Saturday, August 18, 2007

Norfolk passed an ILLEGAL 'no guns' ordinance a few months ago

Norfolk passed an ILLEGAL 'no guns' ordinance a few months ago (no, I am NOT kidding) and ENFORCED that illegal ordinance against a VCDL member!

Bad, bad, bad mistake.

New firearms ordinances, other than those to control discharge or hunting, have been illegal in the Commonwealth since 1987! But Norfolk appears to have been passing a series of gun banning ordinances pertaining to various festivals that the City has put on over the years!

Unbelievable. And Norfolk, of all places, KNOWS better than to do that. (VCDL has had TWO large turnouts at City Council meetings a few years ago to make sure that City Council was aware of Virginia's preemption laws.)

But, Norfolk did it anyway and now it's time to pay the piper.

Worse, within the last month, Norfolk police have also harassed two other gun owners who were lawfully carrying openly, one black and one white - each was accosted on TWO separate occasions! More on those incidents later in the alert.

Here's the story of the false arrest under an illegal ordinance (if you take blood pressure medicine, now is the time to take it for this is going to be very unsettling). Sorry for the length, but it will read quickly:

Chet Szymecki arrived at Sail Virginia 2007, a tall ship festival in Norfolk, with his family (wife, their three children, and two other children from other families [all 13 and under]) around 2:30 PM on Sunday, June 10th, 2007.

As luck would have it, Dennis O'Connor and I were also at that same festival about the same time - but Chet didn't know that we were there and vice versa! Damn, I wish I had known what was about to transpire!

Chet, who was open carrying on that beautiful day, crossed paths with dozens of officers, with many being cognizant of the fact that he was openly carrying.

At 4:30 Chet and family had just ordered some waffle cakes and returned to a music area for an upcoming show. Chet was approached by a black female Norfolk Sheriff's officer and was asked if he was a police officer.

Chet responded, "No."

The officer then stated that Chet must leave the festival area immediately since he was not permitted to carry a firearm there. At the same time another Sheriff's deputy closed in, and one more hung back a few feet. The officer began communicating on her radio and Chet was expecting the situation to totally dissolve within minutes and he could then continue to enjoy the rest of the show with no further interruption.

Within a few seconds two groups of officers from the Norfolk Police Department approached from two different directions.

The primary group had 5-6 officers, and from the look on a Lieutenant's face Chet could tell that things were quickly becoming exponentially worse.

The Lieutenant came within inches of Chet and in a very condescending tone of voice stated that Chet had two choices: leave the park or go to jail.

While appearing to be as non-confrontational as possible (one hand holding his waffle cake and the other feeding his mouth) Chet began to reply that this must be a simple misunderstanding since he is permitted to carry.

Chet was cut off and, as the Lieutenant leaned in to intimidate him, the Lieutenant raised his voice and just about shouted that Chet had only two choices: leave immediately or be arrested.

Chet was still in shock and once again began to speak. Not waiting to hear what Chet had to say, the Lieutenant immediately told the other officers to arrest Chet!

In the following seconds Chet had hands all over him. One officer was tugging at Chet's pistol, having much difficulty removing it. Chet was worried about an accidental discharge with his family being literally feet away.

Other officers were pulling Chet's arms around his back and cuffing him. Chet offered no resistance.

Chet's wife began to speak and she was immediately pushed back by a black female Sheriff's deputy!

Chet's children were just about panicking watching their law-abiding father being stripped of his dignity while their mother was being forced back and being told that she may be arrested if she failed to comply.

Chet's wife attempted to record the scene on her cellular phone and was told she would be arrested if she did not secure her phone immediately!!!

The police then forcibly escorted Ms. Szymecki and her children off the property and left them standing on a street corner in Norfolk, all alone and without car keys (Chet had them and the police would not retrieve them). How very shameful.

A totally unnecessary use of force by the police on someone who was not threatening anyone, leaving a wife and young children on a street corner, totally unprotected.

Congratulations, Norfolk, those police-state tactics would have made Stalin smile warmly at you.

While being whisked away, Chet stated that he was aware that he was being unlawfully disarmed and detained and he demanded to be released immediately.

That didn't draw any response.

After a few minutes when Chet and the police were in a clear area where an Explosive Ordinance Disposal van was parked, along with many other police vehicles, Chet was instructed to face a wall.

Chet informed the officers that the handcuffs were agonizingly tight and repeated that he was not a threat to any of them and asked that the handcuffs be loosened.

Two officers were behind Chet holding him - one officer replied while squeezing the cuffs tighter that "they were not meant to feel comfortable." Nothing like having a sadist on the police payroll. I knew a couple of officers like this who worked the jail in San Antonio.

Chet was just sickened by the lack of professionalism and, as an ex-law enforcement officer and law abiding citizen, SO AM I!

After a half hour or so, and asking a few more times to have his cuffs be loosened, Chet was placed in the rear of a squad car. At that time Chet's left hand was totally numb and his right shoulder was aching.

Chet informed the officer in the police car that Chet was a veteran retired from active service and had sustained injuries in the line of duty - Chet's right arm being one of the injured areas.

Chet informed him that his right Brachial Plexus nerve group was torn from his spine and he had limited use and mobility of his right arm. Chet stated again that he simply wanted the cuffs behind his back to be readjusted.

The most the officer could offer was a suggestion on how to sit back in the squad car in a comfortable way. Needless to say - Chet, who had done nothing wrong, was very uncomfortable.

Several times one officer approached Chet and stated that "in a town of 200,000 or more like ours you cannot carry around a gun like you can in other places."

Chet told the officer that that law did not apply since: (1) the gun Chet was carrying was not classified as a "firearm" in that code section and (2) Chet had a concealed carry permit which rendered the entire section inapplicable to him.

Chet was told he did not know what he was talking about and Chet had no business carrying a gun while in Norfolk.

Speaking of being ignorant of Virginia gun laws, that officer needs remedial training. What a disgrace.

While in the cruiser an officer approached Chet and once again Chet was offered a choice: sign a summons or go visit the magistrate.

Being unfamiliar with the entire process and not understanding the gravity of the decision, Chet asked for additional clarification. The officer was polite and informed Chet that signing a summons was not an admission of guilt and he was simply promising to show up at a future court date. By not signing the summons Chet would go in front of a magistrate and this, along with the associated processing, would take many hours. Signing the summons would only take a few minutes and then Chet could be released.

DOES EVERYONE NOW UNDERSTAND WHY VCDL FOUGHT A BILL EARLIER THIS YEAR THAT WOULD HAVE ALLOWED OFFICERS TO THROW SOMEONE IN JAIL FOR ANY CLASS 1 OR CLASS 2 MISDEAMEANOR AT WILL? Any doubts in your mind that these officers would have done so to further humiliate and intimidate Chet if they were given the option?

Chet asked what would happen if the magistrate realized that this was all a simple mistake. The officer informed Chet that even if the magistrate released him, the police could issue a bench warrant and keep Chet in jail until his court date!!! Any doubt that these officers would have done so?

It seemed that signing the summons was the proper choice and Chet signed it. I agree.

Chet asked for his pistol to be returned and one of the officers stated that it was being held as evidence. Chet asked him for a receipt for his confiscated property. The officer stated that he had a pistol, one magazine, nine rounds of ammunition, and a holster. The officer said his verbal receipt was sufficient!

Like hell!

Chet was also forced to provide his Social Security Number - Chet asked if this were voluntary or mandatory - Chet was told it was mandatory. WRONG again, Norfolk Police! Chet was also forced to fingerprint his summons papers in four areas.

Arriving home almost two hours later, Chet was forced to skip a previously planned dinner engagement with another family and seek treatment at a local medical facility. Chet said he has a high tolerance for pain and discomfort but his right arm/shoulder and the back of his neck was just killing him.

Chet was examined by the doctor and prescribed medications. The doctor stated that since his arm has limited movement and the officers forced it into this unnatural position for over an hour, muscles and ligaments were probably strained.

Chet contacted me that evening and related the above story. The next morning I was on the phone to Norfolk City Attorney, Bernard Pishko.

Mr. Pishko proceeded to tell me that the public streets for the event were considered private property and thus guns could be banned. I told him that the "Festevents" organization that was running the festival was nothing but an arm of the City and could NOT ban guns. I also said that if the private property part were true, why had Chet not been arrested for trespass, but was instead charged under a City ordinance?

Mr. Pishko said I wasn't a lawyer and didn't know what I was talking about. He suggested that he could drop the charges against Chet, but said that perhaps this issue should be settled in court. Mr. Pishko said he was comfortable that the City would win.

Dream on, sir.

However, Mr. Pishko said the charges would be dropped and he kept his word. The charges were "Nollo Prossed" at Chet's court hearing on June 22nd and Chet is now in the process of getting his record expunged.

Chet was charged under City Code 42660 Section 3c (weapon/firearm in festival area).

In order to gather information the City may have on this incident, VCDL has already sent Freedom of Information Act requests to the

* Norfolk Sheriff, to find out which officer started this whole thing, along with any supporting information

* Norfolk Police, to get a copy of ALL radio traffic and other documents relating to Chet's arrest.

* Norfolk City Attorney, on the City's relationship with "Festevents" and to get a copy of the offending ordinance

The dollar amount of the lawsuit has not as yet been set, but I hope it is enough to get the City's attention.


Two other law-abiding gun owners, one black and one white, were each harassed TWICE by the Norfolk Police recently. Both were simply open carrying.

The black gun owner, an articulate, polite, 23 year-old who has helped at VCDL tables at various gun shows in the Tidewater area, had guns drawn and pointed at him by the police on the first occasion.

On the second occasion, he was handcuffed, even after complying with police demands to keep both hands on a nearby wall.

Both times the gun owner was released at the scene. But not after being unnecessarily humiliated and manhandled.

On the second occasion, the police officers told him that if they saw him open carrying again, they would handcuff him, run his gun for stolen, and then release him again!!!

Forget looking for real criminals, just harass the good guys, Norfolk. Unbelievable.

The white gun owner (Norfolk seems to be an equal opportunity harasser) was also detained and then released.


VCDL has been sitting quietly on this until Chet's charges were dropped. But these events cannot go unchallenged.

In addition to the lawsuit, VCDL will be attending a future Norfolk City Council meeting to denounce the oppressive harassment of Virginia's gun owners and demand an end to it.

The City of Norfolk and their police agents have a pattern of abusing the law and law abiding gun owners. If you or I violate the law, we risk fines and/or jail time. Why should local government officials be immune from punishment for passing and enforcing an ordinance in violation of state law? How long will the General Assembly let these rogue officials get away with this abuse of the law?


I will advise when we have picked a date.

Tidewater - time to step up to the plate again.

********************************************************************** ***** VA-ALERT is a project of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, Inc. (VCDL). VCDL is an all-volunteer, non-partisan grassroots organization dedicated to defending the human rights of all Virginians. The membership considers the Right to Keep and Bear Arms to be an essential human right.

VCDL web page:

Thursday, August 9, 2007




Many people think that nations with more firearms will have more murder and that banning firearms will reduce murder and other violence.. This canard does not comport, however, with criminological research in the U.S. or elsewhere.

An extensive study that one of us (Kates) recently published with Canadian criminologist Gary Mauser confirms the negative results of two large-scale international studies over the past 15 years. ("Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide: A Review of International Evidence," Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, vol. 30, pages 651-694.)

These studies compared data from a large number of nations around the world. There were no instances of nations with high gun ownership having higher murder rates than nations with low gun ownership. If anything it was the reverse, for reasons discussed below.

For example, though Norway has far and away the highest firearm ownership per capita in Western Europe, it nevertheless has the lowest murder rate. Other nations with high firearms ownership and comparably low murder rates include Denmark, Greece, Switzerland, Germany and Austria. Holland has a 50 percent higher murder rate despite having the lowest rate of firearm ownership in Europe. And Luxembourg, despite its total handgun ban, has a murder rate that is nine times higher than countries such as Norway and Austria.

It turns out that in nations where guns are less available, criminals manage to get them anyway. After decades of ever-stricter gun controls, England banned handguns and confiscated them from all permit holders in 1997. Yet by 2000, England had the industrialized world's highest violent crime rate - twice that of the U.S. Despite the confiscation of law-abiding Englishmen's handguns, a 2002 report of England's National Crime Intelligence Service lamented that while "Britain has some of the strictest gun laws in the world, [i]t appears that anyone who wishes to obtain a firearm [illegally] will have little difficulty in doing so."

In the rare case in which gun bans work, murderers use other weapons. Eight decades of police-state enforcement of handgun prohibition have kept Russian gun ownership low, resulting in few gun murders. Yet Russia's murder rates have long been four times higher than those in the U.S. and 20 times higher than rates in countries such as Norway. Former Soviet nations like Lithuania also ban handguns and severely restrict other guns, yet have 10-15 times higher murder rates than European nations with much higher gun ownership.

Nor does the "more guns means more murder" belief square with our own experience. The earliest American figures, dating from just after World War II, showed both gun ownership and murder rates holding at low levels. Today our murder rates are almost identical, despite six decades of massive gun buying whereby Americans have come to own five times more guns than they did in 1946. The intervening years saw a dramatic increase in murder followed by a dramatic decrease. These trends had no relationship to gun ownership, which steadily rose all the while (especially handgun ownership).

American demographic data also refute the myth that fewer guns in a community mean less murder. The murder rate among African-Americans is six times higher than among whites. Does this mean African-Americans have more guns? No, ordinary law abiding African-Americans are markedly less likely than whites to own guns. But the argument for banning guns to everyone is refuted, since fewer guns for law abiding African-Americans does not mean fewer guns for African-American criminals. Incidentally, rural African-Americans own guns as frequently as whites, but the murder rate among them is only a tiny fraction of the urban African-American rate.

Regardless of race, the distinction between good people and criminals is vital. It is utterly false that most murderers are ordinary people who went wrong because they had guns. Almost all murderers have life histories of violence, restraining orders, substance abuse problems and/or a form of psychopathology. It's generally illegal for these people to have guns, but unlike good people, they ignore gun laws - just as they ignore laws against violence.

The "more guns means more murders" mythology also flies in the face of history. From the 1600s, American colonial law required that every household have a gun and that every military-age male be armed for militia service. Men too poor to buy guns were supplied with them by colonial governments and had to repay the cost in installments. To assure that every home and man was armed, officers periodically searched homes and men were required to muster with their guns. Despite this universal armament, murder was rare and few murders involved firearms.

Murder rates increased after the 1840s, by which time these armament requirements were no longer enforced and per capita gun ownership had become much lower. From the 1860s on, gun ownership increased sharply. Millions of men came home from the Civil War with their weapons; and firearms were even more widely distributed in the era of cheap pot metal guns (the "two dollar pistol") that followed. But this vast increase in guns - much deadlier guns than ever before - from the 1860s onward was accompanied by a substantially decreasing murder rate.

A few 19th century American states adopted gun controls because they had (and still have) severe violent crime rates. In most states, murders were few despite high gun ownership and virtually no gun control. Likewise, Europe had low murder rates prior to World War I despite high gun ownership and virtually no controls. Severe European gun laws appeared (for political reasons) in the tumultuous post-World War I era. Despite ever-stricter gun laws, both political and apolitical violence has increased apace in Europe.

If anything, a review of the European experience demonstrates more guns correlating with less murder. Nine European nations (including Germany, Austria, Denmark and Norway) have more than 15,000 guns per 100,000 members of the population. Nine others (including Luxembourg, Russia, and Hungary) have fewer than 5,000 guns per 100,000 members of the population. But the aggregate murder rates of these nine low-gun-ownership nations are three times higher than those of the nine high-gun-ownership nations.

Some groups, particularly the gun lobby, might argue that this shows how widespread gun ownership actually reduces violence rates. There is substantial evidence that this is true in the United States, where gun ownership for self-defense is very common. But there is no evidence that Norwegians, Germans and other Europeans often keep guns for defense.

The reason that European nations with more guns tend to have lower violence is political rather than criminological. Gun ownership generally has no affect on how much violent crime a society has. Violent crime is determined by fundamental economic and sociocultural factors, not the mere availability of just one of an innumerable bevy of potential murder instruments. Politicians in nations with severe crime problems often think that banning guns will be a quick fix. But gun bans don't work; if anything, they make things worse. They disarm the law-abiding while being ignored by the violent and the criminal. Yet nations with severe violence problems tend to have severe gun laws. By the same token, the murder rates in handgun-banning U.S. cities - New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C. - are far higher than in states like Pennsylvania and Connecticut, where handguns are legal and widely owned.

In sum, banning guns to the general public increases people's vulnerability and fails to reduce violence because the law-abiding citizenry are victims of violent crime, not perpetrators. Banning guns to felons, violent misdemeanants, juveniles and the insane (which our laws already do) is a good idea in general, though such laws are very difficult to enforce. Disarming those who only want to defend themselves, however, is a surefire road to empowering criminals at the expense of the innocent.

---*** Don Kates is a lawyer and criminologist associated with the Independent Institute in Oakland. Carol Hehmeyer is a retired San Francisco deputy district attorney.

Monday, July 23, 2007

D.C.'s Assault on the Second Amendment By Terence Jeffrey

D.C.'s Assault on the Second Amendment By Terence Jeffrey Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A useful illustration of how American freedom could fade away can be seen in a contrast between the city government of Newton, Mass., in 1775, and the city government of Washington, D.C, in 2007.

On Jan. 2, 1775, as historian David Hackett Fischer recounts in Paul Revere's Ride, the good people of Newton held a town meeting. The issues they discussed were similar in a certain sort of way to the issues that might be discussed today by the D.C. council. They included a proposed gun law and entitlement program.

In Newton, the gun law and entitlement program were one and the same.

The Newtonians thought it so important for every man in town to own a gun that they were ready to give him one if he could not afford it.

"Voted," say the town records, "that the Selectmen use their best discretion in providing fire-arms for the poor of the town who are unable to provide for themselves."

D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty does not see guns the way our Founders did. In his view, they are not tools for defending individual liberty, they are instruments of criminality.

This week, Fenty announced that the District would appeal to the Supreme Court a March decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that ruled that a District gun law was unconstitutional. The law in question flatly bans possession of a handgun -- even in one's own home -- unless the gun was registered before 1976. "Wherever I go, the response from the residents is, 'Mayor Fenty, you've got to fight this all the way to the Supreme Court,'" said Fenty.

In fact, however, the D.C. handgun suit pits individual law-abiding D.C. residents against a Constitution-flouting D.C. government. These individuals claim the government is violating their Second Amendment right to "keep and bear arms." The appeals court agreed.

The District argues there is no such thing as an individual right to keep and bear arms, and that the Framers did not intend to protect one. Pointing to the prefatory clause of the Second Amendment ("A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State"), it argued in court that the substantive clause ("the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed") was not really intended to protect a "right of the people," but a right of state governments to maintain militias.

"The District claims that the Second Amendment 'protects private possession of weapons only in connection with performance of civic duties as part of a well-regulated citizens militia organized for the security of a free state," Judge Laurence Silberman reported in his opinion for the appeals court. Because the District implicitly argued that Founding-era-type militias no longer exist, Silberman said, the unavoidable conclusion, if the District's argument is accepted, is that the Second Amendment is meaningless.

"(I)n fact, at oral argument, appellees' counsel asserted that it would be constitutional for the District to ban all firearms outright," said Silberman. "In short, we take the District's position to be that the Second Amendment is a dead letter."

The generation of Americans who ratified the Second Amendment would see such an outcome as a prelude to the extermination of all the other rights of the "people" recognized in the Constitution.

Gun ownership, in their view, was not merely an individual right, it was a natural right. If individuals had a God-given right to life, liberty and property, it obviously followed that they also had a right to individually posses the means to protect their life, liberty and property. That meant guns.

The 1689 Bill of Rights enacted by England's parliament reflected this view, as did William Blackstone's "Commentaries on the Laws of England," one of the most popular books in colonial America. Even Founding era editorial writers understood that gun ownership was a natural individual right.

A 2004 opinion from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Council explaining why the Second Amendment protects an individual right cited an April 13, 1769, editorial from the New York Journal Supplement. "It is a natural right which the people have reserved to themselves, confirmed by the (English) Bill of Rights, to keep arms for their own defence," said the editorial, "and as Mr. Blackstone observes, it is to be made use of when the sanctions of society and law are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression."

Three months after the people of Newton resolved to provide firearms for the poor, English regulars marched on nearby Concord with the aim of disarming the American people.