Jeremy Lucas, rector of Christ Church Episcopal Parish in Lake Oswego, Oregon, has run afoul of the state’s universal background check law. Lucas spent $3,000 of church funds on a raffle to win an AR-15 for the purpose of destroying it, but transferred it to a gun-owning friend in the meantime. Contrary to Oregon’s law, he did not have a check performed on the friend before turning over the gun.
According to reporting of The Register-Guard, a Eugene newspaper, Lucas had what he regarded as the best of intentions. The raffle was to fund a high school softball team’s trip to a tournament out of state. Having won the rifle—and passed a background check himself to receive it legally—he handed over the AR-15 for “safekeeping.”
The problem is that Oregon’s law doesn’t allow such transfers. Checks aren’t required when firearms are passed between family members or to law enforcement. There is also a category of temporary transfers to someone the owner has no reason to be a prohibited person for the purpose of hunting, repair of the gun, or shooting the gun at a range. There is also a provision that allows a temporary transfer to prevent “imminent death or serious physical injury,” presumably if the owner is incapacitated in some way. None of these exceptions appears to apply in this case, and depending on the course of the investigation, the pastor faces a penalty of up to $6,250 in fines and a year in jail. And in the reading of the law given by Kevin Starrett, executive director of the Oregon Firearms Federation, who wrote a letter to the state police to point out Lucas’s potential violation, the pastor can’t legally get the rifle back legally from his friend without a check being done, even though he’s the owner. It would be interesting to learn if Lucas would be a prohibited person if he’s convicted. In such an eventuality, the legal status of the AR-15 would be in doubt, since the person who received it wasn’t checked.
Even though ignorance is no excuse before the law, in this example, Lucas will have a hard time saying that he didn’t know what he was doing. His biography on the Christ Church website states that he is a graduate of Birmingham Law School and spent several years practicing law in state and federal courts in Alabama before attending seminary and entering the ministry. Whether or not Lucas has maintained his law license, it’s reasonable to expect that he would be capable of understanding Oregon’s requirements for the transfer of a firearm.
This situation reminds me of the passage in Hamlet in which the prince explains how he subverted Claudius’s plan to have him killed in England. Hamlet rewrote the letter to the English king that was carried by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, changing the order to have them executed instead. Referring to the explosive devices used to undermine castle walls, he said that he had caused his enemies to be hoisted on their own petard—blown up by their own bomb. Lucas’s effort to strike a blow against guns in America may end in a similar outcome, and if so, he’ll become a minor example of people who flaunt the gun laws that they claim to support. Former California State Senator Leland Yee is the best known member of that dubious club.
I’ll leave it to Lucas to decide if his church’s doctrines excuse bad actions when the intention was good, but secular law isn’t so forgiving. For their own benefit, it would be best for gun control advocates to learn the laws that they seek to enforce and make stricter.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.