In response to the communication that the Lieutenant Governor’s office has been sending out, I sent a note to his office this morning. It is a bit long, but it was necessary. I would be surprised to see much of a response from him, but one can always be surprised, right? I will post any meaningful responses here.
Dear Lieutenant Governor Denn,
My name is Sean McClanahan, and I am the Executive Director of the First State Firearms Freedom Association, a grass-roots single-interest special interest group. We are a very new group in Delaware, comprised of citizens who come from all walks of life and from different political groups. Despite this variety, we all believe in two things: the preservation of our firearms rights and the punishment of those who commit crimes with firearms.
I am writing today in response to a letter that several of my Steering Committee members received from your Director of Constituent Relations, Julia Lawes. Our members had written to oppose the proposed ban on standard capacity magazines (mistakenly referred to as “high capacity” or “large capacity” magazines by many politicians and media outlets). I would like to address several things that Ms. Lawes wrote on your behalf.
“The Lieutenant Governor does believe, though, that there is also a need for responsible oversight of guns, which respects the Second Amendment rights of gun owners but also puts in place reasonable rules that reduce the odds of innocent citizens being victimized by gun violence. The specific issue that the Governor has asked the Lieutenant Governor to work on is the issue of large capacity magazines.”
I would like to first discuss those citizens who have taken the time to obtain a Delaware Concealed Deadly Weapon Permit (“CCDW”). How does preventing someone who has passed the rather arduous task of obtaining a CCDW from carrying 13, 15, or 17 rounds in a standard capacity magazine make the lives of “innocent citizens” more secure? Criminals do not obey the law. That is what makes them criminals, and I would hope we can agree on that point. The steps to obtain a Delaware CCDW are more involved than the steps in most of the other states in the country. Criminals will not go through that process, and I would hope we could agree on that point as well. Based on those two arguments alone, how will the prohibition of standard capacity magazines create a safer public?
Some citizens in Delaware choose to carry a firearm openly as opposed to obtaining a CCDW. It could be argued that the process is not as strict when dealing with openly carried firearms. However, law abiding citizens in Delaware, like those in other states, tend to purchase their firearms from dealers (who perform an appropriate background check now). If a citizen undergoes a background check to purchase a firearm, would that citizen be any less capable or trusted of carrying 15 rounds as 10? Would you agree that a prohibition on standard capacity magazines would not make a difference in this case?
Private sellers who are law abiding and respect the cost of human life overwhelmingly do not conduct a transaction if there is anything that concerns them about the buyer. Even though a background check is not required, if anything even smells “fishy,” you will find that the citizens of Delaware who care about keeping the public safe will not allow a questionable person to buy a firearm. I admit that this is truly a subjective standard, but it also represents a small percentage of the total number of sales that take place in the state. Once again, would you agree that the law abiding citizens who choose to buy and sell firearms through private channels are not the ones that we need to be worried about?
If we can agree that law abiding citizens in all of these scenarios are not the problem, how will restricting standard capacity magazines to law abiding citizens make a difference? In fact, the proposed new law would make a felon out of someone for carrying one extra cartridge in a firearm over the magic number of ten. How is it that someone is a law abiding citizen who has likely passed a background check and been vetted by the Delaware State Police and the FBI for carrying ten rounds, and now a felon for carrying eleven? Or thirteen? Or fifteen?
Can we also agree that criminals are the ones who disobey the law? And as such, any restriction, be it seven, ten, fifteen, twenty, or any number in between or either side of those amounts are meaningless to someone who is intent on disobeying the law and taking another life (or multiple lives)? There is no evidence to suggest that the killers in Newtown, Aurora, Phoenix, and Blacksburg would have been stopped or killed fewer people by having fewer rounds in their magazines. When criminals know they can carry fewer rounds per magazine, they will adapt by carrying more magazines and practice changing them quickly under duress – a skill that can be learned in a very short time.
“There is now strong statistical evidence that responsible regulation of large capacity gun magazines does reduce the number of those magazines used by criminals. A study published this year of Virginia law enforcement data showed that following the implementation of the 1994 federal restrictions on large capacity magazines, the percentage of criminals’ guns confiscated during arrests which had those magazines dropped by half. When the ban expired, the percentage of criminals’ guns with high capacity magazines increased all the way back up to the levels seen before the federal law.”
Is it possible to provide a copy of or a link to this study? We would like to review it, and we have been unable to locate it. On the other hand, we have found several studies showing that the last “assault weapon ban” of 1994 provided inconclusive or negligible effects on crime.
Furthermore, magazine size does not necessarily infer intent. Is any mention made of how many rounds were in those magazines? Is any mention made of how many rounds are actually fired in the commission of a crime while using those magazines?
Most importantly, was there any corresponding change in the number of crimes being committed or the number of arrests made? Perhaps the statistical evidence points to the criminals carrying whatever they can find, but still acting like criminals and still committing armed assaults and murders at the same rate. Again, pointing to evidence that shows that the previous ban did not have the desired effects.
“As the Lieutenant Governor works to draft a bill regarding large capacity magazines, he has made an effort to reach out to gun owners and solicit their opinions about some of the practical issues involved in regulating these devices. The feedback has been very helpful, and in some cases has caused him to change the way the administration’s bill is drafted. For example, the administration had originally planned to draft a bill that would limit the capacity of magazines for handguns to 10 rounds, and magazines for rifles and shotguns to five rounds, based on the fact that many hunting rifles are sold with five round magazines. However, several gun owners have impressed on the Lieutenant Governor the importance of allowing homeowners who may be inexperienced in firing a gun to have a sufficient magazine to defend their homes. So the bill that the administration will propose to the legislature will propose a limit of ten rounds, no matter what type of gun is involved. The Lieutenant Governor is continuing to talk to gun owners as he drafts the administration’s bill, and he has found their input very helpful.”
Self-defense is not limited to the home. Self-defense is a right that exists both inside and outside the home. Furthermore, the police are not obligated to provide protection to the public. That was the decision of a court case in Washington, DC several years ago, and reiterated by police chiefs and Sheriffs across the country. If the police cannot protect the citizens, and the police believe that they need standard capacity magazines to defend themselves, doesn’t it make sense that law abiding citizens are afforded the same consideration? If citizens do not have the tools to protect themselves from attackers acting in groups or while using mood enhancing drugs, then public safety is diminished, not enhanced.
“To be absolutely clear, the bill that the administration will propose will not require current owners of large capacity magazines to turn over or otherwise get rid of their existing magazines. It will, however, limit the places outside the home where large capacity magazines can be present.”
Firearms owners around the state appreciate that there is currently no plan to require the “turning in” of magazines that would otherwise make them felons if found loaded out in public. Doing so would be nothing short of confiscation, and there would certainly be a great deal of public resistance to any plans that would require firearms owners to voluntarily give up equipment on which we’ve spent a great deal of money. Furthermore, there’s certainly a constitutional question about the confiscation of these magazines. But this appreciation stops when you make it illegal – in fact, a felony – to have these magazines in public. The policies that you are proposing make criminals out of law abiding citizens while doing nothing to address the crime problem.
“The Lieutenant Governor’s goal in dealing with this issue is to be practical and do things that will truly improve the safety of our citizens. If you have any ideas about the way we could tailor a responsible regulation of large capacity magazines, I encourage you to send them to me. And, if we are simply destined to disagree about this issue, I hope you will at least recognize that the Lieutenant Governor’s work is borne of a sincere interest in protecting the public, and is far broader than responsible regulation of guns.”
The Governor and the Lieutenant Governor have a duty to uphold the Constitutions of Delaware and the United States, not to protect the public. Liberty cannot be balanced on the back of public safety, as a free society is not a society that is without fear. There will always be the fear of people who do illegal things, but as a people, we need to be free to defend ourselves if we choose to do so. Those that do not choose to defend themselves must be free to make that decision as well, but as citizens of a free Republic, their choice to be ignorant or apathetic to their own defense cannot take precedence over those of us who do choose to be self-sufficient and independent of the government for our own safety.
It is perfectly acceptable to “agree to disagree” provided the decision to disagree does not trample on the rights of a free society. Furthermore, it is acceptable to “agree to disagree” provided it is not the government imposing its will on a class of people who are not breaking any law, harming anyone with their actions, and doing nothing more than exercising their right to provide for their own safety and defense.
The proper government response is to provide laws that will punish criminals for actions against property and humanity and enforce those laws as they are written. Once the Governor of the State of Delaware is willing to do that, with the support of the Judicial Branch, criminals will understand that there is a no-nonsense approach to crime in the state. Only the most hardened of criminals will continue to ignore the laws at that point, and no law written now or in the future will prevent those criminals from harming others with their actions. Hopefully, that is something we can all agree on.
I would like to remind you of this section of our state Constitution:
Section 20. A person has the right to keep and bear arms for the defense of self, family, home and State, and for hunting and recreational use.
Law enforcement agencies across the country have stated and continue to believe that standard capacity magazines, as originally designed by manufacturers, are necessary for self-defense. It is a citizen’s right to defend himself by the technology that is commonly available, and that right has been affirmed by the United States Supreme Court. Furthermore, most law enforcement agencies readily admit that until the arrival of help after calling 9-1-1, a citizen is on his own to defend his self and family. Is it the position of the Governor’s office that the lives of regular citizens are worth less than the lives of law enforcement officers, since this legislation would limit citizens to reduced capacity magazines?
Our position can be summarized very easily. We are not opposed to any new legislation that would have a meaningful effect on crime. However, the proposed legislation targeting standard-capacity magazines will not affect the way criminals think or act, and in the end, it will only keep the citizens of Delaware who law-abiding and the least likely to create a problem from using the most effective tools available for self-defense in public.
I appreciate your time in reviewing this information. I would be happy to meet with you at any time if you want to discuss any of these issues in further detail.
First State Firearms Freedom Association