WASHINGTON, D.C. – If Senator Harry Reid’s (Dem-NV) gun control bill is passed, failure to report your firearm lost or stolen within twenty-four hours could send you to prison for up to five years. Senate Bill 649 would, in effect, make a felon of someone who misplaces a firearm and doesn’t report it fast enough to local law enforcement and Attorney General Eric Holder.
Section 123 of the Reid bill adds a new provision to Section 922 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code:
It shall be unlawful for any person who lawfully possesses or owns a firearm that has been shipped or transported in, or has been possessed in or affecting, interstate or foreign commerce, to fail to report the theft or loss of the firearm, within 24 hours after the person discovers the theft or loss, to the Attorney General and to the appropriate local authorities.
The bill also amends Section 924 of Title 18 so that “knowingly” violating the twenty-four-hour reporting requirement is punishable by up to five years in prison, a criminal fine, or both. Few people realize how that term “knowingly” can be interpreted by a good lawyer.
The Supreme Court ruled in Bryan v. U.S. that when a federal statute punishes someone for a crime committed “willfully,” the federal government must prove at trial that the person knew that his or her action was unlawful. However, the Court also ruled that, when the statute provides that the government must prove only that the crime was committed “knowingly,” it does not have to prove that the individual knew that his or her conduct was unlawful. So, thanks to careful wording, if a person failed to report their weapon missing but did not know about the law, they could still be prosecuted.
It is one thing to require a legal duty to a firearms owners to report missing weapons, but it is quite another to use the reach of the federal government to make failing in that duty a federal crime. And how the average person would know they had to inform the Attorney General of such a loss is beyond comprehension.
Such a law fails to consider the realities of rural life and hunting in the wilds of the United States. A hunter in the wilds of Alaska could lose a weapon and have not possible means to live up to such a statute if he even wanted to.
Like many other guns regulations being suggested, it seems this one has to do more with making owning a gun difficult and wrought with potential liability. Like proposed laws requiring $10,000 in liability insurance to gun owners, Reid’s bill is flawed and aimed at restricting our 2nd Amendment right to bear arms.