By: Larry Pratt

3/02 Disarming A Citizen Of The Year

Disarming A Citizen Of The Year
by
Larry Pratt

Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. is one of the most dangerous, power-mad, anti-Second Amendment gun-grabbers in our country. In late 1999, he issued a 63-page report titled A Farewell To Arms: The Solution To Gun Violence In America. If Curran was intellectually honest, however, his report would have been more accurately titled A Farewell To The Constitution's Second Amendment.

In his alarming report, which is chock full of lies, half-truths, misinformation and faulty reasoning, Curran says:

    Our public policy goal should be to restrict the sale and possession of all handguns to those who can demonstrate a legitimate law enforcement purpose or can guarantee that the use of such guns will be limited to participation in a regulated sporting activity.... We must institute a plan that will move us to a point where people are ready to accept an end to unrestricted private handgun ownership.

"Unrestricted" private handgun ownership?! In our country, we have more than 20,000 gun-control laws!

OK. This is Curran's position.

So, since Curran says that folks who have "a legitimate law enforcement purpose" should be allowed to have handguns, then he would be in favor of say a private security/investigator person having a handgun, right? Wrong! -- at least in the case of Donald G. Arnold.

Who is Donald G. Arnold? Well, by all accounts he is the proverbial model citizen. Employed since late 1997 as a security guard and private investigator with Battalagia Security and Investigative Services, Ltd. in Baltimore, Maryland, Arnold is considered an outstanding employee by his employer.

In addition, Arnold was named a "citizen of the year" by Maryland in 2000 for his work with police is southeast Baltimore to stop drug dealers and make the city safer. He is a Vietnam veteran having served in the U.S. Army from 1965-1971. And he was in the Maryland National Guard from 1985-1989.

To do his work and feed his family, Arnold needs a handgun as a private security guard and investigator. But, based on advice from Curran's office, the Maryland State Police have denied Arnold a permit for this weapon. Why? Well, it seems that more than 30 years ago, in 1969, according to the Washington Times (1/29/02), Arnold "was convicted of a misdemeanor in a barroom scuffle after a man who spotted his Army jacket called him a 'baby killer.'" He received a 60-day sentence and spent one night in jail.

On two occasions Maryland's Handgun Permit Review Board (HPRB) has ruled against Curran and for giving Arnold his handgun permit restricting the use of his weapon to the time while he is "actively engaged" on his job and in Maryland only.

In its findings of fact, a majority of the HPRB says Arnold is, among other things, "regarded by others as a leader in his community and an individual of good character." Demolishing Curran's arguments the Board says, in part:

    [We find] that the applicant is not prohibited by State law from purchasing a firearm... because the 1969 charge was a common law offense at the time for which the applicant did not receive a term of imprisonment of more than two years.

In its conclusions of law, the HPRB says, in part:

    The Board concludes that the applicant has met the necessary qualifications for a handgun permit as required by the Maryland handgun permit law.... With regard to the issue of a possible Federal law prohibition, as the applicant's counsel points out in his memorandum, the Coleman decision [cited by Curran -- L.P.] has nothing to do with possession of a handgun or the issuance of a permit, but, rather, involved the interpretation of the 'career criminal' statute applied in Federal courts on the third conviction for a 'violent felony.'

End of case? Arnold gets his handgun? Certainly you jest. Hell hath no fury like anti-Second Amendment, gun-grabbers scorned. So, Curran & Company appeal this HPRB decision to the Circuit Court for Baltimore County where it is presently pending.

In his brief, Arnold's attorney, David W. Fischer, further shreds Curran's pathetic arguments. Citing numerous laws and previous court cases, he proves, among other things, that the plain language and legislative history of a relevant law pertaining to the adoption of the current statutory assault provisions "make clear that Mr. Arnold is not prohibited from owning any type of firearm under Maryland law, the AG's self-serving, superficial opinion notwithstanding."

Fischer adds:

    In its zeal to deny Mr. Arnold his handgun permit and thus his livelihood, the AG has unfortunately overlooked a substantial body of case law that establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Arnold is not prohibited by federal law from possessing a firearm.

Summing up, Fischer says:

    In enacting the Gun Control Act of 1968, and in amending it in the Firearms Protection Act of 1986, Congress did not intend to criminalize the mere possession of firearms by those convicted of petty misdemeanors such as assault, battery, disturbing the peace, and disorderly conduct. Maryland law concerning whether a common law offense prohibits a person from firearm possession determines the federal standard set.... The law in Maryland has never prohibited Mr. Arnold from owning a firearm. In fact, Maryland law specifically excludes common law misdemeanants who receive a period of incarceration less than two years from firearm disqualification. This fully vindicates Mr. Arnold's legal ability to possess a firearm and, hence, to have his carry permit renewed.... The entire purpose of the Firearm Owners' Protection Act was to expand the rights of firearm owners, not take away the right to own a firearm from common law misdemeanants.

Delegate Kevin Kelly, a Maryland Democratic legislator who is outraged by Curran's treatment of Donald Arnold, introduced a bill to allow Arnold and others like him to get handguns. But, the measure was pulled from the House floor and returned to the Judiciary Committee where it is probably dead for this year.

In an interview, Kelly says:

    Look, Joe Curran has an agenda and it is flat-out opposed to civilian ownership of handguns. What Curran argues is total nonsense. And he worked behind the scenes to kill my bill after saying that he would simply arbitrate the legality of my bill.

Kelly says Curran hassent Maryland State Police tactical teams throughout the state "to raid peoples' homes [and take their guns] because 20-30 years ago they had a misdemeanor conviction in which they may or may not have spent any time in jail and received a $50-$100 fine. That is basically a police state."

The Washington Times (3/22/02) reports that Donald G. Arnold "is considering moving to another state now that it looks like efforts to keep him and thousands of other law-abiding Marylanders from losing their firearms for decades-old misdemeanors have stalled in the legislature."

Let's hope that the Baltimore court has more sense than the Attorney General.