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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. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

  2. What a fine example of the best of the Hoosier tradition! How sad that the AP has to include partisan snark in the obit for this great American patriot and adventurer.

  3. Why are all these lawyers yakking to the media about pending matters? Trial by media? What the devil happened to not making extrajudicial statements? The system is falling apart.

  4. It is a sad story indeed as this couple has been only in survival mode, NOT found guilty with Ponzi, shaken down for 5 years and pursued by prosecution that has been ignited by a civil suit with very deep pockets wrenched in their bitterness...It has been said that many of us are breaking an average of 300 federal laws a day without even knowing it. Structuring laws, & civilForfeiture laws are among the scariest that need to be restructured or repealed . These laws were initially created for drug Lords and laundering money and now reach over that line. Here you have a couple that took out their own money, not drug money, not laundering. Yes...Many upset that they lost money...but how much did they make before it all fell apart? No one ask that question? A civil suit against Williams was awarded because he has no more money to fight...they pushed for a break in order...they took all his belongings...even underwear, shoes and clothes? who does that? What allows that? Maybe if you had the picture of him purchasing a jacket at the Goodwill just to go to court the next day...his enemy may be satisfied? But not likely...bitterness is a master. For happy ending lovers, you will be happy to know they have a faith that has changed their world and a solid love that many of us can only dream about. They will spend their time in federal jail for taking their money from their account, but at the end of the day they have loyal friends, a true love and a hope of a new life in time...and none of that can be bought or taken That is the real story.

  5. Could be his email did something especially heinous, really over the top like questioning Ind S.Ct. officials or accusing JLAP of being the political correctness police.

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