As anti-gun lawmakers across the country introduce bills to turn legal gun owners into felons via gun and magazine bans, ammunition restrictions and more, a case out of Minnesota is highlighting the real issue; a catch and release criminal justice system that puts real criminals back on the street with little consequence for their crimes.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press uncovered the recent criminal history of 25-year old Stephen Michael Lincoln, a convicted felon who’s been caught with guns and ammunition four different times since September of 2019. Each arrest has led to more charges for Lincoln, but none of them have led to him remaining behind bars for long, despite violating his parole.
He was charged Monday in Ramsey County District Court with two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm after police spotted two people “slumped over” in a pickup truck Saturday, according to the criminal complaint.
Officers recognized Lincoln as one of the occupants from his previous arrests. They found the gun, vest, magazines and ammunition when they searched the vehicle, according to the criminal complaint.
The firearm, a loaded Brugger & Thomet TP9 handgun, was beneath the driver’s seat, according to the complaint. The ballistic vest, three Glock 9-millimeter magazines, two Tec magazines and the loose rounds of ammunition were in a suitcase in the back seat.
Lincoln was arrested at the scene and declined to make a statement to investigators. The female passenger with him said she didn’t know anything about guns in the vehicle.
The Pioneer Press says Lincoln has two other outstanding cases in Ramsey County, including a case stemming from an October arrest on a warrant.
While searching him, police discovered a small bag of methamphetamine in his pocket and a handgun on his waist, court documents say. A loaded handgun also was reportedly found in his vehicle.
Lincoln, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges, posted bond in October and was released from custody.
Democrats in control of Minnesota’s House and governor’s office have been demanding passage of several gun control laws, including a universal background check bill and a red flag law, but Republicans, who still control the state Senate, have been calling for better enforcement of existing laws. In fact, the Duluth News-Tribune covered a Senate hearing in Hibbing, Minnesota where Republicans and Democrats were interested in two very different approaches to fighting crime.
Members of the panel Thursday got a thorough presentation on Minnesota’s existing firearm laws as well as other laws around violence prevention. Democrats on the panel sought to highlight holes in existing laws, while Republicans pointed to concerns about lax enforcement that allows those unauthorized to possess firearms to obtain and use them.
“We need that support for law enforcement, the laws that are currently on the books, how are we enforcing those? We really need to take a look at that,” Sen. Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, said. “It’s a cycle that is problematic to me and should be problematic to the folks out here.”
Gun control advocates and gun rights supporters packed the hearing room, wearing T-shirts representing their respective groups. Outside the hearing room, gun control advocates said senators were acting too slowly on an issue that is critical to the state.
“Limiting the scope of the hearing to the review of current laws is like checking the batteries in the smoke alarms when your house is on fire. It’s a very good thing to do on a regular basis but not the thing that will save the most lives now, during a crisis,” Nancy Nord Bence, with Protect Minnesota, said. “We have a crisis of gun violence going on in Minnesota right now.”
Adding more gun control laws to a broken criminal justice system is like putting in a new smoke alarm while your house is on fire. As for the crisis of gun violence that Bence talks about, the FBI reported that violent crime actually declined by almost 10% in the state in 2018, and the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area is one of the safest in the nation.
None of that really matters to gun control activists, because their goal is to reduce the number of legal gun owners and to restrict their rights. Of course it’s done in the name of public safety, but it doesn’t really matter to them if their proposals actually work. In fact, if crime goes up after new gun control laws are put on the books, anti-gun activists just use that as an excuse to push even more restrictive laws.
Meanwhile, career criminals like Mr. Lincoln keep getting slaps on the wrist and are quickly returned to the streets. If there is a crisis of gun violence in the state of Minnesota, it’s not going to be addressed by turning the state’s law-abiding gun owners into criminals with unconstitutional gun control laws. Instead, you have to deal with the few individuals who are actually driving the violence. Sadly, that seems to be a step too far for Minnesota’s gun control activists and anti-gun politicians.