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Posted: 3/28/2006 7:34:33 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 3/28/2006 8:19:19 PM EDT by Wobblin-Goblin]
What do you guys think?

Criminalizing victims: The strange truth behind this fantasy


We’ve all heard bizarre stories before. Leave it to the Connecticut General Assembly (and other assorted officials of the elected and unelected variety) to try to top them all. What if I told you that the people who mold and shape public policy in Connecticut were banding together in a brand-new, “tough-as-nails” attempt to curb crime?

I’m sure many, if not most of you would say, “About time we got tough on criminals!”

You couldn’t be further from the truth.

You see, as we speak (or, as I write this column), our legislators are busy in Hartford trying to put the best face they can on a new “crime-fighting” bill that would actually make it a crime to be a victim of crime. Yes, you read that correctly. There’s actually a bill moving through the legislature (and it’s picking up speed) that will criminalize the act of being a victim. Wait, before you think I’m nuts, it gets even better. Not only does this bill make victims of crime criminals themselves, it specifies that those victims who fall under the provisions of this bill are, are you ready, guilty of a felony. That’s right. Becoming a felon in Connecticut is about to get a whole lot easier.

What could we possibly be talking about, you say? Well, I’d tell you right now, but it gets even more bizarre. Are you sitting down? If this bill is passed (as written) by the house and senate and is signed by Governor Rell (who has hinted that she will do just that), a victim of this particular crime will be, according to the law, presumed guilty of committing a felony. Yes, if this becomes law, the same evidence that proves you are a victim will also prove you are guilty of a felony. That’s a neat trick, don’t you think?

By now you must be wondering what this is all about. I don’t blame you. What if I told you this was all about the crime of rape? That, in order to curb rapings, officials decided to make being a victim of rape a felony and that the very evidence a rape took place made the rape victim guilty of being an accessory to rape before she even set foot into a courtroom?

“Preposterous,” you’d say? You’d be right. The idea is so far beyond bizarre, it’s positively scary.

No, this isn’t about some lame-brained idea on curbing rape. However, that doesn’t make it any less troublesome. It’s about a lame-brained idea on curbing gun crime.

The bill number is House Bill 5818. Of course, the legislators responsible for this pending legislation gave it a rather benign and neutral title: “AN ACT CONCERNING LOST OR STOLEN FIREARMS.” While true, the title hides the fact that the real purpose of the legislation is much more sinister, and you don’t have to look very far to see this. Here is the “statement of purpose” that immediately follows the title:

“To require that when a firearm is not in the actual physical possession of the owner it be stored or kept in a manner so as to reduce the risk that it will be stolen or otherwise come into the possession of another person, require the reporting of the loss or theft of a firearm to a law enforcement agency and provide that evidence that a pistol or revolver was found not in the possession of the owner thereof is prima facie evidence that the owner had transferred such pistol or revolver without proper application and authorization.”

Now, is there anything wrong with requiring firearms to be stored securely? On the surface, no. I guess it depends on who determines exactly what is defined as “secure.” If the end result is some agency (most likely it’d come down to the Department of Public Safety and the Connecticut State Police) deciding the only lawful manner of owning firearms is by keeping them in a concrete vault, that would be problematic for most Connecticut gun-owners, wouldn’t it?

Secondly, having to inform law enforcement that a firearm was lost or stolen seems like common-sense, and it is. This legislation provides for a 72 hour window to do so if you are unfortunate enough to be in this predicament.

Thirdly, the most alarming provision of this legislation is revealed. This is the part that actually criminalizes the act of being a victim of theft. Here it is again, for your convenience: “…and provide that evidence that a pistol or revolver was found not in the possession of the owner thereof is prima facie evidence that the owner had transferred such pistol or revolver without proper application and authorization.”

Anybody see the problem here? Let me break it down for you:

A. If a pistol that you legally own is stolen from you, you obviously no longer are in possession of that pistol.

B. “Prima facie” means there is a presumption that the evidence or case in question can stand on its own merits until or unless proven otherwise. In other words, prima facie means it’s assumed to be true right from the start.

C. Transferring pistols or revolvers (handguns) “without proper application and authorization” is a felony. This is sometimes referred to as a “straw purchase,” when a legal gun buyer purchases a firearm for someone other than himself, or a person who is legally barred from possessing a firearm.

Therefore, according to many high-profile officials in our state, if you fall victim to thieves and a pistol of yours is stolen, as soon as the pistol is recovered, you should be automatically considered to be guilty of illegally transferring your pistol to the thief. You will be an instant felon in the eyes of the law, you will be arrested, you will go to trial, and the only proof the state will need to present in court is the fact that someone other than you had your pistol, even if it was stolen from you. Now that’s what you call a “slam-dunk” case. The very evidence that you were a crime victim is the very evidence that sends you to prison! Imagine that!

To top it all off, this legislation puts the burden on the defendant to prove his innocence, through what is called “affirmative defenses.” Affirmative defenses shift the burden of proof from the prosecution to the defense. Under this law, the state simply says you are guilty until you prove your innocence, and how can you prove you stored a firearm securely if it was stolen? The simple answer is you cannot. If your house or apartment is ever broken into and a pistol or revolver is stolen from you, you might as well get fitted for prison attire right away; because that’s the future people like Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez want for you. After all, it was Perez who said back in January, “The issue is not who fired the gun, but where it came from.”

True criminals must love that message.

Now, the officials who are peddling this legislation say these measures are needed to stem the flow of guns falling into the hands of criminals. They say that “straw purchasing” puts too many guns into the hands of the people who use guns to commit crime. Even if this is true (it’s interesting to note that at a splashy news conference, none of the officials standing behind the podium offered any empirical evidence that this is actually a widespread problem), straw purchasing is, get this, already illegal. Remember? It’s a felony to transfer a pistol without the proper application and authorization!

This begs the question: If straw purchasing is already illegal (a felony), and it is a widespread problem (although no hard evidence has been offered to prove this), how is this legislation going to stop criminals (straw purchasers) from doing what they know is already illegal?

Or is it something much more sinister?

Wobblin' Goblin
Former State Representative, 51st District
CT General Assembly

Link Posted: 3/28/2006 7:40:55 PM EDT
Good article. Where is thing being published?
Link Posted: 3/28/2006 7:41:18 PM EDT
Wow. That sounds genuinely f*&ked up.
Link Posted: 3/28/2006 7:42:51 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Wobblin-Goblin:
What do you guys think?



I think I'm glad I don't live in Conneticut.

This must be the fallout of all that pressure from Romney in Mass. and Bloomberg in NYC.
Link Posted: 3/28/2006 7:50:19 PM EDT
Very well written. good job!
Link Posted: 3/28/2006 7:51:07 PM EDT

Originally Posted By motown_steve:
This must be the fallout of all that pressure from Romney in Mass. and Bloomberg in NYC.



CT should listen. crime is REALLY down in NYC and Assachusetts.....
Link Posted: 3/28/2006 7:51:42 PM EDT
Take out all the "Now here's where it get's crazy" & "Hold onto your hat"

That is typically how liberals write, and usually causes me to stop reading.
That also makes it sound like that OxyClean infomercial guy wrote it.

Your article is very good and logical.
It could/should be 1/2 the length if you would make your statements more concise.
(BTW, newspapers often have space at a premium and want the article as short as possible.)
Link Posted: 3/28/2006 7:57:02 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Leisure_Shoot:
Take out all the "Now here's where it get's crazy" & "Hold onto your hat"

That is typically how liberals write, and usually causes me to stop reading.
That also makes it sound like that OxyClean infomercial guy wrote it.

Your article is very good and logical.
It could/should be 1/2 the length if you would make your statements more concise.
(BTW, newspapers often have space at a premium and want the article as short as possible.)


Remember, this is a column, not a "letter to the editor."
Link Posted: 3/28/2006 8:04:31 PM EDT
WOW... and I thought that NY was fucked up!

Good job WG!
Link Posted: 3/28/2006 8:20:06 PM EDT
I will also be forwarding this to the Coalition of CT Sportsmen.
Link Posted: 3/28/2006 8:41:51 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 3/28/2006 8:51:29 PM EDT by GonzoAR15-1]
WG -- Here's my quick stab at an "editorial" revision of your article. I hope you won't mind the liberties I've taken, but editing is one of my favorite things to work on. This is a "flesh out" edit, which restates some ideas and elaborates on others. You need to do the final edit which should result in not less than a 20% reduction in word count. That's my standard anyway. Since you're doing an opinion column and do not need to be as dry in your language, you can probably get away with a 10 to 15 percent cut. Good luck, and thank you for fighting the fight.


Criminalizing victims: The strange truth behind this fantasy

We’ve all heard bizarre stories before. Leave it to the Connecticut General Assembly (and other assorted officials of the elected and unelected variety) to try to top them all. What if I told you that the people who mold and shape public policy in Connecticut were banding together in a brand-new, “tough-as-nails” attempt to curb crime?

Put it that way, and you might say, “About time we got tough on criminals!”

But you wouldn’t be further from the truth.

You see, as this column goes to press, our legislators are busy in Hartford trying to put the best spin they can on a new “crime-fighting” bill that would actually make it a crime to be a victim of crime.

Yes, you read that correctly.

There’s actually a bill moving through the legislature (and it’s picking up speed) that will criminalize the act of being a victim. I know it sounds nuts, but Mark Twain was not kidding when he observed that making legislation and making sausage are two processes one might best avoid trying to watch.

The pending legislation not only makes victims of crime into criminals themselves, but it also specifies that those victims are, are you ready, guilty of a felony. That’s right. Becoming a felon in Connecticut is about to get a whole lot easier.

What could we possibly be talking about, you say? Well, before I delve into the specifics of this bizarre bit of legislation, there is one more especially troubling aspect of the bill that is worthy of comment. Are you sitting down? You are? Good, you will not believe this: If this bill is passed (as written) by the house and senate and is signed by Governor Rell (who has hinted that she will do just that), a victim of a particular crime will be presumed guilty of committing a felony. Astoundingly, the very same evidence that proves you are a victim will also prove you are guilty of a felony. That’s a neat trick, don’t you think?

By now you must be wondering what this is all about. I don’t blame you.

What if I told you that the legal framework of this new proposal could be applied to the crime of rape? That, in order to cut down on the number of rapes, our venerated officials decided to make it a felony offense for a woman to be “negligent” in the prevention of a rape, and to specify that in order to avoid such an outcome, any rape victim would have the burden of proving that she was not dressed provocatively and that she employed adequate measures to resist her attacker? Suppose the law said that the very evidence a rape took place would result in a statutory presumption that the victim was an accessory to her own to rape before she even set foot into a courtroom?

“Preposterous,” you’d say?

You’d be right.

The idea is so far beyond bizarre, it’s positively scary.

Fortunately, this isn’t about some lame-brained idea on curbing rape. However, that doesn’t make it any less troublesome. It’s about a lame-brained idea on curbing gun crime.

The legislative anachronism to which I refer is moving forward as House Bill 5818. Of course, the officials responsible for this nonsense gave it a rather benign and neutral title: “AN ACT CONCERNING LOST OR STOLEN FIREARMS.” While true, the title hides the fact that the real purpose and actual operation of the legislation is much more sinister, and you don’t have to look very far to see this. Here is the “statement of purpose” that immediately follows the title:

“To require that when a firearm is not in the actual physical possession of the owner it be stored or kept in a manner so as to reduce the risk that it will be stolen or otherwise come into the possession of another person, require the reporting of the loss or theft of a firearm to a law enforcement agency and provide that evidence that a pistol or revolver was found not in the possession of the owner thereof is prima facie evidence that the owner had transferred such pistol or revolver without proper application and authorization.”

Now, is there anything wrong with requiring firearms to be stored securely? On the surface, no. I guess it depends on who determines exactly what is defined as “secure.” If the end result is some agency (most likely it’d come down to the Department of Public Safety and the Connecticut State Police) deciding the only lawful manner of owning firearms is by keeping them in a concrete vault, that would be problematic for most Connecticut gun-owners, wouldn’t it?

Likewise, requiring a citizen who has had his or her gun solen to promptly inform law enforcement seems like common-sense, and it is. This legislation provides for a 72 hour window to do so if you are unfortunate enough to be in this predicament.

Had the new law stopped there, there might not be much to quarrel with. But the most alarming aspect of this legislation is revealed only by closer examination. This is the part that actually criminalizes the very fact of being a victim of theft. Here is the official summary again, for your convenience: The new laws specifies that “…evidence that a pistol or revolver was found not in the possession of the owner thereof is prima facie evidence that the owner had transferred such pistol or revolver without proper application and authorization.”

Anybody see the problem here? Let me break it down for you:

A. If a pistol that you legally own is stolen from you, you obviously no longer are in possession of that pistol.

B. “Prima facie” is a fancy latin phrase. It means "on its face," or at the outset. This means there is a presumption that the evidence or case in question can stand on its own merits until or unless proven otherwise. In other words, prima facie means it’s assumed to be true right from the start. In the context of criminal law, what this bill is saying is that the prosecutor does not have to actually prove that you failed to store the gun properly. You could have had it locked up in the vault at your local bank, but if its not found there, you will be presumed to have violated the law.

C. Transferring pistols or revolvers (handguns) “without proper application and authorization” is a felony. This is sometimes referred to as a “straw purchase,” when a legal gun buyer purchases a firearm for someone other than himself, or a person who is legally barred from possessing a firearm.

Therefore, according to many high-profile officials in our state, if you fall victim to thieves and a pistol of yours is stolen, as soon as the pistol is recovered, you will be presumptively guilty of illegally transferring your pistol to the thief. You will be an instant felon in the eyes of the law, and the only proof the state will need to present in court at your trial is the fact that someone other than you had your pistol, even if it was stolen from you. Now that’s what you call a “slam-dunk” case. The very evidence that you were a crime victim is the very evidence that sends you to prison! Imagine that!

To top it all off, this legislation puts the burden on the defendant to prove his innocence, through what are called “affirmative defenses.” An affirmative defense is something a criminal defendant can prove to avoid liability for what might otherwise be considered criminal conduct. Usually, an affirmative defense is something that “changes the landscape” as we view the facts of any particular situation. If you have someone before you who is accused of tackling another person in an convenience store, pummeling and physically restraining that person, you might think it important to know that the person who was tackled came into the store waiving a gun and demanding money. That is why self defense or defense of others is a defense to charges that one assaulted or battered the person who turns out to have "really" been the bad guy. But sometimes, sneaky lawmakers try to write criminal laws in such a way that affirmative defenses really serve to shift the burden of proof in the whole case from the prosecution to the defense. Under the legislation I’m writing about today, for example, the statute says you are presumed at first blush to have violated the law if your gun is recovered somewhere other than your possession. The affirmative defense is that may prove you were not negligent in storing your gun and that it wsa secure. But how do you prove it was stored securely if it was stolen?

The simple answer is you probably can't.

If your house or apartment is ever broken into and a pistol or revolver is stolen from you, you might as well get fitted for prison attire right away; because that’s the future people like Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez want for you. After all, it was Perez who said back in January, “The issue is not who fired the gun, but where it came from.”

True criminals must love that message.

If the purpose of this law is to impose criminal liability on those who negligently store their weapons, why shouldn’t the prosecutor have to prove that negligence beyond a reasonable doubt, as with other crimes? Why are gun owners singled out for an Orwellian criminal regime where the law requires virtually nothing for the Prosecutor to get you in front of the jury, but you may go free only if you bear the burden of proving a negative (i.e., that you were not negligent)?

Now, the officials who are peddling this legislation say these measures are needed to stem the flow of guns falling into the hands of criminals. They say that “straw purchasing” puts too many guns into the hands of the people who use guns to commit crime. Even if this is true (it’s interesting to note that at a splashy news conference, none of the officials standing behind the podium offered any empirical evidence that this is actually a widespread problem), straw purchasing is, get this, already illegal. Remember? It’s a felony to transfer a pistol without the proper application and authorization!

This begs the question: If straw purchasing is already illegal (a felony), and it is a widespread problem (although no hard evidence has been offered to prove this), how is this legislation going to stop criminals (straw purchasers) from doing what they know is already illegal?

Or is it something much more sinister?

Wobblin' Goblin
Former State Representative, 51st District
CT General Assembly

Link Posted: 3/29/2006 3:19:28 AM EDT
Also what this law would do is scare people into not owning a firearm. It does'nt say what is proplery secured is.
If they break into your home and use a cutting torch to get to your guns, you didn't have them properly secured and you are a felon.
They break in to your home, you don't have time to get a gun from the safe to defend yourself, they take your family hostage and force you to open the safe. You did not have them secured, you are now a Felon.
What it boils down to is if you can get them or they don't have to kill you to get them you are a Felon for having guns.
Link Posted: 3/29/2006 3:50:32 AM EDT

Originally Posted By snarfbatt:
Also what this law would do is scare people into not owning a firearm. It does'nt say what is proplery secured is.
If they break into your home and use a cutting torch to get to your guns, you didn't have them properly secured and you are a felon.
They break in to your home, you don't have time to get a gun from the safe to defend yourself, they take your family hostage and force you to open the safe. You did not have them secured, you are now a Felon.
What it boils down to is if you can get them or they don't have to kill you to get them you are a Felon for having guns.



Yep, that's exactly what it intends to do.
Link Posted: 3/29/2006 4:49:45 AM EDT



a few hundred thousand *illegals* marching around in the streets of our nation have catalyzed a movement, and possible legislation, to make themselves legitimate americans regardless of the fact that the potential new policy is largely unpopular outside their own group.

maybe it's time that a few million of america's gun owners do the same, because as much as i appreciate your writing, letters and the occasional column don't seem to do a damned thing...


Link Posted: 3/29/2006 5:08:21 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 3/29/2006 5:09:12 AM EDT by gardenWeasel]
Brought to you by the people who accidentally banned auto racing and campfires while passing common sense laws.
Link Posted: 3/29/2006 11:39:02 AM EDT
Bump for a little more exposure.
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