Control - A Gutless Supreme Court Decision - June 18, 2002
We are seeing a tiny respite in the unrelenting push for more and
more gun control during the eight years of Bill Clinton and Janet
Reno. The Bush administration has singled a change of philosophy
that may stop more legislation, but it has not even remotely suggested
that it will repeal any laws on the books. In fact, in signaling
its change of philosophy, it asked the Supreme Court not to take
up the case of United States vs. Timothy Emerson. On June 10 the
Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) yielded to the Bush
Upon the announcement of the decision, the Violence Policy Center
(VPC), a group that worked closely with the Clinton White House,
sent out a press release hailing the decision and claiming it to
be a victory for the VPC position that the Second Amendment is not
an individual right, saying, "Today's Supreme Court action is a
victory for public safety and security and a defeat for the National
Rifle Association and gun criminals, who have been chomping at a
bit for the Supreme Court to overrule its own precedent."
Although I disagree with their characterization, I believe that
the SCOTUS decision to deny certiorari to Emerson made it plain
that they were not ready or willing to take up the matter of what
has been called the Lautenberg Amendment. The VPC believes the decision
is a positive development in their quest for the total abolition
of private firearms ownership and unfortunately I have to agree.
This ruling is a bad for those agree with the original decision
by Judge Sam Cummings issued in 1999 and believe the Lautenberg
amendment to be flawed and unconstitutional.
Cummings wrote, "It is absurd that a boilerplate state court divorce
order can collaterally and automatically extinguish a law-abiding
citizens Second Amendment rights. Their attorneys are aware of the
federal criminal penalties arising from firearms possession after
entry of the restraining order. That such a routine civil order
has such extensive consequences totally attenuated from limit to
government regulation on lawful firearm possession. This statute
exceeds that limit, and therefore it is unconstitutional."
The Lautenberg amendment, passed in 1994, turned domestic misdemeanor
offenses into the equivalent of a federal felony. Thus anyone who
had pleaded guilty to such a misdemeanor offense became unable to
own or use a firearm in his/her occupation. Finally it made possession
of a firearm while under a restraining order a federal felony offense.
This was a politically correct law, ostensibly designed to cut down
on domestic violence and spousal abuse. It accomplished two things:
reducing the number of persons eligible to own firearms and making
federal felons out of many police officers, military personnel,
and law-abiding gun owners, like Dr. Emerson. In fact the cases
that have come before the courts have explained the Lautenberg amendment
even further than envisioned by the Congress.
Now the courts have ruled that any statutory definition of domestic
violence can be used to enforce this law even if there are no actual
Lautenberg definitions. Thus even an argument can be caused for
losing one's gun rights.
Additionally the courts have ignored the provision that requires
a defendant acquiesces to a domestic violence misdemeanor guilty
SCOTUS by upholding the Fifth Circuit decision has sentenced Dr.
Timothy Emerson to another trial. When government appealed Judge
Cummings decision, the Fifth Circuit court decided last year that
Cummings' opinion on the Second Amendment was correct but disagreed
with his declaring the Lautenberg amendment unconstitutional. The
judges stated the government could place limitation on that right,
reinstated the federal indictment against Emerson, and remanded
the case to the District Court for tail. Emerson appealed the reinstatement
of the federal indictment to SCOTUS and lost.
This will be Emerson's second trail. He was acquitted of two felony
charges in a court case brought by the state of Texas. Thus the
Supremes have gotten out of the decision on constitutionality of
the Lautenberg amendment for quite a bit longer.
It was one of those gutless Court decisions. The issue is clear
and Cummings stated it succinctly. Yet, gun control is a hot political
topic and no one wants to get near it. The politicians are staying
away across most of the country.The courts are staying as far away
as possible, while anti-gun prosecutors like William Meteja are
taking advantage of the hiatus to garner more innocent scalps on
their belts. It seems our courts are forgetting the presumption
Disabled Consumer Advocate