Washington Second Amendment lawyers are closely watching developments in Missouri. The “Show Me State” recently organized a four-day Urban Crime Summit at which attendees were to come up with ideas for reducing crime. One of the ideas being floated during this summit was a “gun court” system that would treat differently/harshly not only armed criminals, but CCP holders accused of petty traffic offenses.
As proposed, all cases involving firearms in any capacity would be separated from all other types of criminal cases and would be heard before one of two judges. These two judges would set high, cash-only bonds for defendants and ensure that the matters before them head to trial much faster than normal, non-gun cases.
Armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, and homicide by way of a firearm will all land you in front of a gun judge. Unfortunately, if a person with a concealed weapon permit gets into a fight – but never brandishes or uses the gun – they can be charged with assault in the fourth degree, and will end up in gun court.
Moreover, some poor guy with a hunting rifle who gets pulled over and arrested for driving under the influence can also end up in gun court. This has many Tacoma gun lawyers wondering whether this is yet another assault on our Constitutional right to bear arms. Such legislation is a slippery slope upon which our Constitutional right to bear arms may be further restricted.
Here’s how restrictions are likely to develop: Step one: create a separate court that deals only with crimes in which the defendant had a weapons, or was licensed to possess a weapon. Step two: set astronomically high, cash-only bail, which ensures that the accused are locked up until released by a judge, jury, jail, or prison. In additional to high bail, the defendant and his attorney would be rushed through the process at a breakneck pace designed to overwhelm defense attorneys. Of course, the accused would also lose their firearms in the process. Step three: make the penalty/sentence for those convicted of the commission of a crime with a firearm severe.
Essentially, steps one through three aims to separate defendants into two categories: those who commit crimes with a firearm, and everyone else. Every 2nd Amendment attorney will be concerned with equal protection issues and uniform application of the law. For instance, a defendant charged in gun courts may not enjoy the same procedural rights and equal application of the law. That’s because their case proceeds at the speed of sound and any criminal attorney will tell you that it takes time to prepare a case for trial, or resolution.
Defendants are also unlikely to enjoy the same rights (procedural, Constitutional, etc.) as other non-gun court defendants. Experienced criminal defense attorneys worry that they won’t be able to adequately prepare and defend their clients who are being rushed through the system. Very few people outside the legal system would have any idea how unfair gun courts will be.
Few people would object to stiffer/harsher sentences and penalties for those convicted of a crime while using a firearm. I’m a former prosecutor, and most of our attorneys and support staff in my office have CCP’s, and we want to see punishment for people who use guns to victimize others. Unfortunately, the proposed gun courts, while not directly affecting gun rights currently, could be the first step towards curtailing our right to bear arms. Thus, it is important that we recognize that any potential legislation aimed at curbing gun violence can eventually lead to the infringement of our Constitutional right to bear arms.
Ross D. Brittain, Esq.