GOUtah! Alert #276 â€" 22 August July 2007
Todayâ€™s Maxim of Liberty:
â€œThe object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to
escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.â€
-- Marcus Aurelius
NEW ANTI-GUN BILL IN STATE LEGISLATURE TODAY
The Utah State Legislature is in a special session today. Although
the main reason for the special session is to deal with a school
funding issue, weâ€™ve noticed that there are two â€œanimal tortureâ€
bills on the agenda. They are numbered SB 1001 and SB 1002.
Both of these bills contain a broad definition of â€œanimal
tortureâ€, and both bills make â€œanimal tortureâ€ a felony. Any
felony conviction permanently strips you of your right to possess a
firearm. Although these bills are aimed at dealing with people who
deliberately do horrible things to dogs, cats, and other domestic
animals, they are worded in such a way that they could (and probably
will) be used to prosecute hunters and responsible homeowners on
felony charges for minor acts that a decent person could easily
commit, such as shooting a troublesome animal and inadvertently
wounding it instead of killing it.
Please contact your Utah State Senator and your Utah State
Representative right now at the Capitol and leave a message for
them. Ask them to vigorously oppose SB 1001 and SB 1002, because a
careful reading of these bills indicates that, although well-
intentioned, they could permanently strip people of their Second-
Amendment rights for minor acts that a decent person could easily
commit. Tell them that we don't need any more laws that would
permanently ban gun ownership.
Utah State Senate
Toll-free Phone: (800)613-0677
Fax for Republican senators: (801)326-1475
Fax for Democratic senators: (801)326-1476
Utah State House of Representatives
Toll-free Phone: (800)908-4261
Fax for Republican representatives: (801)326-1544
Fax for Democratic representatives: (801)326-1539
To find your State Senatorâ€™s or State Representativeâ€™s e-mail, go
and click on â€œLegislative Contactsâ€.
Local firearms-law attorney Mitch Vilos has examined these bills and
has prepared a detailed legal analysis of these bills. The remainder
of the text of this alert is Mr. Vilosâ€™ analysis. We thank him for
his efforts to examine these bills and to share his insights with
Utahâ€™s gun owners:
I. Although the statutes exclude wildlife; feral
animals are excluded from the definition of wildlife and therefore
any animal that was once tame, but has become wild falls within the
definition of â€œanimalâ€ under the proposed statutes.
A. 23-13-2. Definitions (48) "Wildlife"
means: . . . (c) vertebrate animals living in nature, except
B. Feral animals could include cats, dogs, pigs,
lizards, turtles, gerbils, pet rats, you name it.
C. If a person injures or kills any of such
creatures that are not abandoned on his property, he is guilty of
animal cruelty. If the killing is alleged to have been in an
extremely cruel manner (shoot to kill, but wound the animal and it is
shown to have suffered for hours before you were able to find and
kill it?), you could be charged with a felony.
D. If he wounds the animal and it crawls away and
some bleeding heart finds it with itâ€™s leg or wing blown off,
theyâ€™re going to insist that the hunter be prosecuted for torture.
E. Under such circumstances, a fairly common
situation, especially in Utahâ€™s â€œoutbackâ€ becomes a life-ruining
felony to people who would never dream that keeping the population of
such animals down by shooting them could ever be construed as animal
torture. I suspect what was supposed to keep city dwellers from
cooking their kittens in a microwave alive, will be used against
rural and suburban folks simply trying to keep the population of
animal pests at a minimum. People who simply want to protect their
yards, gardens and their peace and quiet from annoying pests owned by
those who donâ€™t control their animals (itâ€™s 10pm, do you know
where your tom cat is?) will probably end up being charged with
felonies for things like shooting an annoying tom cat with a BB gun
to teach it from coming into their yards at 3am.
1. I had a case out of Sandy not so long ago where
a man who had called animal control on his neighborâ€™s dog a number
of times but they seldom responded. Sandy had a leash law, but were
not enforcing it. This guy shot a blowgun dart at the dog hoping to
prick him and teach him to stay out of his yard (something akin to
the dog brushing up against a rose bush). He missed the dog, but
someone saw him shoot the blow gun and he was charged with animal
2. I represented a man who shot a rottweiler which
had broken through his fence and was attacking a child with a puppy
in her arms (a puppy that had been purchased to replace the little
dog the rottweiler had killed in my clientâ€™s yard a week earlier),
and he was charged with animal cruelty. The case was ultimately
dismissed at pretrial, but only after the man had paid several
thousand dollars in attorney fees. If the charge had been a felony,
he would have likely spent well over ten thousand dollars on defense
II. Legal fees go up drastically when people are
arrested or charged w/ a felony.
III. Innocent people will be forced to plead to a
serious misdemeanor even if they are not guilty, to avoid the risk of
being convicted of a felony by a few animal-rights wackos who may
dominate a jury.
A. Letâ€™s suppose you have a rabies outbreak.
People in your neighborhood donâ€™t keep their dogs and cats penned up
and they keep coming into your yard where your children are playing.
Animal control fails to respond in a timely fashion thus exposing
your kids to the possibility of being bitten by animals who may have
contracted rabies but are not yet showing signs of the disease. You
shoot to kill in your own yard. Bullet never leaves your property.
You accidentally hit the cat, dog, python, whatever in the eye and
are charged with animal torture. My experience has been that police
and prosecutors will charge a citizen with the highest crime
available hoping to force them into a plea bargain. Anyone charged
with a felony is going to have to plead guilty of a misdemeanor
rather than run the risk of being convicted of a felony by people
like those who protest in front of the fur shop every month down
town. Some of these people would convict a deer hunter of a felony
for simply harvesting meat if given the opportunity. When an 11 year
old boy from the south shot a huge feral pig on commercial hunting
property and posted it on the internet, this 11 year old started
getting death threats and death wishes from people so caught up with
the animal rights movement, that any form of hunting to them was
tantamount to murder. You get someone like that on your jury and it
doesnâ€™t matter what the law is, they will convict a hunter of the
highest charge brought against him or her. I just heard on the
radio at 5am this morning that the head of the Humane Society here in
Utah is so emotionally charged over this issue, that he would ask
legislators to defeat a â€œsecond-offense-is-a-felonyâ€ because he
wants the first offense to be a felony. This simply proves my point
about how emotional and inflexible such people are in their zeal to
punish anyone who harms any animal for any reason.
The idiots who put a kitten in a microwave will take the plea bargain
after being represented by a public defender at taxpayerâ€™s expense.
I suspect many of the types of people that commit these heinous
crimes already have felony records and really have nothing to lose by
pleading to a misdemeanor. On the other hand, otherwise
responsible property owners protecting their children, their animals
and their property rights will be overcharged by police and
prosecutors and will pay dearly to defend themselves and their civil
rights (many of which are lost after a felony conviction) against
emotionally trumped up charges of animal torture. As a criminal
defense attorney I foresee this kind of injustice if the animal
torture bill is passed.
That concludes GOUtah! Alert #276 â€" 22 August 2007.
Copyright 2007 by GOUtah!. All rights reserved.
PRE-WRITTEN LETTER BELOW
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Dear ____________________ :
As a constituent of yours and a gun owner, I encourage you to vote
against SB 1001 and SB 1002, the "animal torture" bills. These bills
would make the broadly-defined crime of "animal torture" a felony,
and any felony conviction permanently strips an individual of his
Second-Amendment right to possess firearms. Although these bill are
well-intentioned, careful reading of the text indicates that "animal
torture" is defined in such a way that it could easily be interpreted
include a wide range of possible acts that a decent citizen might
commit, such as shooting a troublesome animal and inadvertently
wounding it instead of killing it. We don't need any more statutes
on the books that could be used to permanently prohibit gun ownership.
Please get back to me as soon as possible and tell me how you voted
on these bills.
Thanks for taking time to consider my request.
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