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The gnomes are busy in their burrows. Another GOUtah! alert.

This would raise the vague concept of "assault" against a peace officer to a felony.

People are so hasty to make things felonies, thinking that more felons makes society better. Geez!

GOUtah!
(Gun Owners of Utah)
http://www.goutahorg.org
...
GOUtah! Alert #256 â€" 18 January 2007
...
ANOTHER ANTI-GUN BILL

HB 70, sponsored by Rep. Paul Ray (R-13), is another major back-door
anti-gun bill. This bill deals with “assaulting a police officer”,
elevating this offense from a class-A misdemeanor (which it currently
is) to a 3rd-degree felony. Bear in mind that “assault” does not
mean striking someone, or tackling him to the ground, or kicking him,
etc. That’s known as "battery", or "assault and battery". What HB
70 deals with is simple assault, which can actually be a very minor
act involving zero physical contact and no injury.

As you know, any felony on your record automatically causes your
Second-Amendment rights to be permanently revoked. Before we go
around permanently revoking people’s constitutional rights, we should
ask ourselves whether the act in question (simple assault, in this
case) necessarily justifies a lifetime ban on gun ownership.

“Assault” is defined in 76-5-102 of the Utah Code as an act that
includes one or more of the following:

(a) An attempt, with unlawful force or violence, to do bodily injury
to another;

(b) a threat, accompanied by a show of immediate force or violence,
to do bodily injury to another; or

(c) an act, committed with unlawful force or violence, that causes
bodily injury to another or creates a substantial risk of bodily
injury to another.

This definition covers a lot of ground has been interpreted very
broadly by the courts. For example, if you get into an argument with
a policeman and you lean toward him during the argument, could this
be considered a form of “assault”? One lawyer who has contacted us
claims that it could be. Note that a “show of force or violence”
doesn’t require actual physical contact. It could be as simple as
raising your hand as if preparing to slap someone. What if you raise
your hand while gesturing to a policeman and he interprets it to mean
that you’re preparing to slap him. This could be assault, even if
you don’t actually slap him.

HB 70 would automatically elevate ANY form of “assault” on a police
officer to the felony level.

We’re not lawyers, so we don’t know everything about assault. What
we do know is that it’s already quite easy to get charged with
assault for a relatively minor action involving no physical contact
and no physical harm. We also know that any felony conviction you
have on your record will permanently strip you of your right to
possess firearms.

When the federal law banning felons from having guns was passed in
1968, it was intended to discourage convicted rapists, murderers,
robbers, etc. from getting guns once they got out of prison, and was
seen as a way to easily put them back in prison if they were caught
with a gun. The law provided a mechanism whereby a felon could
eventually get his gun rights restored if the felony in question was
nonviolent, but Congress ended this rights-restoration program more
than a decade ago.

All of the really heinous violent crimes (murder, rape, aggravated
assault, robbery, kidnapping, etc.) have been felonies for a long
time. What concerns us it the trend, in recent years, to felonize
all sorts of relatively minor acts. GOUtah! has therefore adopted a
strong position against “felony creep”, i.e. the transformation of
more and more misdemeanors into felonies. Were it not for the fact
that a felony conviction automatically and permanently strips you of
your Second-Amendment rights, we would not take a position on this
sort of thing.

Do you really think it’s appropriate to permanently strip a young man
of a fundamental constitutional right merely because he gets into an
argument with a policeman and gestures at him or leans toward him?
Granted, dealing with a policeman in this way is a stupid thing to
do, but most young people do quite a few stupid things that don’t
harm anyone. Should such youthful indiscretion automatically result
in a lifelong loss of the right to possess firearms? We don’t think so.

GOUtah! opposes HB 70.

ACTION ITEM

HB 70 will be heard by the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice
Committee on Friday, January 19, at 2:00 p.m. in room W025 in the
west building of the new legislative complex on Capitol Hill, behind
the Capitol. Below are the members of the committee, along with e-
mail and home or cell phone. If one of them is your own
representative, please contact him ASAP and ask him to oppose HB 70.
If your own rep isn’t on the list, please select at least one of the
reps with an asterisk next to his name and contact him, and contact
any other members you have time for.

You may use the pre-written letter below if you wish, or you may
leave a message at the House switchboard, or you can phone
representatives before 9:00 this evening at home. You can leave a
brief message such as “I encourage you to oppose HB 70 because it’s
an anti-gun bill.”

House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee:

*Rep. DeMar Bud Bowman, Chair [email protected] home: 435-586-8174

*Rep. Curtis Oda, Vice Chair [email protected] cell: 801-898-6875

*Rep. Brad L. Dee [email protected] home: 801-479-5495

Rep. David Litvack [email protected] cell: 801-792-7172

Rep. Rebecca D. Lockhart [email protected] cell: 801-369-6784

Rep. Michael T. Morley [email protected] cell: 801-636-0296

Rep. Paul Ray [email protected] cell: 801-725-2719

Rep. Jennifer M. Seelig [email protected] home: 801-519-2544

Rep. Kenneth W. Sumsion [email protected] cell: 801-404-8225

Rep. Larry B. Wiley [email protected] home: 801-487-8095

Rep. Carl Wimmer [email protected] cell: 801-608-4763

Utah State House of Representatives
W030 State Capitol Complex
Salt Lake City, UT 84114
Phone: (801)538-1029
Toll-free Phone: (800)908-4261
Fax for Republican representatives: (801)326-1544
Fax for Democratic representatives: (801)326-1539

________________________________
That concludes GOUtah! Alert #256 â€" 18 January 2007.
Copyright 2007 by GOUtah!. All rights reserved.

PRE-WRITTEN LETTER BELOW

------------------------ Cut Here ------------------------

Date:

From:

To:

Dear Rep. _________________ :

As a politically active gun owner, I encourage you to oppose HB 70,
the penalty-enhancement bill for assault on a police officer.
“Assault” is very broadly defined under 76-5-102 of the Utah Code,
and can be interpreted to include some very minor acts that don’t
result in any physical contact or physical harm whatsoever. HB 70
would automatically turn even the most minor possible form of assault
into a felony. Federal law permanently prohibits an individual from
possessing a firearm if he has any sort of felony conviction on his
record. The recent fad of elevating numerous minor or potentially
minor offenses to felony status is thus a de facto form of gun control.

When this federal gun law was passed in 1968, it was intended to
discourage convicted murderers, rapists, robbers, etc. from obtaining
guns once they got out of prison, and to provide an easy way to put
them back in prison if they were caught with a gun. At that time,
most violent crimes that carried felony status were pretty heinous
acts. The law provided a way for a felon to eventually re-gain his
gun rights if his felony was of the non-violent variety, but Congress
ended this program more than a decade ago.

If a slightly intoxicated young man gets into an argument with a
policeman and leans toward the officer or gestures at him in a way
that the officer finds menacing, and consequently gets convicted of
“assault on a police officer”, do you really think it’s appropriate
to permanently strip him of his Second-Amendment rights due to his
youthful indiscretion? That’s the effect of HB 70 would have. I
encourage you to oppose this bill.

Please let me know how you intend to vote on HB 70. Thanks for
taking time to consider my opinion.

Sincerely,

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Utah Rep. Curtis Oda told me tonight that this bill was amended to enhance the penalty of repeat offenders (first assault as misdemeanor, second assault as felony). The change should be posted online before end of business on Monday.
 

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I got the same response from Curt Oda. I also got that explanation from Paul Ray and Kenneth Sumsion.

I wrote them back to add the following:
Mine is a general concern of what I call "Felony Inflation". There seems to be quite a tendency in recent years for legislators to make more and more offenses felonies. In many of these cases that I've observed, this does not seem justified, especially for minor, non-violent crimes, especially since both 2nd Amendment rights and voting rights are stripped from any person convicted of a felony. This is why I become concerned when I read about bills like this one.
 
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