The absurdly ironic impact of politics on the justice system shines brightly on the front page of today’s New York Times. First we learn that, of the 80,000 Americans who the Justice Department (DOJ) knows committed the federal crime of lying or providing inaccurate information on gun purchase background checks in 2010, only 44 were charged with a crime. And surprise, surprise, those who lie on background checks are more likely to commit violent crimes than the average person.
The 80,000, of course, are only the ones who got caught lying. Some unmeasured number succeeded and thereby own guns that should legally not be in their possession.
Certainly many of the 80,000 were telling little stretchers and don’t deserve prosecution, but I’m betting that a goodly number were involved in identity theft, had a record or a restraining order or were under the care of a therapist. Prosecuting a large number of people who lie on their gun background applications would certainly send a message. It would lead to fewer people prone to lie on background checks filling them out. If we required background checks for all sales, it would lead to fewer guns in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.
Now that’s a message that the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the rest of the moneyed anti-gun control lobby doesn’t like. Few lawmakers have the guts to support gun control and insist that we go after these lawbreakers. And as with the environment and global warming, Obama talks a good game but has actually done nothing about gun control except commiserate with victims and do a little tough-talking.
While I’m hopeful that the Biden Task Force will lead to some action (finally!) on controlling the proliferation of guns with inadequate regulation, I’m also wondering how in the world the DOJ is going to be able to summon up the resources to investigate those who lie on gun purchase background checks, given shrinking federal budgets.
To our good fortune, the Times provides the answer right there on the very same front page in a story about federal prosecution of a California businessman who has all his state licenses, follows all state laws and regulations to a tee, keeps pristine records, pays all taxes, files his forms on time and yet faces years in jail because his business is growing and selling medical marijuana. The prosecution of Matthew R. Davies for being a sharp but law-abiding entrepreneur is only the latest in DOJ efforts to squelch the use of medical marijuana in states in which it’s legal. Barack Obama and his attorney general Eric Holder seem to hold a special animus for those who facilitate the legal use of marijuana, as if they have a kind of juvenile envy of people allowed to puff the magic dragon. No study links pot smoking with violent crime or even any increase in crimes (except the crime of buying/selling/using it where it s not legal or under illegal conditions). The DOJ thus does nothing to help make our lives safer and more secure by going after California or Colorado pot entrepreneurs.
Let’s review: Instead of prosecuting people who are willing to lie to get their hands on a loaded gun, the DOJ goes after a business person who has broken no state law and is supplying a medical service.
Perhaps the folks at DOJ have been smoking a bit too much of the stuff they’re confiscating.