Government Turns on Itself
Government Turns on Itself
By James Wallace / Executive Director Gun Owners' Action League
New Interpretations and Possible Legislation Could Imprison Law Enforcement Officers for Decades
lot has been happening lately in the gun world as legislation,
regulation and government agency “advisories” have been creating quite a
mess. Just recently I was going over some of the legislation that has
been filed to increase penalties for firearm offenses. One in particular
is S.1207 “An Act Increasing the Penalties for Illegal Possession of
Firearms" filed by Senator Eileen Donoghue. This bill drastically
increases a host of penalties for gun related crimes and creates
mandatory sentencing for the same. While going over this legislation I
took into account the so-called “Assault Weapon Law” advisory letter
from the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPS). Read
more about the letter at:
www.goal.org/newspages/eops_error_letter_to_ffl.html As GOAL
members know all too well, most of the unsigned and undated letter was
factually incorrect and did not properly represent the assault weapons
law as it stands today.
Of special concern to many law enforcement officers was the interpretation from EOPS about the exemptions in the Assault Weapons law Chapter 140, Section 131M. The advisory letter specifically addressed the following exemption: “The provisions of this section shall not apply to: (i) the possession by a law enforcement officer for purposes of law enforcement;”
In regards to this exemption the letter from EOPS states: “This exception allows police officer to possess assault weapons and large capacity feeding devices while in the performance of their official duties. This exception does not allow police officers to possess an assault weapon or large capacity feeding devices for their own personal use, or for both on-duty and off-duty use.
There is no exception allowing the sale or transfer of an assault weapon or large capacity feeding device to any person, including police officers.”
aside the fact that this is an interpretation not backed by court
precedent, let’s take a look at a possible scenario should the
statements in the EOPS advisory letter stand and S.1207 pass into law.
for discussion is as follows. Officer Jones works for a small rural
town in Massachusetts where their officers are required to purchase
their own firearms. For the sake of this discussion Jones decides he
needs a “service rifle” during official duties should he have to respond
to a certain type of incident. In going to the local licensed firearm
retailer that he normally uses, the officer purchases an AR-15 rifle
with three 30 round magazines. Each of these items are “post ban”
(September 13, 1994). In this case, both the retailer and the officer
fully believe they are acting within the law since there is an exemption
in Section 131M specifically for law enforcement.
Some years have passed since the officer purchased the rifle and magazines and he has used them on and off the job. Any good shooter knows that practice gets you familiar with your particular firearm should you need to use it. Knowing this, as any officer does, he has taken the rifle to the range countless times and even used it in local high power matches. According to the EOPS advisory letter and the possibility that S.1207 would become law, Officer Jones is facing many years in prison.
- Violation of Chapter 140 Section 131M for the Assault Weapon (AR-15 Post Ban) = up to 20 years in prison.
- Violation of Chapter 140 Section 131M for each (3) large capacity feeding devices = up to 20 years in prison for each magazine totaling 60 years.
- Because S.1207 would specifically amend Chapter 269, Section 10 to include violations of 131M thus invoking Section 10(d) for an additional 20 years and Section 10(h)(1) for another 5 years.
According to my count that is 105 years in prison for a law enforcement officer who thought he was acting within the law only to find out he wasn’t. Of course that part of the scenario would be no surprise considering the confusion surrounding Massachusetts gun law. Of course there is some good news for Officer Jones. If S.1207 does not pass into law and only the opinions in the EOPS letter stand the test of law, he might only be facing 40 years in prison.
sight I suppose it is disappointing that so many police chiefs around
the Commonwealth have fought against reforming the gun laws and have now
placed their own officers in serious jeopardy. The Massachusetts Gun
Control Act of 1998 took just a little over a decade to begin to turn on
the very people the government hires to enforce the law itself. We here
in Massachusetts have witnessed a full circle in the reversal of
freedom to the point where government is now turning on itself.