Column by G. Asher.
Exclusive to STR
The mass murder committed on the Danziger Bridge after Hurricane Katrina, the mass murder in Aurora, Colorado, the mass murder in Newtown, Connecticut… They are the stuff of nightmares. They rend the soul. They cry out for righteous action, for a swift and just solution.
Senators Feinstein, Schumer, Manchin, and Toomey sought to bring about meaningful change to our nation’s firearm laws with the eager assistance of mass media and most importantly, President Barack Obama. Sadly, they failed. Sure, there were some limited successes on the state level in a few places, but it is doubtful that many, if any of those new laws will withstand a challenge in Federal courts. Stupefyingly, the end result will not be a strengthening of firearm laws, but may in fact become a loosening of restrictions by the time it all shakes out.
There is a solution.
We already have a mechanism in place that allows for us to solve this problem, and it has already passed muster with Federal courts. The solution is US v. Sandini: http://openjurist.org/816/f2d/869/united-states-v-sandini-g-urban .
In the Sandini case, the federal judges held that items or cash that have been used in a crime--or could be used in a crime--may be seized at any properly appointed law enforcement officer's sole discretion. This is the basis for civil asset forfeiture as it relates to the Drug War. Ever see a car driven by cops that has a statement on it that says something like "Seized from a drug dealer"? That was a Sandini-based seizure. When cops pull a guy over and take all his cash, that's Sandini again. There is no requirement for an arrest, much less charges or a conviction, before items may be seized as instruments relating to crime by the observing officer.
With that in mind, why not simply apply Sandini to guns? The cop pulls a guy over with a jackass "Cold, dead hands" bumper sticker and asks if he has any guns. The driver will most likely answer truthfully. The cop takes possession of the gun for "officer safety," then simply keeps it. If a cop goes to a house for a routine call, no matter how mundane, he should ask about guns. If the resident has any, the cop asks to see them, then seizes them under Sandini.
If the victim wants his gun back, he has to sue. Suit will cost more than the gun, and once the suit is won, the cops are under no real obligation to surrender the weapon back to the owner.
If President Obama simply asks state and local authorities to do this simple thing, there may be resistance due to a perceived lack of funding. The way to overcome this is with a cash program. Every weapon seized, provided it is a real firearm, is a $300 reward, $100 of which goes directly to the police officer making the seizure. An energetic cop could make an easy $30-40,000 a year extra by making gun seizures.
Civil asset forfeiture is an already proven and well accepted piece of case law. Nobody can argue that guns are not or could not be used to commit a crime. Sandini easily applies, so let’s apply it. Cops could sit outside of gun ranges and stores, wait for shooters to leave, pull them over on a pretext stop, then ask. If they feel the driver or occupants are being obstructionist, they simply arrest them for resisting arrest, then search the car incident to arrest. Once the guns are found, they are seized, and the cop can either maintain the arrest or allow them to go at his discretion.
Simple, easy, proven methodology. Let’s apply it. Let’s make the US a gun-free zone.
Safety from gun violence is well within reach. All it takes is the will to act and a little cash.