Cops required to inspect gun owners’ homes?

Misstep in gun bill could defeat the effort

SOURCE

One of the major gun-control efforts in Olympia this session calls for the sheriff to inspect the homes of assault-weapon owners. The bill’s backers say that was a mistake.

By Danny Westneat

Forget police drones flying over your house. How about police coming inside, once a year, to have a look around?

As Orwellian as that sounds, it isn’t hypothetical. The notion of police home inspections was introduced in a bill last week in Olympia.

That it’s part of one of the major gun-control efforts pains me. It seemed in recent weeks lawmakers might be headed toward some common-sense regulation of gun sales. But then last week they went too far. By mistake, they claim. But still too far.

“They always say, we’ll never go house to house to take your guns away. But then you see this, and you have to wonder.”

That’s no gun-rights absolutist talking, but Lance Palmer, a Seattle trial lawyer and self-described liberal who brought the troubling Senate Bill 5737 to my attention. It’s the long-awaited assault-weapons ban, introduced last week by three Seattle Democrats.

Responding to the Newtown school massacre, the bill would ban the sale of semi-automatic weapons that use detachable ammunition magazines. Clips that contain more than 10 rounds would be illegal.

But then, with respect to the thousands of weapons like that already owned by Washington residents, the bill says this:

“In order to continue to possess an assault weapon that was legally possessed on the effective date of this section, the person possessing shall … safely and securely store the assault weapon. The sheriff of the county may, no more than once per year, conduct an inspection to ensure compliance with this subsection.”

In other words, come into homes without a warrant to poke around. Failure to comply could get you up to a year in jail.

“I’m a liberal Democrat — I’ve voted for only one Republican in my life,” Palmer told me. “But now I understand why my right-wing opponents worry about having to fight a government takeover.”

He added: “It’s exactly this sort of thing that drives people into the arms of the NRA.”

I have been blasting the NRA for its paranoia in the gun-control debate. But Palmer is right — you can’t fully blame them, when cops going door-to-door shows up in legislation.

I spoke to two of the sponsors. One, Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, a lawyer who typically is hyper-attuned to civil-liberties issues, said he did not know the bill authorized police searches because he had not read it closely before signing on.

“I made a mistake,” Kline said. “I frankly should have vetted this more closely.”

That lawmakers sponsor bills they haven’t read is common. Still, it’s disappointing on one of this political magnitude. Not counting a long table, it’s only an eight-page bill.

The prime sponsor, Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, also condemned the search provision in his own bill, after I asked him about it. He said Palmer is right that it’s probably unconstitutional.

“I have to admit that shouldn’t be in there,” Murray said.

He said he came to realize that an assault-weapons ban has little chance of passing this year anyway. So he put in this bill more as “a general statement, as a guiding light of where we need to go.” Without sweating all the details.

Later, a Senate Democratic spokesman blamed unnamed staff and said a new bill will be introduced.

Murray had alluded at a gun-control rally in January that progress on guns could take years.

“We will only win if we reach out and continue to change the hearts and minds of Washingtonians,” Murray said. “We can attack them, or start a dialogue.”

Good plan, very bad start. What’s worse, the case for the perfectly reasonable gun-control bills in Olympia just got tougher.

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Ex-Burglars Say Newspaper’s Gun Map Would’ve Made the Job Easier, Safer

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FoxNews.com  –  By

Reformed crooks say the New York newspaper that published a map of names and addresses of gun owners did a great service – to their old cronies in the burglary trade.

The information published online by the Journal-News, a daily paper serving the New York suburbs of Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties, could be highly useful to thieves in two ways, former burglars told FoxNews.com. Crooks looking to avoid getting shot now know which targets are soft and those who need weapons know where they can steal them.

“Having a list of who has a gun is like gold – why rob that house when you can hit the one next door, where there are no guns?”

– Walter T. Shaw, former burglar and jewel thief

“That was the most asinine article I’ve ever seen,” said Walter T. Shaw, 65, a former burglar and jewel thief who the FBI blames for more than 3,000 break-ins that netted some $70 million in the 1960s and 1970s. “Having a list of who has a gun is like gold – why rob that house when you can hit the one next door, where there are no guns?

“What they did was insanity,” added Shaw, author of “License to Steal,” a book about his criminal career.

The newspaper published the online map last month alongside an article titled, “The gun owner next door: What you don’t know about the weapons in your neighborhood.” The map included the names and addresses of pistol permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

While the paper ostensibly sought to make a point about gun proliferation in the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., the effort backfired. A blogger reacted with a map showing where key editorial staffers live and some outraged groups have called for a boycott of parent company Gannett’s national advertisers. Ironically, the newspaper has now stationed armed guards outside at least one of its offices.

“They just created an opportunity for some crimes to be committed and I think it’s exceptionally stupid,” said Bob Portenier, 65, a former burglar and armed house robber turned crime prevention consultant.

Professional burglars are always looking for an edge, and like most folks, they read the paper, said Portenier.

“Criminals are always looking for opportunity and words travels through the grapevine—burglars trade secrets and when you see something like that in the paper, that’s is something burglar’s are going to talk about,” Portenier said. “‘Did you see in the paper where all these people have guns and their addresses?’ and that kind of stuff, they’ll say.”

While some burglars may use the newspaper’s information to avoid guns, Portenier said others will target homes with guns. The newspaper’s decision could even lead to legally-owned guns proliferating on the street, he said.

“That’s one of the first things we’d check out—guns are on the top of the list of what you want to steal,” he said. “They can walk out with a shotgun and a couple of handguns and sell them on the street for $300 or $400 a pop. They can sell them to a gangbanger who ends up killing someone.”

Frank Abagnale, who was portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the 2002 film “Catch Me if You Can,” and is perhaps the most famous reformed thief to ever earn a legitimate living by offering the public insight into the criminal mind, called the newspaper’s actions “reprehensible.”

“It is unbelievable that a newspaper or so called journalist would publish the names and addresses of legal gun owners, including federal agents, law enforcement officers and the like,” said Abagnale, who noted that he grew up in the suburban New York area served by the Journal-News. “This would be equivalent to publishing the names of individuals who keep substantial sums of money, jewelry and valuables in their home.”

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