The Real Dangers of So Called ‘Tough On Crime Bills’

By Alan M. Rice, Firearms Instructor & Spokesman, Gun Owners of America

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The Real Dangers of So Called ‘Tough On Crime Bills', iStock-KatarzynaBialasiewicz-487103798-(5)

USA – -(AmmoLand.com)- Recently, GOA has been asked about bills such as H.R. 2837 that purport to “get tough on crime” by authorizing extended terms of imprisonment for offenses that involve firearms; irrespective of whether or not the offense was violent or possessory in nature. Gun Owners of America (GOA) has opposed bills of this sort for decades because they violate the Constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

However, what is truly unfortunate, is that some firearms owners think this type of legislation might be a good idea.

Many gun owners who diligently follow this issue, probably remember “Project Exile” which began in Richmond, Virginia in the mid-1990s with the stated goal of prosecuting those who commit “gun crimes” in Federal Court instead of the state court. The potential penalties for violating Federal law are generally harsher than state penalties.

Some gun owners reflexively supported “Project Exile” because after all, it was going after criminals — or was it?

There is now a new and updated “Project Exile” called “Project Guardian” and based on press releases issued by the US Department of Justice — “Project Guardian” is being used across the country. It is essentially the same anti-gun program with a catchy new name.

GOA’s long-standing position is that most people who were prosecuted under “Project Exile” were not violent criminals, but people who were caught up in the bureaucratic maze of anti-gun laws which are, at their core, unconstitutional intrusions on freedom. These programs significantly increase the likelihood that an otherwise law-abiding person will go to federal prison for committing a victimless, non-violent, technical violation of the law. And in many cases, gun owners will be confused because the technical “crimes” that gun owners will violate are actually legal activity in many states and at the federal level.

For example, carrying a gun without a license is perfectly lawful in seventeen states and under federal law. Possession of a magazine that holds more than ten cartridges is perfectly lawful in a majority of states and under federal law, as is the possession of “hollow-point ammunition,” which is perfectly lawful under federal law and in every state except New Jersey.

All of this begs the question: Are those convicted of violating these laws truly felons or are they victims of anti-gun, unconstitutional intrusions on freedom by states like New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and other freedom-hating locales?

What about someone who is charged with dealing guns without a license? It is undisputed that individuals are free to sell-off their private property — including firearms. However, ATF has for decades, refused to say how many guns sold in private transactions constitute dealing without a license. How can an honest person follow the law if the enforcers of the law refuse to provide guidance?

H.R. 2837 even included this language, which seems to go after violent criminals but could also ensnare law-abiding gun owners in a trap:

“any group of convictions for which a court referred to in section 922(g)(1) imposed in the same proceeding or in consolidated proceedings a total term of imprisonment not less than 10 years, regardless of how many years of that total term the defendant served in custody.”

Many of the offenses described above carry a prison term of fewer than 10 years, but due to the language in the above example, it provides anti-gun judges with an incentive to impose consecutive, rather than concurrent sentences for possessing more than one magazine or hollow point cartridge. These offenses are strictly possessory offenses, meaning there was no violence and no victim other than the sensibilities of the leftists who enacted and enforce these laws.

Finally, this article would not be complete if I didn’t mention the case of Bruce Abramski, Jr. whose “straw purchase” conviction was upheld by the United States Supreme Court. What is particularly galling about this case is that Mr. Abramski purchased a firearm and passed the background check. Then because his uncle, Angel Alvarez, was a resident of a different state, Mr. Abramski, complied with federal law and turned the pistol over to a Pennsylvania FFL for ultimate transfer to Mr. Alvarez, who also passed a background check. If this were a true “straw purchase” Mr. Abramski would have merely handed the pistol over to Mr. Alvarez. The government’s position was that the transaction was a straw purchase because Mr. Alvarez paid for the gun. Yes, Mr. Alvarez did pay for the gun, but as the late Justice Antonin Scalia said in his dissent:

“The Court makes it a federal crime for one lawful gun owner to buy a gun for another lawful gun owner. Whether or not that is a sensible result, the statutes Congress enacted do not support it—especially when, as is appropriate, we resolve ambiguity in those statutes in favor of the accused.”

Prior to the Abramski case, it was widely understood that a “straw purchase” only occurred when a person who was legally eligible to purchase a firearm did so and then turned the firearm over to someone who was prohibited from owning arms. That did not happen in the Abramski case.

When considering issues that can cause Americans to lose their freedom it is important to understand that there are two types of laws. Those which are malum in se refer to acts that are evil and wrong in and of themselves. Murder, rape, and assault are all examples of conduct that is malum in se. Other laws are malum prohibitum which means they criminalize victimless conduct that a legislator or bureaucrat dislikes. These include activities such as carrying a gun without a license, possessing hollow-point ammunition, possessing a magazine which holds more than a predetermined number of cartridges or even helping a relative — who is not a prohibited person, to obtain a handgun.

Gun owners and legislators need to be very careful when they say, “just enforce the existing laws” because in many cases, the existing laws were vigorously opposed by gun owners when they were moving through the legislative process. Only later, after they have been in effect for a few years, they are used as the vehicle to unconstitutionally disarm American Citizens in the name of “getting tough on crime”. This is exactly what happened in the Abramski case and will continue to happen if gun owners don’t stop asking for existing laws to be enforced.

Gun owners should instead demand that unconstitutional laws be erased from the statute books. Gun Owners of America will continue to be a leader and push for repeal of unconstitutional laws and the defeat of bills which treat firearms, rather than predatory criminals as the problem.



Alan M. Rice serves as a Firearms Instructor and Spokesman for Gun Owners of America (GOA), a grassroots organization representing more than 2 million gun owners. Mr. Rice has been involved with protecting Second Amendment rights for over 30 years. He has a background in law enforcement as well as firearms training for police and private citizens. In addition to fighting in the halls of Congress and in state capitols across the country to protect the right to keep and bear arms, GOA is also fighting in the courts to restore rights that have been unconstitutionally taken. GOA will not accept any restrictions on this enumerated right. Ammoland readers who would like to support our work can join GOA by going to: https://gunowners.org/join/

About Gun Owners of America (GOA) :

Gun Owners of America (GOA) iGun Owners Of Americas a non-profit lobbying organization formed in 1975 to preserve and defend the Second Amendment rights of gun owners. GOA sees firearms ownership as a freedom issue. `The only no comprise gun lobby in Washington' – Ron Paul Visit: www.gunowners.org to Join.

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jaysimkin
jaysimkin
1 month ago

This is for “USA”. You may be correct as to constitutional points. But the repetition of these points has totally failed to stop “gun control’s” relentless advance. For, if these points were useful, Vermont, Florida, and Virginia would not have recently enacted piles of anti-gun laws.

Making arguments about “The Constitution” is akin to relying on aspirin to stop COVID-19: these arguments simply do not work. This is not your fault. It is the fault of the ideas, which – even if accurate – do not explain why no one should have anything to do with “gun control”.

Wild Bill
Wild Bill
1 month ago
Reply to  jaysimkin

, No, fighting unconstitutional statutes is not futile. The fight against unconstitutional statutes goes far beyond your short lifetime. You could read up on it.

jaysimkin
jaysimkin
1 month ago
Reply to  Wild Bill

This is for “Wild Bill”. So, what readings do you suggest? And, please explain why – if constitution-based arguments are effective – Florida, Vermont, and Virginia legislators supported major “anti-gun” enactments. You object to my critique of GOA’s approach. So, please explain how GOA’s approach has stopped “gun control’s” relentless advance.

Wild Bill
Wild Bill
1 month ago
Reply to  jaysimkin

@jaysimpkin, Constitutional Interpretation by Ducat and Chase; The Evolving Constitution, How the Supreme Court Has Ruled on Issued from Abortion to Zoning by J. Lieberman; Heritage Guide to the Constitution by Forte and Spaulding; Our Lost Constitution by M. Lee; and The Tyranny of Good intentions by Roberts and Stratton. Constitutional arguments are effective with legislators that are learned in Constitutional law and do not have ulterior motives, similar to the founders. We are not sending that kind of person to Congress or our legislatures, thus the legislature is, more and more, not the right forum. GOA goes to the… Read more »

jaysimkin
jaysimkin
1 month ago
Reply to  Wild Bill

Thank you: (a) for the suggestions and especially (b) for your second paragraph, which explains precisely why GOA’s approach – based on making constitution-based arguments – is foredoomed. I 100% agree with you that, “the legislature is, more and more, not the right forum”. But relying on Courts is akin to trying to kill a tree, by removing leaves one-at-a-time. Reasonable persons, who need to kill a tree, usually attack the trunk or the roots. I want GOA to attack gun control’s “roots”. GOA should focus on convincing the general public – starting with firearm-owners – that “gun control”: (a)… Read more »

Jay Dee
Jay Dee
1 month ago

I do agree with GOA that Project Exile prosecuted many for mere possession. The point is that the government started enforcing existing gun laws and crime decreased. That said gun laws need to be be refined to focus on the violent criminals. I would even suggest that the prohibition against convicted felons possessing guns be limited to 5 years. This encourages the convicted felon to reform and avoid future crimes. There is a reward for becoming a law abiding citizen.

Tionico
Tionico
1 month ago

so if I buy a Ruger 10/.22 as a birthday gift for a friend, I am a felon good for ten years in the slammer?

That is NOT the intent nor the purpose of the “straw purchase” prohibition.

Now, if these clowns really want to use that law as it was intended, start with Holder and his kinyun sidekick, and the thousands of weapons they straw bought and smuggled, WITHOUT State Department export of arms approval, into Mexico. And charge them as accessory to murder for Brian Terry’s death, along with a few thosand others.

Deplorable Bill
Deplorable Bill
1 month ago

“The RIGHT of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” You legally loose your 2A RIGHT ONLY when you are in jail or the loony farm. That’s it. If someone is too dangerous to carry a firearm, they should remain in jail. That’s only my opinion. ANY LAW that goes against the constitution is actually illegal. Mayberry vs Madison. Thank you U.S.A. Any law that delays or denies any American’s RIGHT to keep and bear arms is unconstitutional, therefore anyone who writes, judges, lawyers, enforces or finances such law is treasonous and may be tyrannical. RIGHTS… Read more »

Grim
Grim
1 month ago

Marbury v Madison has not prevented politicians from passing “repugnant” laws. It is the duty of every citizen to be a legal watchdog of politicians/lawyers/judges. Marbury empowers citizens with equal standing to politicians/ lawyers/judges including the Supreme Court. If we use the courts to challenge illegal laws, then the results will always favor those who pass “repugnant” laws. The Declaration of Independence states our duty to resist tyranny with force. The power to resist tyranny is every citizen’s duty, not just the courts or political process.

jaysimkin
jaysimkin
1 month ago

Key points, that GOA doesn’t make. GOA – and kindred groups – doesn’t try to destroy the idea that “gun control” is idiocy, has little impact on criminals, and clears the way for the law-abiding to be victimized. (a) At end-2017, there were about 411,000,000 firearms in the U.S., excluding military-owned items (BATFE, “Firearms Commerce in the United States”, 2000 and 2019). Things so numerous and concealable can’t be controlled. (b) Background checks are a fraud: as the Feds rarely prosecute prohibited person, who try to acquire firearms, which attempt is a Federal felony. “In fiscal 2017, the Bureau of… Read more »

PMinFl
PMinFl
1 month ago
Reply to  jaysimkin

The essay covered their point well, every article cannot address every legislative mistake every time. Thumb down.Whether you meant it or not your post seemed to be anti- GOA for not meeting your personal requirements.

jaysimkin
jaysimkin
1 month ago
Reply to  PMinFl

This is for PminFl. My point – about which I was perhaps not sufficiently clear – is that nit-picking will not stop further nasty (anti-firearm) enactments. If “nit-picking” were effective, why is it that Vermont, Florida, and Virginia have recently enacted all sorts of nasty “gun control” laws? GOA – and kindred groups – should also try to make voters see “gun control” as ridiculous and harmful as was Prohibition, the nation-wide ban on sale of alcoholic beverages (1919-33). Prohibition’s poisonous legacy: nation-wide criminal cartels, that are still a plague on the land. If “gun control” were seen as being… Read more »

jaysimkin
jaysimkin
1 month ago
Reply to  PMinFl

This is NOT about a “legislative mistake”. This is about GOA’s failure to attack the basic ideas, on which “gun control” rests. That failure is a couple of decades old. If, over that time, GOA had devoted some time and energy to making “gun control” seem as ludicrous as was Prohibition, we likely would not be at risk of the next Congress enacting a pile of very nasty laws. Many – who are “pro-gun” – have lost the capacity to imagine that they should not be abused. So, when someone suggests ways to end the abuse – not just make… Read more »

Wild Bill
Wild Bill
1 month ago
Reply to  jaysimkin

, Well, that is no reason to not participate. Write something up for GOA and maybe they will hire you as a writer. As to a, those numerous things that you mention can be controlled. One only need kill big enough. (e.g. Chinese Communist Party). b As much an affront to the Constitution as a fraud. c So write them a check! d The answer is because GOA and kindred groups don’t have you on staff.

jaysimkin
jaysimkin
1 month ago
Reply to  Wild Bill

This is for Wild Bill. For decades, I’ve been a friend of someone deeply involved with GOA. He’s well aware of these arguments. GOA simply won’t use them. To the extent you think me a disappointed job-seeker at GOA, you’re in error. GOA and the National Rifle Association – and many others – have done next-to-nothing to try to make “gun control” appear for what it truly is: a vast and very nasty, lie-based consumer fraud. They do not do so because if they succeeded, GOA would have no reason to exist. The NRA would revert to being a training… Read more »

Wild Bill
Wild Bill
1 month ago
Reply to  jaysimkin

, Disappointed job seeker? Who said anything about disappointed job seeker? I am glad that your friend participates with GOA. I hope that you will, too!

jaysimkin
jaysimkin
1 month ago
Reply to  Wild Bill

This is for “Wild Bill”. You wrote, “Write something up for GOA and maybe they will hire you as a writer.” That suggested you might think me a disappointed job-seeker. I’m not interested in being “hired” by GOA or any similar group. What I want is for these “pro-gun” groups to attack the basic premise that “gun control” – as applied to law-abiding persons – is a useful public policy. The biggest murderers in the 20th Century were not criminals – common or organized. The biggest murderer in the 20th Century were officials of governments “gone bad”. But no one… Read more »

Wild Bill
Wild Bill
1 month ago
Reply to  jaysimkin

, No, “Write something up for GOA and maybe they will hire you as a writer.” is future tense, not past tense. Past tense is signified by adding ed at the end of a word, which I did not do.

J Gibbons
J Gibbons
1 month ago
Reply to  jaysimkin

This is not an article about whether or not there should be any or no gun-related laws in this nation. Given that there are gun laws, and until separate efforts (by GOA and kindred groups) eliminate all gun laws other than the Constitution, there are gains to be made by working on smaller groups of laws that have more direct daily impact. This is not, nor should it be, a case where the only acceptable victory is full repeal of all gun laws nationwide. While that would be the idea and most constitutionally sound resolution, holding out for ONLY that… Read more »

jaysimkin
jaysimkin
1 month ago
Reply to  J Gibbons

This is for J. Gibbons. Nothing GOA does leads to an end to “gun control”. Nit-picking leaves intact the idea that “gun control” is a sensible and useful policy, but just needs to be “tweaked”. NOT SO!!! I don’t seek to have repealed every “gun control” law. I seek repeal of all laws except those that criminalize possession and abuse by criminals. Thus, no state should be authorized to prevent any law-abiding person from owning the rifle, pistol, shotgun, or revolver of their choice; the feeding devices for such firearms, and any related accessories. If GOA had made even some… Read more »

Wild Bill
Wild Bill
1 month ago
Reply to  jaysimkin

, If no one will make the arguments that you want them to make, then perhaps you should form your own group, and be the HMWIC.

jaysimkin
jaysimkin
1 month ago
Reply to  Wild Bill

This is for “Wild Bill”. What is an “HMWIC”? More importantly, how would you explain why GOA – and the NRA – do not make the arguments I suggest? Are Americans incapable of doing really simple math, i.e., with 1.2 firearms per resident – including infants, who usually own little – that “gun control” is nonsense? Can Americans not figure out that if the Feds don’t prosecute those, who try to acquire firearms despite being “prohibited”, there’s no reason to have such laws? I go further. “Gun control” is a concept alien to U.S. jurisprudence. In the U.S., police forces… Read more »

Wild Bill
Wild Bill
1 month ago
Reply to  jaysimkin

, Head Motherfucker What’s In Charge. I think that I have done enough explaining for this evening.

jaysimkin
jaysimkin
1 month ago
Reply to  Wild Bill

This is for “Wild Bill”. Thank you, for the benefit of your insights.

PMinFl
PMinFl
1 month ago
Reply to  jaysimkin

Jay you actually have some very good points but remember aim small miss small aim large and you’re screwed if you miss! Seriously get some articles ( used to be called letters to the editor) accepted by a news organization and drum up grassroots support.

jaysimkin
jaysimkin
1 month ago
Reply to  PMinFl

This is for PMinFl. I post on various websites.

But your comment does not address my critique of GOA.

Why does not GOA use the arguments that I’ve freely offered to them?