Am I a gun nut?

One of the things I advertise and that is near and dear to my heart, is the protection of people’s firearm’s rights whenever possible. Recent events have created another wave of nation-wide legislation that may or may not address some of the very difficult problems we have with violence in this country. I don’t know how to solve that and I don’t know where to draw the line.

But I know this:

There is no citizen in this state who is worse off for the love of the sport of hunting.  As a kid, I chased rabbits and squirrels with a 22 rifle. Once I had the courage to use the old man’s 12 gauge, I went after grouse. The summer of my 15th birthday, I worked my skinny rear end off and, that fall, paid for a Remington BDL bolt action .270. In September I shot a bear with it; in November an eight-point buck.  Through all of this, my dad was there, teaching me, encouraging me, admonishing me, and when that grouse happened to fly into my BBs, high fiving me. I cannot possibly imagine how my life would have been without that bond. I also can’t imagine how different it would have been not sharing the duck blind or deer stand with my daughters when I finally became a father.  It pains me to even think of it.

The tragedy of the current battle over guns is that, the proposed assault weapon bans aside, the only fix the legislature can think of that’s politically acceptable is to throw a massive “no gun” net over a greater and greater segment of the population.  The anti-gun crowd thinks this is doing something so they’re happy (it’s not) and the NRA won’t comment on it because they live and die by “Keep the guns out of the hands of criminals.” The problem is, folks, if you define it right, sooner or later, everyone is a “criminal.”  And then, everyone can’t hunt.

Let’s take an example.  In Minnesota, you can’t possess a firearm for the rest of your life if you commit a “crime of violence.” That sounds reasonable, right? I mean, aside from the fact that young men change drastically as they mature and that a lifetime prohibition is absurd, let’s just say it appears to make sense. Until you define “crime of violence.” Remember that bag of weed (marijuana) that at least our last three presidents had in their hand at some point? If it weighed more than 42.5 grams, they held in their hand a felony amount of marijuana and committed a crime of violence. Had they got caught at 18 with that bag of grass, well, they’d be firearm free in the great state of Minnesota in 2013. In fact, any felony level drug offense (possession of one non-prescribed Adderall pill) is a “crime of violence” and, upon conviction, carries with it a lifetime firearms prohibition.

What breaks my heart about this is not the guy in Minneapolis who wants to drive around downtown with a 40 caliber under his seat. That’s a different issue. What I detest is taking a young man or woman, who is already having trouble with life but who has likely never ever, under any circumstances, considered using a firearm against a human being and removing from them the one bond with family and friends they might have had – the deer camp, the duck blind, the pheasant slough. Heartbreaking.

Keep in mind, you’re subject to the authority of more than one government. While Minnesota has been widening the net of people who can’t have a sporting firearm, the federal government, too, cares not about the family tradition of hunting. (I don’t care if Dick Cheney did shoot his buddy in the face or if Barack Obama posed for that skeet shooting picture, I’m not buying it.) The Violence Against Women Act has removed firearms rights from tens of thousands of US Citizens. This was an easy one. Wife beaters shouldn’t have guns. Sounds simple and who would dare oppose it? No one did.

But many domestic assault crimes are undeniably less serious than what the politician has in mind, both when he imagines the crime but more likely when he tells you about it. ANY use of physical force is an assault.  It is not unusual to have two people, generally when alcohol is involved, end up in a screaming match that the police have to settle down. Sometimes it’s a situation of sorting out the “primary aggressor” and sometimes it’s about who called 911 first. But someone goes off to jail and someone gets a ticket for domestic assault.  Oftentimes, it’s much different than what you would imagine, but, big deal, it’s only a misdemeanor. The sentence is usually no jail time, a $300 fine and a stint of anger management. Hopefully, the offender (and oftentimes the couple) learn to address life’s stressors in a healthier fashion. The dust settles and they live happily ever after, right? Well, happily ever after aside from the fact that the one that got the ticket won’t be able to hunt rabbits with a .22 in 2065. Even if the state reduces the charge to a simple disorderly conduct, the ATF still consider that a domestic assault and still put the offender on the no gun list.

Again, the political statement no one dares to deny, “Wife beaters shouldn’t have guns.”  The reality? Thousands of young people who, aside from a bad night in an otherwise productive life, are done hunting.  Forever.  You can stick by your guns all you want in terms of supporting this blanket approach but I could give every single person reading this a number of examples where you would say, “Wait, we didn’t mean that guy!”  But that guy just gave up his spot in the duck blind. And it ain’t right

The good news is that, in Minnesota, it is possible to get your firearms rights back. It’s not easy and it’s not automatic but it can be done. (I haven’t been unsuccessful yet, but I also don’t take cases unless I believe in them.) The best strategy, of course, is to avoid a conviction for anything that would have this result. Sometimes that’s not possible but oftentimes, with the right lawyer, it is.

I don’t think I’m a gun nut.  I know I don’t have the answer for this problem of violence some parts of our country are facing; that’s not my assigned job. But I am a hunting nut. And I know that taking away a family-friendly outdoor sport like hunting from men and women who have never misused a firearm nor had a violent day in their lives is stupid and counterproductive to what the Criminal justice system is supposed to achieve. I try very, very hard not to let that happen.