Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.
~ Thomas Jefferson

Friday, July 20, 2012

Every Man A Felon

It has been said many times that the way for government to control people is to write so many laws, create so many regulations, that no person can escape violating some law or some regulation which provides for criminal penalties. In such a situation, any one of us can be arrested, tried, and convicted even though there was no intent to violate a law or regulation. Indeed there are so many laws, and so many regulations which provide for criminal penalties when violated that no man or woman could possibly be capable of knowing them all, even if he or she devoted their entire life to such study.

Even if they were capable of discovering where the information could be located - not all of the laws and regulations are available at a library or on-line - and read every word, much of it is written so obscurely that it cannot be understood, even by those who would enforce such laws or regulations. Think of how much of the tax code is not even understood by the IRS agents who decide whether or not you have violated any of it.

The Cato Institute has produced an article on this topic. Tim Lynch testified before Congress on the subject, as it pertains to an attempt to simplify Federal criminal code so that citizens aren't subject to criminalization when there is no bad intent (mens rea) or when the law is simply not understood. Worse, Federal criminal code is often so poorly written, in such a broad and ambiguous manner that Federal prosecutors can get people convicted in spite of the fact that they have not even violated the law - save for how the prosecutor interprets the law to mean something else entirely.

Most people in the "gun culture", as John Ross calls it in his book Unintended Consequences, will recall the case of David Olofson. He was convicted and sent to prison because a semi-automatic rifle he owned malfunctioned and fired more than one round with a single pull of the trigger. The BATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) tested his rifle and initially determined that it was not a machine gun, because it was broken and had simply malfunctioned. An immoral and ambitious agent of the BATF had the rifle tested again, this time using ammunition with soft primers which were able to fire the ammunition even with a light touch of a broken firing mechanism. After repeated attempts, she was able to get he rifle to fire more than one round with a single pull of the trigger, and then had a prosecutor charge Olofson with having transferred a machine gun into the possession of another person.

In spite of the fact that the gun was proven to have been broken, and the fact that intent to commit the crime was not provable (because the intent never existed), the court ordered Olofson imprisoned because the technical definition of a machine gun - as established by the BATF, not by legitimate Congressional legislation passed and signed into law - was met. So this young man was taken from his wife and small children and placed in prison, made a felon, because he had loaned a broken (unbeknown to him) rifle to another man.

The Cato article states the fact that:

In America alone, there are over 4,000 federal criminal offenses. Under the Lacey Act, for instance, citizens and business owners also need to know – and predict how the U.S. federal government will interpret – the laws of nearly 200 other countries on the globe as well. Many business owners have inadvertently broken obscure and highly technical foreign laws, landing them in prison for things like importing lobster tails in plastic rather than cardboard packaging (the violation of that Honduran law earned one man an eight-year prison sentence). Cases like this make it clear that the justice system has strayed from its constitutional purpose like stopping the real bad guys from bringing harm.

It goes on to say:

We face a Congress that puts forth an ever-increasing volume of laws in general, and of criminal laws in particular. It should be no surprise that as the volume increases, so do the number of imprecise laws. And no surprise that our indulgence of imprecisions that violate the Constitution encourages imprecisions that violate the Constitution. Fuzzy, leave-the-details-to-be-sorted-out-by-the-courts legislation is attractive to the Congressman who wants credit for addressing a national problem but does not have the time (or perhaps the votes) to grapple with the nitty-gritty. In the field of criminal law, at least, it is time to call a halt. [Ed: “We have to pass the law to find out what is in it.” Nancy Pelosi]

Please read the whole article. It is a bit lengthy, but there is a lot of information there, with explanations of concepts that used to be common knowledge before Congress and the courts - including SCROTUS - removed them from the lexicon of justice.

Also, please consider going to FIJA.org where you will learn about the most powerful tool possessed by those would regain Liberty. Not a .50 BMG Barrett sniper rifle, but the principle of jury nullification. If it were understood by a large enough number of people and put into practice, no law or regulation created by Congress or a bureaucracy run amok could harm us.

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Sorry, folks. I was completely ignorant about comment rules. Anyone can post, but I'd prefer a name, even if it is made up. Anonymous posts just seem cheap, if you know what I mean. Also, if you want to argue a point, that's fine. Cheap shots and name calling towards me or another person commenting (ad hominem) is rude and will get you banned. Other than that, I'd love to get some comments.