Earlier this month James Cimabue was sentenced to prison for violating gun ownership laws. He was sentenced under the Brad Fox Law which requires a mandatory minimum of 5 years for illegal gun transfers. If you google his name you’ll see a few articles saying he was charged with straw purchase, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. It doesn’t seem that he knowingly sold the guns to someone who otherwise wouldn’t be able to purchase a gun legally. I don’t know if the people who purchased these guns from Cimabue then sold them to some dangerous person or not, but it isn’t clear that Cimabue did.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume the people buying the guns had no criminal record, are mentally stable, and do not appear to be dangerous people. The difference between doing 5 years in prison and being in good standing with the law is the place the guns are sold. Under PA law, private sellers must sell their guns at a licensed dealer so a background check can be done. Before you blast me for assuming he sold the guns to angels, the law does not care who the guns are sold to. If he sells the guns to Mother Theresa at his home, it is 5 years, if he sells them to Mother Theresa at the gun store, no problem. Same action, no one was hurt.
What bothers me most about this case is this quote from the judge, “Obviously there’s nothing I can do about it because the law is the law and my hands are tied.” That’s the way our government works and isn’t that really convenient? There is never any responsibility or ownership of actions. By saying that, it sounds like the judge thinks the sentence is a little harsh for someone with no criminal record, but it’s not his fault, it’s the law!
Just this past weekend an attorney was telling me how wonderful our system is because the police are not judge and jury. Their hands are clean. So even if they arrest someone for an unjust law, they aren’t really responsible, they aren’t the ones sentencing him. Don’t you think that if you’re the one starting the process, you’re somehow responsible?
I like to use the example of the Fugitive Slave Act. It’s uncontroversial, and everyone today agrees that a law enforcing slavery is immoral. Should the authorities of the day arrest escaped slaves, or those who helped the slaves escape, and leave it up to a judge to decide what to do? We would certainly consider those cops and judges who ignored those laws or even helped the slaves to escape to be heroes, even though they were breaking the law.
In the case of James Cimabue, he didn’t hurt anyone and it doesn’t appear that anyone who bought his guns hurt anyone either. I’m sure if they did it would have been a major part of the story. I really don’t see anything wrong with someone selling their property, in this case guns, to someone else. His defense was that he had no idea what he was doing was illegal. It is hard for me to truly believe that he didn’t know. People I know who own multiple guns make sure they know the laws. So I understand that the state is going to nail him, that’s what the state does. But 5 years, a criminal record, missing out on your late 20s and possibly getting assaulted in prison is a bit much.