Government Turns on Itself

Government Turns on Itself

By James Wallace / Executive Director Gun Owners' Action League 

7/13/11

New Interpretations and Possible Legislation Could Imprison Law Enforcement Officers for Decades

A 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.”

Setting 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.

Scenario 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.

In hind 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.

 

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  • 7/13/2011 5:30 PM Norman H Shackley wrote:
    Jim, how are you?The article is fantastic as usual.Mass is so convoluted in gun laws that the whole system should be scraped and reformed.I know about the reform act that Goal has tried to get implemented.It was alot of hard work Goal did.It is a good reform idea.Now, this law is the same regurgitated rhetoric from the politicians in Mass that feel the need to pass into law.So, what we have is a "wallpaper" effect of gun laws in Mass.One bad law on top of other one until there is so many that no one can figure any of it out.I think the problem is that the politicians writing the bills are uneducated about the issue at hand.Then the good people get caught up in the after math.Law enforcement should NOT be effected by these blind "laws". Never mine the honest people that pass NICS but don't get licensed by there police chiefs in there town.The "may" issue is part of the problem.I have relocated to NC where I can buy any type of hand gun or rifle and I open carry.I honestly believe that most of the firearm laws are not needed as it is a civil right to begin with anyways.Also a constitutional right in a broader scope.I hope you still fight the good fight Jim and stay vigilant.These politicians just need to be voted out of office.They do not have the peoples best interest in mind.Just alot of attention for political votes.Instead of fixing the problem, Mass makes a new laws they think or feel will fix the problem.Never looking at bad legislation that most likely caused the problem at hand.I am on a scattered tangent of sorts.Living in Mass for my whole life has left myself perplexed and vexed I guess.

    Life NRA and GOAL Member.
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  • 7/15/2011 9:08 PM Michael Lupachini wrote:
    I am that Officer Jones, and so are many of my brother officers. Many of us train with the "tools of our trade" to become more proficient with that tool. It is our job, it is what is expected of us by the people we swore to serve and protect to the best of our ability.

    Sometimes we are paid for the training we do, and sometimes it's on our own time and dime. We do it for reasons which we believe are right. Training funds are the first to go when Chiefs are told to make cuts. Many municipalities don't have the funds to provide their officers with proper tools to do the job they expect them to do. Many municipalities cannot afford to provide the training time to maintain and meet a minimum level of proficiency.

    We train with these tools because we are professionals. It is the wise officer who realizes that he must sometimes provide his own equipment, and train to meet that worst case scenario we hope never happens.

    President Teddy Roosevelt once said: "Every person owes some of his time to the up-building of the profession to which he belongs" A statement I firmly believe in, as true now, as it was in the early 20th century.

    As a police firearms instructor (pistol & patrol rifle (AR-type) I encourage officers to get some trigger time on their own. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I can never give them enough.

    If an officer takes a so-called "assault rifle", whether issued or personally owned and takes part in a three gun match, or an NRA high power rifle match, as far as I am concerned, that is training.

    As to what is interpreted in an unsigned letter by someone in a branch of government who does not have the authority to do so, what a slap in the face it is to tell these men or women that by doing what they believe is right, what they believe is their job, they can potentially be prosecuted and jailed. Only in Massachusetts!

    It was bad enough when the state government took away the right of law abiding citizens to choose their tools of self defense and recreation. Now it's even worse. Chapter 140 of the acts of 1998 needs to be repealed altogether.

    Michael Lupachini
    Patrol Officer/Upton
    Sustaining GOAL Member
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