Category ►►► Gun Rights and Occasional Wrongs
February 19, 2013
I Apologize In the Unlikely Event That My Extremist, Wackadoodle Ravings and Callous Disregard for Your Liberty and Basic Humanity Offended Any of You Hysterical, Brainless, Uppity Babes
Before leaping into the greater point of this post, first take a gander at a prime example of the "non-apology" apology -- the one that typically goes, "I'm sorry if I offended any idiots out there." Meet Mr. Democratic Colorado state Rep. Joe Salazar:
"I’m sorry if I offended anyone," Salazar said in the statement. "That was absolutely not my intention. We were having a public policy debate on whether or not guns makes people safer on campus. I don’t believe they do. That was the point I was trying to make. If anyone thinks I’m not sensitive to the dangers women face, they’re wrong. I am a husband and father of two beautiful girls, and I’ve spent the last decade defending women’s rights as a civil rights attorney. Again, I’m deeply sorry if I offended anyone with my comments."
Crikey, I can almost see his eyes roll as he said that! Anyone want to make book on whether he made air quotes as he said "offended?" (Only the first time, though; he didn't want to offend.)
So now, what exactly did Mr. Democratic Colorado state Rep. Joe Salazar actually say to require such a facile, face-saving non-apology?
His original statement argued against allowing women to carry firearms for protection on Colorado college campuses. Bear in mind that Colorado currently enjoys a "shall-issue" CCW permit law, whereby any law-abiding adult -- even a woman! -- can obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon. But Mr. Democratic Colorado state Rep. Joe Salazar, whose relationship (if any) to former Democratic Gov. Ken Salazar I cannot ascertain, wants to remove that right from college students... or at least from the flighty, bubble-headed college co-eds:
Salazar, arguing in favor of disarming college students, said Friday on the Colorado House floor that women fearing rape may suddenly and haphazardly "pop a round at somebody."
"It’s why we have call boxes; it’s why we have safe zones; it’s why we have the whistles -- because you just don’t know who you’re gonna be shooting at. And you don’t know if you feel like you’re gonna be raped, or if you feel like someone’s been following you around or if you feel like you’re in trouble when you may actually not be, that you pop out that gun and you pop … pop a round at somebody," Salazar said.
Women are so emotional and illogical, how can we trust one with a gun?
As condescending as was Mr. Democratic Colorado state Rep. Joe Salazar's apology, his initial statement is much worse. Check out those pronouns! We gave you all these things to keep you safe and coddled, because you simply are not competent to know when you're in deadly peril. If you think you're in danger, girlie, just call for help, blow your whistle, and hope some man comes to the rescue.
Nobody has ever accused me of being a Feminazi (everything else, though); but if I were a woman, I think I would want to kick Mr. Democratic Colorado state Rep. Joe Salazar right in the huevos. (I would not, however, feel any inclination to "pop a round" at anybody. Even if I were one of those hysterical females.)
I'm sure I've said this before, but it bears repeating: So-called "Progressivists" project their own prejudice, panic, corruption, and deviousness on everyone else. As should be obvious in this case, Mr. Democratic Colorado state Rep. Joe Salazar projects his own male chauvinist, patriarchal, anachronistic prejudices onto the women at Colorado colleges and universities. He's another one of those who believes that women simply haven't the mental or emotional stability to know when they are in danger or how to defend and protect themselves and others; they're the weaker sex, the flibbertigibbets, the honeys.
(And don't get too smug, conservatives; the "arguments" against allowing women to serve in combat are just as belittling, paternalistic, and paralogical.)
How does he reconcile that with all the female cops, state troopers, firefighters, and servicewomen serving successfully in Colorado and the other 56 states (plus D.C.)? And for that matter, what about the female surgeons, lawyers, airline pilots, EMTs, teachers, and even "fellow" politicians -- such as state Rep. Polly Lawrence, who found it outrageous that Mr. Democratic Colorado state Rep. Joe Salazar is utterly certain "that women don’t know when we’re going to be raped, that [women] can’t recognize when there’s an inherent danger."
But I'm sure he would chuckle, pat Rep. Lawrence on the head, and say, "Tut-tut, now, little lady... father knows best!"
These women hold our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor in trust; but does Mr. Democratic Colorado state Rep. Joe Salazar trust them? His chauvinism bespeaks him as a true liberal Progressivist and heir to the traditions of Woodrow Wilson (the Constitution is obsolete), Franklin Roosevelt (imprison all Americans of Japanese descent), Jimmy Carter (America is the worst nation in the world), and as one with the One, Barack H. "Skeets" Obama (L'état, c'est moi).
Dum De Dum DUMB
As the homicide rate in Chicago has climbed to levels that make it a top-tier candidate for the next edition of "Grand Theft Auto," I've often wondered why it is that violent crime is so much worse there than in other big cities -- say, for instance, New York. Today, courtesy of Fox News, I found my answer: The police commissioner of Chicago, Garry McCarthy, is a moron:
Appearing on a local Windy City Sunday morning talk show on the radio station WLSAM, Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said special interests that lobby politicians to influence their opinion on gun control are the real problem.
"If there was a special interest influencing police work, I believe that would be called corruption," McCarthy said. "So, if it has to do with donating money, versus a popular vote, I think we have a bigger problem in this country and someone has to wake up to that."
Now, one expects this sort of thing from McCarthy, who in the past has blamed his city's gun woes on Sarah Palin; but in this case, the commish has reached a level of absurdity so profound that I actually had to stop for a moment to wash the stupidity off. If I am to understand this correctly, the gun lobby is to blame for standing in the way of meaningful gun control measures (in a state that already has some of the most restrictive laws in the country) -- but the politicians that slurp up all that lobbyist money bear no responsibility at all? In what sort of bizarro world does that make even a lick of sense?
Even assuming that McCarthy is correct (a stretch that would test the limits of Reed Richards himself), wouldn't the obvious solution be to replace the corrupt politicians? Alas, that sort of logic never figures into the equation. McCarthy would rather bash a convenient boogeyman (those greeeedy lobbyists) than tackle the actual problem.
Apropos Dafydd's post below, this is all just a symbolic hustle to turn people's attention away from the source of Chicago's mayhem, while pushing a "cure" that makes it appear as if the state is doing something about the violence when in fact nothing has changed. Never mind the efficacy of stricter laws -- so long as we all feel good about ourselves, that's what counts.
And just in case you were worried about those pesky Constitutional implications:
McCarthy told FoxNews.com he never advocated “getting rid of the Second Amendment.”
Nah, he'd rather just ignore it.
The real tragedy in all this is that people like Garry McCarthy know damn well what it will take to clean up Chicago's streets, but that would require doing what New York did when Rudy Giuliani was mayor and Ray Kelly ran the police department. It would mean tough and rigorous enforcement of the law and yes, hitting the gangs where they live (i.e. the drug trade) -- but between the head busting that would be required and the endemic corruption of the Chicago political machine, they don't have the will to do it. Too many people profit from the status quo. Until that problem gets cleaned up, it'll always be business as usual.
February 3, 2013
Let's Ban Hot Rods!
Every year, more than 2,700 teens die in car accidents, and almost 300,000 teenaged car-crash victims are treated in emergency rooms. Crashes are the number-one killer of teenagers... more than all teenaged firearms deaths combined!
Be honest, now: How many of you, when you were teenagers just recently licensed to drive -- or maybe not even that yet! -- drove too fast, raced with your friends, drove under the influence of distractions (chatting with friends, fiddling with the radio, texting, sexting), or obliviously drove through red lights and stop signs?
Why did you do that? What "drove" you to commit such infractions? Here are some answers that many teens might offer:
- I'm just kind of irresponsible in everything, why not driving as well?
- I was distracted by a hot chick on the sidewalk.
- I was distracted because I was fighting with my best friend in the front seat.
- I was distracted by thinking about a hot chick I once saw on the sidewalk a couple of years ago.
- I was playing Halo.
- It seemed like a good idea at the time.
- I was drunk.
- I was stoned.
- I was wasted.
- I was stoned. Wait, what was the question?
- I was hung over from being drunk, stoned, and wasted.
- My girlfriend/boyfriend was doing something naughty to me while I was driving.
- He revved his engine; what else could I do but drag race?
But amazingly, scientific evidence fails to disprove the possibility that all of these answers are wrong. Recent studies conducted by Prius and the United States Department of Energy Depletion have scientifically shown that it is barely possible that the real reason for so many teenagers crashing is the existence of high-velocity engines in cars that have race-style characteristics.
To be shirtless and sweaty -- sorry, I was distracted by thinking about a hot chick I once saw on the sidewalk a couple of years ago; I meant, to be short and sweet, teenagers drive too fast because of the existence of hot rods (and the existence of teenagers).
Put the two together and you get an explosive mixture of high-test fuel and high testosterone that will lure even the most sedate (if not sedated), moderate, lovable, goofy, teenaged "Dr. Walker" into a raging, gear-jamming, pedal-to-the-metal, nitro-infusing, slavering beast of a "Mr. Racer."
Can anybody give me one good reason why we should allow on the streets any car capable of exceeding the slowest posted speed limit? Or indeed any car that has race-like features that entice teens and other subhumans into racing, making "donuts," or playing "chicken?"
I'll take your silence as head-nodding affirmation. Since nobody can prove, legally, why he or she would need a "hot rod," the obvious solution is simply to remove them from the social compact.
Let's ban hot rods!
Recently, the Department of Transporters commissioned a commission, called the Commission of Committing to Preventing the Commission of Infractionary Commissions; that bipartisan federal body has recommended that we need to ban hot rods. Let me be clear: We have no wish to ban or restrict safe and acceptable vehicles; we only want to put the kibosh on vehicles built to exceed some speed limits, or that have race-like features such as tail fins and so-called "spoke" wheels.
The report is titled Let's Ban Hot Rods!, and it will shortly be published by Porka-DoT Press, a wholly owned subsidiary of Bicycle Recreations Unlimited, Ltd, chartered by Americans for Progress Towards an Automobile-Free, Carbon-Free Future, a division of the New York Times (for sale -- cheap!)
For purposes of upcoming regulation by the Environmental Prevention Agency, a Hot Rod will be described thus:
The term ‘hot rod race like vehicle’ means any of the following, regardless of country of manufacture or type of fuel accepted:
(A) A motor vehicle that has the capacity to drive faster than [
thirty-fiveamended] twenty-five miles in an hour and has at least one of the following:
(i) A stick shift
(ii) A hood scoop, operable or merely decorative
(iii) A single row of seats
(iv) A roll bar
(v) An automotive frame taken from any vehicle produced prior to 1980
(vi) A body similar to any motor vehicle depicted in a film or television production that starred any of the following:
(a) Burt Reynolds
(b) Steve McQueen
(c) Elvis Presley
(d) James Dean
(e) That guy who played Rockford, whatever his name is.
(f) Any automobile named after a Confederate Civil-War general.
(g) A wicked paint job, especially any depiction of flames or fast things such as falcons and bumblebees
(h) A racing stripe
(i) A spoiler in front or in back, along the sides, or inside the passenger cab
(B) An automobile that cannot drive faster than [
thirty-fiveamended] twenty-five miles in an hour but sure looks like it ought to do so.
(C) Any part, combination of parts, component, device, attachment, dingle-dangle, doo-dad, or accessory that is designed or functions to accelerate the rate of speed of an automobile but not convert the automobile into a Formula racing automobile, or is designed or functions to give the outward appearance of high velocity (over [
thirty-fiveamended] twenty-five miles in an hour) travel.
(D) A motorcycle that has the capacity to drive faster than [
thirty-threeamended] twenty-three and a third miles in an hour and any 1 of the following:
(i) A so-called "sissy bar" extending from the rear of the seat
(ii) An extended set of forks
(iii) A "floating" rear wheel
(iv) Any emblem, knob, badge, or other decoration that falls into any of the following categories:
(a) Nazi memorabilia
(b) Shaped like or depicting any full or partial bone of human or animal
(c) Extended middle finger of either hand
(d) Depiction of any copyrighted or trademarked logo
(e) Depiction of any motorcycle club logo
(f) Depiction indended to degrade or devalue, or having the effect of degrading and devaluing, no matter how cockamamie such an inference may be, persons who fall into the following categories:
(v) A so-called "suicide" gearshift
(vi) The capacity to accept a detachable sidecar at some location outside of the motorcycle frame
(vii) Slick tires
(viii) A racing stripe
(ix) Fat tires
(x) Flat tires
(H) All of the following automobiles and motorcycles, copies, duplicates, variants, or altered facsimiles with the capability of any such vehicle thereof:
(i) Twenty-three pages of banned Hot Rod Automobiles and Motorcycles omitted due to space constraint; please visit our website at "http://LetsBanAllHotRods.gov//public/index.cfm/files/serve/?File_id=ChildTeenagerAutomotiveRegulationRestrictionProtectionDetectionChildDevelopmentDecencyPromotionSafety.pdf" for a complete listing of vehicles banned in this section of the regulatory definition.
Anybody who is against killing babies and supports truth, justice, and social justice must sign onto this social movement, and get these deadly killing machines out of the hands of children! Anything less would be unpatriotic and a crime against all history.
Anything more would be greatly appreciated: Please send donations, preferably cash or Krugerrands, to Save the Beasts and the Children, c/o Open Society Houndnation, George Soreass Productions, Davos, Switzerland.
Or just address the envelope to "Hillary" and burn it; it will still get there. We have our ways.
January 25, 2013
I'm not here to argue the case for gun liberty. Rather, I take up the smart man's burden to do battle on the field of logic, rhetoric, and rationality.
Jon Stewart (of Daily Show fame) seems to be under the impression that he, being a logical prodigy, and being for "gun control" in all its manifest denials of essential liberty, has definitively refuted the most popular arguments against gun banning and confiscation. Let's see if that claim holds more than a raindrop or two of water.
Here are the five arguments he supposedly debunks -- wherein I debunk the debunking, or D²Bunk the immortal Stewart...
Argument #1 – We don’t outlaw cars because of drunk driving
Stewart's proposed debunking: Many laws have been passed to reduce drunk driving; "Cars have not been outlawed, but sensible regulations have been passed."
D²Bunking: The laws passed prohibited dangerous misuse of cars -- for example, driving under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. I doubt that any gun-rights supporter would object to similar laws prohibiting dangerous misuse of guns (for example, firing celebritory rounds into the air in a big city).
But the anti-gun laws that Stewart supports infringe upon perfectly legitimate use of guns and even their possession -- all those guns and magazines that would be banned under the new proposal by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA, 90%). Now if Mr. Stewart can show me even one single make and model of car that was banned from possession and sale because of its perceived association with drunk drivers, I will concede the point.
Good luck on that one, Mr. Stewart.
Argument #2 – No gun control law will be perfect
Stewart's proposed debunking: All we need do is undertake "a 'series of steps' which, implemented over time, could improve the situation."
D²Bunking: This argument is such a straw man, it should have been delivered by Ray Bolger.
Not even the grainiest anarchist argues that because the law cannot be perfect, we should have no laws! (Even if he's against all laws, he would come up with a better rationale for it.)
So what is the real argument that Stewart caricatures? The real argument is not that "no gun-control law will be perfect," but that the particular gun-control laws proposed are not even rational. Rifles and pistols are added to the ban-list of "military-style assault weapons" for purely arbitrary, capricious, and cosmetic reasons.
Too, gun-rights supporters argue that the fundamental premise of gun control is flawed, because it assumes that a criminal who is willing to commit assault, robbery, rape, or even murder will nevertheless recoil from violating a gun-control law.
Argument #3 – The solution is more guns
(That is, the argument that the way to stop a bad guy with a gun is via a good guy with a gun.)
Stewart's proposed debunking: Many shooters have body armor and assault weapons (using definition du jour).
D²Bunking: All right, then the solution is good guys with more high-powered guns! Don't arm your school guards with .22 caliber target pistols. Give them something more substantial. Even the most military-looking semiauto is a lot cheaper than the guard who fires it, so go for the gusto. Let every school contain an arsenal.
Argument #4 – The Second Amendment prohibits gun regulation
Stewart's proposed debunking: "Stewart begs to differ, saying the Second Amendment only grants the right to bear arms to a “well-regulated militia."
D²Bunking 1: Long discredited. The grammatical structure of the Second Amendment does not place "well-regulated militia" in the subject but leaves it as a subordinate clause. Its only purpose is to give a reason why it's there in the first place. It's explanation, not limitation.
Stewart's other proposed debunking: "[M]any weapons are already banned,"
D²Bunking 2: Thus proving that it's constitutional to ban weapons! If I get my city to prohibit speeches by Occupiers, does that therefore prove that it's constitutional to limit the speech of Occupiers?
Courts strike down laws every year on constitutional grounds; ever since Marbury v. Madison, that has been one of the major duties of the Supreme Court and lower courts. For example, just today, the D.C. Circus struck down Barack "Recess!" Obama's inter-session recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board. The fact that "many weapons are already banned" doesn't mean they were properly banned; courts will eventually have the final say on that.
Argument #5 – Any gun control will lead to a tyranny where all guns are taken away
Stewart's proposed debunking: No politician is openly advocating confiscation of all guns [well, actually many are; but let's press on]; therefore, fears of gun-grabbing are irrational.
D²Bunking: Just one word... The United Kingdom.
The defense rests.
January 14, 2013
Gun Defense: Worldwide, Police Are Not Always Your Friends
During the recent and ongoing gun control debate, I've heard many people ask, "Wy does an average civilian need an assault weapon?"
I have a fundamental problem with this line of question: Why should we have to prove a "need" to demand our fundamental rights, or any one of them, which are guaranteed by, but predate the United States Constitution? But even with that caveat, here is a beautiful example of why we civilians do need access to so-called assault weapons.
For more than a decade, drug cartels and criminals have actually controlled a large part of the Mexican state of Guerrero (the state which contains the resort city of Acapulco); they have extorted, kidnapped, raped, and killed many thousands of people, as the government helplessly looked on. The police, the national guard, the Mexican marines are no help: They're outnumbered and outgunned, and they are corrupted by the very evil they're supposed to fight.
Fed up with the years of violence, townspeople in several Guerrero cities finally took up arms and made a stand:
Several hundred civilians have taken up arms in two towns in a southwestern Mexico state and are arresting people suspected of crimes and imposing a curfew, leading authorities to promise to reinforce security forces in the area....
People in the area said about 800 residents were participating in the armed groups acting as unofficial police. The vigilantes ordered a 10 p.m. curfew for the two towns and are looking for suspected criminals. Schools have suspended classes....
A man in a ski mask at one roadblock told reporters that townspeople had to act against criminals.
"They kill, extort, rape. You do not know if they are drug dealers, thugs, who want to grab everything," he said. "We want to return peace and tranquility to the entire population. Only the people can restore order." [Emphasis added -- SY]
Although more corrupt than the United States or Canada, Mexico is nevertheless a democratic country. Compared to other coutries under Communism, socialism, or other dictatorial regimes, it is relatively civilized. And they have much stricter gun control laws than any state of the United States. And yet, the law has not, cannot protect them. People are suffering from the extreme violence of organized criminals, drug lords, revolutionaries, and terrorists, despite living where the entire country is legally a "gun-free zone."
The anti-gun radicals in America may dismiss Mexico as "totally different" from the U.S.: Our police are more effective, our government is still under our control. But take a long look at Chicago, whose murder rate, at 19.4 per 100,000 is actually worse than Mexico's murder rate of 18 per 100,000.
In most firearm killings in Chicago, including of many minors, the criminal's weapon of choice is a hundgun. So why does a gun-control fanatic such as Pierce Morgan talk only about banning assault weapons, which are rarely used in crime and the primary purpose of which is not murder, robbery, arson, kidnapping, or even (despite its name) assault, but to defend against a large number of assailants -- as during the L.A. riots of 1992?
It's hard to resist concluding that Mr. Morgan is less interested in preventing the deaths of children and young adults in ordinary violent crimes in Chicago, and much more anxious to prevent the sort of self-defense uprisings, against a corrupt and compromised government, that we're now seeing in Guerrero.
I think the curtain concealing Mr. Morgan's statism is slipping.
January 9, 2013
Chicago's 500th Failure of Gun Control
Since the elementary-school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, anti-gun politicians have seized the opportunity and again started proposing new and increasingly draconian gun-grabbing laws.
But strangely, a city which had banned handguns more than thirty years ago now suffers the worst homicide rate in the country. How can that be?
The City of Chicago, also known as the Windy City (possibly because it's Barack Obama's stomping ground -- well, among other reasons), boasted more than 500 homicides last year. Its high crime rates are infamous, with a homicide rate of 19.4 per 100,000 -- about four times the national average of 4.8.
Funnily enough, the entire state of Illinois has some of the strictist gun-control laws in America. More specifically, Chicago completely banned handguns in 1982. In March 2010, in the Chicago Tribune, Steve Chapman wrote about the failure of that law:
When Chicago passed a ban on handgun ownership in 1982, it was part of a trend. Washington, D.C., had done it in 1976, and a few Chicago suburbs took up the cause in the following years. They all expected to reduce the number of guns and thus curtail bloodshed.
Neither happened: The strict gun laws curtailed no bloodhsed; in fact, precisely the opposite:
In the years following its ban, Washington did not generate a decline in gun murders. In fact, the number of killings rose by 156 percent -- at a time when murders nationally increased by just 32 percent. For a while, the city vied regularly for the title of murder capital of America.
Chicago followed a similar course. In the decade after it outlawed handguns, murders jumped by 41 percent, compared with an 18 percent rise in the entire United States.
As Chicago banned handguns, other cities and states started to adopt "shall-issue concealed-carry permit" laws (shall-issue CCW); such laws required state officials to grant concealed-carry permits to anyone who applied, excepting only those specifically excluded, such as felons, the mentally deranged, habitual drunkards and drug addicts, and those persons already under restraining orders for violent activity. As of now, including states with no restrictions on gun ownership at all, 41 states allow law abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons.
While the gun-banning District of Columbia and City of Chicago sufferred skyrocketing crime rates, the United States as a whole experienced a very significant decline.
Both DC's and Chicago's handgun bans were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court: District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008 and McDonald v. Chicago in 2010. But constitutionality aside, Steve Chapman thinks the Chicago law was doomed from the beggining:
Maybe that's because there were so many flaws in the basic idea. Or maybe it was because strict gun control makes even less sense at the municipal level than it does on a broader scale. At any rate, the policy turned out to be a comprehensive dud....
If we were starting out in a country with zero guns, it might be possible to keep such weapons away from bad guys. But that's not this country, which has more than 200 million firearms in private hands and a large, perpetual supply of legal handguns.
Only a tiny percentage of those weapons has to be diverted to the underground trade for crooks to acquire all the firepower they need. While gun bans greatly impede the law-abiding, they pose only a trivial inconvenience to the lawless.
This is especially true at the local level. Banning guns from one city makes about as much sense as banning them on one block. [Emphasis added -- Sachi]
True enough. But the obvious question remains, if it doesn't work at the local level, why would it work if we banned guns nationwide? The same logic applies: Since we cannot ban guns from all over the world -- nor can we prevent people from making guns -- how can we stop smugglers and clandestine manufacturers from getting guns to criminals, who need them vitally and will therefore pay whatever it takes to get them? Demand drives supply.
Drugs like cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines are completely illegal; yet the supply is plentiful, despite a many-decades long "war on drugs" that at times has been quite draconian. If we can't stop millions of drug shipments across the border or from hidden meth labs, how could we possibly stop mere thousands of guns from entering the black market? As Chapman's logic implies, whether he recognizes it or not, all a nationwide gun ban would do is keep them away from law abiding citizens.
Who places the highest value on owning a firearm? Criminals. Who is least likely to fear being prosecuted for violating the law? Criminals. Who is most likely to have access to illicit dealers? You guessed it.
We don't have to guess or speculate anymore. We have conducted our own empirical study over the past several decades. For example, we banned machine guns and sawed-off shotguns in 1934 (the National Firearms Act), handguns in many cities back in the 1970s through 1990s (due to pressure by Handgun Control, Inc. and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence), and so-called assault weapons (whatever those are) from 1994 to 2004 (the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, a.k.a. the federal assault-weapons ban). The result, in each case, was that crime went up significantly, not down.
Contrariwise, when we tried the opposite approach, in the many states that adopted shall-issue CCW, we discovered that when there were more guns in the hands of law abiding citizens, there were fewer crimes committed. Of course, correlation does not prove causality; we cannot state for certain that more guns result in fewer crimes. But by this point, we can pretty definitely say that more guns do not result in more crimes, which is the central argument -- in fact, the only argument -- of gun controllers.
Anti-gun radicals focus only on the murder weapon; they never consider the context in which the murders occur. For example, they almost never question whether their proposed law would have prevented the crime... or even whether their proposed law was already in effect when the crime occurred! Scores of anti-gun commentators rose up after the Newton massacre and demanded that we finally, finally ban "automatic weapons"... which of course have been strictly controlled by the National Firearms Act since a few years after the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.
Aside from killing innocent children (already illegal), carrying guns into a gun-free zone (public school, a.k.a. a free-kill zone) is also already illegal. That did not deter Adam Lanza. So why would an additional handgun ban or a revived "assault weapon" ban have deterred him? If he could not get guns from his mother's gun collection, he would have found another source. For that matter, he might have found another weapon all together, such as molotov cocktails or even an Oklahoma-City style ANFO bomb. There are scores of ways to kill large number of people, if one is determined and unafraid of dying -- or in Lanza's case, planning to kill himself anyway.
What we must focus on instead is the person who kills innocent people, not the specific weapon he chooses to kill them with; how do we identify and stop that man before he kills?
The best way is armed point defense. Why shouldn't we have armed security guards in every school? If the cost is too high, why not reduce it by firing one or two useless administrators for every armed guard the district hires? Rich people's sons and daughters -- including Barack Obama's -- have armed guards protecting them, even apart from the Secret Service protection the president and vice president enjoy. Why shouldn't everybody else's kids be equally protected?
Banning guns never stopped criminals. Only guns in the hands of many good people can do that. As the saying goes, when seconds count, the police are just minutes away. But the intended victim of a violent crime is already there, and should already be prepared to defend himself and loved ones.
A Modish Proposal
I've tried not to wade into the gun-control/gun-confiscation debate much; it's like arguing with a Creationist: No matter what paranoid, phony-baloney gun hysteria I disprove by hard evidence today, the gun-fearing
asses masses will start tomorrow with that very same claim, as a brave new argument that has never been answered!
A few posts ago, in the Emperor's New Gun Groove, I predicted that President Barack "You don't need that!" Obama will turn his second term into a trillion-year spree of gun control and attempts at confiscation. I called it his "central animating crusade and agenda," or CACA. I take none of that back; indeed, Low Joe Biden has conveyed the great thoughts of the imperator (in whose name are all victories won), that the best way to rid America of guns is for the Lightbringer simply to order them gone through imperial decree -- thus bypassing all that messy, time-wasting fro-ing and to-ing in
the Roman senate Congress.
By contrast, Sachi has written a most serious post about gun control failures; but it is hanging fire, because I'm supposed to edit the piece but I've been too lazy to get a round tuit.
However, I always have time for frivolity and mirth! So here is my contribution to the literature (hey, Analogies "Я" We!)
As I understand the core argument of gun hysterics, it runneth thus:
- Gun abuse is the proximate cause of gun deaths and injuries.
- Experts tell us that in 2011, there were about 265,114 gun crimes in the United States, including 8,583 gun murders.
- By definition, without access to a gun, a person cannot commit a gun crime, accidentally shoot someone with a gun, or otherwise abuse a gun.
- So if we confiscate and destroy all the guns in the United States, then nobody can criminally or accidentally shoot anyone.
- That means there will be 265,114 fewer crimes and 8,583 fewer murders per year.
- Some bitter-clingers claim that firearms can be useful and beneficial, for example, by aiding self-defense to criminal assaults; but with all these gun deaths, we simply cannot risk humoring these fanatics.
- So to hell with all this "gun rights" gibberish, time to abolish all guns today. Think of all the children and senior citizens who are victimized daily by gun-crazied right-wingers!
This is a clear and persuasive argument, virtually unanswerable; it is so crisp, in fact, that I should like to import it to another case, many times deadlier, yet very similar to this one:
- Eating too much food and eating carelessly are the proximate causes of food deaths from obesity and choking and such.
- Experts tell us that in 2009, obesity caused between 112,000 and 365,000 premature deaths per year.
- By definition, without access to food, a person cannot overeat and cannot become obese.
- So if we confiscate and destroy all the food in the United States, then nobody can die or be hospitalized because of obesity.
- That means there will be between 112,000 and 365,000 fewer premature deaths per year.
- Some gluttonous fatties claim that food can be useful and beneficial, for example, by preventing people from starving to death; but with all these obesity-related deaths, we simply cannot risk humoring these voracious, overeating pigs.
- So to hell with all this "food rights" gibberish, time to confiscate and destroy all food in America today. Think of all the children and senior citizens who are victimized daily by the irresistable sight of mountains of food!
I think this is a fine, fine argument as well, every bit as logical as the previous one up-page. So let's redouble our efforts to eliminate the danger posed both by the millions of American firearms, and by all the potentially deadly food we produce in this rapacious republic. Get rid of it all, and paradise will be sure to follow!
January 1, 2013
The Emperor's New Gun Groove
It appears that President Barack H. "You didn't build that!" Obama has finally decided what will be (one of) the central animating crusade and agenda (CACA) of his second term: gun control and/or confiscation. He wants to make all of America into one vast "gun-free zone," a.k.a., a free-kill zone.
If you'll recall, last term's CACA was ObamaCare -- which he pushed onto the American people despite mounting dislike (and rejection, squirming, kicking, and howls of outrage), and which he insists will be implemented fully, every last drop, no matter what the people want. (The stimulus bill, that is, the trillion-dollar spree, was a sideshow, just payback for the many Friends of Statism who supported President B.O. through the seven lean years).
One can only presume that el Jefe will attack guns with the same violent fervor, the same fanatic, holy zeal, as he did the Patient Rejection and Unffordable Care Act; that is, he will ignore all previous failed attempts at gun control, set up his own organization (perhaps the Children's Crusade for a Gun-Free American Zone?) -- then relentlessly shill for the complete and extra-judicial transformation of constitutional America into confiscational Venezuela.
But if Obama does elevate gun control to be his new CACA, well, that's a very good thing indeed.
Oh, then good for the gun-control mob? No, certainly not for them; they shall be hijacked by and submerged under the president's own personal campaign to be kingmaker and achieve eventual deification, like a Roman emperor; but -- Tiberius, or Caligula?
Oh, then it's good for President Obama! No; in fact, it surely will go absolutely nowhere. It's unlikely that Congress can enact any major measure; and even if it did, such gun-control bills would have the same effect now as they have historically had: None at all.
It's all just mummery and flummery; perhaps not Obama himself, but certainly his firearms advisors know that virtually no homicides are committed using so-called "assault weapons," or any kind of rifle; know that a round with the same bullet and the same charge will produce about the same effect on the human body, whether or not that round is fired from a dreaded semiautomatic pistol or by a benign, sweet, and gentle revolver; know that knife wounds have about the same lethality as pistol wounds, and so forth.
So why flog that long-dead nag? Simple: Not cherchez la femme, but rechercher la puissance!
Then who the heck is it good for?
For us, baboso! By chaining himself to the albatross of gun control, Barack Obama has found perhaps the only issue which could destroy his presidency and besmirch his legacy... for even liberals and lefties love their Glocks.
Brief detour: In general, second-terms have a mixed and checkered history for American presidents. Richard Nixon's second term lurched from flip-flop to gaffe to incoherent rambling, culminating in an ignominious exit under the accumulated weight of Nixon's betrayal of our victorious military forces in Vietnam (in a cockamamie deal with the Dems).
Contrariwise, Ronald Reagan had an excellent second term: He cowed the Tyrant of Tripoli; he pushed through a second and decisive tax-reform bill, despite a Democrat-controlled House; he sent Mikhail Gorbachev reeling at Reykjavik; and he signed a series of nuclear-arms reduction treaties that for the first time were pro-America, not pro-Soviet. His policies (aided and abetted by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Pope John-Paul II) led directly to the 1989 tearing down of the Berlin Wall (as Reagan had urged in a Peggy Noonan speech two years earlier), and culminated in the complete collapse of the Soviet Union two years later.
What was the difference between Nixon and Reagan? One very striking distinction was that Reagan had a CACA (or several, really), but it was the same set of CACAs that he had pressed in his first term: tax reform, rebuilding our military, muscular foreign policy geared towards the needs and benefit of the United States, not "world opinion," and of course the destruction of the Evil Empire. He didn't dump his first-term goals, nor did he go haring off in all directions trying to find a new "groove" to follow.
By contrast, after Nixon's landslide victory in 1972, he seemed to have run out of ideas; he certainly had lost whatever CACA he once had.
But CACAs are not always helpful or beneficial to a president or his party; every CACA is unique and must be inspected carefully to sniff out the good from the stupid. On the Democratic side, consider the immense energy expended by Lyndon Johnson on the "war on poverty," giving us the so-called Great Society, which was basically the New Deal redux, and on steroids. This certainly was a "central animating crusade and agenda," but it left Johnson a nervous wreck, unable even to stave off credible primary challenges in 1968 -- challenges that ultimately forced Johnson to withdraw from his own reelection race, leaving the anti-Republican field to the unelectable Hubert Humphry (and the execrable George Wallace).
Why did Reagan's CACA succeed, while Johnson's failed? Again, I believe a significant distinction was that, Reagan's ideas were widely shared by the American people; whereas Lyndon Johnson's Great Society crusade, which mainstreamed and normalized poverty, squalor, and economic failure (forcing successful middle-income families to subsidize losers, drug addicts, and bums) was controversial from the beginning and hemorrhaged support with every passing year in which the country went from wrong track to worse track.
Barack Obama's gun-control CACA -- along with his unpopular ObamaCare law, the lawlessness of his administration, and his seeming kow-towing to the world's most vile and dangerous dictators -- clearly fits the corrupt, anti-liberty, unAmerican, "LBJ" mold far better than does the Reagan mold: Most of Obama's upcoming crusades, especially gun control and/or confiscation, are anathema to a huge swath of the United States. And not just red-state America; millions of Obama voters in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado, Florida, and many others still "cling to guns or religion."
But knowing Obama, as four years living under his regime has taught us, when the people begin to resist his regulatory state and his bombastic, unresponsive "negotiation" style, the president will dig in his heels on all of his various projects and proposals, and vow to stick it to the American people good and hard, whether they like it or no.
End detour; resume normal speed.
In the whole, wide, political world, nothing unites Republicans better than another attempt to disarm American citizens. Too, a gun-control agenda will likely turn the American people away from the Democrats, alienate the president from his base, and turn him into a nagging, hectoring, threatening, bitter old man, the opposite of cool. And it will set us up nicely for 2014 and 2016. Not a bad prospect -- for the GOP!
Obama appears determined to squander every bit of popularity he currently retains -- of which he has little to spare anyway these days -- to fling it all away on hopeless causes, from gun control to appointing Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense.
So to quote Obama's illustrious predecessor, "bring it on," el Jefe. Let gun control completely define his second term, or even become an integral component of a slew of liberal assaults on the United States' foundational principles.
But the more you tighten your grip, Mr. Food-Stamp President, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.
December 17, 2012
Ready, Aim, Stupid
Freedom Outpost has a roundup of the usual leftist suspects taking to the Twitterverse and urging the murder of members of the National Rifle Association.
I wanted to avoid posting on this after the unspeakable happenings in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday, because I thought that common decency demanded that the rest of the country give those poor souls at least a little time to come to terms with their loss before going on a rant about gun control vs. gun rights; but it seems as if the left, in calling for even more violence, won't even grant that smallest of reprieves -- so here it is.
If these people honestly believe that advocates for Second Amendment rights should be killed, then might I suggest that they also go gunning for the ACLU for advocating First Amendment rights? After all, it's not a stretch to suggest that the 24/7 news coverage given to these mass shootings might inspire other crazy people to carry out their own atrocities, thus ensuring fame everlasting for their evil deeds. Is "free speech" really so important that we have allow that sort of thing to just keep going on unhindered?
And what of the news organizations themselves? After all, the ACLU are merely enablers of their poisonous product. Maybe after they're done with he NRA and the civil liberties lawyers, the modern avengers could take out a few reporters and put a stop to this insanity once and for all.
Or is that all just a little extreme? Yeah, I kinda thought so too.
I swear, in times like these you can sometimes feel like the only person in the world who's trying to put out the fire while everyone else is stoking the flames. We need temperance and thoughtful discussion, not incitement and bloodlust. Unfortunately, the irony seems to be lost on those Twitter morons, not to mention a pretty big segment of the pundit class -- so let me keep it simple: Keep your frakking mouths shut. There will be time to debate policy later, after people have had a chance to heal.
And when that time does come, choose your words with a lot more care.
August 3, 2012
Another law abiding citizen defended her ground (store, actually) against masked gunmen. In the past, it was difficult to learn much about cases like this, since the mainstream media never covered it. The only source of information was your local news; and as far as news coverage was concerned, living in another county was like living on another planet.
But thanks to talk radio, internet news feeds, news sites, blogs, and occasionally Fox News Channel, we are no longer hindered by distance or dismissal. We can read, hear, or see the local news from "far-away places with strange-sounding names." But this time, the gun defense happened in southern California -- local for Big Lizards! -- in my old stomping ground of Garden Grove:
A 65-year-old woman fired two rounds from a handgun at five masked men after they attempted to rob her jewelry store in Garden Grove, Calif. on Sunday. Her shots sent the men fleeing in such a panic that they literally tripped over each other trying to exit the store, KTLA reports.
In fact, the would-be robbers were in such a frenzy from her gunfire that their white getaway SUV actually left three of the suspects behind. They were later picked up [by the SUV] roughly a block and a half away.
Few are aware that it's not uncommon for citizens to defend themselves successfully with guns, as John R. Lott has cataloged; in his 1998 book More Guns, Less Crime, he estimated (p.19) between 760,000 and 3.6 million defensive gun uses per year; that number must surely have grown significantly in the intervening fourteen years. (The book was updated in 2010 and may have more recent estimates than our old copy.)
As a matter of fact, the day after this incident, yet another jewery store owner a few blocks away in Westminster shot a would-be armed robber in his face. (The police think the Westminster thieves might be the same ones the Garden-Grove police failed to apprehend the day before.)
Police determined that both store owners acted in self defense; nevertheless, they have a tut-tutting word of advice:
[The Garden Grove police] caution store owners about defending themselves with guns.
What should we use -- Nerf balls? Wham-O Air Blasters? I guess they mean we should submit meekly and hope that help arrives in time. But as the expression goes, "When seconds count, police are just minutes away!"
July 25, 2012
Since we're on a roll with gun rights, I thought it might be illuminating to share the story of another Colorado shooting, this one from back in 2007. As quoted from the Cato Institute white paper Tough Targets: When Criminals Face Armed Resistance From Citizens:
Perhaps the most widely publicized shooting involving a concealed carry licensee in the last few years clearly prevented the murder of at least dozens of people. The criminal was a mentally ill young man who had already killed four people in the previous 12 hours. On December 10, 2007, Jeanne Assam used a gun in the lobby of New Life Church, in Colorado Springs. Matthew Murray was carrying “two handguns, an assault rifle and over 1,000 rounds of ammunition.” He had already killed two people in the parking lot and two others the previous night. He entered the lobby firing his rifle—but Assam, a former police officer, shot him, ending the killing spree. It does not take much imagination to understand the likely outcome if Assam had not been armed at the scene of this horrific crime.
Obviously this is an extreme case -- but it does at least address the question everybody forgets to ask when the gun-control nannies attack the Second Amendment in the wake of a mass shooting: How many deaths are prevented each year by armed citizens?
According to the Cato report, conservative estimates place the number of crimes prevented at somewhere north of a million per year. If you assumed that even one thousand of those crimes -- a mere 0.1% -- would have resulted in the death of the victim, then it's plainly obvious that the number of lives saved by armed citizens far outweighs the number killed by crazed nutjobs wielding guns.
You need look no further than Chicago for proof. Even though it has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation, that city is more dangerous than Kabul, Afghanistan in terms of its murder rate -- most of which are committed with guns. It's the usual story: Liberals get to feel good about themselves because they "did something" about gun violence, even though they really only made things worse. Gangbangers get the firepower, normal people get to cower in fear. That's the Chicago way.
Americans largely understand this, which is why gun-control legislation is almost always a loser politically. If Barack Obama wants to make this an issue, as appears his wont, I say we let him.
Dafydd adds: How could we stop him? <g>
June 29, 2010
Yesterday's Supreme Court ruling in McDonald v. Chicago incorporated the individual-rights interpretation of the Second Amendment (from D.C. v. Heller) to the states under the "equal protection" clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. (By and large; actually, I understand that Justice Clarence Thomas' concurring opinion cited the "privileges and immunities" clause of the same amendment, instead.)
So now we know that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right, inhering in every citizen, not solely in National Guard units, as anti-gun radicals have proclaimed for decades. And we also know that our right to keep and bear is not only enforced in federal jurisdiction but is a universal right, protected in all fifty states as well. (It may not be protected in President Barack H. Obama's seven fantasy campaign states.) But one vital question remains unanswered: What level of scrutiny should be applied to gun-control laws?
Several standards are available, from the tightest -- strict scrutiny -- to the weakest, the rational-basis standard. If the Court decides that the proper level is strict scrutiny, then few gun restrictions will stand; most would be struck down when they fail to meet the standard usually reserved for racial-preference laws and Facebook posts by Sarah Palin.
On the other hand, if the Court settles on the rational-basis standard, then every gun-control law short of outright confiscation or prohibition of owning or carrying a firearm would pass constitutional muster -- waiting periods, proficiency tests, restrictions on purchasing more than one gun in a given period, and so forth. So long as the state could muster some argument beyond raw emotion, and the restriction did not result in a de facto banning, it would likely be allowed.
But most probable in my mind -- remember, I'm not a lawyer, and I don't even play one online -- Is that the Court enunciates a scrutiny standard somewhere between the poles... if for no other reason as a lure to attract Anthony Kennedy, the swingin' justice.
Last night I had the strangest dream...
- Some bright-eyed intern at the Second Amendment Foundation notices that the constitutional clause in question protects not only the right to keep arms, but also to bear them.
- Foundation lawyers look for a person with clean hands, who can be a test case. He applies for a concealed-carry license but is rejected, clearly out of animus against guns (and against Supreme Court justices who believe self-defense is desirable).
- When the case finally works its way through the system, Kennedy (or his swingin' replacement) sides with the good guys; the Court rules that all states must have some system in place to allow sober, responsible, adult citizens to carry "arms," including firearms.
- The Court lays down the rules this time: States can be constitutionally compliant in one of two ways: either by creating a legitimate CCW permit process, or else by removing the necessity for any kind of permit at all to carry concealed.
If the state wants to control who carries concealed at all, it must offer permits on a "shall issue" basis... meaning any adult who applies automatically receives a CCW permit unless the state can show a clear and convincing reason to reject a specific applicant -- he is a minor, a convicted felon, insane, drug addicted or alcoholic, or is currently under a restraining order.
But wait -- I believe there is an excellent chance that courts will, in fact, require concealed carry be available to all Americans, with a small number of exceptions. Even the weakest level of scrutiny for gun-control laws, "rational basis," still requires that the basis for the gun restriction be, well, rational. Irrational fear of guns, or "hoplophobia," as some call it, will no longer be sufficient reason for a gun restriction, even the restriction on concealed carry; every law and regulation will have to prove it's at least rational... in other words, that there is some good evidence somewhere that such a regulation will make society safer.
Even the rational-basis standard opens all laws prohibiting concealed carry without a permit, where permits are virtually never granted, to rational, scientific evidence, presented in federal court, showing that widespread concealed carry doesn't increase crime or violence -- it reduces it significantly, even substantially. The evidence is overwhelming among criminologists; and even if some jurisdictions will stubbornly refuse even to look at the evidence, other judges elsewhere will, however reluctantly, follow where the evidence leads.
Already 40 states (including the second- and fourth-largest), comprising well over half the American population, have either shall-issue CCW permit laws or else don't require a permit to carry a concealed weapon. As more and more currently anti-gun jurisdictions are forced by federal judges to join the crowd; as we amass a Mount Everest of evidence all pointing in the same direction, it will become virtually impossible for a state attorney general in, say, California, to argue that the state should continue denying CCW permits to its citizens. The argument would have to take the form of asserting that, while the rest of the country may be capable of handling firearms responsibly, citizens of the Golden State are uniquely irresponsible, violent, and inept.
Even Hollywood liberals may take umbrage at such a claim.
When you're on a roll
Of course, in the much more likely case that the standard of scrutiny for gun-control laws lands somewhere in between rational basis and strict scrutiny, the push towards a nationwide right to carry a concealed weapon would be even stronger, and the scientific evidence even more determinative. I predict that within five or six years, every law-abiding, sane, responsible adult in the country will be entitled as a matter of law to obtain a concealed-carry permit... and that crime will plummet as a result.
Think about it -- it's not that big a stretch from where we are today to where I hope we'll be then, and the road is clear of most of the obstructions of the last two decades; even most liberals have more or less surrendered on this issue, leaving Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY, 95%) as perhaps the last, lonely defender of disarming Americans. It's hardly even a challenge anymore.
Even so, it would still be worth the price of admission just to see Schumer's head spin like Linda Blair's in the Exorcist!
March 3, 2010
The Sky Is (Probably Not) Raining Bullets
Lawyerly warning! I am not your lawyer -- I am not anybody's lawyer. I've never seen the inside of a law school, and I try not to play one on the internet, either. However, this post necessarily has a lot of heavy-duty legal lifting.
I'm certain I have made some mistakes through ignorance, but I've done the best I can; one hopes any mistakes are minor... but if I have misspoken in some significant way, please do comment or tell me via the Lizardly Tips e-mail address found in the right-hand column, somewhat below. Thank you for your eyeballs.
The Times of Our Nation's Capital published a lengthy article about a vital and exciting gun-rights case, McDonald v. Chicago, that attempts to overturn Chicago's strict "ban" on handgun possession. (To be technical, Chicago does not outright ban handguns; but it does require that all firearms be registered with the local police -- then bans the registration of pistols, de facto banning pistols themselves.)
While several Illinois cities with similar bans -- Evanston, Morton Grove, Wilmette, and Winnetka -- rescinded them after the Supreme Court's landmark ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. ___ (2008), striking down the gun ban in Washington D.C. on Second Amendment grounds, Chicago and Oak Park are fighting tooth and hammer to keep their bans. McDonald v. Chicago, which began oral arguments in the Supreme Court yesterday, seeks to overturn the ban in those cities.
McDonald has two main arguments...
Incorporation of the Second Amendment to state and local laws
First, plaintiffs ask the Court to overturn the city bans by "incorporating" the Second Amendment to state and local governments via the Fourteenth Amendment, as has already been done with most (but not all) other rights protected by the Bill of Rights. This is a traditional argument; the National Rifle Association filed its own case against Chicago, National Rifle Association v. City of Chicago, making this argument exclusively (though a "friend of the court" brief filed in the NRA case also used McDonald's second argument, discussed below). The Court has more or less combined the two cases, carving some time for the NRA out of the time alotted for McDonald attorney Alan Gura.
The claim here seems self-evident to me, though it has never before seemed evident to the Supreme Court: When the Founders wrote, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed," we ought to assume they actually meant what they wrote: Keeping and bearing arms is a fundamental right held by the people -- where "the people" means the same in that amendment as it means in the First and Fourth amendments: an individual right held by each individual adult, with a few exceptions (felons, drunkards and drug addicts, persons under a restraining order, the insane).
Moreover, the amendment doesn't claim to create this right; it assumes that it preexists the Constitution. It's not a created right, such as the right to vote for your U.S. representative; it's a fundamental right that requires zealous protection.
This right, they wrote, must not even be infringed... which makes gun rights more sacrosanct than, say, the First Amendment's guarantee that the free exercise of religion shall not be "prohibited": You can infringe the free exercise of religion (by banning animal sacrifice, for example) while not running afoul of the First Amendment; but you cannot infringe gun rights without violating the Second.
It's clearly the duty of the federal government to police itself, via the federal court system -- stopping federal agencies or Congress from infringing the Second Amendment; that was the main thrust of Heller, op.cit. The only question that remains is whether it's also the duty of the federal courts to stop state and local governments from infringing the right to keep and bear arms. That is the point that McDonald should decide: If the answer is Yes, then the Supreme Court will presumably strike down gun bans (and de facto gun bans), along with every other infringement on the right to keep and bear arms, in Illinois and every other state.
(Note that to "bear arms" is not the same as to carry a weapon; the Court might hold that it protects carrying a gun under some circumstances but not others. That's a case by case question.)
The gun-control side unconvincingly argues that "the people" actually means only members of the National Guard; they base this on a tendentiously fabricated reading of United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939) in a later appellate-court decision: Miller used as its test whether a particular weapon -- a sawed-off shotgun in Miller's case -- was one typically used by militias:
In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a 'shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length' at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument. Certainly it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the ordinary military equipment or that its use could contribute to the common defense.
(They are routinely so used, of course; but that's another issue. Neither Miller nor his attorneys showed up for the hearing, and the case was decided entirely on the basis of the prosecution's argument. Miller's attorneys said they were too broke to travel, and Jack Miller himself sent his regrets, having inconveniently been slain in a gunfight a month before the Supreme Court hearing. Thus nobody was present to bring to judicial notice the ubiquity of short-barreled shotguns in regular militias.)
Then an appeals court in the 1940s -- I cannot recall the case offhand -- deliberately misinterpreted the clear statement above to mean, not that the weapon protected had to be a militia-style weapon, but that its owner had to be a member of the militia.
But which militia? There is the organized militia, which became the system of state National Guards; and there is the unorganized militia. Again from Miller:
The signification attributed to the term Militia appears from the debates in the Convention, the history and legislation of Colonies and States, and the writings of approved commentators. These show plainly enough that the Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense.
Naturally, opponents of gun rights (a) interpret the subordinate, explanatory clause to be the main clause, limiting gun rights to members of the militia; and (b) presume that by "militia," the amendment must surely mean the organized militia, now called the National Guard. It's a weird stretch that even many liberal constitutional scholars, such as Sanford Levinson, Alan Dershowitz, and Laurence Tribe are unprepared to make. (Subscription to the Wall Street Journal may be required for that third link.)
But McDonald is also being argued on another, more controversial ground that has not only gun-hating liberals but traditional conservatives, well, up in arms...
Privileges and immunities
Gura is pushing to overturn the Court decision in the so-called Slaughter-House Cases, 83 U.S. 36 (1873); that decision limited the "privileges and immunities" clause of the Fourteenth Amendment -- "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States" -- which Gura believes even more strongly protects the right of individuals to keep (and bear, leave us not forget) arms:
"This is the best argument for the right to bear arms," Mr. Gura said, noting that the privileges or immunities clause was intended to extend the protections of the Bill of Rights to all Americans and made the federal government responsible for guaranteeing those rights, rather than the states.
The privileges or immunities clause, Mr. Gura argued, was created primarily to protect recently freed slaves from oppressive and discriminatory laws enacted by some Southern states after the Civil War and was misinterpreted in an 1873 Supreme Court decision.
The Slaughter-House Cases consolodated three New Orleans lawsuits against the Crescent City Live-Stock Landing and Slaughter-House Company and the state of Louisiana. In mid-nineteenth century New Orleans, the slaughter of upwards of 300,000 animals per year generated boatloads of rotting byproducts, from dung to urine to innards; this mountain of offal in turn led to frequent epidemics of cholera and yellow fever.
In 1869, Louisiana didn't allow this gruesome crisis to go to waste. It passed a state law consolodating all slaughtering into a single location -- and also "consolodating" the market itself into a monopoly. The state chartered the Crescent City Live-Stock Landing and Slaughter-House Company (a private company) and gave them the exclusive authority to let space to individual butchers in the city's slaughterhouse district:
[The statute] declares that the company... shall have the sole and exclusive privilege of conducting and carrying on the livestock landing and slaughterhouse business within the limits and privilege granted by the act, and that all such animals shall be landed at the stock landings and slaughtered at the slaughterhouses of the company, and nowhere else. Penalties are enacted for infractions of this provision, and prices fixed for the maximum charges of the company for each steamboat and for each animal landed."
The Butchers' Benevolent Association of New Orleans and its 400 members sued to stop Crescent City Live-Stock's takeover of the butchering business, hinging their case on the Fourteenth Amendment's due process, privileges or immunities, and equal protection clauses.
Writing for the 5-4 majority, Justice Samuel Freeman Miller rejected the privileges and immunities clause argument, as well as the others, affirming the previous court rulings and finding for Crescent City Live-Stock; Justice Miller held that the clause applied only to those privileges or immunities granted by "United States citizenship" and not those granted by "state citizenship," which the Court held were two different things:
It is quite clear, then, that there is a citizenship of the United States, and a citizenship of a state, which are distinct from each other, and which depend upon different characteristics or circumstances in the individual.
We think this distinction and its explicit recognition in this Amendment of great weight in this argument, because the next paragraph of this same section, which is the one mainly relied on by the plaintiffs in error, speaks only of privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States, and does not speak of those of citizens of the several states. The argument, however, in favor of the plaintiffs, rests wholly on the assumption that the citizenship is the same and the privileges and immunities guaranteed by the clause are the same.”
From what I can glean from my not-a-lawyer perspective, Justice Miller's opinion held that the Fourteenth Amendment protected only those privileges or immunities that were created by the Constitution -- for example, the right not to be convicted of treason except upon the testimony of two witnesses to the same "overt act."
The list of constitutionally created privileges or immunities is very short and very limited, and this ruling effectively gutted the Fourteenth Amendment. Most threats to a citizen's privileges, immunities, or rights come from his state, not the federal government; yet the Slaughter-House Cases held that the Fourteenth only guaranteed the latter.
But the plain language of the Fourteenth doesn't seem to say that:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
It doesn't read, "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the U.S. Constitution-created privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States;" the only restriction is to the person himself (he must be a U.S. citizen), not to the particular variety of privilege or immunity. And since every state citizen is also U.S. citizen, it's impossible to abridge the privileges or immunities of a state citizen without simultaneously abridging the privileges or immunities of a U.S. citizen (the same fellow).
(I'm told that most constitutional scholars now accept this reasoning and say the cases were wrongly decided; but I'm not a lawyer, I never attended law school, I don't personally know any constitutional scholars, and I haven't read any con-law textbooks... so I can't say for sure.)
About 115 years ago, the Court entered its "incorporation" era, in which it started applying the protections and prohibitions of the Bill of Rights to state laws and state depredations. Since then, the Court seems to have overturned the Slaughter-House decision as it related to the "due process" and "equal protection under the law" clauses of the Fourteenth... but not as it related to the "privileges and immunities" clause. (This is one of those points where I really can't say for certain without having a con-law background; lawyers, anyone?)
Evidently, that is the deficiency that lawyer Alan Gura today demands the Court redress in the McDonald case: If this Court sides with Mr. Gura on this particular argument, the Slaughter-House Cases will be completely overturned, and the federal government will become responsible for protecting "the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States," which nearly everyone seems to agree certainly includes the Second-Amendment "right to keep and bear arms."
We now return, by a commodious vicus of recirculation, back to McDonald v. Chicago, its "privileges and immunities" argument, and the alarums and excursions it provokes...
The TWTs at the Washington Times first state the obvious:
If the current justices side with Mr. Gura and overturn the Slaughterhouse Cases ruling, not only will states be bound to recognize the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, but they also will be forced to recognize the other constitutional rights that have never been applied to states, such as the Fifth Amendment right to a grand jury indictment in a criminal trial and the Seventh Amendment right to a jury in a civil trial.
Then the article drops what some social conservatives fear is the bombshell.
The American Civil Rights Union (ACRU) is a nonprofit founded by former Reagan advisor Robert B. Carleson (it's a conservative answer to the ACLU, of course). Constitutional scholar Ken Klukowski wrote an amicus brief for McDonald v. Chicago for the ACRU and other similar groups warning the Court against actually overturning the the Slaughter-House Cases:
The group, whose policy board includes conservative legal heavyweights such as former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese III and former Solicitor General Kenneth W. Starr, supports incorporation of the Second Amendment through the privileges or immunities clause but asks the court not to overturn the Slaughterhouse Cases decision.
"The Privileges or Immunities Clause could be used as a source for judicial activism unlike anything America has ever seen," the group said on its Web site.
The ACRU frets that widespread federal enforcement of the "privileges or immunities" clause of the Fourteenth could foist same-sex marriage on the entire country via a back-door approach (sorry about that). They worry that if any one state recognizes same-sex marriage -- and four already do -- then all states would have to recognize it, even for their own state citizens who go to another state, got married to a person of the same gender, then return. Similarly for extreme abortion rights (partial-birth abortion, for example), government health care, and so forth.
But many constitutional scholars (and complete rubes, like me) think this is a real stretcher: Even if the Court holds that the "privileges or immunities" clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires the federal government to enforce the explicitly constitutionally protected "right of the people to keep and bear arms" against those states, counties, or cities that abridge
that right, that cannot logically be considered a precedent for the Court forcing states to recognize and adopt same-sex marriage... or polygamy or incestuous marriage, for that matter.
The "several states" have a great many differences in how they handle various legal matters even apart from marriage, from business incorporation, to health care, to citizen initiatives, to school funding, to taxation, to the licensing of food and cosmetics, to pollution laws, to utilities. Nobody seriously argues that, in order to properly enforce the "privilieges or immunities" clause, we must steamroll all distinctions between states, transforming our Federalism into a huge nationalist smear. (I must assume there are many -- including many in the administration of Barack H. Obama -- who pine passionately for such a grand idea; but they're not in the crucible of politics actively pushing it.)
The Court cannot legitimately cite this case to promote a liberal agenda, no element of which has a status equivalent to the right to keep and bear arms. Thus, the only way the Court can make gun rights a precedent for same-sex marriage is to brutally abuse the ruling in McDonald. If it does, then by definition, we are dealing with a runaway Supreme Court.
And if we already have a runaway Supreme Court, who needs precedent?
Such a Court would do whatever it needed or wanted to do, as it did in 1873 in the Slaughter-House Cases, in the 1940s in that gun-control case, or in 1973 with Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973): A runaway Court can deliberately misread or misapply any non-precedent and torture it until it confesses; so what difference would McDonald make?
Whether McDonald is decided on the basis of the "privileges or immunities" clause, or solely on the basis of the "due process" and "equality of rights" clauses, will make no difference. A legitimate Court would not cite McDonald as precedent, and a runaway Court would cite McDonald even if it had to jack up the title and run a whole new decision underneath. There is no increased risk from the Court citing more than one reason to declare that the Second Amendment protects an individual right against all despoilers, federal, state, or local.
So three cheers for Alan Gura, and let the legal chads fall where they may! We have a great decision in Heller, and I predict we'll get an even more monumental and spectacular one in McDonald. Stay vigilant but don't borrow trouble.
August 12, 2009
Hollywood's Shifting Attitude on Guns
I've been enjoying the summer run of the SyFy (Fromerly Sci-Fi) Channel show Warehouse 13, about Secret Service agents investigating mystical artifacts. It's fun and entertaining fluff that's enjoyable to watch. But I noticed something really interesting in last night's episode.
The agents are searching for an artifact when they hear a gunshot. Rushing to where they heard it, they find a woman holding a gun and screaming for help. She says that her abusive ex-husband attacked her, and kept attacking her even after she shot him in the chest. The agents realize the ex-husband is under the influence of the artifact, and protect this woman from him. The ex-husband eventually dies from his chest wound, and then the agents protect the woman from the artifact.
What I found really interesting about that scene was the attitude toward guns. The show very clearly treated the gun-owner as the victim, rather than a violent criminal. There was never the slightest question as to whether she should have owned a gun or used it to kill someone in self-defense. The agents don't see her as a threat, and instead recognize a duty to protect her. They don't disarm her, and when they realize that it's dangerous to be around this artifact, they tell her to flee the area.
Of course this is all as it should be. Those who use guns to defend themselves from violent attackers are victims, not criminals. A gun doesn't magically make someone evil. (Although in the show, it's quite common for mystical artifacts to magically make people evil.) Someone who uses a gun to protect herself from an attacker isn't going to turn that gun on law enforcement agents, and there's no reason for the agents to think she would.
But it's surprising to see things portrayed this way in a mainstream Hollywood TV show. Even more surprising, these facts are treated as so self-evident that nobody mentions them, and there's never even any question about the legitimacy of her using a gun to kill her ex-husband.
Ten years ago, with events like Columbine fresh in everyone's minds, quite a few people were pushing for guns to be banned. It seemed like a reasonable possibility that Congress would do so. Now that attitude has been so soundly defeated that even Hollywood treats guns like tools for defense.
(Although that doesn't make up for the ridiculous name SyFy, or the even more ridiculous slogan of "Imagine Greater.")
June 3, 2009
Serfing Towards Liberty?
The title refers, of course, to the immortal work by free-market economist Friedrich Hayek, the Road to Serfdom; but in this case, I'm not referring to the obvious economic servitude into which we seem to be slipping -- or slaloming.
I am instead talking about an even more fundamental shibboleth that determines whether a people are free citizens or merely subjects of the crown: whether their fundamental right to the means of self defense is protected or violated. In other words, whether they are or are not allowed to own a firearm.
Today a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decided to uphold Chicago's ban on handguns within the city limits. I believe the case was properly decided -- despite the fact that I believe Americans have a fundamental right to own (and even carry -- "keep and bear") arms, even within the great city of Chicago, a.k.a. Obamastan:
The unanimous three-judge panel ruled today that a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year, which recognized an individual right to bear arms under the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment, didn’t apply to states and municipalities.
“The Supreme Court has rebuffed requests to apply the second amendment to the states,” U.S. Circuit Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote, upholding lower court decisions last year to throw out suits against Chicago and its suburb of Oak Park, Illinois. [Easterbrook was appointed in 1985 by Ronald Reagan.]
Why was it properly decided? Because for more than a century, the Supreme Court has consistently ducked its opportunity to state unequivocally whether the protections of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution apply only against action by the federal government, or whether it also protects our right to keep and bear arms from depredations by the states -- or their subdivisions, including the windy hog butcher to the world.
Even in the recent case of District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. ___ (2008), in which the Court for the first time held that the Second Amendment protected an individual's right to own a firearm, this larger issue was not settled. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the razor-thin majority:
In sum, we hold that the District's ban on handgun possession in the home violates the Second Amendment, as does its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense ... We affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.
However, as the title of the case suggests, this ban was enacted by a federal entity: the District of Columbia; therefore, the holding does not necessarily apply to a state or municipality. But that is exactly what the current case will decide.
I cannot imagine the Supreme Court refusing to take it, especially as a Ninth Circuit case, Nordyke v. King, ___ F.3d ___ (9th Cir. 2009), ruled the opposite way (that the Second Amendment does apply to state legislation). According to Wikipedia -- not the best of sources, considering its provenance, but it will have to do -- the Ninth Circus held:
The Circuit Court ruled that the Second Amendment was incorporated through the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause and applies against the states and local governments. In coming to that conclusion, the court found the right to keep and bear arms is "deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition", a key factor under Duncan v. Louisiana for incorporation.
Therefore, we desperately need clarity: We need to know that our right to keep and bear arms is fundamental, and that it applies not only against federal bans but state bans as well. I believe the language of the amendment itself favors the side of liberty. Compare the language of the First Amendment to that of the Second:
First: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Second: A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
If the Court can "incorporate" the First Amendment to the states, despite the fact that it explicitly mentions acts of Congress, then surely the Second Amendment (which mentions no such possible limitation) must logically be incorporated as well.
But only the United States Supreme Court can do so. If the same majority from Heller holds up under National Rifle Association of America v. City of Chicago, 08-4241, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (Chicago) -- and I believe it will -- then we will finally have what the Founding Fathers intended: "that every man be armed."
That may well turn out to be the greatest and most long-lasting achievement of the presidency of George W. Bush: Appointing John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Court. Both joined the Scalia opinion, as did Clarence Thomas and Anthony Kennedy. While Roberts replaced Chief Justice William Rhenquist, who probably would have voted the same way in Heller, Alito replaced Justice Sandra Day O'Connor -- who I suspect would have either sided with the liberals, or at least would have demanded a toned down, wishy-washy decision. Alito cast a courageous vote for liberty instead.
So keep watching the skies; the first step is to see whether at least four justices will vote to accept certiorari.
January 15, 2009
But in Theory...
Of all the crazy memes flogged by Democrats and liberals, this one is, I believe, the most psychotic:
Attorney General-nominee Eric Holder forcefully broke from the Bush administration's counterterrorism policies Thursday, declaring that waterboarding is torture and pledging to prosecute some Guantanamo Bay detainees in U.S. courts.
It was the latest signal that President-elect Barack Obama will chart a new course in combatting terrorism. As recently as last week, Vice President Dick Cheney defended waterboarding, a harsh interrogation tactic that simulates drowning, saying it provided valuable intelligence.
The CIA has used the tactic on at least three terrorism suspects, included alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. In past hearings, Attorney General Michael Mukasey and his predecessor, Alberto Gonzales, frustrated senators by repeatedly sidestepping questions about waterboarding.
It was the first topic discussed at Holder's confirmation hearing, and he made an unambiguous statement about its nature: "Waterboarding is torture."
As a practical matter, Holder said torture does not lead to reliable intelligence. And on principle, he said the United States needs to live up to its own high standards, even in the face of fear and terrorism.
Let's walk it through; what exactly is Holder saying? Many members of President George W. Bush's administration have testified -- from those interrogators who were directly involved in the interrogations of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, each in 2003 (the only time evidence indicates we ever used waterboarding), to experienced military and intelligence experts, to high officials (including, op.cit., Vice President Dick Cheney) -- that waterboarding those three top terrorists in fact yielded a wealth of intelligence; that intel directly led to hundreds of arrests and the disrupting and interdicting of scores of follow-on terrorist attacks against the United States, saving thousands upon thousands of American civilian lives.
Numerous people are in custody in Guantanamo Bay today because we caught them red-handed in the midst of plotting terrorist attacks -- with ample physical evidence to back up the charges -- on the basis of searches and investigations sparked by the intelligence gained from waterboarding Mohammed, Zubayday, and Nashiri.
But no... the Left considers waterboarding to be "torture," and the Left's theory about torture states unequivocally and without exception that "torture does not lead to reliable intelligence."
Ergo, none of the foregoing ever really happened: We didn't actually get intelligence from waterboarding the Three Amigos; we didn't really disrupt any terrorist plots; we didn't actually arrest anyone (or if we did, they were necessarily innocent bystanders); and in fact, we didn't stop further attacks on the country; thus, by a simple deduction, we actually were hit again and again by the terrorists -- and the Bush regime just covered it all up, yet another Bush war crime!
Sure, physical observation appears to indicate that waterboarding, the putative "torture," in fact yielded reliable and even vital intelligence; but appearances can be deceiving. Theory proves this cannot be, so logic dictates we must throw out the observations as obviously flawed.
Oddly, this is the same argumentative technique used in the globaloney debate; perhaps it needs its own name: How about Argument of the Irresistable Theoretical Construct?
- Your so-called "measurements" claim that the Earth's temperature rise since 1900 correlates almost exactly with solar activity, and there has been no global temperature increase since 1998 (in fact, a decrease). But the theory of anthropogenic ("human created") global warming -- which every legitimate scientist accepts -- belies that claim. Therefore, your measurements must be in error... go and fix them, and don't come back for more funding until you do!
- According to all supposed observers in Iraq, including those vehemently opposed to the war from the beginning, since the Bush regime implemented the surge, military and civilian deaths have plummeted to the normal base-level of violence found in Arab countries. But as we told you repeatedly, the "surge" could not possibly work, because there is no military solution to military defeat. So who are you going to believe -- the considered weight of expert opinion from nearly all foreign-policy professionals, including some who have won the Nobel Peace Prize... or your own lyin' eyes?
- All those revisionist historians and economists have been busy tarnishing the reputation of the greatest president of the 20th century, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, producing fact after evidence after measurement indicating that none of his New Deal programs did anything to end the Great Depression, that it continued unabated until the beginning of World War II; but it's utterly impossible in theory that programs with such good intentions -- implemented by a brilliant president who was not only the darling of liberal, compassionate professors and socialist progressives and reformers but even of the masses -- could possibly fail. Clearly then, FDR's NRA and other programs restored the American economy and ended the depression... and any claims to the contrary are just mean-spirited attacks by frustrated conservative Republican robber-barons.
- John Lott and other eggheads have published numerous books purporting to show that increasing civilian ownership of guns decreases, not increases, the homicide and other violent crime rates; but this is absurd on its face: The only purpose of a gun is to kill; and everybody knows that guns are useless in self-defense because the criminal will simply take it away from the victim (and get very angry). So the only explanation for the spate of pro-gun books is... Lott, et al, are being paid off by the NRA! (The other NRA, the bad NRA -- not the good one of the previous example. Nitpicker.)
Argument of the Irresistable Theoretical Construct: Add that one to the list; it will crop up again and again.
December 9, 2008
A number of states have recently adopted laws enshrining the "castle doctrine," which says you do not have to retreat or flee before you can use deadly force in your home, business (sometimes), and personal vehicle. Like any other legal defense to manslaughter, murder, or ADW, sometimes the cop, judge, or jury buys it, and sometimes he doesn't.
But AP evidently considers it inconsistent and "uncertain" that the outcome varies depending on the circumstances:
A convenience store clerk chased down a man and shot him dead over a case of beer this summer and was charged with murder. A week later, a clerk at another Jackson convenience store followed and fatally shot a man he said tried to rob him, and authorities let him go without charges.
Police say the robber in the second case was armed, while the man accused of stealing beer was not.
Just the same, the legal plights of the two clerks highlight the uncertain impact of National Rifle Association-backed laws sweeping the nation that make it easier to justify shooting in self-defense.
I don't see an "uncertain impact" in this story, except insofar as the exact circumstances dictate whether a doctrine of self-defense will fly in a particular case. You cannot have "one size fits all" justice, because it's inherently unjust not to consider both the provocation and the nuances of the response.
And thank goodness we have a legal system set up to do just that. It's just another example of how much better off we are with ours -- which assumes that self defense is, at least, a debatable and rebuttable justification for using deadly force -- than the European model, where even honest self defense is no defense.
Two officers in Greece shot and killed a "youth" (an Anarchist, not a Moslem radical) who was evidently attacking them -- and Athens and Thessaloniki have seen day after day after day of increasingly violent revenge-protests by Greek radicals:
The circumstances surrounding Saturday's shooting were unclear, and Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos has promised a thorough investigation and the punishment of anyone found responsible.
"It is inconceivable for there not to be punishment when a person loses their life, particularly when it is a child," he said [meaning "older teenager"]. "The taking of life is something that is not excusable in a democracy."
Police said the two officers involved claimed they were attacked by a group of youths, and that three gunshots and a stun grenade were fired in response.
The two officers have been suspended, arrested and charged, one with premeditated manslaughter and the illegal use of a weapon, and the other as an accomplice. They are to appear before a court Wednesday. The Exarchia precinct police chief has been suspended.
Notice that not a single person asks anywhere in the article whether the officers were legitimately in fear of their lives, or whether there was an actual threat to them; evidently, the rule in Greece is that defending your own life or the life of an innocent party is still no license to use deadly force. (The same rule holds in many other European countries, such as Japan.)
In other words, to quote from an old DayGlo poster I had in the 1960s, "Why do we kill people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong?"
I've mentioned this before as the Case of the Disappearing Context Adjectives. Rewrite the sentence to reinclude them, and the question answers itself: Why do we kill guilty people who kill innocent people to show that killing innocent people is wrong?
Another reason to fight against the mounting Europeanization of America.
December 1, 2008
My favorite blogger just put up a post on my favorite blog; he quoted from an AP story on the appalling ineptitude of the Indian security forces during the terrorist siege -- where ten men held an entire city of 19 million souls hostage.
Some choice quotes:
As more details of the response to the attack emerged, a picture formed of woefully unprepared security forces. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised to strengthen maritime and air security and look into creating a new federal investigative agency - even as some analysts doubted fundamental change was possible.
"These guys could do it next week again in Mumbai and our responses would be exactly the same," said Ajai Sahni, head of the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management who has close ties to India's police and intelligence....
Bapu Thombre, assistant commissioner with the Mumbai railway police, said the police were armed mainly with batons or World War I-era rifles and spread out across the station.
"They are not trained to respond to major attacks," he said.
The gunmen continued their rampage outside the station. They eventually ambushed a police van, killed five officers inside -- including the city's counterterrorism chief -- and hijacked the vehicle as two wounded officers lay bleeding in the back seat.
"The way Mumbai police handled the situation, they were not combat ready," said Jimmy Katrak, a security consultant. "You don't need the Indian army to neutralize eight to nine people."
Constable Arun Jadhav, one of the wounded policemen, said the men laughed when they noticed the dead officers wore bulletproof vests....
Even the commandos lacked the proper equipment, including night vision goggles and thermal sensors that would have allowed them to locate the hostages and gunmen inside the buildings, Sahni said.... [Ajai Sahni is "head of the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management who has close ties to India's police and intelligence."]
The slow pace of the operations made it appear that the commandos' main goal was to stay safe, Hefetz said. [Assaf Hefetz is "a former Israeli police commissioner who created the country's police anti-terror unit three decades ago."]
To which John appends his own bafflement:
In view of the number of terrorist attacks India has suffered, its failure to be more prepared is puzzling.
Well, perhaps the puzzle is more solvable than at first it appears. Of course the Indian authorities failed to be prepared for any sort of resistance: They relied upon India's extensive and draconian gun-control laws.
For what they proved worth.
June 26, 2008
The 2nd Amendment DOES NOT "Confer an Individual Right to Keep and Bear Arms"
But on the other hand, I must rise to dispute not only Erwin Chemerinsky (on the
Hugh Hewitt Dean Barnett radio show today) and Barack H. Obama, but also John S. McCain, who issued a statement today that ends:
But today, the Supreme Court ended forever the specious argument that the Second Amendment did not confer an individual right to keep and bear arms.
I disagree; it's not specious (though the way the argument is used certainly is): It's actually perfectly true that "the Second Amendment did not confer an individual right to keep and bear arms."
Look at the wording of the Amendment (corrected to modernize punctuation):
The operative clause (the clause that contains the subject and verb of the sentence) is in blue. Nowhere does the amendment say that it confers that right; "to confer" in this case means "to bestow," to grant or give. But the amendment speaks of the right as if it already existed, predating not only the amendment itself but the Constitution, the country, and indeed, every other constitution, charter, or country that has ever been. The amendment only states that the Constitution forbids whichever entites it controls from infringing on that pre-existing right.
Bearing in mind that I'm not a lawyer -- though I sometimes play sea-lawyer or Philadelphia lawyer on the web (as today!) -- it's my understanding that the Founders saw constitutionally protected rights falling into two main categories:
- Those rights specifically created by the Constitution, such as the right to vote in federal elections and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances; these are rights that cannot exist absent not only a government but this particular government: You can't have a right to vote for your member of Congress if your country has only a king and his privy council.
- Those rights that are fundamental to all people everywhere, and which fall within the "inalienable rights" described by the Jeffersonian phrase "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness." These are fundamental rights that the Founders believed should be protected by every government -- which includes the states as well as the feds.
Thus it's perfectly proper to "incorporate" to the states those fundamental rights protected by the Constitution, while not incorporating the created rights. Despite the fact that the First Amendment begins "Congress shall make no law," I nevertheless agree with incorporating its fundamental protections to the states: the prohibition against establishing or prohibiting free exercise of religion, abridging freedom of speech, freedom of the press, or the right to peaceably assemble. I can see why the right to petition need not be incorporated, as that is a created right.
And yes, I am quite aware that individual states at the time the Constitution and the First Amendment were enacted had established state churches and did, in fact, prohibit free exercise of religion. Like the right to liberty versus the peculiar institution of slavery, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were ratified in an environment of essential contradiction. Those contradictions would eventually have to be resolved; this resolution can come from new amendments (such as the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth) or, post Marbury v. Madison, from the Supreme Court.
Today, I believe Americans, including judicial conservatives, would be utterly outraged if a state were to start jugging citizens for speaking out on issues, or rounding up Jews for heresy, or nullifying habeas corpus rights, so that the authorities could simply round up and incarcerate anybody they didn't like. We've long since completely accepted that not even the states can violate fundamental rights, at least of American citizens (most of us would extend that to any lawful resident of any nationality).
Deep down, we understand that our government did not give ("confer") those rights to us; we have them inherently and inalienably from our Creator, or even just as an inherent aspect of having consciousness and a conscience. The word "inalienable" means that fundamental rights cannot be taken or even given away. Even the mullahs of Iran cannot take away those rights; they can only violate them... and doing so constitutes a crime against humanity, making the mullocracy of Iran a criminal government.
(It's not necessarily our duty to enforce those rights; "we are champions of liberty everywhere, guardians only of our own.")
The way you determine which protected rights are fundamental is to ask whether its logically possible for the right to exist before the United States government was created.
It's obviously not logically possible to petition something, such as the United States government, that does not even exist; it's a silly exercise in semantics. Likewise, it's logically impossible to vote for your representatives before there is even a House of Representatives. Therefore, these are created rights, not fundamental rights.
By contrast, the right of freedom of speech was frequently discussed in the British Parliament long before we existed, and freedom of religion was argued for centuries, in many countries, before the 1780s. The fact that the concept of a right can be seriously discussed as policy means that it is not "logically impossible."
And it certainly is logically possible to envision a right to arms before the United States existed; arms existed, many countries allowed some or all of their subjects to be armed (such as England, where the stalwart yeomen were expected to take up arms to fend of foreign invasion; or Italy, where men and even women could carry swords and pistols to protect themselves). Therefore, by recognizing the right to keep and bear arms as a right and pledging to protect it from infringement, the Constitution clearly indicates that this is a fundamental right that was not "conferred" by the Constitution... no matter what Erwin Chemerinsky claims.
And I'm pretty sure the Founders would agree with me -- because all I'm doing is agreeing with them.
At Last... Court Rules Founders Meant What They Wrote In the 2nd Amendment
The decision was just released literally a few minutes ago, so no details yet. But the majority opinion was, as rumored, written by Justice Antonin Scalia... and it begins with a definitive, unnuanced, categorical statement that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution protects a right to keep and bear arms held by every American... not just those connected in some nebulous way to a "militia," whatever that word means in this day and age. (I don't know if it's limited to citizens or extends to legal residents; and whether it only applies to legal adults or reaches into lower teen ages -- in 1791, those in the militia automatically included all males between 16 and 40-something.)
This is a stunning blow to the national gun-prohibitionist movement; it knocks away the prop on which every federal proposal to ban whole classes of gun is based: the idea that the amendment only protects the "right" (?) of states to keep and bear militias. It was always a foolish and mendacious interpretation; but until today, it was one that had resonated with some appellate courts. (I don't know if this ruling affects state laws; see below.)
Many circus courts that held the amendment applied only to members of the National Guard hung their robes on an equally stupid misreading of U.S. v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939). In that bizarre case, Jack Miller and Frank Layton were charged with transporting a short-barreled shotgun across state lines. The trial court found that the National Firearms Act -- the law they were accused of violating -- was unconstitutional because of the Second Amendment; the Supreme Court overturned that verdict.
The Court ruled, at core, that the amendment only protected possession of those weapons normally used in armies or militias. No evidence was presented that short-barreled shotguns were in common use among such bodies (though of course they were): The reason no evidence was presented, I believe, was that Miller's attorneys did not show up at the Supreme Court hearing -- as their client had inconveniently been murdered in prison while awaiting appeal.
The Court never reached the question of whether Miller was in any kind of militia; but that didn't stop numerous appellate courts from falsely claiming that the Court in Miller held that the amendment applies only to members of the "militia," which at that time had become the National Guard.
But today's ruling puts paid to that deliberate obfuscation; the only thing clear at this point is that the Court has definitively held that the amendment applies to everyone, not just those in one of the state National Guard units. But the major point I need answered is whether the Court has "incorporated" that protection to state laws, as it has with, e.g., most of the rights in the First and Fourth Amendments: What does the Court say about whether states are likewise forbidden from violating the right to keep and bear arms, regardless of what their state constitutions say (or don't say)?
Reaching that question was unnecessary in the Heller case, and I suspect they steered clear of such overreaching. But this ruling is certainly going to spark federal cases on precisely that question. The amendment does not even mention Congress, as many other rights in the Bill of Rights do; so I think there is at least a serious argument that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed" would apply to states as well as the federal government.
That question, more than any other, will determine the scope of this ruling; it will surely be litigated over the next decade or so:
- If federalism trumps the Second Amendment, then most gun bans nationwide will prevail;
- But if the right trumps federalism, we'll see a wholesale striking-down of such bans nationwide.
But we're not going to know the answer to that question -- or even whether the Court addressed it (probably not) -- until much later today, after lawyer-bloggers like Patterico and the lads at Power Line (not to mention Eugene Volokh, Beldar, Hugh Hewitt, and that lot) have had a chance to digest at least a significant part of the Scalia majority decision itself.
Keep watching the skies!
December 11, 2007
No She Didn't! Oh Yes She Did.
First we heard that Jeanne Assam -- a private, female security guard in Colorado Springs, Colorado and former Minneapolis police officer -- had shot and killed a Christian-hating gunman, who himself had already shot nine people at the Youth With a Mission missionary training center and the New Life Church, killing four of them.
(His name is known but will not be mentioned on this blog, as he does not deserve to be remembered. But his murdered victims do: They are Tiffany Johnson, 26, and Philip Crouse, 24, both slain at the Youth With a Mission center; and sisters Stephanie Works, 18, and Rachael Works, 16, who were shot at the New Life Church.)
Jeanne Assam (© Associated Press 2007)
Then came the stunning news that in fact the Christian-hater was not slain by Ms. Assam; he killed himself:
[The Christian hater], the man who police say shot and killed four people at two separate locations in Colorado on Sunday, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the coroner's office said Tuesday.
"The death of [the Christian hater] has been ruled a suicide," the El Paso County Coroner's Office said in a statement.
I'm sure that Democrats, always anxious to deny hero-hood to (a) believing Christians and (b) chicks who carry guns, will now crow that the "gun nuts" jumped the -- oh, all right, I won't -- leapt to a conclusion, and that in fact she didn't stop the killer after all. (I also anticipate an attack on the fact that she was fired from the Minneapolis Police Department in 1997 for lying during an investigation of her conduct during an incident in that city; more about that anon.)
But wait; before throwing Ms. Assam under the bus, let's read the next sentence in that same CNN story above:
"It should be noted that he was struck multiple times by the security officer, which put him down. He then fired a single round killing himself," the statement said.
Back when I was actively debating gun prohibitionists, I encountered this odd argument all the time: Whenever I presented evidence of a private citizen who used a gun to stop a crime without killing the perpetrator, the prohibitionists refused to accept it; it was as if anything less than justifiable homicide were "inconclusive;" it was cheating, somehow, to use such cases in debate.
(I guess the nutty, liberal idea was that the only purpose of a gun is to kill; so if it didn't kill, then it must have done nothing!)
But that's paralogical. In the vast majority of cases where armed police use their service weapons to stop a crime or arrest a criminal, no shots are fired. And in the majority of cases where shots are fired, the suspect is not killed. If we nevertheless believe that cops should be armed -- and I've yet to meet a gun prohibitionist who was willing to argue that guns don't help trained police officers -- then it's no argument against concealed-carry permits for private civilians that most of the time, even when they use their gun, even when they shoot the bad guy, they don't kill him.
And in this case, I think two points are now crystal clear from the autopsy of the perpetrator of this homicidal hate crime:
- Jeanne Assam is clearly a big fan of "gun control": She hit the killer with multiple shots yet didn't hit a single innocent person.
- The murderer didn't kill himself because he felt remorse; he knew the spree was over... because Assam had already taken him down. Were it not for Ms. Assam, a parishoner at the New Life Church, many more people would have been killed.
I have never heard of a case where a spree killer simply stopped killing and went home; in every case I've read about, they keep shooting or stabbing until somebody stops them. Well... Ms. Assam stopped him; she stopped him cold, knocking him to the ground with multiple gunshot wounds. In fact, although he died by shooting himself in the head, it's entirely possible that had he not done so, he might still have bled out from the wounds that Ms. Assam inflicted.
Either way, it's clear Jeanne Assam deserves to get both ears and the tail:
Assam said she found cover in the lobby after [the Christian hater] opened fire in the church parking lot and walked into the building. She said she waited for him to approach, identified herself as a security guard, and shot him -- "and that's pretty much it."
"I'm telling you right now, she's the hero, not me. It was the bravest thing I have ever seen," [Larry] Bourbonnais said. "She had no cover. He fired -- I heard him fire three. I heard her fire three. And she just began -- she kept yelling 'Surrender!' the whole time. And she just walked forward, like she's walking to her car in the parking lot, firing the whole time."
Bourbonnais said when he and Assam reached [the Christian hater], "he had slumped backwards, slid down on the floor, and expired."
Larry Bourbonnais is a Vietnam combat veteran who was slightly wounded by a bullet fragment in the New Life Church shooting.
And by the way... let's deal with the charge that Jeanne Assam was fired from the MPD a decade ago for lying during an investigation of her conduct: It appears to be true. But so far as I can tell, the conduct that was under investigation was that she evidently swore at a bus driver while trying to handle an "incident" that occurred on the bus. Pardon me if I don't gasp and faint at the possibility that a cop used an obscenity and then claimed she hadn't:
Also Tuesday, Minneapolis police Sgt. Jesse Garcia said Assam was fired from the Minneapolis force in 1997 for lying during an internal investigation. Sgt. John Delmonico, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, said police were investigating a complaint that Assam swore at a bus driver while she was handling an incident on a city bus.
Returning to the CNN article, I do have one suggestion for Ms. Assam: I recommend that she rethink her association with the New Life Church... at least until it gets itself a new pastor who actually understands what "forgiveness" means -- and what it requires:
Brady Boyd, senior pastor of New Life Church, told reporters Tuesday he and his church had already forgiven [the Christian hater], even though he is still angry about what happened.
"But being angry and being unforgiving are two different things," Boyd said.
"I forgave him immediately. I can't imagine what caused him to do that. I'm sad for his parents, who are having to bury a young son. But forgiving him was an immediate response of our heart," the pastor said.
I can only assume he was also sad for the parents of Johnson, Crouse, and Stephanie and Rachael Works; I have to assume it, because he's not quoted as saying so. Evidently, he considers all five deaths -- four innocent people and a murder -- to have the same moral value. So did he also "forgive" Jeanne Assam on behalf of the killer?
There are two insurmountable obstacles to this "instant karma" granting of earthly absolution:
- How can anyone be forgiven who has never showed the slightest bit of remorse or repentence for the horrible, horrible thing he did?
Even Catholic priests cannot grant absolution to a person who has not truly repented of his sin, shown honest remorse, stopped committing the sin, and attempted to make restitution if possible. There is no evidence that this Christian-hating killer did any of the above, at least not by his own free will: He only stopped committing the sin because Jeanne Assam brought him down.
His suicide proves nothing; most spree killers, even before they begin their crimes, expect either to be killed by the cops or die by their own hands. They don't want to go to prison... they would rather enter eternal nothingness.
- But second and more disturbing to me -- who the hell gave Reverend Boyd the right to forgive the killer for what he did to somebody else?
The only mortal person who ever has jurisdiction to forgive a crime is the victim himself. No one else. To think otherwise is to accept the most pernicious doctrine of liberalism: That all personal accountability must be jettisoned in favor of collective guilt -- and collective forgiveness.
Let's put it in a context that even liberals should be able to understand: Imagine that a man forcibly rapes his next-door neighbor's daughter...and then the next day, the local minister announces to the world that he forgives the rapist. What do you think would be the reaction of the rape victim and her family?
Such "instant forgiveness" by a third party is grossly offensive to the victim, her family, her friends, and indeed the entire body of that church; and I would hope that most of them would have the guts to tell the minister that it was time for him to hit the road... the congregation needs a spiritual leader who was not morally befuddled.
This moral dynamic does not change when, instead of rape, the criminal commits the even more horrific crime of murder. In fact, murder is literally unforgiveable in this world: Because only the victim can forgive, and because the victim is no longer around, there is no human left who can grant such extraordinary dispensation. If there is a God, forgiveness must be left to Him... if He chooses.
How dare Boyd offer forgiveness on behalf of four people who are no longer capable of deciding for themselves whether the killer deserves it? This is worse than Bill Clinton apologizing for slavery: At least the president didn't presume to forgive the slavers on behalf of the slaves!
So hats off to Jeanne Assam; she did good, even great. But honestly, she deserves a better religious guide than the mealy mouthed, liberal, PC-worshipping Brady Boyd.
November 21, 2007
"Apt Natural - I Have a Gub"
Inveterate (or invertibrate) movie-goers will of course recognize the title immediately, coming from one of the first crime "mockumentaries" ever made.
So what can we expect as the Supremes warm up to the great gun-rights debate next year?
The decision itself will hinge on one fundamental question that has been controversial since the early 20th century, but was fairly commonly held, I believe, prior to 1900: Does the Second Amendment protect the gun rights of each individual legal resident -- or does it only protect the "rights" of states to have National Guard units?
(States do not have "rights," of course; only powers, privileges, and immunities. But gun prohibitionists are forced to use the word "rights," because that's what the Second Amendment uses, and they must match.)
All the blather about constitutional amendments being outmoded won't make a dent on the court -- either side; everything will hinge on what the words actually meant when they were written and what they mean today. The complete text of the amendment reads:
Yes, I know; it's overpunctuated by today's standards. But it was written in 1789, and different rules for punctuation applied.
Clearly, when the Founders ratified this amendment two years later, they envisioned a national militia in place of a standing army (they were down on permanent armies making permanent war).
The idea was that if we were attacked, word would go out to every hamlet and town (or "every omlet in town," as I used to think), and all the Minutemen would drop their scythes -- or their printing presses, though they'd better step nimbly out of the way if they didn't want to lose a toe or two -- grab their "Kentucky" long rifles (made in Pennsylvania), and band together into an unbreakable wall of national defense.
Obviously, we don't do things like that anymore... so how should we interpret the amendment now?
Those of us who believe in gun rights argue that with the rise in urban residency and the increased firepower of criminals, individuals still need private arms in order to "establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, [and] promote the general welfare." We argue that crime statistics, particularly those by Professor John Lott, demonstrate that an armed populace has less crime, not more, without any measurable increase in accidental gun deaths or injuries.
Those who support gun prohibition hang their hats on the first four words, arguing that the original purpose -- the citizen's militia that took the place of a standing army -- no longer exists, and the only corresponding extant entity (since the Dick Act, a.k.a. the Militia Act of 1903) is the National Guard (divided into state commands).
Therefore, the prohibitionists will argue, the rights "granted" by the amendment devolve upon the various states, which control the National Guards when not activated by the federal government.
I find this argument untenable for that very reason: Passing lightly over the idea of states having "rights," how can states possess the constitutional right to "keep and bear arms," if in the same breath we agree that D.C. can simply federalize those arms (and the folks keeping and bearing them), thus removing them from state control? It's utterly contradictory.
Ergo, either the amendment means nothing -- or else it means that the rights
granted protected adhere only in "the people," as the words themselves make clear. In all other uses in the Constitution, "the people" translates to each individual person.
(Fundamental rights are not "granted" by the government, of course, but by "Nature and Nature's God." Governments can only protect them -- or violate them.)
Note that the Founders had no difficulty writing "the states" when they meant the states, as for example in the Tenth Amendment, which explicitly distinguishes between the states and the people:
I believe any fair-minded reading of the Second will lead a judge to agree that "the right of the people" in that amendment means the same as the exact, same phrase in the Fourth Amendment: an individual right held by each individual person. Thus, I believe that we can count on the four fair-minded judges, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito, to vote to uphold the circus-court ruling finding the D.C. gun ban "unreasonable and unconstitutional."
I likewise believe, based upon their well-enunciated constitutional gestalt, that we can rely upon Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and David Souter to vote to restore the gun ban.
As usual, Justice Anthony Kennedy will be the National Enigma. But (be sure you're sitting down), I consider Justice John Paul Stevens to be a wild card... he might actually side with gun owners, basing his decision upon the second-amendment analysis of some liberal con-law professors, of which the most important are Lawrence Tribe and Alan Dershowitz, both of Harvard.
If I had to guess, I would expect that the Court would vote to confirm the decision of the D.C. Circus (overturning the Washington D.C. gun ban) by 6-3; I have a hard time believing that Justice Kennedy would vote against a position on such a controversial issue to which both Roberts and Stevens agreed.
On the political front, I'm not sure how much this will affect the presidential election. I disagree with Glenn Reynolds, who wrote:
This is probably bad for Democrats, given that most Americans believe they have some sort of right to arms under the Constitution.
It's also probably bad for Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney, who have generally been less supportive of gun rights than the other GOP contenders.
First, regardless of positions in the past, both Giuliani and Romney have rushed to get out in front of this case -- on the side of the angels. Rudy Giuliani:
Rudy Giuliani made the following statement today regarding the Supreme Court’s decision to review the Court of Appeals ruling in Parker v. District of Columbia:
"I strongly believe that Judge Silberman’s decision deserves to be upheld by the Supreme Court. The Parker decision is an excellent example of a judge looking to find the meaning of the words in the Constitution, not what he would like them to mean."
Today, Governor Mitt Romney issued the following statement on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to review District of Columbia v. Heller:
"It is my hope that the Supreme Court will reaffirm the individual right to keep and bear arms as enshrined in the Bill of Rights and protect law abiding gun owners everywhere. To further guard this fundamental liberty, as President, I will take care to appoint judges who will not legislate from the bench but will instead strictly interpret the Constitution."
Second, the great Democratic gun-control debate was in the 1990s... ancient history, as far as most voters are concerned. Except for some diehards in ultra-liberal districts or states (e.g., Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, 100%), the Democrats have pretty much dropped gun control from their electoral lexicon...
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%), who was a loud gun prohibitionist as recently as 1999-2000, nowadays barely mentions the topic. The closest I found was this April 2007 snippet:
"You have to balance the Second Amendment rights against keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and people who are unstable -- and that has always been what everyone I know has been seeking to accomplish," Senator Clinton said. "Maybe this tragic incident will get us to think about how to get back to that balance."
This hardly sounds like a response that would satisfy Rosie O'Donnell.
I like this piece, by the bye: The candidates were each interviewed a week after the Virginia Tech shootings; if ever there were a time to smoke out gun prohibitionists, that would have been it. Here is what Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL, 95%) said:
While Obama suggested there may be a need for restrictions on so-called semiautomatic guns, he contends Democrats must steer clear of alienating "lawful" gun owners. "I'm a strong believer in the rights of hunters and sportsmen to have firearms. I'm a believer in homeowners having a firearm to protect their home and their family," Obama said. "It's hard for me to find a rationale for having a 17-clip semiautomatic."
(I must confess puzzlement about Obama's 17-clip semiautomatic; I don't think I would buy one -- those "clips" must stick out like quills on a porcupine -- but I'd sure love to hold one in my hands... assuming I could find the grip hidden among the antenna-farm of clips.)
Finally, we have John Edwards; he mentions hunting but not self-defense... but he doesn't rule it out, either; he simply ignores that reason for owning a gun:
"I believe in the Second Amendment and I think it's important for hunters rights to be protected. It's part of my culture because of the way I grew up," Edwards said during a news conference Friday night in Des Moines. "But I don't think you need an AK-47 to hunt...There's some weapons that are not necessary for sportsmen and hunters."
(I'm sure that Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-OH, 100%, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-CT, 95%, and Gov. Bill Richardson all favor heavy-handed gun control; but really, who cares? They're about as likely to be elected president as "Mother" Sheehan.)
Regardless of the actual beliefs of the Democratic front runners, and regardless of what they would really do if they got into office, none denies an individual Second-Amendment right to keep and bear arms; and Obama openly affirms it.
Thus, I just don't see this issue cutting significantly against the Democrats: Anybody who believes that they're secretly in favor of gun prohibition (as I believe) is almost certainly already in the GOP camp for 2008. So don't look for gun rights to tip the scales of the presidential race.
Nevertheless, if the case is adjudicated as I expect, it will be a stunning and wonderful day for civil liberties in America; and if it goes the opposite way, it will be a black mark we shall never live down. And even if there is no direct affect on the presidential race, the case should at least reopen the national conversation on individual rights vs. State power -- which should definitely benefit Republicans downticket.
April 17, 2007
Fighting Back Was Not an Option, Part 2
Three sober, responsible, respectable, intelligent gentlemen have made a very good case for not discussing so-called "solutions" (on either side of the aisle) for such terrible crimes as yesterday's massacre at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
Dean Barnett and Hugh Hewitt of HughHewitt.com and John Hinderaker of Power Line each says that there will come a time for understanding the macro-politics of the shooting spree; but that time is later. Now is the time for grieving, they argue -- and for healing. Hugh just said some hours ago that everyone should talk as if the parents who lost their children are listening. And I completely understand his point.
I just don't agree with it.
Were I actually talking to one of the bereaved, of course I wouldn't start discussing how to prevent such evil in the future. But I'm not; I cannot imagine anyone suffering such a loss reading a political blog the next day. It's absurd.
I'm talking to readers who, while they may be in shock, did not actually lose a loved one in this particular shooting. Any pain and loss they feel, however real and wrenching, is due to empathy with the victims.
Empathy is a vital and decent response; a man who feels no empathy for a parent who lost a child is probably a psychopath. But empathic pain is simply not in the same league as the actual pain of such a terrible loss to those who suffer it themselves. Even those who know what such pain is like from personal experience don't feel it as intensely when empathizing with a stranger as when it happened to them.
I can well understand those in the midst of such agony not wanting to hear or see anything about how to prevent such atrocities. Their brains are filled to bursting with memories that have abruptly become more precious than diamonds yet sharper than a razor. But for many of the rest of us, our pain is not so much in the gut as in the psyche... and the only balm for psychic pain is cool-headed, rational thought about solutions to the problem.
If you don't agree, I won't be offended. Stop reading this post; because from here on, logical analysis is all it will contain.
I will put the rest in the extended entry, forcing you to make an overt action to continue.
The one possibly odious trick I have played is the title, which makes a political point itself: I see the circumstances of the Virginia Tech shooting and of the British hostages as betraying the same very poignant -- and dangerous -- perspective: helplessness as a virtue.
But the two circumstances also differ in a way that at first appears vast, but upon reflection seems not so great after all. When a soldier, by inaction, renders himself helpless, we call it cowardice; but civilians do not seem to be under the same duty as a member of the military, one who has voluntarily assumed responsibility for protecting and preserving his society.
Surely, however, adult civilians are not completely bereft of any such responsibility; in fact, assuming personal responsibility for the lives and freedoms of others is, by my reckoning, exactly what separates the child from the adult. When a boy or a girl freely accepts that he has a certain duty towards his fellows, even when nobody will ever know whether he fulfilled it or not, that is when boy becomes man and girl becomes woman.
The epiphany is usually a series of small revelations that mount up over time, but it can also strike like the fangs of a diamondback in the dark night of the soul. Either way, dawn can begin at any age past puberty and can take a number of years, or a few short days... or else a lifetime can pass without the change completing.
The epiphany is this: Each one of us is a foot soldier for civilization; when evil threatens, we must do our utmost to thwart it.
Your utmost may be as simple as snitching on your best friend when you discover he has systematically looted the company you both work for... or as profound as Virginia Tech Engineering Professor Liviu Librescu, a Holocaust survivor, who gave his last full measure blocking the doorway to his classroom, allowing his students time to escape out the window.
If President Bush is decent, he will award a Presidential Medal of Freedom -- the highest award a civilian can receive -- to Professor Librescu (later, when his loved ones have recovered a bit more).
But if Bush is just as well as decent, he would instead award the Medal of Honor, which is available only to active-duty members of the military. Because when the shooting started, Professor Librescu's society had come under attack by a demonic evil; and every adult man and woman on the scene, each already a member of the unorganized militia of the United States of America, was instantly activated to defend his civilization, including Professor Librescu.
There is no difference in my mind between Professor Librescu using his own body as a human shield and a National Guardsman being activated and sent to Iraq, and both should be equally eligible for the Medal of Honor.
But Professor Librescu was 77 years old when he died; there was little he could do against a young, armed man like the killer (whose name is known, but which I will not honor with remembering) beyond delaying him for a minute or two. Professor Librescu did what he could, and it was enough: He saved many lives that were, in some sense, his responsibility. He was a teacher -- and his last breath was spent teaching the greatest lesson of all: transcendent duty.
But what about the other presumably adult men and women at that campus? Most were nowhere near the scene and therefore never had the opportunity to test their courage, their honor, and their worth. This is a minor tragedy in itself; it's the subject of one of the greatest poems ever written in English: "Elegy Written In a Country Churchyard," by Thomas Gray.
But there are others; there are also those who were there, who were close by. What did they do? How did they acquit themselves?
Did they gather those around them and hurry with them to safety? Did they save themselves? Each of these is a minor virtue, and I don't want to knock it. Sometimes, such minor virtues are all that a person can achieve, given the time, place, and opportunity.
But surely there must have come a time when a man or woman, hiding not far away, saw that the gunman had turned his back. What that person did in that moment is the true assay of character.
Maybe someone charged at the gunman -- but foul fate intervened, and the butcher heard, turned, and added another victim to his hellish toll. Anyone so killed is as heroic as Professor Librescu.
But -- and I hate the thought, even as it screams insistently -- it is virtually inevitable that there were others who were there, who saw an opportunity, but who were frozen to the spot with dread. Or else they talked themselves into believing that there was nothing they could do. Or worst of all... some must have done nothing because they had been carefully taught that "nothing" was what they were supposed to do. I cannot help thinking that for many students at Virginia Tech yesterday, just as for the fifteen British sailors and marines, "fighting back was not an option," because to them, it is never an option.
That's a job for "professionals."
Let me take a brief detour here to a post written by Dean Barnett, and to what he said yesterday while guest-hosting on Hugh Hewitt's radio show. I like Dean, though I've never met him. But I think he has exactly the wrong attitude about this spree killing. Dean wrote:
What makes tragedies like this one so gut-wrenching, though, is precisely their inexplicable nature. They are truly, literally senseless.
And yet it’s in our nature to try to make sense of the things we don’t or even can’t understand. But I’ll tell you something: Searches for reasons and explanations here are going to bring us up empty. The painful fact is that terrible things happen. There are evil people who do evil things. There’s nothing more to it than that. There’s no policy prescription that can make things like this never happen again.
This from the same man who earlier worried that that dreadful phrase would become "the epitaph of the Western world!" Dean makes a catastrophic logical error in this passage: He conflates the agent and the enabler.
He is correct that nothing we do can completely prevent evil people from attempting to perpetrate such heinous acts; but there is a great deal we can do to frustrate them when they try. And the failure even to try to stop evil is the great enabler of evil.
We know this; it's even an aphorism: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. So why does Dean Barnett so blithely absolve those good men and women who had a shot but did nothing?
Because Dean, like everyone else who grew up in post-World War II America, has been bathed from birth in the fountain of futility. There's nothing you can do; don't even try. Let the authorities handle it... they're professionals. We must sit quietly and wait for instructions.
As with every other sane person, Dean must reject this rot -- intellectually. But as with every other child of the second half of the 20th centry, overcoming the doctrine of moral inertia requires constant mental battle. Don't get involved. Don't make waves. Would you rather be a live coward or a dead hero? According to the doctrine, the answer to that last question is "live coward," incredibly enough; good thing Professor Librescu was too old to have been infected.
Yesterday, while he guest-hosted for Hugh, Dean read an e-mail from a listener who groped for words to describe the eighteen-year course in the doctrine of moral inertia endured by everyone who passes through the public school system (and most of the private ones as well).
The writer was trying to talk about the professionalization of America, where every decision is left up to the "experts;" but Dean dismissed the e-mail out of hand, because its writer bemoaned the suppression of dodgeball, which appears to have annoyed Dean beyond all reason.
It was a metaphor, but it went right over his head. "Dodgeball wouldn't have solved this problem," Dean snapped -- and I had the awful impression that he imagined the e-mailer was saying students should literally have thrown basketballs at the shooter. In his post, he put it this way:
One emailer said that we had turned our kids into a bunch of wusses, and that if we brought back things like Dodgeball, things would get better.
It was a sneer, and I was very disappointed in Dean. I hope he reconsiders; what the e-mailer meant was that schools have systematically beaten the fighting spirit out of American children, who then grow into dispirited adults, for whom "fighting back is not an option."
We can overcome such conditioning; that's why I have not given up on Western Civ, unlike some. But it takes effort and will.
Here is a sidebar story about the doctrine of moral inertia, its reach and falsity and how it was overcome. Sachi tells this story from her own experience:
On September the 11th, 2001, a little after six o'clock in the morning, I got on the Hollywood Freeway in California. I was on my way to work, which I had just started a week earlier. The orientation for new government employees was scheduled for 0900, but I left early to avoid the traffic.
As soon as I turned on the radio, I discovered that something horrific had just happened in New York City: The second airplane had just struck the World Trade Centers.
I listened as a New York City DJ described people jumping from the tops of what were still, for a few minutes more, majestic, 110-story fingers pointing skywards. I was shocked into numbness; they had rationally decided to plunge to their deaths, rather than stay and be incinerated.
Then I heard the twin towers collapse, first one then the other.
By the time I got to the office around 0730, I already knew that Flight 93 had crashed somewhere in Pennsylvania, possibly because passengers fought back against the highjackers.
At nine, I went to the meeting, which was about anti-terrorism procedures, ironically enough. Our job requires us to fly so often that we have to know how to behave in case of a terrorist attack... such as a airplane highjacking. But the CIA agent who was our instructor was emotionally drained.
"I was supposed to show you this PowerPoint presentation," he said, "which tells you what to do in case..." He paused; "but in light of today's incident, all the instructions I was going to give you are out the window. Obviously, they no longer apply."
What the agent was going to tell us was that, in case of a highjacking (or any other take-over attack), do not resist; do whatever the highjackers tell you to do; keep low profile; and for God's sake, don't be a hero. It is an easily survivable situation.
Well, so much for that.
What we all learned instead on that day of rage was that we cannot always rely on someone else to rescue us. Sometimes, ordinary citizens are summoned to do extraordinary things -- as the passengers on Flight 93 must have realized.
We now know that there are evil-doers out there to whom "death is a promotion," as Cal Thomas said; they will happily die just in order to harm a few of us.
They are like Terminators, and no law or persuasion will stop them. They must be stopped by force: our force.
When some or all of civilization is at stake, failing to fight back is not an option... not even for us civilians.
It really makes no difference what tools the students should have used to fight back. If someone had had a gun, that would have been useful; but absent a firearm, a running tackle would work just as well, albeit with a great deal more personal risk. (Aboard Flight 93, the weapon of convenience was a rolling food cart.)
If several people had compacted together to rush the shooter simultaneously, he couldn't have killed them all -- and likely would be so startled that he didn't kill any of them.
How many innocent lives would have been saved, had just one or two people done his utmost, not merely to allow some students to escape, but to thwart the evil itself?
We don't know, but that's a lesser issue: The greater issue is that, by fighting back against evil, the students, faculty, and staff at Virginia Tech would have fired the shot heard round the world, the meme that "fighting back is always an option." Whenever such a massacre is aborted by extraordinary courage on the part of ordinary people, we send the message that good men (and women) must do something to prevent the triumph of evil.
But whenever we allow the moment to pass, and we remain hunkered down, hoping the butcher wanders away -- translation: oh Lord, please let him shoot that girl over there instead of me! -- we send exactly the opposite message: We reinforce the unAmerican idea that "we must sit quietly and wait for instructions."
We will lose forever that which makes us exceptional, not just Americans but all men of the West. And worse, we will lose it to terrorists and psychopaths, to tyrants and the grey horde... none of whom deserves such a cheap victory. We will console ourselves that there was nothing we could do; but in reality, we will have sat down and surrendered to a bunch of nobodies for a fistful of nothing.
Then the whole world will be barbarians until men learn a new way to coerce nature, and the swordsmen, the damned stupid swordsmen will win after all.
March 9, 2007
D.C. Circus Overturns D.C. Gun Ban - UPDATED
UPDATE: See below.
A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has just overturned the longstanding (since 1976) ban on private gun ownership in the District of Columbia, and has also overturned the requirement that even those guns allowed must be kept in a partially disassembled condition locked in a safe.
The ruling was 2-1; the majority opinion appears to have been written by Reagan-appointee (1985) Judge Laurence Hirsch Silberman; the dissenting vote was by Karen LeCraft Henderson, a Reagan-appointee as a district judge, 1986, and a George Herbert Walker Bush-appointee to the circuit court in 1990.
The Associated Press characterizes the majority and dissenting opinions thus:
In a 2-1 decision, the judges held that the activities protected by the Second Amendment "are not limited to militia service, nor is an individual's enjoyment of the right contingent upon his or her continued intermittent enrollment in the militia...."
"The district's definition of the militia is just too narrow," Judge Laurence Silberman wrote for the majority Friday. "There are too many instances of 'bear arms' indicating private use to conclude that the drafters intended only a military sense."
Judge Karen Henderson dissented, writing that the Second Amendment does not apply to the District of Columbia because it is not a state.
That last argument -- if that's really what she said -- is preposterous, since that would open the floodgates to deny incorporation within D.C. of a host of other rights guaranteed by the first ten amendments to the Constitution... including freedom of speech, freeedom of religion, the right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures, and so forth. I can't imagine the Court taking that tack; but I can very much imagine AP mischaracterizing the core of Judge Henderson's dissent: She might have written something much more intelligent.
The New York Times truculently complains about this decision, as --
Most federal appeals courts have said that the amendment, read as a whole [by which they mean only reading the subordinate, dependent clause -- the Mgt.], protects only a collective right of the states to maintain militias -- in modern terms, the National Guard. But in yesterday’s decision, the majority focused on the second clause [that would be the actual subject-verb-predicate of the sentence -- the Mgt.], saying that the amendment broadly protects the rights of individuals to own guns -- an approach that has been embraced by the Justice Department and by some constitutional scholars ["some" meaning in this case "virtually all" -- the Mgt.].
It may be true that "most federal appeals courts" think the Second Amendment protects the rights only of members of the National Guard; but if so, that's because most federal appeals courts have racked up a dismal record comprehending the only Supreme Court case to address the issue: U.S. v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939).
In Miller, the Court held that the Second Amendment's purpose was to ensure that we would always have a ready supply of trained and armed citizens to be called up as the militia. They ruled, therefore, that the amendment only applied to the kind of weapons ordinarily in use by individual soldiers in armies and militias.
Jack Miller, suspected of robbing banks, was arrested under the National Firearms Act of 1934 for transporting a short-barrelled (or sawed-off) shotgun across state lines without having purchased a special stamp from the government. He defended himself on Second Amendment grounds and usurpation of state police powers, claiming the NFA was unconstitutional; the judge agreed and struck down the law.
The United States attorney appealed to the Supreme Court, which reversed and remanded the case back to the district court for further proceedings (which never took place). The Court issued three substantive holdings:
- That the Act was a federal revenue act, therefore within the jurisdiction of Congress;
- That the Second Amendment only protected the keeping and bearing of military-style weapons;
- And that short-barrelled shotguns did not qualify.
(The prosecution actually argued that Miller did not qualify for Second Amendment protection because he was not a member of any organized militia, but the Court considered and rejected this argument. Instead, they wrote a lengthy analysis showing that "the militia" consisted of all military-aged men -- which refutes the misunderstanding that Miller restricted gun rights to members of the National Guard.)
The finding about short-barrelled shotguns was simply wrong; such guns are widely in use in military units today (including ours) and have been since long before Miller. Alas, Miller failed to show up at his Supreme Court hearing, having inconviently been murdered in prison; his attorneys also failed to show up, their case being moot. (The co-defendant, Frank Layton, also didn't show up; but I'm not sure why.)
Thus, no defense argument was made. Had there been one, they could easily have demonstrated that both machine guns and short-barrelled shotguns were in widespread military use, and (one presumes) the district-court decision would have been upheld.
Since then, appellate court after appellate court has wrongly -- and I believe deliberately and with malice aforethought -- misinterpreted Miller as having claimed that only the gun rights of members of the militia were protected... and also that "the militia" consists of the National Guard.
If today's Court holds to the precedent of Miller, they must rule that the right to possess a pistol, which is certainly part of the ordinary accoutrements of ordinary soldiers in modern armies and militias, is undeniably protected by the Second Amendment; and that this right inheres in all individual persons, not just those in the National Guard.
The Court must reach the same conclusion textually if they examine the very words: the phrase "the right of the people" is never used in any other part of the Constitution to mean "the right of the states," but always as an individual right enjoyed by each individual person, subject to reasonable restrictions (for example, you can prevent convicted felons and the dangerously insane from possessing guns, just as you can restrict their liberties in other ways).
But if the Court holds that the D.C. law is unconstutional, it would also mean that the decades-long federal prohibition against possession of sawed-off shotguns and of machine guns is likewise unconstitutional. I will listen eagerly for the weeping and the wailing and the gnashing of liberal teeth if the Court is bold enough to carry this decision to its logical end.
In fact, the same decision should also toss out all state or federal laws prohibiting concealed carry, except in extraordinary circumstances, such as in a court room or other governmental building. Concealed carry is much less disruptive to civil life, and I prefer it.
This is a very good case to finally have it out in the Supreme Court; and this is a very good Court to resolve such a case. I don't know how Justice Sandra Day O'Connor ruled on gun-rights cases, but I wouldn't be surprised if Justice Samuel Alito were more open to the constitutional argument. Justice Antonin Scalia may not like people owning or carrying guns; I have no idea. But he certainly believes in following the actual words of the Constitution; same with Justices Clarence Thomas, Alito, and Chief Justice John Roberts.
I'm pretty sure that the usual suspects would vote to overturn the D.C. Circuit: Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and David Souter. As usual, the swing vote would be Justice Anthony Kennedy. (Power Line and Patterico know much more about such matters than I; I hope they will comment.)
There is no reason that "reasonable restrictions" could not include demonstrated proficiency with whatever general class of weapon you possess (not of each and every possible model within the broad category; that would be quite unreasonable). Thus, a person should be able to "qualify" with a pistol, a rifle, or even a select-fire weapon capable of firing continuous rounds with a single trigger-pull (a machine gun). Thereafter, the qualifying person could not be prosecuted simply for possessing or carrying such a weapon -- though carrying a gun openly could still be prohibited as "brandishing" or "threatening."
But I long to see a final resolution of this long-term legal controversy. More than anything else, the right to keep and bear arms is a hallmark of a free people... and I want to know whether we Americans are still free.
November 24, 2006
Doom Is Nigh - for "Movement Libertarianism"
Daniel Weintraub, in his excellent Bee-blog California Insider, published a brief little post about the 92 year old woman who was shot by Atlanta police after she opened fire on them when they attempted to execute a search warrant. This is Weintraub's entire take on the matter:
The government is spying on peace protestors in Sacramento and killing a 92-year-old woman in Atlanta after breaking down her door in a "no-knock raid" while looking for a drug dealer. Maybe it is time for the government to take a time-out.
As a fellow libertarian, I found his take rather disturbing. I thought maybe he simply wasn't aware of all the facts and was just believing the liberal hype. So I sent him links to the two stories on Patterico's Pontifications that brought forward factors that should mitigate too quick a pronouncement of police brutality:
- Libertarians Jump the Gun in Story of Shooting in Atlanta
- Is the Search Warrant in the Atlanta Shooting Case “Public Record”?
(Patterico just now put up another post, Cops in Atlanta Shouted that They Were Police and Wore Vests Labeled “Police”; but I didn't send this one to Weintraub.)
Weintraub's response confirmed what I thought originally: he e-mailed me that, since he opposed the entire drug war and supports legalization, the fact that the cops were serving a lawful search warrant when she opened fire did not change his mind at all: police shouldn't break through doors (even after identifying themselves as police) to catch drug dealers. If they had to enforce such laws (Weintraub asks), why didn't they just stake out the residence and arrest him outside?
Daniel Weintraub and I are both libertarians, and his response perfectly encapsulates the terrible crisis facing contemporary libertarianism... which will shortly kill it if not addressed. His comment, and his subsequent defense of it appealing to the libertarian impulse against anti-drug laws, has touched a raw nerve: this, on a nutshell, is why, since 9/11, I find myself reluctant to admit I'm a libertarian. Libertarianism has not responded well (or at all, actually) to the crises we face today.
First, I also support legalization of all drugs (except antibiotics). But that's not the point, and it wasn't the point Weintraub made -- no matter what he intended.
First, surely he doesn't believe that cops should only enforce laws they personally support? For a libertarian, that would be far worse than the situation now -- since a libertarian (such as myself) must assume that the laws the cops don't support are precisely those that protect our liberties from abuse by the government. Police tend to be authoritarian; that's why they're drawn to law enforcement. Do we really want them picking and choosing which laws they like?
The points about the shooting that Weintraub's brief brief missed, which Patterico brought out, are these:
- The police were attempting to search the premises on the basis of a legitimate search warrant -- not the "wrong house" (as early reports claimed);
- It was the old woman, not the cops, who began shooting;
- She shot three officers before they returned fire;
- Bullets fired by a 92 year old are just as deadly as bullets fired by a 22 year old;
- The police have every legal right, and 95% of Americans would say moral right, to return fire when fired upon.
If you're going to attack the cops' actions, you must respond to these points; if not, the natural response of readers who have learnt them is to dismiss you as a crank, which I'm sure was not Weintraub's intention.
He raises the question of why they didn't just arrest that one guy. But how should they know he's the only person involved in the crime? For that matter, how does Weintraub know that the old lady wasn't involved herself? Old people commit crimes too. Maybe she liked the money.
Patterico also notes that a few days ago, a Texas state trooper pulled over a motorist to cite him for violating the state's seatbelt law. Now, I oppose seatbelt laws too, though I always wear my seatbelt (and always have since long before the same law was enacted in California); but again, I hope we agree that police shouldn't get to pick and choose which laws they enforce and which they routinely ignore.
As he approached, the motorist, who later stated he thought the stop was "unconstitutional," stepped out of his car and shot the officer point blank with a Ruger Mini-14 -- a gun that is functionally identical to the semi-automatic version of the M-16. The officer died.
The motorist was 72 years old. The police video got out to YouTube, and it's clear the officer hesitated to shoot at the motorist when the guy pointed his rifle... probably because he didn't want to shoot an old man; this hesitation led to his death.
We libertarians oppose seatbelt laws; so should we blame the Texas trooper for stopping the motorist, and think he more or less got what he deserved for enforcing such an anti-liberty law as the seatbelt requirement? Is this a mature political philosophy?
Movement libertarians (as opposed to Republican libertarians -- and not just the Libertarian Party) have opposed, almost en masse, virtually every security response we made to 9/11; but they have proposed nothing to take their place. They're worse on this score than the liberals, who at least accept that we need some security. The whole L. Neil Smith/Sam Konkin/New Libertarian/New Isolationist branch of libertarianism ("movement libertarianism") flatly states that "George Bush is the real enemy," and jihadism is either ficticious -- lies spread by "the State" -- or merely the moral, libertarian response of Moslems to our "oppression" of them (which they never specify).
This puts me in a real crisis of conscience: I have considered myself a movement libertarian since I was 19 years old; but on the other hand, liberties don't just float in air: liberty and duty are the obverse and reverse of the same coin.
E.g., as a libertarian, I believe that every sane, non-criminal, mature person should be allowed to carry a concealed gun. But by the same coin, it's also the duty of every person to intervene, as best he can, to protect the innocent from criminal attack. That's the bargain, that's the duty side of the liberty of carrying a gun. Without such social trade-offs, society crashes to the ground. Even libertarian "saints" like Murray Rothbard, Friederich Hayek, and Robert Heinlein understood that.
Suppose we had a libertarian society where anyone who wanted was allowed to carried a gun. Now suppose there is a violent criminal assault against an innocent victim who cannot fight back -- a child, say, or an old person, or a petite woman who cannot handle a gun properly, or a handicapped person. If none of the smug libertarians standing around intervene to save the innocent, if they "stand on their principles" that it's the responsibility of the victim to defend himself (even if he physically can't), and if such attacks therefore become routine... how long do you think that "libertarian society" will last? A society of pure narcissism is unsustainable.
The failure to recognize any duty whatsoever (in trade for liberty) is the great failing of the contemporary libertarian movement: it has morphed from Jeffersonian liberalism to ultimate narcissism. Most libertarians today demand an end to drug laws, not because they really believe in liberty -- because if they did, they would be at war with the greatest destroyers of libertry in the world today, Communists and jihadis -- but because they want to smoke dope.
Most contemporary "libertarians" are in fact simple libertines; but a society of human beings cannot be governed by libertinism. Even those who are not libertines but actually support (verbally, that is) human freedom have been duped by libertines into believing that we can have liberty without the responsibility to defend it, by force if necessary.
But Weintraub didn't just attack the Atlanta cops; he also attacked "spying on peace protestors in Sacramento" as a similar example of (one must presume) un-libertarian activity by the State.
Can he really be unaware that many of those "peace protester" groups -- such as International ANSWER, International Solidarity Movement, and the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) -- are in fact front groups for either Stalinists or jihadis? That they raise money for terrorists and aid and abet "sleeper cells?"
Don't libertarians support "spying" on people who are plotting to take away our liberty, and who have demonstrated the willingness to kill us by the thousands in order to do so?
And we know that we libertarians oppose the drug war, but what about the drug problem? Drugs do, in fact, cause terrible problems in society -- and not just those associated with the artificially high price of drugs, like burglary and robbery to support the habit.
Drugs are very dangerous and destructive. So where is the libertarian program to minimize that destruction? I have been a movement libertarian for 27 years now, ever since I read David ("son of Milton") Friedman's book the Machinery of Freedom... and I have never heard anything but mantras that people have the freedom to "kill themselves." All right in theory; but in practice, rampant drug use destroys minds, souls, and society... what are we libertarians going to do about that, to take the place of the anti-liberty "drug war?"
The sound of crickets chirping.
Weintraub fails to mention that the "92 year old woman" opened fire on the officers first while they were simply trying to conduct a search pursuant to a lawful search warrant. They didn't simply kick down a door and assassinate some random nonagenarian, which is what his phrasing implied. Do we libertarians say that the cops should just refuse to enforce laws we don't like? Or are we saying those officers got what they deserved, and in future, they should just walk away whenever someone resists using deadly force?
If libertarianism continues down the path it currently follows, it will utterly discredit itself -- and utterly discredit the principle of maximal liberty in the process. If libertarians, working hand in hand with liberals, manage to overturn all the security measures we've enacted since 9/11 woke us up (movement libertarians oppose the Patriot Act, tracking terrorist financing, aggressive interrogation of enemy combatants, the Iraq war, the Afghanistan War, and surveillance of any kind, against any target, by "our enemy, the State"), then we will get hit again and again... and the response will not be pretty.
The American people, who (quite understandably) want to survive, will demand intrusions upon our liberty so much more severe than what we have now that even liberals will look back and long for the days of the Patriot Act, NSA surveillance, and the SWIFT program.
Like it or hate it, we are at war; the war was declared by the other side in 1979; and those people have not the slightest interest in, concern for, or even the vaguest understanding of liberty for Daniel Weintraub or Dafydd ab Hugh: to them, most of Americans are dhimmis, fit only to serve the Faithful... and Weintraub and I are nothing but Zionist pigs, fit only for death, as their version of the Koran demands. Why aren't libertarians standing up as a group -- or even as individuals -- to defend liberty against these monsters?
And if we're ever going to see the day Weintraub and I both hope for, where no drugs (in his case) or only one class of drugs (in mine) are proscribed or controlled by the State, then the absolute worst way to go about it is to imply that officers who get shot while trying to execute legitimate search warrants, and who return fire against the person shooting (rather than just walking away and refusing to enforce the law), are simply assassins who like killing old women.
We cannot skate by on Harry Browne libertarianism. Now that he's dead, let's bury that crabbed and egocentric vision of libertarianism deep, at a crossroads, with a stake through its heart.
We need a robust and responsible libertarianism that equally recognizes responsibility and duty alongside liberty, tails alongside heads, the yang to complement the yin. We need a libertarianism that can identify the true enemies of liberty, not simply those closest to home. And we need a libertarianism that accepts practicality when necessary, rather than always being willing to let the other guy die for our lofty theories.
December 12, 2005
When Mob Violence May Actually Be a Good Thing
Violent attacks -- reprisals, now -- back and forth between the Arab-Moslem population of Cronulla, Australia (a southern suburb of Sydney) and the white Australian population are both disturbing and interesting. The Sydney Morning Herald reports:
Mobs of men have damaged a number of vehicles in an outbreak of fresh violence in the southern Sydney suburb of Cronulla tonight.
A reporter from radio station 2GB said "chaos" had broken out in the beach shopping centre with vehicles damaged and police making arrests as mobs of men roam the streets.
They're disturbing in that both the Arab-Australians/Arab immigrants and the white Australians are increasingly using race as a proxy for deciding whether a person is good or bad. Racism is the ugliest and lowest form of tribalism, in my opinion; and it's depressing to see it bubble forth whenever danger threatens. (It happens here too, when concerns about illegal immigration cross the line into generic immigrant bashing.)
But there is also an element of hope here... because mobs of patriots standing up to Moslem rioters is precisely the element that was missing from the recent riots in France, where nobody, it appeared, was willing to stand up for his country and culture.
After Australians were legally disarmed by repressive anti-gun legislation in 1996, following a highly publicized mass gun murder, violent crime in Australia increased markedly: from 1995 to 2001, assaults rose by 39% per 100,000, rape by 19%, and robbery by 70%... while all three categories of crime decreased during the same period in the United States, as many more states made it easier for civilians to get concealed-carry permits. The murder rate in Australia did decrease, but only by 11%; it plummeted 32%, three times as much, in the U.S. (Australian numbers from "the Australian Bureau of Statistics, as compiled and reported by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC)," then posted by the website linked above; American stats can be obtained online from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a division of the Department of Justice).
But even so, and even in despite of the racially tinged nature of the Australian mobs, there is still a refreshing brashness to the Aussies who will not "respond" to Moslem violence by sitting quietly in the dark and waiting for instructions from the hapless government. Of course, the Australian government is not "hapless," as the Chirac government in France was: it took Paris more than a ten days before they decided to "crack down;" and even then, the riots only receded when the rioters got tired and bored. The violence in France eventually ebbed down to the normal rate -- of 900 cars torched every night.
I trust John Howard a lot more than Jacques Chirac, or even Nicolas Sarkozy, French minister of the Interior (that is, the top cop in France -- and probably the next president). After the Sydney police warned about rampaging racism -- they seemed to apply the term only to the white rioters, not the Arab rioters -- Howard responded in a measured way, noting the danger of both racism and also hysterical charges of mass racism; the Sydney Morning Herald quotes the prime minister:
"Mob violence is always sickening,'' Mr Howard told reporters.
"Attacking people on the basis of their race, their appearance, their ethnicity, is totally unacceptable and should be repudiated by all Australians irrespective of their own background and their politics,'' he said.
"I believe yesterday's behaviour was completely unacceptable but I'm not going to put a general tag [of] racism on the Australian community.
"I think it's a term that is flung around sometimes carelessly and I'm simply not going to do so.''
Howard continued by warning that the police were not going to stand idle while lives were threatened and property damaged:
Mr Howard said he fully supported the actions of police at Cronulla and said that anybody who broke the law yesterday or on the previous weekend, when two lifesavers and a camera crew were assaulted, should be apprehended and prosecuted.
Mr Howard warned anyone considering further violent behaviour they would face the full force of the law.
Yet it remains to be seen whether he means it (and has the political power to carry through), or whether this is just tough talk. The French government talked very tough throughout the riots while doing virtually nothing for days. In the meanwhile, both sides have now tasted the wrong end of violence, and each knows that it can be burned as well. I expect this in itself will dampen enthusiasm for the fight.
Mob violence is always ugly, but we should think a second time before opining that it is always wrong; the Birmingham bombing was an act of mob violence -- but so was the Boston Tea Party. Like nearly everything else in life, nuance is important: the former was a horrific act of terrorism intended to frighten blacks into accepting American apartheid, while the latter was a legitimate act of protest against unrepresentative government.
In the Australian case, the mob might cut either way; but I have faith that the innate decency of Australian culture will steer sentiment towards defending Australian and Western values and away from the knuckle-dragging racial hatred we've seen in, e.g., Zimbabwe.
Of all the countries in the Commonwealth of Nations, I've always thought of Oz as the closest to America in spirit, even as it's the farthest in geographical distance.
November 2, 2005
Arms For the Poor
According to the Brussels Journal, the French police are quite simply unequipped to enforce lawn order in Paris, or any other cities where areas have become de facto part of the ummah. This is evidently true not only in France but the rest of Europe, even including Great Britain: the typically unarmed and overawed police cannot make arrests, and the terrified firefighters cannot fight arson fires with the arsonists shooting at them.
Since [Nicolas] Sarkozy became Interior Minister he has insisted on more police presence in Muslim neighbourhoods. This triggered last week’s riots in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, when policemen went in to investigate a robbery and two teenagers stupidly got themselves electrocuted while hiding from the police in an electricity sub station. Many French politicians now probably regret that the police had the audacity to investigate a robbery in Clichy. The result of the incident so far has been six consecutive nights of rioting that is now engulfing the entire Paris suburban area and might soon affect other parts of the country. Last night at least 69 vehicles were torched in nine suburbs across the Paris region. Officials say that small, mobile gangs are harassing police, sometimes even shooting at them. The gangs are setting vehicles, police stations and schools on fire throughout the region.
“For several nights in a row Rosenhøj Mall has been the scene of the worst riots in Århus for years. ‘This area belongs to us’, the youths proclaimed. [...] ‘The police have to stay away. This is our area. We decide what goes on down here’. [Elipses sic]
All your base are belong to us?
Commenting on the situation in Britain, Theodore Dalrymple wrote in City Journal: “Surveys suggest that between 6 and 13 percent of British Muslims -- that is, between 98,000 and 208,000 people -- are sympathetic toward Islamic terrorists and their efforts.... This is the tightrope that the British state and population will now have to walk for the foreseeable future.” It applies to all West European nations. Where, however, is the boundary between carefully walking the tightrope and falling victim to the Stockholm syndrome? The latter would mean that Western politicians act as hostages of the Muslim extremists.
The European Collapse
One proposed solution is to send in the army. "In a war, use the army, rather than police." However, to do so is to admit that civil authority has completely lost control of the nation, and the politicians simply refuse point blank to make that admission. Instead, they hide, serve out their time, and hope to retire before the Noahide flood: "après moi, le déluge," as another famous Frenchie said.
Besides -- this is my own speculation, not that of Brussels Journal -- European military forces are not exactly known for their steadfast determination and willingness to stay the course, even when they start taking casualties. They're not as tough, resourceful, battle-hardened, experienced, or well trained as, say, the Army of Greater Iraq. I'm not so sure the French military (except perhaps la Légion Étrangère) would do any better at quelling the rioting than the police (or the firefighters, for that matter). The British Army is rather better than the armies of the continent; but even they have too great a tendency to so "softly, softly," as in Basra in Iraq.
There is old story that in 1967, in the Six Day War, the Israelis realized the Arab axis put together by Gamil Nasser of Egypt was about to invade the Holy Land. In a lightning-like pre-emptive strike, the Israeli Air Force struck the Egyptian and Jordanian air bases. Then the Israeli infantry, armor and artillery, and paratroopers swiftly pounded the Gaza and Sinai (Egypt), the West Bank (Jordan), and the Golan Heights (Syria) in a coordinated assault that bordered on genius.
Twenty-four hours later, the Italian Army surrendered.
The American Way
The solution seems simple to me. France and the rest of Europe (including Britain) need to enact the right for all citizens to keep and bear arms. Small arms, I mean: weapons a man can comfortably bear.
The advantages are myriad and manifest:
- Each person has a tremendous incentive to protect his own life, his family, and his property; so motivation is high.
- There are tremendously more citizens than there are police or soldiers. Even if only a small fraction of the people choose to carry a weapon, they will still dwarf the authorities.
- The armed citizen is right on the spot: he is, in fact, the intended victim... so the bad guys will come find him.
- As we're finding in Iraq and Afghanistan, the locals are better at spotting people who don't belong (or known violent thugs) than the cops, and certainly more than military troops who may not even be from that region of the country.
The studies above indicated that between 6% and 13% of British Moslems "are sympathetic toward Islamic terrorists and their efforts;" similar numbers probably apply across Europe. The corollary to this is that possibly as many as 85% are un-sympathetic; isn't it about time Europe armed that 85%? For those of you who worry that Europe would be arming the very people it's afraid of, may I remind you of findings of such folks as John Lott anent domestic gun-control attempts... the bad guys already have their guns. They're already armed. France, et al, can either dis-arm the good (or not so bad) guys... or else finally allow them to defend themselves.
I suspect that most European politicians would literally rather lie down and die than allow their citizenry to be armed (the latter could lead to the former, or so they may fear!) It would be an even greater blow to Socialism than bringing in the army. But it would have the advantage of putting individual self-interest and the distributed swarm attack on the side of decency and good, not criminal evil.
And it might just work. It seems to work here; and even without the traditional American ethos of self-reliance and defense of home and hearth, it could hardly be worse than what they have now.
October 20, 2005
Right to Own Weapons...
Correction... this is a great day for litigation reform!
AP and all the nets are reporting a fantastic breakthrough -- in something that should have been a no-brainer. Congress has finally agreed that victims of criminal misuse of firearms cannot sue the gun manufacturer for damages (presumably for having the temerity to manufacture products that can potentially be misused). Bush is, of course, expected to sign the bill into law.
(In a startling corollary development, Congress also enacted legislation preventing victims of drunk drivers from suing Chevrolet and Toyota for building cars in the first place.)
The real intent is clear: unable to persuade American voters to vote to ban guns (perhaps due to that pesky Second Amendment), the Left decided to try to sue them out of existence by legally blaming gun manufacturers for the actions of criminals who buy, borrow, or steal guns to commit their crimes.
As A.E. Van Vogt wrote in "the Weapon Shops of Isher":
The right to own weapons is the right to be free.
Today, thankfully, America is the land of the freer.
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