Legal opinion on the anti-Prop. B television commercial featuring an illegal uzi:


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BRYAN CAVE LLP

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Facsimile: (314) 259-2020

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CHARLES A. WEISS  

(314) 259-2215

March 29, 1999

Mr. Fred Myers
Missourians Against Crime
5875 West Van Horn Tavern Road
Columbia, Missouri 652043

Re: UZI Commercial Paid For By The Safe Schools and Workplace Committee

Dear Fred,

You have asked us to assess the accuracy and propriety of a television commercial involving the depiction of an UZI. The commercial to which we are referring is an approximately 30-second spot which depicts an UZI with a 3" barrel. The UZI slowly rotates during the 30-second advertisement until at the end the viewer is looking directly down the barrel of the gun. Beneath the gun are the words labeling it as an "UZI semiautomatic pistol." While the UZI is slowly rotating during the commercial, a number of scenes appear in the background including various suspicious looking persons, a mall, a sports stadium and a school playground. The script for the commercial states: "If Proposition B passes, Missouri’s laws would be radically changed and someone convicted of assault, stalking, even child molesting could legally carry one of these guns hidden beneath their clothes in malls, stadiums, even school playgrounds. That’s why Missouri’s police chiefs urge you to vote no on Proposition B. Too many loopholes. Too dangerous for Missouri."

This commercial is false and egregiously misleading and deceptive as explained below.

1. The commercial tells the viewers that if Proposition B passes, Missouri’s laws would be radically changed and Missouri’s citizens could legally carry in a concealed fashion one of the UZI’s depicted. This is simply false. Proposition B would not permit Missouri citizens to carry UZIs. Proposition B would not change law relative to the ownership, acquisitions, use or brandishing of weapons. Under federal law (The Federal Firearms Act of l934), the importation of UZIs has been banned by Executive Order since l989 and has been banned by statute since l994. Private citizens could not carry an UZI as depicted in the commercial, and Proposition B would not make such weapons lawful. The St. Louis Post Dispatch in its March 27, l999 edition confirmed that the commercial was wrong, pointing out that the UZI is illegal under federal law. In fact, the Post Dispatch reported that The Safe Schools and Workplace Committee, which paid for the commercial, acknowledged the "discrepancy," and that "The Ad’s sponsors say the mistake was inadvertent, and have pulled the ad."

Furthermore, the UZI depicted, contrary to the written label underneath, is not a pistol; rather, it is a carbine rifle with a shortened barrel which is illegal under federal law. Even if the carbine had its full barrel length and could be possessed under federal law, Proposition B would still not permit it to be carried in a concealed fashion. The UZI’s barrel length would be at least l8" and Proposition B would authorize permits only for guns with a "barrel less than l6 inches in length, measured from the face of the bolt or standing breech."

2. Aside from the fact the UZI depicted is illegal under federal law, the commercial is further misleading and deceptive by stating that someone "convicted of assault, stalking, even child molesting" could legally carry concealed handguns under Proposition B. This statement is grossly misleading and deceptive. The proposed law, specifies a number of stringent requirements and safeguards which, legally and practically, would prevent a person convicted of assault, stalking or child molesting, from carrying a concealed handgun. The proposed law provides that a person can obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon only if the person meets all of the following requirements:

  1. is at least 21 years of age, a U.S. citizen and a Missouri resident for at least 6 months.
  2. has not been convicted of a felony, or of a misdemeanor involving an explosive weapon or firearm.
  3. is not a fugitive from justice, or is not charged with a felony, or of a misdemeanor involving an explosive weapon or firearm.
  4. has not been dishonorably discharged from the armed forces.
  5. has not within the past five years, exhibited violent behavior toward another person or offered credible threats of violence against another person.
  6. is not known to be an alcohol or controlled substance abuser.
  7. is not mentally incompetent or mentally ill, and has not been committed to a mental institution.
  8. has passed a l2-hour handgun safety training course approved the Missouri Department of Public Safety.

Under the proposed law, all persons who apply for a permit must fill out a verified written application. The sheriff is required to take a set of fingerprints of each applicant for use in background checks. In order to determine an applicant’s eligibility for a permit, the sheriff is required to run a check of the applicant through state records and also to forward the fingerprints and information to the FBI for a national criminal background check. The sheriff is given the discretion to refuse to issue a permit if he determines that any of the requirements have not been met. Additionally, any competent person over 21 may sign an affidavit alleging that a person who has been issued a permit is not in compliance with the requirements. The statute provides expressly that "Such allegations include, but are not limited to stalking, domestic violence or reckless endangerment with a firearm." The sheriff has the authority to revoke or suspend any permit to carry a concealed handgun when he determines that any permit holder has ceased to meet any of the requirements or that the permit was improperly issued in the first place.

Thus, under the proposed statute, a sheriff will not issue a permit to anyone whom he knows to have been convicted of assault, stalking or child molesting. Among other things, that person could not satisfy the requirement that he or she has not exhibited violent behavior toward another person and has not made credible threats of violence against another person.

3. Aside from the fact that the UZI depicted is illegal under federal law, the commercial is also deceptive and misleading in stating that Proposition B would permit people to carry "these guns hidden beneath their clothes in malls, stadiums, even school playgrounds." With respect to schools, Proposition B would not permit guns to be carried onto school grounds. Missouri law, namely 571.030, prohibits any person in Missouri from carrying a firearm into any school. Missouri’s Juvenile Crime Act defines school as any school, school bus or school function. Proposition B does not change current Missouri law which prohibits guns in school facilities. Further, the Federal "Gun Free School Zones Act" prohibits guns from being taken onto school property. Proposition B does not affect, change or supersede that federal law. Thus, under the law both before and after Proposition B, concealed guns cannot be carried into schools or school playgrounds in Missouri.

With respect to malls and stadiums, Proposition B also includes a provision granting any owner of a building or facility the right to prohibit concealed handguns from being brought onto the premises. Section 571.094 of the proposed law states: "All citizens, merchants, not for profit entities, or public bodies have the right to deny access to persons who attempt to carry concealed firearms into building they own or lease. Signs prohibiting concealed firearms shall be posted and shall be clearly visible to all entrances." Thus, the law does contain safeguards for prohibiting concealed guns from being carried into any building, including malls and stadiums.

Responsible members of the media have an obligation not to knowingly disseminate false or misleading information. 15 U.S.C. 52 makes it unlawful for any person to disseminate or cause to be disseminated any false advertisement by any means for the purpose of having an effect upon commerce of any devices. As shown above, the UZI commercial is not only misleading and deceptive, it is simply false. As the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported in Saturday’s edition, at least one station already has pulled the commercial after its station managers decided that it was wrong to air this misleading ad.

If you have any questions, would like additional information or want to discuss this with us, please contact me.

Sincerely yours,

[signature not reproduced electronically]

Charles A. Weiss

CAW/nss


For further information visit the Missouri Concealed Carry website at www.moccw.org or send email to .

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