Even though Anthony Reyes Vazquez, the former police chief of the Manzanita Tribal Police Department in southern California was accused of (and pleaded guilty to) selling badges to a group of wealthy Los Angeles residents who he called the tribal police force’s “VIP Group,” federal prosecutors made it clear that the main reason why those who could afford the $5,000-$100,000 bribes were forking over the cash: they wanted to be able to legally carry a gun, and in “may issue” Los Angeles bribery and corruption was the easiest way to get their permit.
In exchange for paying the fee, the members would be given a badge which purportedly granted them the right to carry a concealed weapon, prosecutors said. Investigators declined to identify the members of the VIP group.
“This defendant sold law enforcement badges and jeopardized public safety,” said Randy Grossman, acting U.S. attorney for the southern district of California. “His manipulative and self-serving ploy also significantly undermined state laws governing the issuance of credentials to carry concealed weapons.”
Well yeah, but let’s not ignore the fact that California’s laws (and the laws in other “may issue” states) actually foster a culture of corruption and graft that simply isn’t present in “shall issue” or Constitutional Carry states. When law enforcement has the subjective authority to determine who among us is allowed to exercise a right, that inevitably opens the door for corrupt officers to pad their paychecks. We’ve seen high profile bribery cases blown wide open in New York, in northern California, and now southern California, all in the past few years.
There are some other disturbing facts about Vasquez’s case, including his 1992 felony drug conviction, which meant that the 24 firearms he owned while serving as the tribe’s police chief were all possessed illegally. That raises some serious questions about how Vasquez was ever hired to run the tribal police force in the first place, but it doesn’t appear as if prosecutors plan on investigating his hiring or any of the tribe’s officials, who authorities say were unaware of Vasquez’s bribery scheme.
I also find it odd that the U.S. Attorneys office has apparently decided neither to charge or even name any of the individuals who allegedly bribed Vasquez for a badge and the opportunity to carry. If Vasquez was facing felony charges for receiving bribes, then why hasn’t anyone been charged with offering him money in exchange for a badge? I can’t help but wonder if Joe Biden’s Justice Department is intentionally taking a flyer on prosecuting Vasquez’s VIPs because of political concerns or the desire to avoid embarrassing any high profile party members. Otherwise, why would the DOJ decide not pursue a case against the very individuals the U.S. Attorney declared were jeopardizing public safety?
This whole case stinks, to be honest. Vasquez never should have been in a position to solicit bribes from rich Los Angeles residents willing to pay thousands of dollars to lawfully carry a gun, because California’s laws shouldn’t deprive the average citizen from being able to exercise their right to bear arms in self-defense in the first place. The prosecutors should have shown far less deference to those who were willing and able to bribe the tribal police chief.
We can’t change the past, but thankfully the Supreme Court does have the chance to set things right when they decide the upcoming case dealing with New York’s equally egregious “may issue” laws. It’s time to put an end to the graft and corruption fostered by these unconstitutional infringements on our right to bear arms, and to ensure that we the people have the right to exercise that right without the state arbitrarily and unlawfully attempting to stand in our way.