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Editorial: Hunt for victims' rights

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Indiana Lawyer Editorial

Here at the newspaper, we’re big fans of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. But we understand the need for and exuberance some individuals feel for the Second Amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

What we as laypeople see there is a right to keep firearms for self-defense. The Second Amendment makes no mention of the right to keep a firearm for sportsmen to hunt deer, bears, turkeys, moose, or any wild animal that could possibly be in season anywhere in the United States.

The Brady Bill, in effect since 1994, outlines who may not own guns. Those who have been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor are among the individuals who are prohibited from owning or possessing guns.

But a case reheard en banc in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has the potential to change that. You can read about the case in this issue of Indiana Lawyer.

In United States of America v. Steven M. Skoien, Steven Skoien was convicted of misdemeanor domestic battery in Wisconsin and sentenced to two years probation. As a probation condition, and because of the Brady disqualifier, he was prohibited from possessing a firearm.

Probation officers learned Skoien had a deer-hunting license, which made them believe he might have a gun. Officers found a shotgun in Skoien’s pickup truck, and a dead deer in his garage. He told probation officers he used the shotgun to shoot the deer.

After a grand jury indicted him for having the gun, he moved to dismiss the indictment, claiming it violated his Second Amendment rights.

In his argument, he did not make the case he wanted a gun for self-defense, but did claim the Second Amendment protected his rights to have a gun for hunting. He also cited District of Columbia v. Heller, 128 S. Ct. 2783 (2008), in which the Supreme Court of the United States found it was lawful for citizens to own a gun for self-defense.

The 7th Circuit panel that decided the case in November said that the U.S. government didn’t make its case clear enough that Skoien should not have a gun for hunting. The court vacated Skoien’s conviction and remanded. A request for rehearing en banc followed, which the court heard May 20.

Domestic violence victim advocates are watching the case with heightened interest. Advocates tell us that they have witnessed instances of Indiana judges granting a protective order in one breath, while in the next breath refusing to take away the respondent’s firearms.

One such advocate told us for our news story, published in the May 13-25, 2010, issue of Indiana Lawyer, that she’s heard of people being granted protective orders, which fall under the Brady disqualifiers, only to have the judge granting the order ask whether he needed to restrict the respondent from having a gun during hunting season.

Seriously? What kind of logic goes into framing such a question? How can a judge in all seriousness grant a protective order one minute and then ask whether there is a need to prevent the person whom the order is against from having access to a gun for any purpose? Guns and protective orders often create more risk for victims, as the potential for lethal consequences goes up after an order is issued and the perpetrator has access to a gun.

We believe Mr. Skoien has the right to a fair trial. Once convicted of a domestic violence charge, we don’t believe he has a right to keep and bear arms. We believe he lost that right when he was convicted.

Perhaps Mr. Skoien needs to find a new hobby. And perhaps some judges need to spend more time being concerned about the victim’s right to safety than the perpetrator’s right to deadly weapons.•
 

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  1. Indianapolis employers harassment among minorities AFRICAN Americans needs to be discussed the metro Indianapolis area is horrible when it comes to harassing African American employees especially in the local healthcare facilities. Racially profiling in the workplace is an major issue. Please make it better because I'm many civil rights leaders would come here and justify that Indiana is a state the WORKS only applies to Caucasian Americans especially in Hamilton county. Indiana targets African Americans in the workplace so when governor pence is trying to convince people to vote for him this would be awesome publicity for the Presidency Elections.

  2. Wishing Mary Willis only God's best, and superhuman strength, as she attempts to right a ship that too often strays far off course. May she never suffer this personal affect, as some do who attempt to change a broken system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QojajMsd2nE

  3. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  4. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  5. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

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