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How Firearms Background Checks Backfire
Friday, June 1, 2001
WASHINGTON - The Brady anti-gun law has resulted in denial of a
firearms purchase to a former policeman who is an honored war
Why? A juvenile record from 42 years ago that was supposed to be
"sealed” nonetheless came back to deny him the right to buy a gun
for his wife’s protection.
This is the story of Michael Bruce Williams of Jacobson, Minn., a
veteran of 22 years of honorable active-duty military service. He was
denied the right to buy a firearm even though he had had plenty of
experience with firearms: in the Air Force (including a tour of duty in
Vietnam), as a National Guardsman, as a policeman, and then back
into the service - this time with the Navy for 14 years. In all of the
above capacities, he served with honor and distinction.
He now has a daughter, born while he was in Vietnam, who today
serves as a chief petty officer in the U.S. Navy.
Williams’ wife of 38 years, a long-distance bicyclist, felt vulnerable
while riding to train for a 200-mile bike ride last summer. He
suggested she attend self-defense courses sponsored by the local
sheriff, get a "permit to carry" and carry a handgun.
When he went to buy a handgun for her for Mother's Day last year,
he was denied that right because the background check required by
the Brady law found a juvenile conviction. It was spotted by the
Justice Department’s National Instant Criminal Background Check
The conviction involved a juvenile burglary charge in 1959, when
Williams was 16 years old.
NewsMax.com has obtained a copy of a court order dated Sept. 12,
1960, wherein a judge in the Superior Court of Skagit County,
Wash., acknowledged that the young Williams had behaved himself
during the probation period. Therefore the court allowed him to
plead not guilty to the crime. Further, the judge ordered that the
charge "is hereby dismissed and the defendant is … released from
all penalties and disabilities resulting from the filing of said charge.”
The records were supposed to be sealed and expunged. But as the
59-year-old Williams told NewsMax.com Thursday, "You can’t
expunge memories.” And a sheriff had neglected to destroy or
discard a card file that remained and came back to haunt Williams
more than 40 years later when he went to buy a handgun for his
When he protested to the feds, he got a letter last December from
Monica Snyder, speaking for Timothy Munson, section chief for the
NICS Program Office.
The letter stated that the document showing the Order of Dismissal
in 1960 was "insufficient to authorize your ability to purchase or
redeem a firearm.”
"Therefore,” it added, "you are ineligible to purchase or possess
Because Williams already possessed several guns, more or less as
trophies from his military and police days, he moved all firearms
from his residence, on the advice of his attorney.
The very fact that he was suddenly told he could not even possess
firearms after having used them over the years in so many official
capacities seemed bizarre. All because of a youthful error back in
"The only other blemish on my record," he told NewsMax.com, "is a
ticket for going 65 mph in a 55 mph zone … while driving to the
District 8 Republican convention.”
The next thing the veteran and ex-policeman did was to hire a
lawyer, Gary Jones, back in his native Washington state, where the
youthful crime had occurred. The attorney wrote the federal
authorities arguing that the denial "does not follow the Washington
State law” regarding the Certificate of Rehabilitation that had been
granted his client many years ago.
Ultimately, Williams ended up having to go to his senators and
congressman for help. Just within the last two weeks, he received a
call from an aide to Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., who told him the
senator’s office had seen to it that the ancient record back in
Washington state was expunged.
When Williams said he would like to see that in writing, the senate
aide told him to "go ahead and buy a gun. You’re clear.”
As of this writing, he is awaiting the outcome of his latest attempted
The point is that Williams should not have had to go to the time,
money and headache of having to hire a lawyer or petition the office
of a United States senator to achieve his Second Amendment
What if his wife had been harmed because he couldn’t get her a
Does this red tape make sense for someone who carried guns in
serious professional pursuits as a member of the Air Force, the
Navy, the National Guard and the Montevideo, Minn., police force?
The latter position was achieved after he had been certified as a
police patrolman by the state of Minnesota.
This is what critics of the Brady law are talking about when they
point to the "unintended consequences.”
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