of juries. As the constitutional and policy implications of Project Safe Neighborhoods become more apparent, the Bush initiative looks less like a commonsense solution to crime and more like a political gimmick with pernicious unintended consequences. If the "respect for federalism" he has repeatedly professed is sincere, President Bush must reconsider his support for Project Safe Neighborhoods.
http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa440.pdf
http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-440es.html


"If cowardly and dishonorable men sometimes shoot unarmed men with army pistols or guns, the evil must be prevented by the penitentiary and gallows, and not by a general deprivation of a constitutional privilege." - Arkansas Supreme Court, 1878

Comments

  • Josey1Josey1 Member Posts: 15,758
    edited November -1
    Federal Gun-Program Unconstitutional, Study Finds
    President Bush's Project Safe Neighborhoods fraught with unintended consequences

    WASHINGTON--As Project Safe Neighborhoods, the centerpiece of President Bush's crime fighting program, comes into effect, a new study from the Cato Institute finds that it is unconstitutional, wreaks havoc on federal courts, allows prosecutorial mischief affecting the racial composition of juries, and will likely lead to a mindless "zero tolerance" policy for technical infractions of gun laws. The report also shows that Second Amendment rights groups, including the National Rifle Association, are wrong to support the plan.

    Like its prototype, Virginia's Project Exile, Project Safe Neighborhoods will channel gun-possession crimes that would ordinarily be prosecuted at the state level into the federal system. In addition to federalizing gun crimes, Project Safe Neighborhoods acts as a prosecution-stimulus package, funding the placement of over 700 new prosecutors (113 federal, 600 state) who will do nothing but pursue gun law violations full-time.

    In "There Goes the Neighborhood: The Bush-Ashcroft Plan to 'Help' Localities Fight Gun Crime," attorney Gene Healy explains that the federal government has no authority to enact the type of criminal statutes used by the program. Although the president has promised to make respect for federalism a priority in his administration, Healy says Bush's initiatives "suggest that, where it counts, political expediency will trump respect for federalism."

    By rewarding prosecutors for the number of gun convictions attained, Project Safe Neighborhoods creates an incentive structure that will lead to a proliferation of technical-violation indictments regardless of their merit, Healy writes. Such convictions include the sentencing of a rehabilitated felon to 15 years for possession of a single bullet.

    Safe Neighborhoods also threatens the constitutional guarantee of equal protection by allowing prosecutors to select their preferred forum--federal or state--on the basis of the racial composition of the respective jury pools, Healy writes. "In Richmond, Virginia, where project exile was first implemented, the jury pool for the state-level circuit court is approximately 75 percent African-American," he writes. "In contrast, the jury pool for the Eastern District of Virginia in only about 10 percent African-American."

    While the desire to tackle the problem of violent crime without adding to gun laws already on the books is laudable, Healy argues, gun rights groups are misguided to support Projects Exile and Safe Neighborhoods--going as far as contributing $125,000 to Exile in the NRA's case.

    "NRA officials such as Wayne LaPierre and Charlton Heston repeatedly assailed President Bill Clinton for failing to enforce federal firearms statutes, without ever explaining why such cases should be brought in federal court," Healy writes. "The supporters of federalizing gun crime lack even a compelling policy rationale--let alone constitutional grounds--for ignoring the distinction between local and interstate matters."

    "There Goes the Neighborhood: The Bush-Ashcroft Plan to 'Help' Localities Fight Gun Crime"
    http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-440es.html

    http://www.cato.org/new/05-02/05-28-02r.html


    "If cowardly and dishonorable men sometimes shoot unarmed men with army pistols or guns, the evil must be prevented by the penitentiary and gallows, and not by a general deprivation of a constitutional privilege." - Arkansas Supreme Court, 1878
  • thesoundguy1thesoundguy1 Member Posts: 732 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    It looks like Ashcroft and Bush are just"sheep in wolf clothing".
  • offerorofferor Member Posts: 9,168
    edited November -1
    The NRA has always maintained that gun control should take the form of tougher prosecution of gun crimes, not restricting the law-abiding citizen. It looks like now they're getting a chance to put their money where their mouth has always been.

    Trouble is, this sounds like a witch hunt on its face and of course this will come down harder on the African American community who have a larger percentage of young males already caught up in the "system." I'm not saying the big cities don't have big problems with gun crimes, and if we can reduce the number of banks, credit unions and convenience stores getting held up by gun-toting kids it's fine with me. But there's a lot of opportunity for criticism here by the liberals, which may be its worst feature.

    I can't believe anything good starts by hiring 700 lawyers. I'm more likely to buy the idea that something good starts by knocking the BATF down a few pegs, and getting them out of the door-busting and kitchen-table-dealer-harrassing business.

    - Life NRA Member
    "If cowardly & dishonorable men shoot unarmed men with army guns, the evil must be prevented by the penitentiary...and not by general deprivation of constitutional privilege." - Arkansas Supreme Court, 1878
  • salzosalzo Member Posts: 6,837
    edited November -1
    We will never learn- It is never a good thing when the federal government sticks its nose where it does not belong, no matter how "good" or "necessary" the cause is. But most "pro gun" types will follow the lead of the NRA, and speak about how wonderful this flagrant violation(federalization of gun laws) of the constitution is. This project exile nonsense is so anti second, and anti tenth amendment. But gun owners will just sit here and say, "well its for a good cause". Every time the Feds get involved where they do not belong, it is for a "good cause".

    Happiness is a warm gun
  • offerorofferor Member Posts: 9,168
    edited November -1
    By the way, the operant words in the NRA's position are "instead of." That is, enforcement of laws against criminal use "instead of" regulating the law abiding citizen. Now, the best we can hope for from this, since there's no give-and-take attached to it, is that eventually this will work well enough to allow easing of some restrictions on us non-criminals. Suppose that will ever happen?

    This is the first thing that HCI has signed onto that could make trouble for them in the Democractic party. Not likely that the minority contingent will look too kindly on their kids getting pounded harder for gun possession, and HCI can't deny they signed onto this bigtime. It would be funny if they were criticized for snuggling up to the NRA by parents of kids that these lawyers will be going after.

    - Life NRA Member
    "If cowardly & dishonorable men shoot unarmed men with army guns, the evil must be prevented by the penitentiary...and not by general deprivation of constitutional privilege." - Arkansas Supreme Court, 1878
  • offerorofferor Member Posts: 9,168
    edited November -1
    salzo --
    It's a two-edged sword. Don't forget that without the Federal document of which the Second Amendment is a part, and the lobbying of the NRA at the federal level (in hopes of impacting all the states, although the NRA also operates actively at the state & local level), the states might have taken many more of our gun rights long ago.

    I don't see how we can separate the fact that the Second Amendment, a federal document, is what we currently hang our gun freedoms (such as they are) on. I'm lucky, of course, in that in Indiana, the state gun law is based on the federal amendment with its original intent largely intact. We have "shall issue" law here. But if there were no such thing as a federal Second Amendment, would we be better off or worse off?

    - Life NRA Member
    "If cowardly & dishonorable men shoot unarmed men with army guns, the evil must be prevented by the penitentiary...and not by general deprivation of constitutional privilege." - Arkansas Supreme Court, 1878
  • salzosalzo Member Posts: 6,837
    edited November -1
    Offeror- I am not so quick to jump on that "the states would restrict our rights if it wasnt for big brother federal government protecting us" band wagon.
    I do not think the second amendment has done anything to protect the individual from the states with respect to the Right to bear arms. The Federal government has absolutely no interest in guaranteeing our right to own firearms, and they have NEVER stepped in to protect the individual from an "anti-second" amendment case or gun law on the state level-and they never will.
    If we need to look to anyone to guarantee our right to bear arms, it should be to state governments.
    Many states have amendments in their own constitutions that guarantees the right to bear arms.
    I would be totally content if there were NO FEDERAL GUN LAWS, and the states were free to regulate guns how they see fit.
    I would have no problem with certain states heavily regulating, or banning guns all together. If the people of a state decide that they want to elect people who do not think they can handle ownership of guns, then who am I to criticize? Thats their business, not mine.
    And if other states decide that guns laws would be minimal, thats fine to. Of course, I would never live in an anti gun state. But if the people of NY, NJ, MA, CA, MD, etc, do not value the right of gun ownership enough to elect people who recognize the importance of guns, then that their problem.
    But when people like Chuck Schumer, Ted KEnnedy,Carolyn McCarthy, Hillary Clinton, decide that gun prohibitions is good for all americans(something the constitution prohibits them from doing)that is where the problem is.
    Gun control might be perfect for where they represent, but for those types of people to have a say what the people of TEXAS can do with respect to gun ownership is not only absurd, but unconstitutional.

    Happiness is a warm gun
  • Gordian BladeGordian Blade Member Posts: 1,202 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    I agree with Salzo that the federal government has never used the 2nd Amendment against any state's gun laws, and perhaps realistically they never will. However, I don't agree that in theory the 2nd Amendment shouldn't apply to the states. The Constitution includes some duties and limitations on the states as well as the federal government it created, see for example Article 1 Section 10. The Constitution is in effect a contract among the states defining their relations with each other and with the federal government, and the states are bound to be limited by those things in the contract that apply to states. The 1st Amendment specifically applies to Congress. The 2nd Amendment says "shall not be infringed" but doesn't limit who might be doing the infringing, so I claim the states are included, and any subordinate governmental agencies under the states for that matter.
  • salzosalzo Member Posts: 6,837
    edited November -1
    GORDIAN- Your interpetation might float today, however it has nothing to do with the original intent of the bill of rights. The Bill of Rights was a limit on the FEDERAL government-there is no doubt about that. Nothing in the bill of rights, or the constitution could prohibit a state from making laws that might contradict the words in the bill of rights. At the time, NO STATE would have ever limited their citizens in those areas. But if the states decided, by the consent of the governed, to limit rights in the bill of rights, they had the authority to do so.
    You speak about the state being bound by the limits placed on them by the constitution. That is correct, but there were VERY FEW limitations placed on the state in the constitution-and the bill of rights are not part of those limitations.
    You mentioned that the second says "shall not be infringed-but does not mention who will be doing the infringing"-Again it does mention who shall not do any infringing on the bill of rights-that is the federal government.
    Again, I know we are supposed to accept the idea that if it wasnt for the Federal government, the states would take all of our rights away. NONSENSE! The states at the time would not restrict our rights in those mentioned-yet the Federal government wants us to think they would have. In reality, it is the Federal government that takes our rights away from us, and it is the Federal government who has decided what rights we will be allowed to exercise.

    Happiness is a warm gun
  • offerorofferor Member Posts: 9,168
    edited November -1
    I can see salzo's point, theoretical though that possibility is. Since we do have a Second Amendment and it apparently applies to states, we have no choice that I can see other than to protect it as vigorously as the media protects the First.

    As for the states having different preferences, they already do. Indiana has our hunters and farmers, Texans have their tradition, California has Compton and Watts, I guess. New York has urban problems and, "as goes the City, so goes the state," a lot of the time. Still, reciprocity for CCWs would be nice during interstate travel. I hate the fact that every time I cross the Ohio border (20 miles away) to visit Mom's relatives I've entered a whole different matrix of gun law. I probably feel about that "Welcome to Indiana" sign at the border the way some feel about, well not really the Statue of Liberty, but you know what I mean -- on a smaller scale.

    Salzo, you may be right, but since there is a Second Amendment attached to the federal Constitution I don't think we'll ever be free of federal gun law "interpretation." It would be a miracle if a Supreme Court ever interpreted the Second as meaning the feds were out of the guns-in-America business. That would make the BATF the BAT, which would be nice. It's a sweet dream. If it hadn't been for that stupid sawed-off shotgun case that everyone misquotes, followed by the unfortunate popularity of Tommy guns with gangsters, you might even have your way to a great extent.

    Is there anyplace left in the country where open belt holster carry of a pistol is acceptable? I know we have bastions of safety for rifles in pickup truck windows, but what about open holster carry? Anyplace left?

    - Life NRA Member
    "If cowardly & dishonorable men shoot unarmed men with army guns, the evil must be prevented by the penitentiary...and not by general deprivation of constitutional privilege." - Arkansas Supreme Court, 1878
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