A little used Civil War-era statute that outlaws waging war against the United States is getting a fresh look after the attacks on the Capitol in Washington. (Jan. 15)
MILWAUKEE – As charges continue to pile up against people who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, one of the consequences the defendants may face is the loss of the right to have guns.
While not every person involved in the riot is guaranteed to be affected, Trump support and Second Amendment enthusiasm often overlap, suggesting many of the nearly 100 charged – and hundreds more likely to be charged – may own firearms, even if they did not have them during the siege.
Conviction of even something as innocuous-sounding as “Knowingly Entering or Remaining in any Restricted Building or Grounds Without Lawful Authority” can bring 10 years in prison if the person carries a gun or dangerous weapon, or if the offense results in significant bodily injury.
Other charges filed so far against some of the intruders – such as felony theft of government property, assault on a federal law enforcement officer, carrying a gun on Capitol grounds – carry potentially severe penalties in addition to felon status.
Capitol riot arrests: See who’s been charged across the U.S.
Once someone becomes a felon, they are banned for life from legally possessing any kind of firearm for any reason, such as hunting.
Almost any federal offense punishable by at least a year in prison can trigger the gun ban, which would prohibit gun possession in any state. Only felonies “pertaining to antitrust violations, unfair trade practices, restraints of trade, or other similar offenses relating to the regulation of business practices” do not automatically trigger the gun ban.
Being caught with a gun after a felony prohibition exposes you to another felony charge. . In federal court, the offense can mean a 10-year prison term, plus three years of supervision.
The FBI has warned of the possibility of armed protests around President-elect Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration, and at state capitals across the country. Felony-level crimes associated with them could potentially carry the same loss-of-gun-ownership penalty.
The threat of lost gun rights played a role in ending the “Walleye War” in northern Wisconsin in the late 1980s, according to former state Department of Natural Resources Secretary George Meyer. Hundreds of sports fishermen and their supporters staged vocal, threatening and sometimes violent protests at landings where Native Americans were launching boats to spear walleye under a 1987 federal court ruling that recognized certain tribal fishing rights.
Meyer said dozens of wardens, along with other law enforcement agents, were deployed to limit the protests, but that Native American fishermen were still subjected to racist chants, rock-throwing and boat swamping.
He said once federal authorities threatened the filing of criminal civil right charges, and explained that convictions carried a ban on gun possession, the protests – which included many hunters – began to shrink and peter out.
“As much as the fines, the threat of losing gun rights was part of the reason the federal actions substantially reduced the intensity and numbers at the boat landings,” Meyer recalled.
Follow Bruce Vielmetti on Twitter at @ProofHearsay.
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