Blue sections left out by the Sun's editor. Not surprising, since the deleted section illustrates the total absurdity of this blatantly unconstitutional legislation.
A letter published in The Gainesville Sun, December 31, 1996
Congress deals a severe blow to Americans
Legislation sneaked in amendments that (sic)
make it a federal offense to ship, transport,
possess or receive firearms.
To Whom it May Concern:
The United States Congress has once again dealt a severe blow to the people of this nation. By design or incompetence it has passed a blatantly unconstitutional law that will cost tens of thousands of productive citizens their jobs. Police officers, sheriff's deputies, postal inspectors, customs officers, security guards, gunsmiths, highway patrolmen, park rangers, border patrolmen, wildlife guides, hunters, gun shop owners, and members of the armed forces (Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, National Guard, and Reserves) are among those who will be forced to sacrifice their careers. Our "representatives" chose to succumb to the forces of political expediency rather than to perform their sworn duty to defend the Constitution.
I am referring to provisions hidden within the voluminous "Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997" enacted on September 30, 1996. Politicians hailed this bill as a remarkable bipartisan effort to provide funding to keep the government from shutting down. Because of the perceived urgency in passing this bill it was the perfect vehicle to introduce onerous agendas that would never have had a chance of passing if subjected to the scrutiny of public debate. This legislation underhandedly sneaked in amendments to the Gun Control Act of 1968. These amendments made it a federal offense for any person convicted of a "misdemeanor crime of domestic violence" to ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms or ammunition. This is an unconstitutional ex post facto law that reaches back far before the date of its enactment. It applies to any of multiple broadly defined offenses that fall under the umbrella term of "domestic violence," regardless of how long ago the crime allegedly occurred.
For example, consider the hypothetical case of John Doe. While in college in the 1960's, a young Mr. Doe verbally threatened his live-in partner, Jane, in a domestic quarrel. He in no way injured Jane, but she was very angry and pressed charges. Today he is Lieutenant Doe, a successful police officer whose record is unblemished except for his conviction for the misdemeanor verbal assault over 30 years ago. He now proudly supports Jane, his wife of 29 years, and their 3 kids in college. He is even being considered for promotion to Chief of Police. Thanks to Congress, he will have to turn in his weapon, give up his career, and try to find another kind of job.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms has announced its intentions to prosecute this law fully and to apply it to all persons regardless of whether they must possess firearms to perform their official duties. Moreover, those convicted of a "misdemeanor crime of domestic violence" must dispose of any firearms or ammunition in their possession. Therefore, if the misdemeanant is a gun enthusiast or a hunter he will be deprived of valuable personal property without due process. With the stroke of a pen Congress has taken the exercise of a Constitutionally protected right (firearms ownership) and turned it into a federal crime for a significant portion of our citizenry.
The involuntary loss of any personal right as consequence of committing a crime is clearly a punishment. This law adds a new federal punishment to sentences already served long ago for crimes that are clearly not within the federal jurisdiction. Yet it is not politically expedient to defend the rights of "domestic abusers," even if such offenses are ancient history to the parties involved.
This despicable law exemplifies the callous disregard of legislative "gun grabbers" for their constituents. It doesn't matter how many breadwinners are put out of work, as long as the agenda to disarm Americans is promoted.
This legislation marks the onset of a new era of federal power over citizens. It is unconstitutional on several grounds: it violates the 2nd, 4th, and 6th, 9th and 10th amendments; it denies due process; it federalizes a state crime without proper jurisdiction; it constitutes double jeopardy; it targets a specific class of citizen; and it is an ex post facto law. If we, the people, permit such legislative arrogance (or incompetence, take your pick), then we deserve the government we get.
Steven A. Reid, M.D.
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