Friday, October 24, 2014

Who Is Telling The Truth About I-594 - The Actual Text

The Billionaires behind I-594 say that the NRA is lying about I-594.  They say that all it does is impose background checks on private SALES.  

Gun rights groups opposing the measure say that it goes much further, effectively banning many now lawful recreational shooting activities and practices.  They claim that I-594 also criminalizes any "transfer" of a firearm - and defines the term so broadly that many common practices lawful gun owners now engage in would be banned.  They also contend that it is so badly written that many of the things it criminalizes are absurd.

Gun rights groups say that the problem is not primarily with I-594's regulation of SALES, but the fact that I-594 also regulates temporary TRANSFERS no matter how short the duration or the circumstances - with a very few, narrowly defined exceptions. 

Examples include:

1) I can gift my firearm to a family member without a background check, but if we are shooting anywhere except a licensed range, and I let that same family member shoot my firearm under my direct supervision, we have both committed a misdemeanor and a felony.

2) A federally licensed gun collector would have to pay for a background check every time they bought a collectible firearm on the federal list even though, just like a firearms dealer, they hold a Federal Firearms License allowing them to buy and sell firearms without a federal background check.

3) There is no exemption for off duty police officers.  If a police officer's personal, off duty firearm breaks he or she must go through a background check and waiting period in order to replace it - potentially placing them at risk when they are off duty.  There is also no exemption for those holding concealed carry permits - even though many of these people obtained permits due to very real threats to their safety.

4) I can let anyone under 18 shoot my firearms under my direct supervision - but if I let an adult do the very same thing, we both have committed crimes.

5) I-594 would make it illegal to lend my adult son or daughter a firearm to take hunting.  In order for such a loan to be legal, it must take place "while hunting" not "for the purpose of hunting".  That means that I must actually be hunting with my adult son or daughter before I can loan them a firearm without a background check.

6) If my wife's best friend is being stalked, I cannot lend her a firearm - even for a brief period of time while she is buying her own firearm - without the same background check and  waiting period required for a sale. 

7) They did not provide an exemption for gun shops - if I-594 passes, they would have to conduct a background check (and waiting period!) every time they allow a customer to hold and examine a firearm.

8) I-594 would make it illegal for a lawful gun owner to allow another person to hold and examine one of their firearms, under their direct supervision, in the owner's home.

9) Because hunter safety classes and firearms classes require the handling of firearms, I-594 would ban such classes for students 18 years of age or over - unless conducted at a licensed gun range.  This would effective end the vast majority of such classes.


Let's look at the actual text:

Bill text


"Transfer" means the intended delivery of a firearm to another person without consideration of payment or promise of payment including, but not limited to, gifts and loans.

First, notice that this whole paragraph has one purpose: The extension of background checks to situations other than sales.  Clearly proponents are lying about this being a "simple extension of background checks to private sales".  It is this extension of background checks into a completely new arena - not checks on actual sales - that gun rights advocates find so objectionable.

Second, notice that this section extends the background check requirement to any time a firearm is is handed to another person (delivered) - gifts and loans are mentioned, but note that the term "transfer" is specifically left as broad as possible.

Third, as we look at the limited number of exceptions, and the nature of them, it becomes abundantly clear that I-594 is intended to control the nearly every instance when a gun is handed to another person.

The Exceptions

The biggest problem with I-594 is that instead of specifically naming actions that are criminal - such as giving a firearm to a felon - the measure criminalizes ALL TRANSFERS, literally all handing of a firearm to another person - and then allows a few exceptions.  The problem with exception based systems is they always leave out common practices that lawful gun owners engage in - and I-594 is no exception.

(4) This section does not apply to:

This section contains all of the exceptions they provide - if it isn't exempted here, an I-594 background check is required.  Failure to do so is a gross misdemeanor the first time and a felony the second time.  Handing a gun to someone in a non-exempt situation would be a misdemeanor for both parties.  If the gun is handed back to the owner, that would be a felony for both parties.

(a) A transfer between immediate family members, which for this subsection shall be limited to spouses, domestic partners, parents, children, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, first cousins, aunts, and uncles, that is a bona fide gift;

Exemption (a) allows specified family members to give ownership of a firearm to other relatives.  What this section specifically does not exempt is any other transfer.  I can GIVE my adult daughter a gun for self defense, but I cannot lend her one.  I can give my adult son my .22 rifle - but if we are shooting tin cans in the woods, I cannot let him shoot it under my direct supervision.  How does this make any sense?

(b) The sale or transfer of an antique firearm;

Section (b) exempts transfers of firearms made prior to January 1, 1898.  Sounds great, until you realize what they chose not to exempt: Transfers of collectable firearms more than 50 years old to FEDERALLY LICENSED COLLECTORS.  Even California provides this exemption for long guns - but not I-594. 

(c) A temporary transfer of possession of a firearm if such transfer is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to the person to whom the firearm is transferred if:

(i) The temporary transfer only lasts as long as immediately necessary to prevent such imminent death or great bodily harm; and

(ii) The person to whom the firearm is transferred is not prohibited from possessing firearms under state or federal law;

Section (c) exempts transfers to people in danger RIGHT NOW.  If my friends ex is battering down her door, I can lend her a gun.  If he has made very credible threats, a background check - and a waiting period - is still required. 

(d) Any law enforcement or corrections agency and, to the extent the person is acting within the course and scope of his or her employment or official duties, any law enforcement or corrections officer, United States marshal, member of the armed forces of the United States or the national guard, or federal official;

Section (d) exempts transfers between military and law enforcement ONLY WHILE ON DUTY.  If one police officer wants to sell a gun to another police officer I-594 specifically requires a background check.  That's just plain dumb - but it gets worse.  If a cop's personal, off duty firearm is broken, I-594 would require a background check and waiting period in order for him to borrow one from another cop.  Unbelieveable. 

(e) A federally licensed gunsmith who receives a firearm solely for the purposes of service or repair, or the return of the firearm to its owner by the federally licensed gunsmith;

Section (e) is one of the few sections that makes any sense - you can actually leave your firearm with a gunsmith and get it back without a background check.

(f) The temporary transfer of a firearm 

Section (f) specifically deals with temporary transfers.  The nature of the exemptions make it abundantly clear that I-594 background checks apply to any transfer, even if the owner is present and the gun never leaves their sight. 

(i) between spouses or domestic partners; 

Section (f)(i) allows temporary transfers between spouses.  Your husband or wife can borrow your gun for any lawful purpose.

(ii) if the temporary transfer occurs, and the firearm is kept at all times, at an established shooting range authorized by the governing body of the jurisdiction in which such range is located

Section (f)(ii) sounds great, until you realize that most target shooting doesn't take place at ranges.  If I set up a target range on my farm, I cannot let you shoot my gun.  If my family goes camping and we are legally shooting at a few tin cans, I cannot let my adult son or daughter shoot my guns.  The only exemption is for official ranges. 

(iii) if the temporary transfer occurs and the transferee's possession of the firearm is exclusively at a lawful organized competition involving the use of a firearm, or while participating in or practicing for a performance by an organized group that uses firearms as a part of the performance; 

Section (f)(iii) allows temporary transfers at organized competitions.  Ironically, if a competition is held in the same farm or forest in the above examples, the lending would be legal.

(iv) to a person who is under eighteen years of age for lawful hunting, sporting, or educational purposes while under the direct supervision and control of a responsible adult who is not prohibited from possessing firearms; or 

Section (f)(iv) allows me to allow any person under 18 use my firearms under my direct supervision, for the following purposes:

Lawful hunting

Target shooting
Education - such as hunter safety and gun safety classes

The authors of I-594 could have allowed such an exemption for adults, but they specifically chose not to do so.  One has to wonder why they didn't.  It would have eliminated many objections.  As written, I-594 allows hunter safety courses for minors - but not for adults.  Why not?  

(v) while hunting if the hunting is legal in all places where the person to whom the firearm is transferred possesses the firearm and the person to whom the firearm is transferred has completed all training and holds all licenses or permits required for such hunting, provided that any temporary transfer allowed by this subsection is permitted only if the person to whom the firearm is transferred is not prohibited from possessing firearms under state or federal law; or

Section (f)(v) is the hunting exemption - and it is also quite deceptive.  Notice that it does not begin with "for the purpose of hunting" - instead it says, "while hunting".  This makes it clear that while I can loan a firearm to a member of a hunting party of which I am a member, I cannot loan anyone (except my spouse or domestic partner) a firearm to take on a hunting trip - or even give them a firearm before we are actively hunting.

So, just as gun rights advocates claimed - it would be illegal to lend your adult son or daughter a rifle to go take hunting.

(g) A person who 

(i) acquired a firearm other than a pistol by operation of law upon the death of the former owner of the firearm or 

(ii) acquired a pistol by operation of law upon the death of the former owner of the pistol within the preceding sixty days. At the end of the sixty-day period, the person must either have lawfully transferred the pistol or must have contacted the department of licensing to notify the department that he or she has possession of the pistol and intends to retain possession of the pistol, in compliance with all federal and state laws.

Section (g) deals with matters such as inheritance.

Those are all of the exemptions - any time a firearm is handed to another person, under I-594 a background check is required.  Some of the situations they did not exempt are absolutely absurd.

They did not provide an exemption for gun shops - if I-594 passes, they would have to conduct a background check every time they allow a customer to hold and examine a firearm.  How is that going to work?  Here's the gun, you can look at it, you can even touch it, but you cannot hold it until you buy it and we do the background check?

They did not provide an exception for showing a firearm in the privacy of your home, under your direct supervision.  In other words, if I open my gun safe and hand you a safety checked firearm for you to examine and you hand it back, we have both committed felonies.

So if you have read this, you now know that it is the 1%ers pushing I-594 who are lying - not gun rights advocates.  PLEASE vote no on I-594 it is not what they say it is.

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