Monday, May 08, 2006

United States v. TRW Rifle (9th Cir. - May 5, 2006)

Ah, semantics. You've got to love it. Or at least you do if you're a lawyer. Because sometimes, that's how we make our living. By arguing about, distorting, and sometimes manufacturing linguistic meaning.

But, thankfully, judges are often pretty bright. As Judge McKeown is here. She writes an excellent opinion that delves deeply -- way, way deeply -- into precisely what it means for a present-day rifle to be able to be "readily restored" to its former capacity as a machine gun. Because what's riding on this issue is whether this particular rifle /machine gun gets retained by the United States or returned to its owner. And, thereafter, no doubt pried from the owner's cold, dead hands.

But, in the end, that shall never be. Because Judge McKeown (rightly) holds that the rifle in question can indeed be readily restored to its machine gun beginnings, and hence that the United States gets to keep it.

Three quick, utterly tangential, questions:

(1) Why does it seem that every Ninth Circuit case that involves the seizure of a weapon is litigated by an attorney in -- of all places -- Fairfax, Virginia?! Take a gander at this case, way back in July 2005, which involved an entirely different weapon and a different owner of the weapon, and yet the attorney for the claimant was the same: Richard Gardiner, Esq., of Virginia. I can only guess that Mr. Gardiner is "Mr. Firearm" -- the go-to guy whenever the feds grab your weapon and you want it back. (That said, I'm not so sure that Mr. Gardiner is enjoying his trips out West, since he's lost every case in the Ninth Circuit that I've seen from him. I'm sure he does a lot better in his hometown Fourth Circuit!)

(2) Why is it worth litigating this appeal, which undoubtedly cost far more than the gun in question could ever be worth? That was the same question that I posed back in July 2005, and a reader gave a darn good (and plausible) answer, so I'll link to it here. Guns. They're worth the expenditure of whatever social resources we can possibly spend on making sure that a wide, wide variety are readily available.

(3) Anyone else wonder what exactly is going happen to the gun in question? Notice how the gun came to be in the first place: it was an old M-14 machinegun that the military decommissioned and, when it did so, it cut the receiver into two pieces with a blowtorch. That way it wasn't a machinegun anymore. But then, after the receiver was cut into two, the U.S. sold it to MK Specialties, which promptly welded these two pieces back together. So now the U.S. has reacquired the weapon. What's it going to do now? Knowing our government, it'll cut the receiver into two pieces, sell it again to someone like MK Specialties as scrap, and then we'll be back in the same glorious place all over again!

Nah, I'm sure that would never happen.