Senator Feinstein’s Book Ban
By Evan F. Nappen, Esq.
Senator Cruz recently asked the following question to Senator Feinstein:
Eatontown, NJ –-(Ammoland.com)- “The question that I would pose to the senior senator from California is,” said Cruz to Feinstein, “Would she deem it consistent with the Bill of Rights for Congress to engage in the same endeavor that we are contemplating doing with the Second Amendment in the context of the First or Fourth Amendment, namely, would she consider it constitutional for Congress to specify that the First Amendment shall apply only to the following books and shall not apply to the books that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights?”
Senator Feinstein should have honestly answered “Yes.”
In 1997 her bill, S.936 the so-called “Feinstein Amendment”, became law. It banned books and other speech. Her law made it illegal to distribute bomb-making information, punishable by a $250,000 fine and 20 years' imprisonment. It became a federal crime to “… distribute by any means information pertaining to, in whole or in part, the manufacture or use of an explosive, destructive device, or weapon of mass destruction, with the intention that the teaching, demonstration, or information be used for, or in furtherance of, an activity that constitutes a Federal criminal offense or a State or local criminal …” The law was in response to the Oklahoma bombing, in which Timothy McVeigh had two books titled Homemade C-4, A Recipe for Survival and Ragnar’s Big Book of Homemade Weapons and Improvised Explosives.
There are key differences between Senator Feinstein’s attacks on the First Amendment compared to her attacks on the Second Amendment. Her law limiting free speech requires that one must distribute the information “…with the intention…” that it be used for a crime. However, no such intentions matter when it comes to her gun bans.
Not long after 9/11 I had a case in which my client worked for a scrap metals company. He would remove the mercury switches from thermostats and would get paid per switch. He had been raided by the police over a false claim of domestic violence in which they seized his guns and observed his pile of mercury switches. The police also seized some books on weapons and explosives that he had bought at a gun show. Amongst the books were Poor Man’s James Bond by Kurt Saxon and Uncle Fester’s Home Workshop Explosives. The next thing he knew was that the FBI Weapons of Mass Destruction Unit wanted to speak with him. I went with him to see what the FBI wanted and discovered that they were only interested in his books! Even though these books were commonly available and protected by the First Amendment, the FBI Agent frankly told us that they were desperate to get a conviction under the “Feinstein Amendment” but had been unable to do so because of the difficulty in having to prove the “intent” part of the law.
The FBI Agent had hoped that my client at some point had personal contact with the authors, who the FBI was eager to prosecute. Needless to say, my client was unable to help them. This encounter with the FBI made me reflect on how important our First Amendment rights are and how, without that amendment, American politicians would have had no hesitation in acting flat out bans on books and other speech. Unfortunately, the Second Amendment is not treated with the same respect.
Evan Nappen (www.EvanNappen.com) is a criminal defense attorney who has focused on New Jersey firearms and weapons law for over 23 years. He is the author of the New Jersey Gun Law Guide. Visit his website at www.EvanNappen.com