Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

October 26, 2013

This is the law, and it’s been on the books for several decades

Before readers of the Times-News become apoplectic over the treatment of Larry Goff by the State Police Task Force from “down east” (“Here’s how Maryland and D.C. are taking away our rights,” Oct. 22 Times-News) and start barricading their doors for fear of wanton gun seizures, it might be useful to pause and review a few inconvenient facts.

It has been illegal in the United States (not just Maryland) for any person convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor punishable by more than two years in prison to own or possess a firearm since 1968 (Omnibus Crime Control Act of 1968).

Mr. Goff admits to being convicted of something back in 1983, we’re not sure what. Apparently, the State Police, on checking his record, deemed his to be a qualifying crime. (If they are wrong about that, he will no doubt be able to get his guns back.)

That he claims that his probation specifically contained no restrictions on his gun rights is not true, since it is a standard condition of probation in Maryland that one cannot possess firearms without permission of the probation agent, and no probation can give a probationer permission to violate federal law.

If he was convicted of a qualifying crime, it immediately became illegal for him to own firearms under federal law, whether he knew it or not.

The more important point here, I think, is that the State Police were doing something that law enforcement agencies have long been criticized for not doing, enforcing the laws already on the books.

How many times have we heard the NRA say that we do not need any new gun laws, we need to enforce the ones we already have? This seems to me precisely what happened here.

Clearly, doing record checks on people applying for hunting licenses is a rather efficient way of rounding up a whole bunch of people who shouldn’t have guns under the law. After all, Wayne LaPierre and his organization have repeatedly said that they favor keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.

Mr. Goff, who I’m sure is a perfectly nice man, is a convicted criminal in the eyes of the law, even though his offense occurred in 1983.

Blaming the current administrations in Annapolis and Washington for enforcing a law that has been on the books for decades is kind of like blaming President Obama for getting us involved Vietnam.

Mark Moessinger

Cumberland

 

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