Forecast 2014: Gun Owners Worry About Enforcement Of Laws

, The Connecticut Law Tribune

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Rachel Baird
Rachel Baird

The Firearms Unit has operated with impunity for years, acting as the expert in gun matters, ostensibly educating local police departments, elected officials, prosecutors, and the courts. Now the failure to interpret or follow the laws as written has been exposed. And as we proceed into 2014, the light cast on the Firearms Unit will burn brighter.

Here's one prediction for the coming year: law-abiding firearms owners will ultimately pay the price and serve as targets and scapegoats for a reactionary government caught in a quagmire of its own making.

When the registration records of assault weapons are tallied after Jan. 1, 2014, there will inevitably be differences between the list of assault weapons registered and the list that already exists in the state database of long-gun purchases voluntarily reported by retail gun stores prior to April 4, 2013.

When that happens, state and local police will come knocking on the doors of law-abiding citizens to interrogate, inspect, and threaten arrest if registration records do not match the purchase records. The problem is that reporting private sales of long guns prior to April 4, 2013, was not required. And so, for many firearms there is a record of purchase but no record of subsequent sale.

Just as the public safety commissioner and the Firearms Unit have got it wrong on other issues, state and local police will get it wrong when they presume that records of pre-April 4, 2013 purchases and post-Dec. 31, 2013 assault weapon ownership registrations will match. The next step on this slippery slope will be to require law-abiding citizens to prove a negative: that they do not own a particular firearm linked to them through a pre-April 4 sale reported voluntarily to the Firearms Unit.

That sort of conduct hacks away at the Fourth Amendment. Whenever a piece of the Fourth Amendment withers on an extremity fed by fear, the entire body suffers. Infringement of constitutional protections will not end with the search for unregistered assault weapons. Soon enough, the path cut through such protections will be trod for other reasons, unforeseeable but certain, and that should concern everyone, not just firearms owners.•

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