The Knuckleheads of the Day award

I make a bet this is a popular post.

Today’s winners are The Delaware State police and Sgt. Benjamin Nefosky. They get the award for the following.

Delaware State Police stopped Alvina Vansickle from purchasing a .22-caliber pistol for self-defense because she was too old and a woman, said Superintendent Col. Thomas MacLeish.

The outrage that followed led to the revelation that Delaware State Police had been keeping lists of gun buyers for years; state law requires them to destroy these records after 60 days.

Without so much as a traffic ticket, the 81-year-old Lewes resident should have sailed through the mandatory state police background check when she tried to buy a Taurus revolver from Charlie Steele’s Lewes gun shop last August.

Problems started after Steele made the required phone call to state police for approval of the firearms transaction.

An employee in the state police Firearms Transaction Approval Program noticed Vansickle’s age and gender, and brought the sale to an immediate halt.

Vansickle’s application was then routed to Sgt. Benjamin Nefosky, who heads the firearms approval unit.

According to MacLeish, the transaction was halted over concerns “based upon age and gender.”

The police spokesman admitted, there are no age or gender requirements to own a law in Delaware. So the Sgt. took it upon himself to make up his own.

By the way, the Delaware police is breaking state law.

Word of the delay rebounded around Delaware’s small-firearms community, eventually making its way to Dave Lawson, a retired state police lieutenant and firearms instructor. Lawson spoke to his former colleague Nefosky about Vansickle’s dilemma, Lawson said.

Lawson said what Nefosky told him revealed there was a much larger problem in the firearms approval unit than keeping a small-caliber revolver out of the hands of an 81-year-old woman.

Lawson said Nefosky told him he searched seven years of firearms transaction records to see if Vansickle had ever bought a gun before.

Some gun owners fear any government agency that tracks gun purchases or keeps lists of who has them. They worry these lists could someday aid in weapons confiscation, fall into the wrong hands and serve as a road map for burglars and thieves, or result in increased scrutiny by law enforcement.

“I was totally drop-jawed,” Lawson said. “I asked him how far back the records went. He didn’t know. He didn’t care. He felt she was possibly a threat because of her age, a threat to herself or her family. That’s what the implication was. He was concerned that never having bought a gun before, why would she want one now, at 81?”

Lawson served in the State Bureau of Identification as a lieutenant, which includes the firearms approval section and other specialty units. He knew the law. Nefosky’s concern about Vansickle’s age and sex, he said, should never have come into play.

Lawson also knew the gun records should have been destroyed.

MacLeish would not allow Nefosky to be interviewed.

In an interview with The News Journal, MacLeish claimed all paper firearms records are destroyed every 60 days.

The electronic records, however, are another story.

“Our review of our electronic records indicated we had a glitch in the system, back to August 2005,” he said. “They have since been purged.”

The electronic records never posed a threat, MacLeish said.

Unless you are a citizen trying to purchase a gun legally in the state. Then it is a threat.

Alvina Vansickle did get their gun, The Delaware State police and Sgt. Benjamin Nefosky get today’s Knucklehead of the Day.

Hat tip- Eugene Volokh at The Volokh Conspiracy

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