By chance, I ran across this story in a small Colorado paper while I was away last week. Something about this is just not right:
...When Telluride Marshals' Department officers responded to a July 7 domestic violence report from Cindy Plumber, she told them her husband was barricaded in their Shandoka apartment with their 2-year-old child and an AK-47.
Hubert Plumber's semi-automatic weapon turned out to be a made-in-China MAK-90, not an AK-47.
Officers found it fully loaded with two ready-to-go 30-round magazines nearby, after subduing and handcuffing Hubert Plumber....
Cindy Plumber called 911, and so did Hubert (which isn't unusual in cases of domestic violence):
When the 911 operator asked for his name, Plumber replied, "Death, dead, dead."
So, er, we can see we're not dealing with a particularly stable individual.
And this isn't an isolated incident:
The July 7 incident is Plumber's third police standoff in the region; the first occurred in June 2001, in Mountain Village, and the second in May 2003, in Norwood.
"In the Norwood incident," says San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters, "the weapon he had in his possession was a semiautomatic firearm."
It is legal to possess a semiautomatic firearm, which Masters estimates takes maybe twice as long to fire a 30-bullet magazine, "maybe five seconds," as opposed to an automatic weapon's two or three seconds.
Nonetheless, "It is not a felony to have a semiautomatic firearm in your possession," says District Attorney Keri Yoder.
So now Plumber is -- get this -- charged only with three misdemeanors:
Plumber is out on bond, w hich was "$10,000 cash or surety," says Yoder, and will face misdemeanor charges next month of resisting arrest (class 2), child abuse (class 1) and harassment (class 3). The maximum sentence for class 1 misdemeanors is 18 months and/or a $5,000 fine; for class 2, 12 months and/or a $1,000 fine; and, for class 3 misdemeanors, six months and/or a $750 fine.
Plumber didn't exactly act as if this was all a big misunderstanding, according to an officer at the scene, Terry Merriam:
Upon being asked by Merriman if he did indeed have a weapon, Plumber "turned and walked away from the window and said under his breath, 'Ya, and I'm not afraid to use it,' and I thought he said, 'on guys like you.'" ...
After the three deputies subdued and handcuffed Plumber, Merriman himself went into bedroom three, where Plumber had been monitoring the deputies' arrival. "The MAK-90, the bedroom window and the parked patrol vehicles were in alignment," he wrote in his report.
I don't get this. I don't get that you can hole up with a two-year-old child and a semiautomatic weapon, threaten police officers -- for the third time -- and not be charged with a felony. This is where my law-and-order hackles are raised.
Or is it just that, in the current political climate, there's an incredibly high bar you have to clear before you can be charged with a crime involving that most sacred of objects, a firearm?
The article suggests as much:
The mood seems subdued at the Telluride Marshals Department, although officers refrain from commenting directly on the situation.
"There are certain laws that govern when you can take away someone's right to have weapons," says Chief Mary Heller. Convicted felons (including persons convicted of domestic violence) cannot possess weapons, she adds.
Plumber has no felony convictions.
State laws "have taken a lot of discretion away from municipalities," says Heller....
Here's a summary of Colorado's gun laws, from the NRA. The relevant passage is:
It is unlawful for any person convicted of a felony or conspiracy or attempt to commit a felony, or misdemeanor domestic violence or adjudicated delinquent for a felony to possess a firearm.
Would it be jackbooted fascist thuggery to add "pointing a semiautomatic weapon at cops while a two-year-old child is in the room" in there somewhere?