West News Wire: On July 26, Hunter Biden’s plea agreement with the U.S. attorney for Delaware fell through due to a disagreement about whether the agreed-upon resolution of his tax fraud and gun registration violations shields him from prosecution in connection with other offences.
Judge Maryellen Noreika objected to a crucial part of the so-called “diversion agreement” that allows Hunter to avoid being charged with a felony for making false statements on a firearm application. He appears to be shielded from prosecution for matters detailed separately in Exhibit 1 of the tax fraud guilty plea according to language on page seven of the agreement.
Asked by the judge if there was “any precedent for agreeing not to prosecute crimes that have nothing to do with the case or the charges being diverted,” the assistant U.S. attorney responded, “I am not aware of any, Your Honor.”
One of the ironies of this affair is the origin of the hand gun permitting protocol Hunter Biden admits to violating. It was part of a wave of crime prevention legislation championed by his father as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee 30 years ago.
First proposed in Congress in 1987, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act was enacted on Nov. 30, 1993 as an amendment to the original federal Gun Control Act of 1968. One of the key Senate sponsors was Judiciary Chair Joe Biden, seen in that era as a tough-on-crime moderate Democrat.
The Brady Bill prescribed a waiting period of five days before a handgun could be sold to an unlicensed individual in states lacking their own existing system of conducting background checks.
In fighting for Brady, Biden declared on the Senate floor “You wait five days to pick up your car when you buy it. You wait a day and a half to get your suit altered, if you buy a new suit. What can be so urgent that you have to walk in, you need that gun today?”
On Nov. 24, 1993, the New York Times noted that policy disagreements over Brady “were compounded by a personality clash between Senators Bob Dole, Republican of Kansas, and Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, that is growing into a bitter grudge match.”
The original bill stipulated that a digitised National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) would be operational by 1998, ending the required five-day waiting period. To please Republicans who support states’ rights and the National Rifle Association, Dole, the leader of the Republican minority, wanted the waiting period clause to expire after four years. Biden was adamant about five years.
“Joe just wants to rub our nose in it,” declared Dole. He was not required to do it. Biden’s five-year sunset period was intact, but it took talks between Dole and Majority Leader George Mitchell to end a Republican filibuster and assure the bill’s passage.
Key to the bill’s establishment of the NICS, administered by the FBI, was the submission by gun buyers of ATF form 4473. The form was established by the 1968 Gun Control Act, but would now be uploaded into the NICS database.
How should people in America react to the son of a senator, vice president, and president who has fought so vehemently for handgun background checks and gun regulation, most recently by signing the 2022 Bipartisan Safer Communities Act?
On the one hand, charges for lying on firearms applications are rarely brought. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and guns directed around 13,000 NICS guns denials to its field divisions for investigation in fiscal year 2017, including verification of the accuracy of form 4473 responses.
As of June 2018, U.S. attorneys had prosecuted exactly 12 of those cases. Justice officials told GAO that “prosecuting denial cases can require significant effort and may offer little value to public safety compared to other cases involving gun violence.”
The present focus of Hunter’s case is on whether he will be granted any immunity from accusations resulting from his international business activities. However, when it comes to defending the diversion agreement itself, President Joe Biden must demonstrate why his son’s 4437 violation should be subject to the no-charge regime that has been popular in Delaware, rather than the stricter standards introduced in Oklahoma. He must also do this while debating gun rights activists who contend that a government that doesn’t enforce current gun control laws has no business passing new ones.