Good Riddance To Joe Curran, An Enemy Of The Second Amendment, Constitutional Right Of Self-Defense
By John Lofton, Editor
Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr’s announcement that he will not seek re-election removes from the American political scene one of the most rabid anti-Second Amendment, anti-self-defense public officials in the history of our country. Curran, among other things, issued a 63-page report titled “A Farewell To Arms: The Solution To Gun Violence In America.” But, Curran’s report was a “solution” to nothing. Instead, it was a brazen, blatant, ignorant, erroneous, brass-knuckled attack on the Second Amendment.
On page 10 of his wretched report — verbally foaming at the mouth and seething with hatred toward private persons who own guns — Curran said that “owning and carrying handguns” must be stigmatized so that this Constitutionally-protected right is “seen as dangerous and aberrant behavior.” One definition of the word “aberrant” is, of course, mentally unbalanced. So, Curran was saying, not so subtly, that he looks forward to a time when people who own and carry handguns are seen as crazy, as nuts. On page 63 of his report, Curran said: “Our goal, then, must be to eliminate widespread handgun ownership through restrictive handgun licensing.”
But, it is Curran’s views about guns which are nutty. In an interview in February of 2000, Curran told me how his daughter had been car-jacked in the early 1990s by a man with a handgun. He also spoke about how his father had been shot at in Baltimore’s City Hall and later died of a heart attack.
When asked if there was any gun-control law which would have prevented these crimes?, Curran replied: “If there had been some — in other words, if the manufacturer, when they made these things, then have some understanding about how they would be distributed and what type of dealers they’re going to go to, what criteria dealers use — rather than just because these guns are made -I don’t think manufacturers can say, ‘Well, I made them and I gave them to a distributor and what they do thereafter is their business.’ I think that’s nonsense.”
But, what’s nonsense is what Curran suggests. Seriously, how, exactly, would his proposal work in real life? — for example, in the two personal crimes he mentions. Before a gun manufacturer sells a gun to a dealer should the dealer be required by law to pledge that these guns will be sold to no carjackers?, that these guns will be sold to no one who will use them to shoot up Baltimore’s City Hall? Please.
In an “Associated Press” story it is said that Curran is “not aware of any problem” with the “gun safety” bill which has resulted in a de facto ban on handgun sales in Maryland. But, of course, for Curran, there is no “problem” — because he’s for a ban on selling handguns to private individuals!!
Curran’s proposals, had they been enacted into law, would have had the effect of doing to the Second Amendment what the explosives did to that Federal building in Oklahoma. That is to say, Curran’s proposals would have, had they become law, demolished the Second Amendment. And — like in Oklahoma — lives would have been lost because millions of law-abiding Americans would have been denied the right to defend themselves with handguns.
About one thing, however, Curran was absolutely correct. His proposals were none of those “small, timid measures” or “band-aid” solutions he denounces. No, siree. Curran said, flat out: “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?! In our country today, we have more than 20,000 so-called “gun control” laws!
There was so much in Curran’s wretched report that was false, half-true, and intellectually dishonest, that one hardly knows where to begin in trying to correct the record. But, let’s start with his false view of the Second Amendment. Curran said: “This notion of an individual Constitutional right to own firearms is a myth. The Supreme Court and all lower Federal courts have unanimously held, since the first decision in 1886, that the Second Amendment is about the states’ right to maintain a militia, and has nothing whatever to do with an individual’s right to bear arms outside the context of a state militia.”
Wrong! In a case called United States v. Miller (1939), the U.S. Supreme Court noted that the militia reference in the Second Amendment alludes to “civilians primarily, soldiers on occasion,” that “the Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense” and that ordinarily when called for service “these men were expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time.”
As Stephen P. Halbrook notes in his book “That Every Man Be Armed: The Evolution Of A Constitutional Right” (The Independent Institute, 1994): “The Supreme Court’s historical review demonstrates that the ‘well regulated militia’ referred to in the Second Amendment meant the whole people armed and not a select group, that each private individual had the right and duty to keep and bear arms, and that the people were to provide their own armed protection rather than depend upon a militarist and oppressive standing army.”
Maryland’s Constitutional history shouts against Curran’s pro-civilian disarmament policies. In his book “For The Defense Of Themselves And The State: The Original Intent And Judicial Interpretation Of The Right To Keep And Bear Arms” (Praeger, 1994), Clayton E. Cramer, quotes a member of the Maryland convention considering ratification of the U.S. Constitution (Alexander Contee Hanson) as referring to the militia, “which is ourselves.” And a committee of this same convention called the militia “all men, able to bear arms.” These words from the Maryland Convention echo the Virginia Ratifying Convention in which George Mason (a long-time friend of George Washington) argued that “the militia is the whole people, except for a few public officials.”
Curran was mindlessly repeating the Handgun Control, Inc. myth that the Second Amendment applies only to a state’s ability to maintain a militia and does not protect a God-given right of individuals to keep and bear arms. As recently as 1991, the Supreme Court in U.S. v. Verdugo-Urquidez held that throughout the Bill of Rights where the term “the people” is used, it refers to an individual right — as in the first, second, fourth, ninth and tenth amendments.
Another thing Curran denounced as a “myth,” as “hype,” as “false propaganda,” is that handguns are needed for self-defense. He says: “Study after study shows that guns are rarely used successfully in self-defense.” Rarely used? His own report quotes a U.S. Justice Department survey estimating that there is, on average, 108,000 defensive uses of gun annually — which is 9,000 times a month, 2,077 times a week, 296 times a day. Not exactly “rare” by any definition. And there are even higher, and more reliable, estimates. For example, Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz estimate that 2.5 million Americans use a gun in self-defense each year.
Curran, however, says this figure is “wildly over-estimated.” But, the late Marvin E. Wolfgang, a Liberal icon who called himself “as strong a gun-control advocate as can be found among criminologists,” said in “The Journal Of Criminal Law & Criminology” (Vol. 86, No. 1) that Kleck/Gertz’s research is “an almost clear-cut case of methodologically sound research in support of something I have theoretically opposed for years, namely, the use of a gun in defense against a criminal perpetrator.” Wolfgang, who had done research on guns and violence for over 25 years, added that he had to admit “my admiration for the care and caution expressed” by Kleck/Gertz in their research.
There was a time in colonial Maryland when — depending on who was in power — Protestants passed laws to disarm Catholics, and vice-versa. And, of course, in Maryland, a slave state that remained with the Union, slaves were prohibited from carrying guns without “a license from his said master” before the War Between the States, and free blacks were completely forbidden possession of either firearms or ammunition. And what Curran wanted to do would have made all the law-abiding citizens of Maryland “slaves” by seeking to deny them their Constitutional right to keep and bear arms and use handguns to defend themselves against criminals
Curran’s vehement hatred of the Constitutional right of private citizens to keep-and-bear arms was also demonstrated when he sought to deny Donald G. Arnold, a “Citizen-Of-The-Year,” a handgun and thus his job and the ability to feed his family.
Who is Donald G. Arnold? Well, by all accounts he was 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 needed a handgun as a private security guard and investigator. But, based on advice from Curran’s office, the Maryland State Police 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) 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 said Arnold was, among other things, “regarded by others as a leader in his community and an individual of good character.” Demolishing Curran’s arguments the Board said, 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 said, 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 - J.L.) 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 appealed this HPRB decision to the Circuit Court for Baltimore County.
In his brief, Arnold’s attorney, David W. Fischer, further shredded Curran’s pathetic arguments. Citing numerous laws and previous court cases, Fischer proved, 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 nothwithstanding.”
Fischer added: “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 said: “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 Democrat, one Maryland legislator outraged by Curran’s treatment of Donald Arnold, introduced a bill to allow Arnold to get his handgun, and others like him. But, the measure was pulled from the House floor and returned to the Judiciary Committee. In an interview, Kelly said: “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 said Curran had, state-wide, sent Maryland State Police tactical teams “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) reported 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.”