Monday, February 04, 2013

The Lessons From Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne's Gun Caper

 Byrne under arrest

I was appalled (but not surprised) to learn about Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne's latest escapade: a couple of weeks ago, he was arrested at Salt Lake  Airport trying to carry a loaded Glock handgun onto an airplane.

I was even less surprised by the revelation, buried in a police report, that he sleeps with the gun every night, ready to drill any intruding "miscreants" with .40-caliber, bone-shattering hollow-point bullets.

It's hardly news that Byrne is crazy as a bedbug, or that the 50-year-old Byrne would take to cuddling at night with a loaded gun.

But what is noteworthy, and troublesome, is that he is not being prosecuted.

Ask yourself this question: if you tried to bring a loaded gun onto an airplane, even if you had a permit (albeit in a state that, as this proves, will give a carry permit to literally anyone) would you get away with it? Especially if you were carrying almost $3200 in cash?

Byrne did just that, and got away with it. Press reports say that he posted bail, but there is not a trace of any case against him in local court records.

Emails to the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office yielded a kind of massive shrug. They've never even heard of the guy! And statements to the media indicate that Byrne is not alone. Other gun-toting morons, one who even tried to bring an artillery shell on an airplane, were nabbed by Salt Lake airport authorities and cut loose.

In Byrne's case, the geniuses in Salt Lake City (an email runaround makes the decision point unclear) bought into Byrne's explanation that he "forgot" the gun was in his bag.

His explanations are inconsistent and contradictory, as Sam Antar points out in his blog in his two recent items on this bizarre episode.

The gun was nestled right next to an IPad. All the cops had to do was to check if the IPad was charged up. If it was, his explanation was clearly a lie. There is not a word in the police report to indicate that this simple step was taken to determine the credibility of his story.

Maybe they didn't want to find out.

I'm not naive enough to think that Salt Lake City authorities are going to nail the Utah Republican Party's biggest contributor.  But what that does is send a message to Al Qaeda, some white supremacist nut, or pretty much anyone who wants to hijack an aircraft, that you can get one bite of the apple at bringing a handgun on an aircraft if you're brazen enough, white enough, or well-connected enough. Or maybe just because you are using an airport where the local constabulary is just plain dumb. You will be cut loose, to try again.

Meanwhile, we are treated to a rare note of reality in the Walt Disney world of Patrick Byrne's imagination. He has spoken in the past about "men with guns" dropping a dragnet to sweep up all the "Sith Lords" and villains that are out to get him. In the real world, the only one who has wound up in handcuffs and behind bars, albeit all too briefly, is Patrick Byrne.

© 2013 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.
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My latest book is AYN RAND NATION: The Hidden Struggle for America's Soul, published by St. Martin's Press. Click here to order the book from Amazon.com, and here to order it from Barnes & Noble. Follow me on Twitter: @gary_weiss

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