Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

February 24, 2005

Discrimination in Brookline (2)

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:23 pm

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the story of an Army Lieutenant living in Brookline, Massachusetts, who was denied renewal of his gun permit for reading in the “wrong” section of a public library.

I neglected to include — but should have — another angle to the story: Nearly all non-white gun owners in Brookline have been denied renewal of their permits.

It was the faces of three disillusioned and angry residents that told a story in the lobby of Brookline District Court earlier this week.

There was Kang Lu, a Chinese-born U.S. Army second lieutenant and future military doctor, dressed in uniform, hoping, finally, for redemption in the form of a restored license to carry firearms. Next to him was longtime resident Yat Lau, also Chinese-born, who was similarly rejected in his bid to renew a license to carry a permit that was first issued to him four years ago in Newton.

And finally, sitting quietly on a bench outside the courtroom, was diminutive law paralegal and gospel choir singer Jacqueline Scott, a 53-year-old African-American woman and former domestic abuse victim, who said she has heard “nothing, nothing, nothing,nothing ” from the Brookline Police on her first-time application to carry a gun which she completed in October 2003.

Asked if the he felt as though he and others on hand were being targeted for revocation or non-action on licenses by police because of their race, Lu said only, “If you look around here today, we can let you make that assessment.”

(Note that this is a permit to own, not to carry, a gun, and not just a handgun. So you needed even if you own a hunting or target rifle or shotgun.)

Mass Backwards has been following the excellent coverage of the Brookline TAB on this story, and they report that in addition to denying him his permit renewal, while his old permit was still valid, the Brookline police searched his apartment and seized his guns, without a proper warrant. So they are not only violating his rights under the First Amendment (to use a library) and the Second Amendment (to keep, never mind bear, arms), but also his Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures without a warrant:

Part of Lu’s complaint is that he was called by Raskin to arrange a visit “to discuss” his license application at Lu’s apartment in June 2003. But Raskin used the visit to hand Lu a license denial letter, at which point Raskin – accompanied by several additional officers – confiscated Lu’s firearms.

And, after the story got out, more people are coming out of the woodwork with similar complaints, and they are calling Lieutenant Lu’s lawyer.

After the TAB first reported about Lu’s inability to secure a gun permit, his lawyer Jesse Cohen says he has been besieged by calls from other residents who also have complaints about discourteous treatment and trumped-up reasons for denial of licenses by Brookline police.

He said the complaints focus on the decisions made by Brookline Sgt. Michael Raskin, who is in charge of processing and investigating gun license applications.
“When the TAB printed the first story [Feb. 3], many people came out of the woodwork and contacted me … talking about similar experiences with Sgt. Raskin,” said Cohen, who this week was granted a postponement of the hearing in Brookline to April 7 in order to collect all of the testimony from those who since contacted him.

Cohen also said they are considering filing a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Brookline Police Department. I say go for it.

As I said before, , you would never know from the situation now that the American Revolution started just outside Boston, with a conflict over the (British) government’s confiscation of guns.

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