After concerns were raised over the possibility that Sen. John Morse’s (D-Colorado Springs) “Assault Weapon Responsibility Act” would force gun dealers to engage in profiling, Morse promptly denied the claim, despite precedent in the bill that would specifically profile and target African Americans.
According to the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence, “African-Americans have the highest rates of firearm death (including homicides, suicides and unintentional shooting deaths) among racial and ethnic groups in the U.S.” Due to this fact, and that gun violence among African-Americans is more than twice that of whites, any seller who were to go through with the sale of an ‘Assault Weapon’ to an African-American would be in potential violation of the law.
Likewise, under Morse’s law, any seller who refused to sell an ‘Assault Weapon’ to an African-American based on the higher likelihood it would be used in a manner that would create liability for the seller, would open themselves to discrimination suits.
Unfortunately the absurdity of Morse’s bill doesn’t end with a requirement to profile those who wish to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights by purchasing a firearm.
Other items at issue include Morse’s definitions of ‘Assault Weapon’, the fact that the legislation would be pre-empted by federal law and open the state up to legal battles it can ill afford, and that the legislation would directly contradict the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, despite Morse’s claims to the contrary.
The ‘Assault Weapon Responsibility Act‘ seeks to hold gun manufacturers, dealers and owners liable for any damage that occurs through the use of an ‘Assault Weapon’, as defined by the act.
Morse does not actually attempt to define what an ‘Assault Weapon’ is in his legislation. Instead, the bill defines what Morse considers are not ‘Assault Weapons’ and then claims all remaining styles of firearms are ‘Assault Weapons’.
Handguns, bolt-action rifles, and shotguns are the only firearms that are not considered ‘Assault Weapons’ in Morse’s opinion. This displays a woeful lack of firearms knowledge.
Under the definitions provided in the legislation, black powder muzzle loaders would now be considered ‘Assault Weapons’. Additionally, any rifle that uses the gas expelled from the cartridge when fired to load the next round would also be considered an ‘Assault Weapon’. This covers just about every semi-automatic rifle in existence.
As a result, many .22 caliber rifles, such as the one below, would now be considered ‘Assault Weapons’, the sale of which could land the dealer, owner, or manufacturer in legal trouble if the firearm is used, even for its intended purpose.
Due to Article VI of the United States Constitution, which makes Federal law the “supreme Law of the Land”, Morse’s legislation would immediately be preempted by the ‘Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.’ Section 2 of Article VI clearly states that the Constitution, and all laws created by the federal government are the law of the land despite “anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary.”
If we assume that Congress has the authority to regulate suits against gun dealers engaged in interstate commerce then the Federal law prohibits suits against gun manufacturers for any violence done by those who purchase those guns.
Morse has claimed to have found a way around federal preemption due to federal requirements that firearm manufacturers and sellers follow state law.
The statute requires that the sellers comply with state law to enjoy immunity under the law. In other words, Morse claims, the state can set up standards for liability the violation of which trigger civil liability and still comply with the Federal statute.
The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly held that statutes must be accorded their plain, ordinary meaning, in order to give the statute a clear interpretation. Read in this way, the Federal statute requires that gun sellers comply with any registration requirements, etc., that the state requires that do not otherwise violate the Second Amendment.
Morse’s bill would require the gun seller to exercise the “highest standard of care” when making sales, or else face civil liability. In other words, the proposed bill would subject any gun seller to civil liability if he guesses wrong about the character of those to whom he sells firearms. Additionally, Morse does not bother to define the “highest standard of care”, instead punting that responsibility to any given jury on any given day.
This does not just add a legitimate state requirement, it essentially guts the provisions of the ‘Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.’
Considering the purpose of a gun is to harm another human or animal, often for self-defense, the seller must therefore not sell the gun to anyone whom he believes might use the gun for its intended purpose in order to meet the standards of Morse’s legislation.
This puts both the seller and the buyer in an impossible situation. The seller must exercise greater caution than the average individual, while the buyer must prove a negative in that the weapon will never be fired at anyone or anything.
This post was originally featured at Media Trackers Colorado.