Double Standard Criticized in Sean Penn Gun Thefts

By Scott Hogenson | July 7, 2008 | 8:21pm EDT

( - A Second Amendment group is criticizing what it called the "deafening" silence of the gun control lobby following the theft of two guns from the car of a Hollywood actor and peace activist.

The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms said actor Sean Penn should be held liable for any crimes committed with either of two guns stolen from his car earlier this month while Penn was eating lunch in Berkeley, Calif.

"The silence from liberal gun control extremists is deafening," said Citizens Committee Chairman Alan Gottlieb in a statement. "Where are the traditional whines about irresponsibility in the Penn case? Why aren't the elitists demanding Penn's hide for not keeping better track of his guns?"

Berkeley police said a loaded Glock 9 millimeter semi-automatic pistol and an unloaded Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver owned by Penn were missing after the actor's car was stolen April 8. Police recovered the car, but the guns Penn had in it were stolen.

Characterizing the lack of response as a "double standard," Citizens Committee Communications Director Dave Workman said he believes Penn has "gotten the nod and a wink," from Hollywood, "even though he's got a couple of guns in his car. I don't know too many peaceniks who drive around fully armed like that."

Ironically, the theft occurred on the same day the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that gun owners must take "reasonable care" in safely storing their firearms, clearing the way for a lawsuit stemming from the 1997 murder of a police officer killed with a gun stolen from the home of the killer's parents.

"By that standard, if either of Penn's two stolen handguns is subsequently used in a crime, then Penn should be held responsible," said Gottlieb. "I fully expect Hollywood's liberal elite to demand he be prosecuted."

The theft of Penn's firearms has prompted little, if any, criticism of the event, contrasting markedly with howls in some quarters after the actor's visit to Baghdad, Iraq in December 2002.

Calling himself a "privileged" person, Penn said in a Dec. 15 statement from Baghdad, "If there is a war or continued sanctions against Iraq, the blood of Americans and Iraqis alike will be on our hands."

Penn's visit to the Iraqi capital was arranged by the Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA), which is not dedicated to gun control issues, but has promoted individual speakers critical of the availability of firearms.

Efforts to spotlight Penn's trip to Baghdad resulted in the IPA's promotion of author Paul Rogat Loeb in a Dec. 16, 2002 release. The release quoted Loeb as saying, "It's good that Sean Penn went to Iraq. We all should educate ourselves, we all should speak up."

But Loeb, author of Soul of a Citizen: Living With Conviction in a Cynical Time, wrote in a different publication about firearm deaths, noting in his contribution to the book, The Ashes: A Spiritual Response to the Attack on America, that "Guns kill 30,000 of us a year, yet we choose to do little to control them."

When asked whether tougher laws are necessary to make gun owners responsible for lost or stolen firearms, Loeb stated in an e-mail response, "I think a standard of reasonable care makes sense. Same thing as if you leave your car out of gear and it crashes and hits someone, you'd be liable."

Saying gun issues are not his "prime focus," Loeb added, "To me, the level of gun deaths can be addressed in part by some modest level of increased gun regulation."

However, the IPA kept the issue at arms length. Sam Husseini, IPA's communication director, said only, "We're not going to have any comment," on the theft of Penn's guns or whether he ought to be held responsible if they are used in a future crime.

A high-profile gun control group was similarly quiet on the question. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, formerly known as Handgun Control, Inc., did not return numerous calls seeking comment on the Penn matter even through the group played a role in the Indiana Supreme Court case.

Lawyers for the Brady Center argued in a "friend of the court" brief filed in the Indiana case that the gun owners should be held responsible for crimes committed with their stolen guns and issued an April 8 statement applauding the court decision.

"This is an incredibly important ruling both for Indiana and an entire country," said Brady Center staff lawyer Daniel R. Vice in the group's statement. "It confirms what is common sense to most gun owners ... that guns must be secured from criminals."

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