October 27, 2014 (SACRAMENTO, CA) -- Today, a federal jury in Sacramento found gun owner Ulysses S. Grant Early IV not guilty of conspiracy to make a false statement on a federal a firearm record known as an ATF Form 4473. The lengthy criminal trial, which lasted four weeks, successfully concluded for Early after more than two days of jury deliberations and two years of legal wrangling.
[caption id="attachment_2323" align="alignleft" width="300"] Grant Early (back left), with his wife, Bonnie (back right) and sons Quinn (front left) and Chase (front right) in 2013.[/caption]
Early was represented by civil rights attorney Donald Kilmer of San Jose. The Calguns Foundation, a gun rights group based in Roseville, provided resources and support for his legal defense.
According to evidence presented during the trial, Early purchased a Sturm, Ruger & Co. model LCP handgun from a Roseville, California police officer in May of 2010. Under state law, a Ruger LCP can only be purchased new directly from a gun dealer by an exempted person, such as a law enforcement officer, since the gun is not included in the Roster of Handguns Certified for Sale maintained by the California Department of Justice. But the state’s handgun restrictions allow individuals to sell or transfer their “off-Roster” handguns to others, as long as the seller and buyer follow all other laws. The Calguns Foundation maintains that California’s handgun roster and microstamping regulations are unconstitutional in an unrelated civil lawsuit.
Early’s lawyer successfully argued that the police officer was the actual buyer in the LCP’s initial sale, that Early later purchased the handgun from the officer in a separate, legal “private party transaction,” and that Early did not conspire to withhold information from the government by making a false statement in the process. In his purchase of the handgun from the officer, Early adhered to all state and federal firearm laws, including the use of a licensed gun dealer for the transfer and his successful completion of a background check and 10-day wait.
“This verdict has renewed my faith in our system and the value of all of our constitutional rights, especially the right to a trial by jury,” Early said after hearing the news. “I feel like justice was served and I’m grateful for that. My family and I can finally get back to living our lives.”
“Mr. Early’s prosecution is a striking reminder that second amendment civil rights must be as vigorously defended as those protected by the first amendment,” remarked Kilmer. “Today’s positive outcome for my client is also an important victory for fundamental individual liberties. I’m grateful to the court and jury for their hard work on this case and also to The Calguns Foundation, which supports critical cases like this one.”
Notably, state assemblyman Roger Dickinson twice attempted to ban sales and transfers of “off-Roster” handguns by peace officers and other exempted individuals, but Governor Brown vetoed both attempts.
In his 2012 veto of Dickinson’s AB 2460 -- a bill widely reported as a legislative response to this case -- Brown included a statement explaining his rejection of the proposal, writing that the measure “would restrict law enforcement and military personnel - and only those individuals - from selling lawfully purchased handguns that have not been certified by the Attorney General's Office” and that the bill “takes from law enforcement officers the right to an activity that remains legally available to every private citizen,” concluding with “I don't believe this is justified.”
“Governments should not attempt to use criminal proceedings to stretch their interpretations of laws that trench upon enumerated rights,” commented Gene Hoffman, the Foundation’s chairman. “Mr. Early’s case is an example of our criminal defense program keeping a check on governmental overreach.”
“The prosecution went too far with a charge based on an ambiguous form and a lack of clarifying regulations,” said Calguns Foundation Executive Director Brandon Combs. “The ATF needs to address its deficient process before more innocent lives are upended or destroyed by inadequately considered and improperly enforced federal gun control laws.”
The Calguns Foundation (www.calgunsfoundation.org) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that serves its members, supporters, and the public through educational, cultural, and judicial efforts to defend and advance Second Amendment and related civil rights.