Dear Friends and Neighbors:
First, who knew so many of you actually read our e-newsletter? Thank you for the response to last week’s poll. You’ve asked that I keep things pretty much the same, and that if the letter is a looooong one, I give you the skinny at the top in case you don’t have time to read all the details and facts. It’s a deal!
And this Saturday you are invited to give testimony to the Legislature on any topic you wish. “Anchorage Caucus” – a fancy term meaning your Anchorage legislators will be in town for you – will be held at the Loussac Library, Assembly Chambers, from 9:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.
A Gun Bill That Could Get You Jail Time – HB 69
I support the Second Amendment, am a gun owner, and support the right to bear arms - in a way that doesn’t get you federal jail time.
Enter House Bill 69. That bill says two things our Legal Department has concluded are unconstitutional, and that will likely get you federal jail time if you follow the bill’s provisions. I’m warning you because if the bill passes, I don’t want any of you to go to federal prison. I like you. I don’t want you to get in trouble with the Feds. Trouble that puts you behind bars. Here’s what the former Chief U.S. Attorney for Alaska, Bob Bundy, says of this bill:
“It is a federal criminal crime to impede or interfere with federal agents in the performance of their duties. State law cannot override federal law to authorize Alaska law enforcement personnel or private citizens to violate federal law. To the extent this bill purports to allow Alaska State Troopers, or even private citizens, to interfere with federal agents enforcing federal firearms laws, it risks misleading our law enforcement officers and citizens about their potential to be criminally prosecuted and imprisoned by the federal government. “
So that’s the short of it if you don’t want to read on. Be wary of any state law that tells you that you can commit a federal crime. You can’t.
Here’s some fatter “skinny” on this bill.
Bills protesting federal laws often make us feel good – that we passed something showing we stood up to the Feds. But telling people they can commit a federal crime is, in my mind, not the kind of advice I feel I’m hired to give my constituents. I’d rather write a letter or resolution to Congress expressing my displeasure with a federal law than tell people they can commit a federal crime that can land them in the clink.
As Americans, we choose to live in a nation that says, like them or not, that we have to follow valid federal laws. We also have the right to Free Speech - and to fight to change laws we don’t like, and support those we do. But until a federal law is overturned, violating a federal criminal statute will get you in trouble, and likely jail time away from your friends and family. Federal criminal sentences are harsh. Unless you’re Bernie Madoff, federal jails are ugly. There are no tennis courts for most who go there.
Here’s what House Bill 69, which we will likely vote on soon, says. Basically it tells you that you and our Troopers can violate federal criminal statutes. Well, that might feel good for us to say as Second Amendment supporters. But under the U.S. Constitution, you can’t, as a state, tell people they can go out and commit federal crimes.
HB 69 says that an FBI agent is subject to a “Class C Felony” for enforcing certain federal criminal firearms laws enacted by this or a future Congress. How will this law be enforced? Well, a Trooper or police office will have to arrest that FBI agent or other federal law enforcement official. That’s a BIG problem. Under federal law, arresting an FBI agent or other federal law enforcement officer for enforcing federal law is called “impeding” a federal official from the “performance of their official duties.” 18 U.S.C. Sec. 111. That’s a crime. The firearms laws the bill says you can violate are those related to new laws on “semiautomatic firearms, or a magazine or a firearm”, and those related to “registration” of firearms or firearms accessories.
If the Trooper seeks to arrest the FBI agent and all goes peacefully, the Trooper or police officer is subject to jail time of up to a year. If they get into a tussle, then the maximum sentence can go up from one year to eight, or possibly twenty years. I like our Troopers and police. I don’t want them to get in trouble. But were they to follow the provisions of this bill, that’s what would happen. As Americans, we can protest and try to change federal criminal laws. But we can’t violate Federal criminal statutes without risking jail time, no matter what your state legislature says.
What else does the bill say? It says Alaskans don’t have to obey federal criminal laws on firearms (those categories mentioned above) enacted by this or a future Congress. That’s you. All I can say is that if the bill passes, DON’T DO THAT! Protest criminal laws you don’t like. Don’t violate them. A number of years ago Congress passed a ten year ban on the sale and ownership of certain assault weapons. That provision is under discussion in Congress again. The former law carried a five-year jail sentence, and you should assume a new one – since illegal firearms possession is normally treated as a federal crime – will carry a hefty sentence too.
Linked here are HB 69 and the memo we received from our Legal Department on the bill.
I think the federal government overreaches at times. There are times to protest federal laws, and even federal criminal laws, but we do that at our own risk if we violate them. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew at times he’d get arrested for trespassing and marching without a valid permit, but did so anyway because that’s what his conscience told him to do. Bless him for that.
I just want you to know that you might be facing a stiff jail sentence if you break the federal firearms laws addressed by HB 69, if enacted by this or future Congresses.
I think there are better ways to protest federal laws that might carry hefty criminal sentences.
As always, call if you have any questions, or if we can help.