A sad letter arrived last week. Though I will honor my correspondent's
request to help keep his identity secret, this is the kind of missive that
makes a columnist's job easy. All the words that follow are those of "Gun
Owner in Massachusetts":
The title of your recent column, "The thugs now reign in Massachusetts,"
has a lot more meaning than perhaps even you realize.
Under a 1998 law, I became a felon on my last birthday. I've never had
any contact with the law beyond a speeding ticket some years ago, but by
the stroke of a pen I'm now a felon.
I became a felon because I own a gun and I refuse to go to the local
police station every four years for mug shots and a full set of
fingerprints. I also won't immediately notify the state authorities
whenever I move.
If I'd been convicted of murder, the cops would have my fingerprints, but
once I finished prison and parole I could live anywhere I wanted without
reporting in. But because I own a gun, I am treated far worse than those
Understand, I'm not talking about carrying a concealed handgun, or even
"assault weapons" (though the new law has many draconian punishments for
people who dare to own a semi-auto.) Under this law, possession of
any) gun, any cartridge (spent or not), any powder, primers,
bullets, or shot -- even a can of pepper spray -- requires me to submit to
fingerprinting and a mug shot. The data is kept by the state's Criminal
History Systems Division -- the same folks who keep the records on
murderers, rapists, and other convicted criminals. ...
It gets worse. I'm not only a felon for the 25-year-old 12-gauge pump
shotgun that I keep in the closet, I'm a felon for not keeping it locked
(and therefore useless) at all times. Locking my front door doesn't count
as "preventing unauthorized persons from gaining access to the firearm."
I have no children but the state mandates I render myself completely
defenseless to any criminal who cares to rob or kill me. God only knows
what will happen to me if I ever have to use the shotgun to defend myself.
I suspect I'd end up in prison, paying restitution to the home invader
whose "rights" I "violated."
The penalty for each of these new crimes is 10 years in prison. Since I
could get charged with a separate count for each round of ammo, that brick
of .22 cartridges I bought for my granddad's single-shot match rifle could
get me 50,000 years. This is not a theoretical calculation: a Wayland man
is facing 70 years for "unsafe storage" of his firearms: seven counts at 10
years each. (Contact goal.org for
collaboration and details of this case and my statements about the new laws.)
I go to sleep every night wondering if the door will be smashed in by
ninja-suited, armored, machine-gun toting thugs willing to kill me where I
stand if I so much as reach for that shotgun. It won't really matter much
to me then whether they turn out to be free-lance crooks or professional,
government-paid murderers. I suppose I should move out of state, but my
family has been here for generations; my job is here; and I won't be run
off my own property by a bunch of bullies, legal or otherwise.
I'm feeling alone here. The ACLU has abandoned Massachusetts gun owners
on the left, and the NRA just betrayed them on the right. ... The ACLU
fought the Georgia fingerprint-on-your-drivers-license law vigorously. But
a million gun owners are forced, under penalty of fines and imprisonment,
to give up their fingerprints, and the ACLU won't even answer my letters on
the subject, much less file a court case.
On the right, the National Rifle Association now stands with Handgun
Control Inc. in vowing to put people like me behind bars. I wouldn't have
believed it if I hadn't heard and seen the video recordings on the NRA
website. "You touch a gun in Colorado, and you're gonna have five years in
a state or federal penitentiary." says Wayne LaPierre, standing on the
stage with HCI representatives.
Under their Project Exile, anyone caught with an "illegal" gun gets tried
in federal court. What the NRA doesn't seem to understand, or perhaps just
doesn't care about, is that here in Massachusetts, my guns were made
"illegal" by the stroke of a pen.
I'm scared, Mr. Suprynowicz, I'm angry, and I feel terribly alone. The
ACLU turns a blind eye on massive violations of its own principles; the NRA
has betrayed all gun owners ... and my own so-called representative
co-sponsored this new law.
This must be something akin to what the Jews in Germany felt in the late
1930s. Gun owners have been cut out of the herd, demonized, ostracized, and
blamed for everything wrong with society.
The thugs now reign in Massachusetts. They reign in the statehouse, in
the courts, in the media, and in the police. One million obedient sheeple
have meekly surrendered their fingerprints and now carry state-mandated
papers for having the temerity to exercise their inalienable right to
self-defense. They might as well make us wear special arm bands.
Thank you, and keep up the good work.