The Biden administration’s argument in favor of the two gun control bills approved by the House last week is that they’ll save lives and prevent criminals from getting ahold of guns. Of course the background check bills will do nothing of the sort (how the government would actually be able to prevent a private transfer between individuals is something that no supporter of H.R. 8 has been able to explain), but that’s their position and they’re sticking to it.
The simple truth is that the government can’t prevent those private transfers from taking place. Even in a state with universal background check laws on the books, illegal gun sales still happen. At best a universal background check requirement might allow for prosecution after the fact, but even then there are plenty of other gun laws on the books that already offer the possibility of a stiff prison sentence. The problem is that even when those laws are enforced, offenders often get off with a slap on the wrist, as is the case with a former California cop who’s managed to avoid prison for selling dozens of guns on the black market.
Lindley Hupp was sentenced to three years’ probation with the condition that he perform 10 hours of community service per week for nine months, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Hupp, 32, of Long Beach, pleaded guilty in December to dealing in firearms without a federal license and falsely certifying that he was the buyer of a Glock handgun that actually was intended for someone else.
Prosecutors said Lindley Hupp, 32, of Long Beach, illegally sold two firearms in 2011 when he was an auxiliary officer with the Pasadena police force and at least 48 firearms during an 8 1/2-year period while working with the Torrance Police Department.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Hupp agreed last November to plead guilty to a two-count federal indictment which contained two charges: Engaging in the business of dealing in firearms without a license and making a false statement in a federal firearm licensee’s records during the purchase of a firearm.
Law enforcement officers are permitted to buy what are known as “off roster” guns that people without a badge can’t buy directly from a licensed dealer. Thirty-six of the 48 guns Hupp sold were “off roster” arms, federal prosecutors said.
I recently wrote about how California’s gun control laws, including the two-tiered system for gun purchases, is fueling corruption among law enforcement, and Hupp’s case is yet another example of the problems created by allowing police access to popular firearms that are off-limits to legal gun owners in the state.
Hupp’s case is also troubling because of the lack of punishment. It’s fair to wonder if Hupp got off lightly because he used to be a police officer, given that engaging in a single straw purchase is punishable by five years in federal prison. Heck, under the universal background check bill recently passed by the House, a private transfer of a firearm that doesn’t go through a background check would be punishable by up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine. Hupp allegedly sold at least 50 firearms on the black market, and isn’t going to have to do a single day in prison. Ninety hours of community service doesn’t really sound like a punishment that fits the crime, at least if you’re trying to send a message to others who might be thinking about doing the same thing.
I don’t think Hupp ever should have been in a position to sell these guns in the first place, because I believe California should scrap its Roster of Handguns Certified for Sale entirely, which would allow residents of California to purchase the same popular handguns that are available for sale in virtually every other state of the Union. Still, the law is on the books, and as a police officer Hupp was well aware that he was breaking the law by turning around selling these guns on the black market.
A bad law becomes even worse when it’s subjectively enforced, and that seems to be what happened in the case of Lindley Hupp. Once again California’s gun control laws are fueling corruption, and with little consequence for the lawbreakers.