The Strib ran a relatively decent story about the background of the New Hope shooting incident, where 68 year old Ray Kmetz, using an illegally-obtained 12 gauge shotgun, shot and wounded two New Hope police officers before being killed.
The officers are recovering, Kmetz is dead, and the issue is mostly closed…
…except for the matter of Michael Garant.
All Straw, Nothing But Straw: Garant purchased several shotguns from an online gun auction. According to the Strib story:
Kmetz was the highest bidder for three shotguns from K-Bid Auction in Maple Plain, which were actually bought by Garant in August at Full Metal Gun Shop in Princeton, authorities have said. Garant informed gun shop owner Troy Buchholz that he used the alias “Ray Kmetz” during the online auction because he didn’t want people contacting him from K-Bid’s site, according to court documents.
Show me a law-abiding gun owner who doesn’t look at that story and ask “who does Garant think he is? The BATFE?”
As the story notes, the gun shop screwed up bad; the Strib writer (one David Chanen) talked with John Monson of Bill’s Gun Shop, who spelled out how it’s supposed to work. Long story short: not like that.
Longer story shorter; Garant allegedly used an illegal purchasing tactic to put a gun in the hands of Ray Kmetz.
And Garant is being charged. End of story. Right?
Not My Job, Man: Back in the 1990s, after some high profile shootings, the legislature and some city councils worked to give county prosecutors some tools to use against gun criminals, including straw buyers. These were laws that had the combined, bipartisan approval of anti-gun zealots and pro-Second Amendment Real Americans, by the way – because they went after criminals, rather than the law-abiding gun owner.
And the county prosecutors used those to tear into criminals who used guns with a vengeance.
No, not really. The laws largely languished. Sources tell me that former Ramsey County attorney Susan Gaertner pled the charges from the laws away as parts of plea bargain deals every single time, sticking zero gun criminals with charges stemming from the anti-gun-crime laws.
And yes, prosecutors have some discretion in their charges, and plea bargains are a useful tool for unclogging the courts. But it’s also no surprise that an extreme gun-grabber prosecutor would avoid the use of a law that might provide objective evidence that gun violence is a matter of violent people, not availability of firearms.
Gun shop screws up bigtime.
Bored To Tears: When the police traced Ray Kmetz’s shotgun, the trail led to Garant.
You don’t need an expert to know what happened; Kmetz, who had been civilly committed several times, was utterly unable to buy a firearm. Garant allegedly bought the gun, using Kmetz’s name but his own background – and then showed up at the gun shop in Princeton and bought the gun under his own name.
How illegal is it? John Monson of Bill’s Gun Range calls it:
“This was a classic straw purchase,” Monson said. “If this guy couldn’t get arrested and charged, who could?”Monson says “internal process woulda stopped this cold”.
After the New Hope shooting, police traced the gun to Garant, and arrested him; it was the Thursday afternoon after the shooting took place.
And on Friday, notwithstanding the fact that the prosecutors have 36 hours to investigate and come up with evidence, Henco attorney Mike Freeman cut Garant loose – according to sources with knowledge of the situation, Garant was released as the Henco Sheriff’s office was still investigating.
Sheriff Stanek was not amused:
Sheriff Rich Stanek said he was befuddled by that decision. “We absolutely had state law supporting us,” he said. “We just need enforcement of current law.”
The state statute on straw buyers reads that “whoever recklessly furnishes a person with a dangerous weapon in conscious disregard of a known substantial risk that the object will be possessed or used in furtherance of a felony crime of violence is guilty of a felony.”
Stanek said he understands that the county attorney has prosecutorial discretion, but he believes the Legislature’s intent in creating the law supported charges against Garant.
According to Henco prosector Freeman (as related in the Strib), it was just too much a stretch (echoing Dakota County attorney and anti-gun zealot Jim Backstrom,who seems to think his attorneys are too incompetent to tell the difference between a murder and self-defense).
Here’s the applicable statute: MN 609.66.1c:
Subd. 1c.Felony; furnishing dangerous weapon. Whoever recklessly furnishes a person with a dangerous weapon in conscious disregard of a known substantial risk that the object will be possessed or used in furtherance of a felony crime of violence is guilty of a felony and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than ten years or to payment of a fine of not more than $20,000, or both.
Garant admitted to furnishing the weapon. The Strib story indicates there’s evidence that Garant knew Kmetz’s record made him ineligible to buy it himself. Proving Garant knew there was “substantial risk” – well, isn’t that why all those attorneys make the big taxpayer bucks? Admitting he knew Kmetz was unqualified is the very definition of “knowing and reckless!”
This should have been a no-brainer for Freeman’s office.
So why would Mike Freeman let a case like this slide, only for the Feds to pick it up?
Because he doesn’t want to give any, er, ammo to the Second Amendment movement by using a law we support to put an obvious criminal in jail?
Road Not Taken: But that last graf of mine is conjecture.
And it’s about the best I can manage right now – because I’m a mere blogger. A guy who writes polemics in his spare time, works a full time day job, yadda yadda.
You know what would help, though?
If there were an institution – perhaps one that owned things like printing presses and transmitters and, nowadays, websites. And maybe staffed by people whose job it is to look into stories like “why doesn’t the county attorney in the state’s most violent county use the straw buyer law to pin local charges on a guy who put a gun in the hands of a man who shot two cops?” People who, perhaps, consider themselves part of a near-monastic order of people who consider “the peoples’ right to know” a sacred calling, above reproach by mere lay people, but which exist to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”…
…even if “the comfortable” is a former gubernatorial candidate from a party whose asses their various publications kiss with full tongue?