Thursday, August 21, 2008

Police tell owners: ‘We’re inspecting your guns’

Investigators searching community for firearm used in murder

August 21, 2008

Oklahoma police investigating the shooting deaths of two girls have told area residents with guns to bring them in for a test to determine whether they were used in the attack, sparking concern among those who own guns for hunting and self-defense.

According to reports in the Tulsa World the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation sent letters to members of the community who were registered as owning .40-caliber handguns suggesting they voluntarily bring in their gun or guns for a test.

The individuals who were “invited” to bring their guns in but didn’t now will be included in the ongoing investigation, as well as people who were identified by former owners as having purchased that type of weapon recently, authorities said.

“We’ll be checking on them,” Jessica Brown, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, told the newspaper.

The investigation is into the June 8 shooting deaths of Skyla Jade Whitaker, 11, and Taylor Paschal-Placker, 13, who died when they were shot several times on a road about four miles from Weleetka. Authorities say two guns were used in the killings, but they haven’t released much information about the weapons until they now confirmed one was a .40-caliber.

They have not yet identified the second type of weapon used.

Authorities said they sent out about 60 letters, and about 40 gun owners voluntarily brought in their weapons to the Okfuskee County Courthouse at Okemah for testing over the weekend.

Brown said those weapons were taken by investigators and test-fired, and the results of those tests now are being evaluated. She said nearly half a dozen former gun owners contacted authorities to identify new owners, and another 15 gun owners did not show up.

Those who participated in a forum on the newspaper website expressed sympathy for the victims and their families, but worried about the maneuver of inspecting privately owned guns without a search warrant or probable cause.

“This is a really sad story. My heart goes out to the families involved,” said one participant. “For some reason, though, it bothers me that 60 gun owners were asked to ‘voluntarily’ relinquish their legally-owned firearms.”

Wrote a second, “Since when does Oklahoma have handgun registration? … I seriously hope they catch the vermin responsible for this, but I’m disturbed by the implication that Oklahoma, one of the most free states in the USA, has handgun registration.”

Another, identified only as ok sooner and who reported spending time in law enforcement, added, “I would never ‘voluntarily submit their weapons for testing.’ Get a warrant.”

“I’m with ok sooner,” said a fourth. “I wouldn’t voluntarily submit my firearms to law enforcement without a warrant, either. This is really starting to bother me. Why ask 60 citizens to do this? Or maybe they’re waiting for somebody to refuse to submit ‘voluntarily’ whereupon they do get a warrant.”

On the forums page for the Oklahoma Shooters Association, the readers were even more alarmed.

“Why don’t they just test fire all the .40 cal handguns in Oklahoma? Yeah, that’s the ticket,” said one person. “I hate to perhaps sound callous about the tragedy, that’s not my intent at all, but this is some of the goofiest stuff I’ve ever heard of.”

“What the OSBI stupidly did was ensure that, if the real murderer still has the murder weapon and got one of these letters, he will now WITHOUT DOUBT destroy it POST HASTE,” said another.

“Human beings can only interact with one another through two methods: reason or force. If at any point, either party chooses force, the other must either submit or respond with force,” warned another participant. “I prefer reason. But I am ready to respond with force. Submission is not an option.”

“The issue of private control of firearms in the United States has been a hot topic this year in light of the Washington, D.C., dispute over a complete ban on private handguns. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that individuals in the United States do have the right to bear arms, although that right can be regulated.

The District of Columbia city council promptly adopted emergency legislation that would replace its handgun ban with a laundry list of regulations and requirements, including several described by the Gun Owners of America as equally unconstitutional to the ban.

Those include a gun license requirement, a ban on semiautomatics, new ballistics requirements, requirements for trigger locks and requirements to keep guns unloaded.

“It’s no wonder that the District is awash with lawlessness. The contempt for the law starts in the city council chambers,” said GOA Executive Director Larry Pratt.

The Supreme Court ruling was the first definitive statement on the 2nd Amendment in decades. The court said, in Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion, the Constitution does not permit “the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home.”

Scalia was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas. Joining Justice John Paul Stevens in dissent were Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter.

The amendment, ratified in 1791, says: “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.”

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