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Is There Any Hope of Getting a Fair "Gun Law" Trial?

By The Liberty Crew
Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership

How do you know when a criminal trial is fair? Most Americans should know the answer as a series of Constitutional and common law rights of the accused: (1) to know the charges against him, (2) to know the evidence and witnesses against him, (3) to be represented by counsel, (4) to bring witnesses and evidence for his defense, (5) to have a public trial, (6) to confront and cross-examine witnesses, and (7) to have a system for meaningful appeals.

What is missing from this list? It’s so important that we Americans never question it. The whole system assumes that the judges, the prosecutors and the investigators act honestly and with integrity. A fair trial depends upon fair investigations and prosecutions.

That means the police and investigators never lie, and the prosecutors never use bogus or planted evidence. It means the investigators and prosecutors look for and consider the evidence of both guilt and innocence.

BATFE Investigations: Fair?

Remember the gunsmith who was charged by BATFE with illegally manufacturing machineguns – based on bogus evidence? (See our column in the January 2005 Shotgun News available on-line.) We obtained the government agents’ report that several of these firearms fired “automatically.” We obtained a videotape that shows the BATFE “expert” trying to make the semi-automatic rifles fire as an automatic rifle. On a couple of attempts, one of the rifles fired two shots instead of one.

As it happened, an independent firearms expert disassembled the one rifle and showed that the rifle was malfunctioning. The rifle was not a machine gun, it just misfired because of worn and defective firing pin components.

The videotape of the BATFE tests of the firearm showed that their testing was incompetent and that the “automatic rifle” charge was false. Although the gunsmith was indicted and spent thousands of dollars in legal fees, this videotape evidence caused the charges against him to be dropped.

Without this videotape of the incompetent BATFE firearms testing, it is quite possible this innocent gunsmith would have been convicted of a federal felony.

How many other gun owners have been convicted of various gun law violations based upon BATFE experts’ claims that were unverified and untrue? In the rush to “enforce the gun laws on the books,” how many more citizens will the BATFE target and prosecute using incompetent or bogus evidence?

A Federal Law Mandating Videotaped Gun Testing?

Len Savage, owner of Historic Arms in Franklin, Georgia, was involved in helping the gunsmith and in obtaining the crucial videotape. Mr. Savage then contacted Congressman Phil Gingrey to help extend this kind of protection to all Americans. Mr. Gingrey has introduced H.R. 1603, "The Fairness in Firearm Testing Act." That brief, clearly worded bill would require the BATFE to video-record all tests it conducts on firearms and to make copies of the unedited recordings available to owners of the tested items and to defendants in cases involving those items.

If Rep. Gingrey's bill passes as written, then BATFE will have a much harder time defeating our fair trial rights and destroying American lives. But, if H.R. 1603 is weakened or blocked, then the ATF and the compliant court system will likely make sure We the People never again witness how that agency operates behind the scenes.

Who Can Affect The Outcome?

JPFO cannot and does not take a stand on any particular piece of legislation. We are an educational, not a political, organization. So we urge every reader to learn about H.R. 1603 and watch its progress carefully.

Which representatives will sign on as co-sponsors? Which will help move the bill out of the committees and onto the floor for a vote? Who will work to compromise or gut the bill? Who will vote for it or against it? Every American citizen can watch and respond.

Videotaping the testing of BATFE firearms provides objective evidence of guilt or innocence. That kind of evidence is crucial to a fair trial. The firearms community must decide whether to insist on fair trials for their gun owners.

If you want to see how important videotaping is, then get and watch a copy of the videotape from JPFO: Read H.R. 1603 at the Library of Congress website:

Stand with us in getting this videotape and other vital tools out to Americans. Visit the website at Subscribe to the e-mail alerts to stay informed. Become a member. Call (800) 869-1884 to learn more.

Preserving the rights of Americans in America: can you think of a better thing to do today?


Copyright 2005, by Aaron Zelman. Permission is granted to reproduce this article in full, provided that JPFO contact information, website and phone number are included. J.P.F.O., Inc. * P.O. Box 270143 * Hartford, WI 53027 * (800) 869-1884 * (800) 869-1884.

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