Talk About Standing Up for Your Beliefs!

Via SayUncle, comes the continuing saga of Francis Warin, a Frenchman who moved to the U.S. in 1961 at the age of 30 so he could be a weapon designer. Peripherally involved in a BATF entrapment case (imagine that!) in 1970, he studied the Second Amendment and concluded (as have a large number of gun rights proponents) that it meant what it said, and not what the politicians and the judges said it meant, he first filed a class-action lawsuit that was denied.

Then he got serious.

He manufactured a machine gun (weapon designer, remember) and refused to pay the $200 ‘tax.’ When that didn’t get him arrested, he took it physically down to the local BATF office where they not only didn’t shoot him or stomp on his pets, they didn’t even bother to arrest him. He finally had to embarrass the government by telling his story to a newspaper before they arrested and charged him.

Let’s just say it didn’t turn out like he wanted. The case was U.S. v Warin, and it was one of the worst cases for gun-rights supporters we’ve seen. It was, in fact, a textbook example of the “collective rights” interpretation of the Second Amendment based on U.S. v Miller and other cases subsequent to Miller. (Remember, this was 1975 – as the gun-control movement and the “collective rights” argument was approaching its zenith in the post-60’s, post-Nixon era.)

Mr. Warin was convicted of a felony and received probation with an interesting stipulation: He had the permission of the court to retain his right to arms even though he was a convicted felon because otherwise he’d be out of a job.

So Mr. Warin went back to his job.

In 1999, now retired, Mr. Warin tried to buy a gun from a dealer. He filled out a Form 4473 and, in accordance with the requirements, indicated that he was a convicted felon, but thought that the court decision allowed him to purchase a gun. Wrong again. And he couldn’t get a hearing on it, either. So he apparently intimated to the FBI that he could “bring a bomb” to them. They were not amused. They raided his home (I don’t know if any kittens were stomped – this was the FBI) and took 22 weapons. But didn’t press charges. He fought for return of his property, and lost.

So this time, he manufactured a suppressed .22 pistol and sent it via registered mail to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Toledo. He got arrested again and thrown in jail where he is now on a hunger strike.

I will grant that Mr. Warin has courage and is resolute in his quest for justice. Unfortunately, I don’t expect him to fare any better than John Lee Haney did when he essentially repeated Mr. Warin’s original argument.

What Mr. Warin did, and is doing again is tilting at windmills. Now, at 72 and starving, he looks the part of Don Quixote. We need people willing to tilt at windmills. We need people to be unwilling to move to the back of the bus. We need people willing to stand up for their rights.

And we need to spread the word when they do, not let it languor on page 6 of section Q of the local newspaper.

Make no mistake, this is civil disobedience by someone convinced he is right, and who is willing to pay the consequences of, well let Voltaire say it:

It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong.

As for me, I’m an reminded of Claire Wolfe:

It’s too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards.

It might not be too late. The next test is Silveira v. Lockyer. Will the Supreme Court hear it? And if so, how will they decide?

Mr. Warin is a brave man, and I honor his grit. I just don’t hold much hope of him winning against this particular windmill.

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