April 10, 2010 - Leave a Response
I’m sure that this fella was just defending his property while drunk with his shotgun. What could possibly go wrong? I’m glad this drunk man has a firearm at his side. I’d feel much safer being around him. It’s great that he could own a firearm. He’s part of the well-regulated militia, no doubt, out there in Newtok, drunk.
Above is the info from Gwen. Below are the facts from the DPS:
I do appreciate Gwen's work as a news aggregator. While she and I disagree on many fundamental issues, she does a great job of finding those stories that illustrate what not to do with firearms. I don't think anyone argues that using firearms while drunk is a good idea. As you'll see later on, I think that Gwen and I actually have some common ground on this one (although her "well regulated militia" comments are irrelevant to the matter at hand).Location: Newtok
Case Number: 10-28228
Type: Misconduct Involving a Weapon IV
Text: On 4-5-2010 at approximately 0300 hours, Village and Tribal Police
in Newtok responded to a report of an intoxicated male with a shotgun at
a residence in Newtok. Tom A. Tom, 27 yoa of Newtok, was brough into
protective custody and later arrested for Misconduct Involving a Weapon
IV. Alcohol was a factor in this case.
Received Wednesday, April 07, 2010 9:07 AM and posted Wednesday, April 07, 2010 9:28 AM
THE NRA, ALCOHOL, AND GUN SAFETY
I'm not sure why she includes the tags she does. For example, here is an excerpt from the NRA's firearms safety rules page:
Never use alcohol or over-the-counter, prescription or other drugs before or while shooting.ALASKA LAW ON DRINKING AND FIREARMS POSSESSION
Alcohol, as well as any other substance likely to impair normal mental or physical bodily functions, must not be used before or while handling or shooting guns.
Now, while I am no supporter of drinking and shooting, I am not in favor of a law absolutely banning possession of a firearm while intoxicated. This can cause obvious problems. It already has been the subject of court scrutiny in other states.
- Say I want to have a glass of wine at home. Upstairs, there is a gun in the nightstand. Criminal?
- A bunch of buddies go on a fishing trip. Some are carrying .44 revolvers because this is Alaska and bears get territorial about their salmon spots. They finish fishing, clean their catches, and put away their gear -- including their guns. They then sit around the campfire and have a few brewskis. Criminal?
AS 11.61.210, MIW IV, reads:
- (a) A person commits the crime of misconduct involving weapons in the fourth degree if the person...
- (1) possesses on the person, or in the interior of a vehicle in which the person is present, a firearm when the person's physical or mental condition is impaired as a result of the introduction of an intoxicating liquor or a controlled substance into the person's body in circumstances other than described in AS 11.61.200 (a)(7);
So, the bottom line is that if you're going to drink, don't carry a weapon on your person, and if you're in a vehicle which you shouldn't be driving anyways, secure the weapon in the trunk (not the "interior" of the vehicle), preferably in a locking case. This is just good sense.
The only thing I'd like to see is an affirmative defense for MIW IV for self-defense (perhaps limited to self-defense in your own personal residence); just because you've had a few glasses of wine doesn't mean that you've lost your right to defend yourself, and if you're found innocent of any criminal misconduct in the shooting then you shouldn't have to worry about MIW IV. But, given that MIW IV is only a misdemeanor and there is always a chance for prosecutorial discretion in the event if a hungover resident shoots home invaders or a wild animal inside their house at 3 AM in the morning, it probably isn't a huge deal.
Of course, such an affirmative defense would probably not apply in this sort of situation. The guy will likely be found guilty of a Class A misdemeanor, which means a $10K fine and up to one year in jail. Because it was an alcohol related offense he can be hit with AS 12.55.102 as well, which means that his driving privileges can be taken away. That's a pretty steep set of possible consequences and probably a reasonable one.
HOW BIG A PROBLEM IS THIS?
The next step is to see how the risk of dying due to an alcohol-related firearms incidents stacks up to an alcohol-related vehicular accident. In 2007, there were 30 alcohol-related vehicular fatalities in Alaska. Our firearms death rate is 17.1/100,000. With a population of about 650,000, that makes about 110 firearms deaths total. That figure includes:
Causes of death attributable to firearm mortality include ICD-10 Codes W32-W34, Accidental discharge of firearm; Codes X72-X74, Intentional self-harm by firearm; X93-X95, Assault by firearm; Y22-Y24, Firearm discharge, undetermined intent; and Y35, Legal intervention involving firearm discharge
Unfortunately, the CDC data I was able to find didn't break out the number of deaths that involved alcohol. So long as more than 1/4 include alochol -- which seems likely -- then you are at higher risk of dying in a drunken firearms incident than in a DUI. I was able to find a study from UAA which states that unintentional firearms deaths made up only 3% of all fatalities in the state between 2003 and 2005.
So, I think I will actually agree with Gwen on this one (don't say it ain't so!). Alcohol and firearms usage in Alaska is actually a fairly significant problem. While you are still more likely to die of a chronic respiratory infection or drowning or falling or being in a car accident, accidental drunken firearms discharges are probably up there in the top ten list, roughly equivalent to DUIs.
However, unlike DUIs -- which tend to often kill people other than the asshat driver -- most of the firearms incidents are suicides. Based on the UAA study, it looks like the biggest issue is booze + firearms + suicidal tendencies. I really think the critical part of that equation is the suicidal tendencies, not the firearms; people tend to find substitutes to kill themselves if a firearm is not available. To me, the takeaway is that mental health in Alaska is important and we need to take care of our friends and family, especially in the dark winter.