Let Them Eat Cake: When Government Shrugs
A few weeks ago, we learned of the disturbing case of an Ohio resident erroneously - and indefinitely - denied a Constitutionally-protected right due to incorrect criminal records. It was not that the FBI was unaware of the mistake. They simply refused to correct it.
For six years.
In 2010, Mister Gregory Ledet had attempted to legally purchase a firearm - and was denied by the NICS background check system. Confused by this denial, Mr. Ledet contacted the FBI to find out why he had been declared a "prohibited person." The FBI quickly replied, citing Ledet's conviction for "theft under $300" over a decade earlier in the state of Louisiana disqualified him under 18 U.S.C. §922(g)(1) and 18 U.S.C. §921(a)(20).
The problem, however, was those provisions expressly exclude misdemeanors punishable by "imprisonment of two years or less." Mr. Ledet had been sentenced to 6 months - and that was suspended upon payment of his fine and court costs.
Seeking to clear his name and restore his rights, Ledet contacted the Louisiana State Police, had his records updated, and then requested the NICS check be re-run to allow his purchase to be legally completed.
The FBI flatly refused.
Mr. Ledet then attempted to make a second purchase and was again denied. This time, when he attempted to appeal, he discovered that NICS had "temporarily" stopped processing appeals entirely, citing insufficient manpower to handle all requests.
There was now no way to correct his "prohibited" status. A Constitutional right had been denied due to a clerical error, which would remain in error indefinitely.
Rather than giving up, Ledet decided to seek legal recourse against the FBI, and retained attorney Stephen Stamboulieh to file suit in Washington, DC District Court. We are pleased to report that the FBI capitulated this past week and has processed Ledet's appeal, restoring his rights after a six year delay. Sadly, Mr. Ledet is far from the only person in these straits - Stamboulieh is now representing a Texas man, also denied an appeal despite having been pardoned for a 13-year-old conviction for the non-violent crime of marijuana possession.
These cases only underscore our opposition to the proposed "no-buy list" and to the background check system in general. Such checks are obsessively touted by politicians as a supposedly quick and non-intrusive solution to "the wrong people having access to guns." But if they can't get NICS right, when it is dependent upon documented convictions, why on Earth should we imagine our rights will fare any better when they are hostage to secret lists based on secret evidence, with no requirement for trial much less conviction? If a system with an established appeal process can be soundly ignored for six years, what recourse would innocent citizens have against baseless denial by unknown men hiding behind a smokescreen of national security?
And, most importantly of all, if they can do this to one Constitutionally-protected right, what makes you think they can't do to others... or all of them?