Texit


The advisory vote in Great Britain, by which a majority of voters said yes to Brexiting from the European Union, had some catastrophic financial consequences in England, across Europe and even in the United States.

It has also motivated discussion of other potential “exit” plans … such as “Scexit” (Scotland departing from the United Kingdom) … “Unexit” (Sarah Palin’s looney suggestion that the U.S. leave the United Nations) … and “Texit” (an online petition proposing that Texas once again secede from the United States, which has garnered more than 100,000 signatures).

Texas State Flag

None of these proposed exits are going to happen, but the discussion reminded me of another alternative that Texans could actually implement.

The Joint Resolution for Annexing Texas to the United States, approved by Congress on March 1, 1845, and by which Texas became a state on December 29, 1945, included a provision allowing Texas to be sub-divided into up to four more states. Omitting the language related to slavery, the joint resolution provided:

“New States of convenient size not exceeding four in number, in addition to said State of Texas and having sufficient population, may, hereafter by the consent of said State, be formed out of the territory thereof, which shall be entitled to admission under the provisions of the Federal Constitution….”

Texans have never made a serious effort to take advantage of this provision, but there have been a number of proposals for dividing up Texas into additional states … and I was able to find maps which could conceivably be used to make as many as 8 Texas states.

Here are some of the possible 5 state alignments:

Slide1

And some more 5 state alignments (the Houston Press plan by Jeff Balke appears to have been written tongue-in-cheek):

Slide2

And here are some maps dividing Texas into 3, 4, 6, 7 or 8 states. Other than the 4 state proposal, no one has actually proposed any of these alignments … and I included the state-shaped 3 state Texas flag only because I happen to think it would look cool on a US map.

Slide3

Texas is a huge state … here’s how big it is compared to central Europe:

Texas compared to European countries

And I can’t help wondering why there hasn’t been a serious effort to turn it into more than one state … after all, with five states, Texans would have 10 senators instead of 2 and comparably more influence in congress.

On the other hand, I also have to think it might be difficult to convince any of the prospective new states to give up the name Texas … which makes the Texas Department of Insurance Master Plan the most acceptable when it comes to the names of the new states: North Texas, West Texas, Central Texas, East Texas and South Texas.

Interestingly, this would also create for the first time in the nation’s history an “East” anything state … well, “Central”, too … to go with the North, South & West varieties that we already have.

Not suggesting that Texas should adopt any of these division plans, but all of them are better than the Texit plan that some Texans favor (especially since my youngest son and both of my grandchildren live in what might ultimately become North Texas!).

It is also worth mentioning that there have also been proposals to divide California into as many as six new states. Although the annexation of California to the U.S. contained no provision specifically authorizing it to split into more than one state, it is constitutionally permissible under Article IV, Section 3, Clause 1 of the United States Constitution, which provides:

“New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.”

The most recent proposal to divide California was the so-called “Six Californias” initiative, for which insufficient signatures were obtained to include it on the 2016 election ballot.

Six Californias

The names of the six proposed California states would be Central California, Jefferson, North California, Silicon Valley, South California and West California … which would, once again, give us a “West” state without a comparable “East”.

—–ooooo—–

— FLA 82 —

The False Equivalence Between Cars and Guns


A comment today about one of the suggestions being made by advocates of more stringent control of guns in the United States.Let's Treat Guns Like Cars

Simply put, the idea is that we should license gun owners the same way we license drivers of motor vehicles and that we should register guns the same way we register vehicles. The argument in favor of this suggestion is, essentially, that since it is acceptable that we register vehicles and license drivers for public safety, it should acceptable to register guns and license gun owners for public safety.

The comparison between cars and guns, however, exemplifies two forms of classic logical fallacy, false equivalence and false analogy.

The reason, of course, is that … despite the way the argument is put in the gun context … we do NOT register all cars … nor do we require all drivers to have licenses.

What? “Of course we do”, you say.

No, we don’t.

What we actually do is to require registration of all vehicles that are to be operated on public roads or in publically-owned off-road venues. And what we actually do is to require anyone who wants to drive on a public road or in a publically-owned off-road venue to have a driver’s license.

On the other hand, if a vehicle is not going to be operated on public roads or in a publically-owned off-road venue and is to be driven only on the owner’s private property, it does not have to be registered. In California, this is called “Planned Non-Operation” or “PNO”, which is described in this DMV online publication:

California Department of Motor Vehicleshttps://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/pubs/brochures/fast_facts/ffvr01/

It says:

PNO means that the vehicle will not be driven, towed, stored, or parked on public roads or highways for the entire registration year.

Similarly, any person who does not intend to operate a motor vehicle on a public highway or in publically-owned off-road venue is not required to have a drivers license. Individuals in California who do not have drivers licenses MAY (but are not required to) obtain a California ID card.

See this California DMV online publication for the ID card requirements:

California Department of Motor Vehicleshttps://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/idinfo/idcard

It describes the ID card as follows:

DMV issues ID cards to persons of any age. The ID card looks like a driver license, but is used for identification purposes only. A regular ID card is valid for six years, and a senior citizen ID card is valid for 10 years. To qualify for a senior citizen ID card, you must be age 62 or older.

In short, cars and guns are not equivalent; car owners and gun owners are not equivalent; and the analogy between cars and guns in this regard is false.

A true equivalence between cars and guns would be that the state should require anyone who wants to carry a gun in public to have a license … and that any gun which is going to be carried in public has to be registered.

On the other hand, if a person is going to own a gun, but will keep it only at home or otherwise only on his private property, there should be no requirement to either register the gun or have a license to own it.

THAT would be consistent with the way we treat motor vehicles and their drivers.

———-

For an interesting and entertaining alternative view of this issue, see the post “We Need to Regulate Cars the Way We Regulate Guns” on Mike Z. Williamson’s blog “The Sacred Cow Slaughterhouse”:

The Sacred Cow Slaughterhouse header

http://www.michaelzwilliamson.com/blog/index.php?itemid=227

This blog is interesting because it shows what we would have to do to buy cars if they were subject to all of the requirements already in place with respect to guns … and demonstrates quite clearly that the purchase and use of guns is already much more heavily-regulated than the purchase and operation of cars.

—–oooooOOOOOooooo—–

FLA 78

There is no Gay Marriage “Slippery Slope”


Rainbow White HouseYesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision approving gay marriage throughout the country is a long overdue recognition that everyone has a right to love and to share marriage with the whomever they like, regardless of gender.

Unfortunately, the decision has already motivated an irrational — and, on the part of some, hysterical — reaction (listen, for example, if you can stand it, to Ted Cruz) by opponents of marriage equality.

For the most part, response to these rantings would be both futile and a waste of time. However, in two respects, it is worth the time and effort to respond — these are the related claims that this decision puts the US on the path to approval of, among other things, pedophilia and polygamy.

Pedophilia

The discussion regarding pedophilia exemplifies two significant rhetorical fallacies — the so-called “slippery slope” argument and another called “moral equivalence”.

In its simplest form, the “slippery slope” argument goes like this, “if A happens, B will happen” (often with disastrous results).

However, except under circumstances where B is inevitable (which are rare), and as long as discretion can still be exercised over whether or not B will happen, the argument fails.

An example of a valid “slippery slope” argument (which will also exemplify why they are rare): “If I jump out of a 10th floor window, I will fall to the ground”. (Likely with those disastrous results mentioned above.)

On the other hand, the suggestion that “legalization of gay marriage will lead to legalization of pedophilia” is a false argument because society (through its various legislatures) still has the discretion not to legalize child molestation. And the likelihood is quite high that no legislature will ever legalize child molestation in part because of the second rhetorical fallacy here:

“Moral equivalence” is an argument that compares two things, implying that they are equal or at least similar, when in fact they are not. The significant difference between gay marriage and pedophilia is that in the former, the two participants are consenting adults who mutually desire to enter into a marriage … while in the latter, one of the two participants is a minor and therefore legally incapable of consenting to any sexual activity (and also probably mentally and emotionally too immature to make a rational decision on the subject in the first place).

Ergo, “gay marriage” is not morally equivalent to “pedophilia” and there is not logical reason to conclude that approval of the former will in any way lead to approval of the latter.

Polygamy

Similarly, the suggestion that “legalization of gay marriage will lead to legalization of polygamy” is a false argument because society also still has the discretion not to legalize polygamy.

Which is not to say that the ongoing changes in societal attitudes that have led first to acceptance of interracial marriage and now to acceptance of gay marriage will not someday lead to acceptance of polygamy … for they surely may. If they do, however, then it will be fair to say that, like gay marriage, perhaps polygamy isn’t such a bad thing after all.

As with the animosity toward gay marriage, the current strictures against polygamy are fundamentally religious in nature, albeit enforced through governmental compulsion. On the other hand, polyamorous relationships are already quite common (in the United States and other countries), even if not legally sanctioned.

Historically, polygyny (the technical name for a single male married to multiple wives), polyandry (one woman married to more than one husband) and plural marriages (families composed of multiple intermarried adult males and females) were quite common throughout the world prior to the rise of the Roman Empire and Christianity. Hindu, Jewish and Chinese history are all replete with examples of men taking multiple wives.

Polygamy is currently legal in several African and Middle Eastern countries and is acceptable in some religions other than Christianity. Muslim men, for example, may marry up to four wives (with the significant caveat that the man has to be able to care for each equally).

One historical reason (the tendency of men to get themselves killed in wars) for the acceptance of polygyny was that it helped to insure that some women and children, who would otherwise lack support, would have a man to provide for them. That historical justification is less valid today, but it remains the case that there are significantly more women than men in the world … which leads inevitably to the conclusion that if each woman is to enjoy the benefits of a legalized marriage, at least some degree of polygyny is not only acceptable, but necessary.

Separate and apart from all of that is the underlying fundamental issue of personal freedom and the right of consenting adults to enter into the romantic relationships of their choice.  If two women want to marry the same man … and he is amenable to that arrangement … it is no business of mine — and, by extension, no business of the government’s — to tell them that they cannot do so.

There are certainly some legitimate societal issues involved, most notably the ability of the polygamous family to be self-supporting, so as not to be a burden on society (see comment above re the Muslim practice). That particular imperative, however, is no more compelling with respect to plural marriages than it is with respect to traditional marriages, into which many people enter despite a lack of financial stability and responsibility on the part of the couple.

Into the Future

It is fairly clear to me that whatever change to American society results from the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision, it will not be the end of the world as we know it.  And, to the extent that it is the end of the world as we know it, we will be a better society — and country — for the change.

——————————————————————————–

In 2008, when gay marriage was a significant issue in California, I blogged extensively on the subject.  I am not so modest that I cannot observe that now both the California Supreme Court and the US Supreme Court agree with my legal and practical opinions!

My previous gay marriage blogs (which some excerpts):

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2008/05/15/california-supreme-court-yes-on-gay-marriage/

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2008/05/16/comment-re-gay-marriage-posted-on-slate/

“Remember these words: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’

“I see nothing there which justifies a majority of people of any state (or, for that matter, all of the states) in denying to a minority group of people a right which the majority enjoys. Nor is there anything in the Constitutions of the United States or the State of California which would support denying people the right to join in a same sex marriage if they choose to do so.”

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2008/05/16/will-california-gay-marriages-be-legal-in-other-states/

“… it appears to be the current state of constitutional scholarship (derisive laughter in the background) that ‘full faith and credit’ need not be given by other states to California same sex marriages.

“At least, that is, unless and until the U.S. Supreme Court steps in and recognizes that same-sex marriage is protected by the federal constitution. That court has already held in Lawrence v. Texas that homosexual sex is constitutionally protected, in the process invalidating a Texas law criminalizing sodomy. So it is, perhaps, not that big a step to full-fledged constitutional protection of gay rights and same-sex marriage.

“As an interesting (at least to me) aside, Justice Antonin Scalia, the self-styled “originalist” (his way of saying he’s a “strict constructionist” based on the “original” language of the constitution), dissented in Lawrence. Among other things, he complained that, by its majority opinion in that case, the court had:

“‘… largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda, by which I mean the agenda promoted by some homosexual activists directed at eliminating the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct.’

“He also worried that the decision would undermine other state laws relating to sexual activities, including those prohibiting same-sex marriage. So much for ‘originalist’ interpretation of ‘equal protection’ and ‘due process’, never mind what little is left of ‘full faith and credit’.”

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2008/05/17/redefining-marriage/

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2008/06/14/randy-desoto-on-gay-marriage/

In which I responded to the following question:

“… if courts were to follow the Supreme Court’s reasoning to its logical ends, how could judges possibly uphold any state or federal law regarding private sexual conduct including incest, prostitution, polygamy, child molestation and child pornography?”

My response:

“The California Supreme Court decision held that consenting adults, even if of the same sex, have a right to marry. There is nothing ‘logical’ about extending that reasoning to such conduct as child molestation or child pornography, in particular, since neither involves consenting adults.

“The argument that this decision could lead to legalization of incest is a ‘slippery slope’ argument — there is a logical legal basis for differentiating between unrelated consenting adults and those whose degree of consanguinity would bring them within the definition of ‘incest’.

“Furthermore, the California court’s decision is based on the right of each individual ‘to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person’, which would hardly seem to include the typical prostitutional relationship.

“The only one of the perceived ‘evils’ which might constitute a logical extension of this ruling is polygamy. That possibility, alone, hardly seems a reasonable basis on which to deny gays the right to marry.

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2008/06/24/point-counterpoint-with-randy-desoto/

“… proper constitutional interpretation starts not with the question of whether a particular right is ‘granted’ in the Constitution, but whether by anything contained in the Constitution the people have specifically given the government the power to deny the right which is the subject of controversy. In short, not ‘is there anything in the Constitution which gives gays the right to marry?, but rather ‘is there anything in the Constitution which gives the government the power to deny gays the right to marry?’

“… the Constitution is silent on the subject. That being the case, proper constitutional interpretation leads inescapably to the conclusion that the people have not given the government the power to deny gays the right to marry. To the extent that the court in the precursor case of Lawrence v. Texas found a ‘new right’ to make one’s own private sexual choices, it was mistaken … not because there is no such right, but because that right has been there since the day the Constitution was ratified and is not new at all.”

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2008/06/25/california-anti-gay-marriage-initiative/

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2008/07/17/california-supreme-court-agrees-with/

“… there is a religious basis for objecting to gay marriage, but religion is perhaps the worst of all foundations on which to base social policy. Which is to say nothing of the fact that our government is constitutionally prohibited from doing so.”

————————————————————————————————-

FLA 69

“Take It Down”??


The Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia

The Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia

I have been giving a lot of thought to the issues raised by the flying of the so-called “Confederate Flag” — which, of course, ISN’T the “Confederate Flag” at all — see my previous blog post on that subject:

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2015/06/19/that-is-not-the-confederate-flag-flying-in-south-carolina/

The shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and the flying of the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia on the grounds of the South Carolina state house, have motivated a wide-ranging re-evaluation of how the United States deals with the issue of racial hatred and discrimination.

Rebel Battle Flag on grounds of South Carolina State HousejpgThere are now calls for the removal of the Rebel Battle Flag from the state house grounds in Columbia, South Carolina, and the South Carolina legislature has agreed to debate the issue.

The Citadel Confederate Naval JackThe governing board of The Citadel, a military academy in Charleston, voted to remove the Confederate Naval Jack from the school’s chapel. One of the Emanuel shooting victims was a graduate of The Citadel.

Virginia’s governor has ordered the removal of “the Confederate Flag” from all of his state’s license plates (thereby joining the chorus of people incorrectly identifying the battle flag, which appears as an optional design on some Virginia license plates). Politicians in several other states, including Maryland, North Carolina and Tennessee have vowed to do the same with their states’ license plates.

Mississippi State FlagMississippi’s Republican speaker of the house issued a statement calling for the removal of the Confederate battle cross from the Mississippi state flag (at least he knows what the symbol actually is).

Alabama Confederate MemorialAlabama Governor Robert Bentley ordered the removal of the Confederate battle flag (he got it right, too) and three other flags from the grounds of the state Capitol in Montgomery, where they stood in front of a memorial honoring Civil War soldiers. The other three flags? The three versions of the actual Confederate flag.

Jefferson Davis Statue Capitol Rotunda Frankfurt KentuckyAnd it’s not just the flags and symbols of the Confederacy that are drawing fire. The president of the Kentucky state senate said in an interview that a statue of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, should be removed from the Capitol rotunda in Frankfurt, Kentucky.

Nathan Bedford Forrest Bust in Tennessee State HouseIn Tennessee, politicians of both parties have also said that a bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan, should be moved out of the state house.

Lake Calhoun MinnesotaIn Minnesota, not exactly a hotbed of confederate fervor, activists have demanded that a lake named after John C. Calhoun be renamed because Calhoun, though both a US Senator and American Vice President, was from South Carolina and a supporter of slavery.

South Carolina State Senator Paul ThurmondEven South Carolina State Senator Paul Thurmond, son of US Senator Strom Thurmond, who ran for president in 1948 as a segregationist, announced that he would vote to remove the battle flag from the state house grounds, saying that he is “not proud of this heritage”.

Walmart Sears eBay & Amazon LogosPrivate companies are also weighing in … Walmart, Sears, eBay and Amazon have all announced that they will no longer sell confederate themed items.

The Baltimore Sun LogoIn Maryland this past Monday, the Baltimore Sun opined in an editorial, “For a state to endorse a symbol of the defenders of slavery by putting the Confederate flag on representations of government speech is unconscionable.”

It therefore appears that supporters of slavery — and the symbols of that support — are under unrelenting pressure which is going to result in the permanent removal of both from public display. I personally support the banishment from public places of all versions of the Confederate flags (albeit, as mentioned in my earlier blog post, I also support the right of private persons to display Confederate symbols on their private property).

Shortly after being transferred to the Sixth Naval District in Charleston in January 1969, I encountered what I thought at best an odd circumstance — the Charleston Naval Base, bowing to political pressure from the state of South Carolina, was to be closed for a holiday on the birthday of Jefferson Davis, but all personnel were to work on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, then a national holiday. I wrote a letter to the editor of the Charleston News & Courier, suggesting that it was time for South Carolina to rejoin the union. I signed it “James T. Reilly, LTJG, US Navy”, which earned me a visit with my boss, the Sixth Naval District commander (a rear admiral), who allowed as how I had the right to express my opinion, but asked me to please sign any future letters with my name only, omitting my military rank.

However, and this is the point of this blog post, if we are going to vanquish memorials to rebellious supporters of slavery and their symbols of oppression, the measures described above are manifestly inadequate. To do this job right, we will also have to vanquish from the public forum memorials to ALL rebellious supporters of slavery and slave owners, starting with …

George Washington… George Washington (the “Father of our Country”) …

Thomas Jefferson… Thomas Jefferson (the primary author of the Declaration of Independence) …

James Madison… James Madison (the primary author of the Constitution) …

Patrick Henry… Patrick Henry (he of “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” fame) …

John Hancock… John Hancock (whose signature is the most prominent on the Declaration of Independence) …

Benjamin Franklin… Benjamin Franklin (who owned slaves for 40 years before finally becoming an abolitionist in 1785) …

Founding Fathers… and many other Founding Fathers who were also slave owners.

The Constitution of the United States, adopted in 1787, authorized the continuation of slavery in the country and counted slaves as “three-fifths of a person”. And so, to truly eliminate all vestiges of rebellious supporters of slavery …

Washington Monument… it is down with the Washington Monument …

Jefferson Memorial… demolish the Jefferson Memorial …

Benjamin Franklin Memorial… and the Benjamin Franklin Memorial …

Mount Rushmore… blast Washington and Jefferson off of Mount Rushmore …

Currency & Coinage Washington Jefferson & Franklin… remove Washington, Jefferson and Franklin from our currency …

American Flag Betsy Ross & George Washington… and get rid of the Stars & Stripes, which waved over slavery for nearly a century.

Not doing so may be seen as a particularly disingenuous form of hypocrisy.

______________________________________________

FLA 68

More Zero Intelligence from our So-Called “Educators”


Recently proposed legislation in South Carolina would require schools to spend three weeks teaching about why the 2nd Amendment was included in the U.S. Constitution.

See:  http://bearingarms.com/lawmaker-wants-mandate-second-amendment-education-schools/?utm_source=bafbp&utm_medium=fbpage&utm_campaign=baupdate

Three weeks on the 2nd Amendment seems like a bit much, though a three week section on the entirety of the Constitution would be a good idea.  That, however, is not what prompted me to write this. Rather, it’s to comment on the underlying reason for this proposed legislation.

See this article:

http://blog.sfgate.com/sfmoms/2014/08/21/high-school-student-arrested-for-writing-story-about-shooting-dinosaur/

It describes a circumstance which can only be characterized as bizarre in the extreme. For one of his assignments, a 16-year-old high school student wrote a fictional “Facebook-type status report telling something interesting about himself” which read:

“I killed my neighbor’s pet dinosaur. I bought the gun to take care of the business.”

For this, he was taken in by cops for questioning, while they also searched his locker and backpack for guns. None were found.

Police said that the student was “difficult” during questioning, so they arrested him and charged him with disturbing the school. He was also suspended for a week.

His mother said that she “understands the gravity of the situation”, but appears to have been referring to what her son wrote. The real gravity of the situation is that the school and police authorities so flagrantly over-reacted — if I was this kid’s parent, I’d be publicizing this everywhere I could, suing both the school and the police, and doing everything possible to have the school officials fired.

This is just one more example of why zero tolerance = zero intelligence.

It is Time to End “The Insane War on Drugs”


.

US Constitution 21st Amendment in the National Archives

US Constitution 21st Amendment in the National Archives

Today is the 80th Anniversary of the passage of the 21st Amendment of the United States Constitution, which repealed the 18th Amendment and the Prohibition of alcoholic beverages in the country.

Prohibition was surely one of the dumbest ideas in American history, surpassed in stupidity perhaps only by the current Insane War on Drugs, which has had many of the same ill effects as prohibition, only worse.

Remember Prohibition It Still Doesn't Work

Proponents of prohibition offered any number of justifications for imposing their religious & moralistic opinions on the rest of the country.  Among these claims were that prohibition would reduce drunkenness, reduce crime & increase respect for the law, reduce insanity, reduce child neglect & domestic violence, and reduce taxes (largely by reducing the need for courts, jails, hospitals, poor houses and insane asylums).

The Reverend Billy Sunday gave a speech at the beginning of prohibition in which he said:

“The reign of tears is over. The slums will soon be a memory. We will turn our prisons into factories and our jails into storehouses and corncribs. Men will walk upright now, women will smile and children will laugh. Hell will be forever for rent.”

In fact, prohibition had exactly the opposite effect with respect to all of the projected “benefits”.  Most noticeably, prohibition significantly increased crime in the U.S., giving rise as it did to bootlegging and organized crime.  The number of serious crimes increased, as did drunkenness, disorderly conduct, drunk driving, theft & burglary, assault and even homicide.

The costs of fighting crime increased dramatically during prohibition.  Funding for law enforcement had to be increased rather than decreased. The number of individuals convicted of federal crimes increased 561% during prohibition.  Federal prison population increased 366%.  Federal expenditures on penal facilities increased 1000%!!

Infighting among the gangs organized for bootlegging resulted in 400 gang related murders in the city of Chicago in a single year, including the infamous St. Valentine’s Day massacre. 

St. Valentine's Day massacre

Prohibition made the Mafia possible and gave rise to some of the most famous criminals in American history:

Al Capone

Al Capone

Al Capone, Joseph Bonanno, Bugs Moran, Lucky Luciano, Bugsy Siegel, Meyer Lansky, Dutch Schultz, Tommy Lucchese and Frank Nitti, to name a few.

Did we learn anything from the experience of prohibition?  Apparently, not much.  Prohibition ended in 1933 — by 1936, all 48 states had enacted laws regulating the possession, use & sale of marijuana, which was blamed for an increase in violent crime and was touted by some as the “foremost menace to life, health and morals in America”.

Nevertheless, the federal government did not become involved in outlawing (rather than simply taxing) most drugs, other than narcotics, until 1965, when amphetamines & barbiturates came under a federal prohibition.  LSD was added to the list of prohibited drugs in 1968.

Then, in 1970, the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 (also called the Controlled Substance Act of 1970)  created the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and brought all drugs under federal jurisdiction.

Nixon Declares "War on Drugs"

Nixon Declares “War on Drugs”

On June 17, 1971, President Richard Nixon made it official, declaring a federal “war on drugs”.

Thereafter, a flood of anti-drug legislation, both federal and state, imposed more and more restrictions on drug possession, use and sale, while simultaneously imposing increasingly severe sanctions for such possession, use and sale.

What are the governmental justifications for prohibiting the use of drugs by American citizens?  Typically, they include that such prohibition reduces drug use & the resulting impairments, reduces crime & increases respect for the law, reduces child neglect & domestic violence, and reduces the financial burden on society of dealing with drug abuse.  Sound familiar?

And what results have these draconian drug laws accomplished?

Most notably, they have created a whole new version of organized crime and gang warfare, now international in scope.  We have once again seen substantially increased crime in the U.S. (with more than 1.5 million people a year being arrested for drug related offenses) and incredibly higher costs of law enforcement (more than one TRILLION dollars spent in the “war on drugs”).

Drug Raid

Drug-related gang activity, including turf wars, has resulted in a veritable blood-bath on the streets of many American cities (as well as in a number of other countries).  Property and assault crimes committed for the purpose of obtaining drug money account for as much as half of all such crimes in many cities.

Largely because of the “insane war on drugs”, the United States imprisons a higher percentage of its population (716 people per 100,000 population) than any other country in the world.  The next closest large country is Russia (484 per 100,000), while other developed countries have uniformly lower rates of incarceration:  Brazil (274), New Zealand (193), Spain (149), England (148), the Netherlands (82), Germany (80), Norway (71), Denmark (68), Sweden (67), Finland (60), Japan (54) and India (30), to name a few.

Libertarian Party

On the 40th Anniversary of Nixon’s declaration of the “War on Drugs”, the Libertarian Party issued a press release discussing why this “war” has been an utter failure and should be abandoned.  See Note 1 below for a link to this release.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)

In that release is a link to a report by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) which discusses in sometimes gruesome detail just what a failure the drug war has been.  See Note 2 below.

The Libertarian Party release goes on to say:

“Ultimately, of course, this tragedy is the result of our government’s refusal to allow people to engage in peaceful choices as to what they consume. Even if drug use were to rise upon a return to the American tradition of tolerance that existed before the 1914 Harrison Narcotics Act, our streets would be safer, innocent people would not have their homes raided and pets killed by narcotics agents entering the wrong house, victims of asset forfeiture laws wouldn’t have their houses and other assets seized without due process, and resources would be freed to spend on improving peoples’ lives instead of destroying them.”

It concludes with two planks of the Libertarian Party Platform:

1.0 Personal Liberty
Individuals should be free to make choices for themselves and to accept responsibility for the consequences of the choices they make. No individual, group, or government may initiate force against any other individual, group, or government. Our support of an individual’s right to make choices in life does not mean that we necessarily approve or disapprove of those choices.

1.2 Personal Privacy
Libertarians support the rights recognized by the Fourth Amendment to be secure in our persons, homes, and property. Protection from unreasonable search and seizure should include records held by third parties, such as email, medical, and library records. Only actions that infringe on the rights of others can properly be termed crimes. We favor the repeal of all laws creating “crimes” without victims, such as the use of drugs for medicinal or recreational purposes.

It is way past time to bring this insanity to a conclusion, to make law the Libertarian ideal that individuals have the right to choose for themselves whether or not to use drugs, to repeal all laws prohibiting the medicinal or recreational use of all drugs, and to release from our jails and prisons all individuals incarcerated for the possession, use or sale of drugs.

Doing so will mean having to overcome opposition from some segments of law enforcement (which derive significant financial benefits from the war on drugs), as well as the religious right and other moralists who think they should be able to dictate the actions & control the lives of others.

Albert Einstein once defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.  Einstein’s definition applies perfectly to the “war on drugs” and the time has come to end the insanity.

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Note 1:       http://www.lp.org/news/press-releases/libertarian-party-40-years-is-enough-end-the-drug-war

Note 2:       http://www.leap.cc/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Ending-the-Drug-War-A-Dream-Deferred.pdf

Note 3:       For more on the Libertarian view on ending the War on Drugs, see:

https://www.lpmn.org/libertarians_assert_powerful_case_ending_war_drugs/

Note 4:       For the complete Libertarian Party 2012 Platform, see:

http://www.lp.org/platform

Note 5:       The Libertarian Party website is here:

http://www.lp.org/

Ge-stop-o & Frisk: Trashing the 4th Amendment in New York City


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I have said before that I consider New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg perhaps “the single most dangerous politician on the national scene these days.”   For that discussion, see my blog post “Trashing the Constitution in New York City”:

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/03/31/trashing-the-constitution-in-new-york-city/

Whatever doubt I might have had about that assessment has, thanks to Bloomberg’s dictatorial NYPD “stop & frisk” policy, reached the vanishing point.  And what is sad, if not downright frightening, is that a substantial percentage (41%) of Americans approve of the gestapo-like tactics being used by the NYPD in their implementation of this policy.

A YouGov.com poll on the subject is here:

http://today.yougov.com/news/2013/05/24/americans-divided-stop-and-frisk/

It shows that 41% of Americans (and 60% of self-described Republicans) approve of the stop & frisk policy, while 49% oppose and 10% are so oblivious that they have no opinion.
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The Terry Stop & Frisk Law:

In 1962, the United States Supreme Court in the case of Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), established the so-called stop & frisk law, which allows police to briefly detain a person if they reasonably suspect that person is involved in criminal activity.

For the full text of Terry v. Ohio, see note 1 below.

The “reasonable suspicion” standard is somewhat less than probable cause to arrest, but there must nevertheless be some specific reasonable suspicion that the person is engaged in criminal activity of some kind.  The Terry decision also held that police may do a limited search of the person’s outer garments for weapons IF they also have a reasonable and articulable suspicion that the person detained may be “armed and dangerous”.  Such a search for weapons is what is now called “stop & frisk”.

Note that the Terry decision allows such a “frisk” (search) only if the officer(s) have a “reasonable and articulable suspicion” that the person is armed.  It does not give carte blanche to frisk every detainee, as Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD seem to think.

Nor does it allow NYPD officers to willy-nilly stop & frisk anyone they choose, for any or no reason.

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Floyd v. City of New York

Protesters participate in a rally near the federal courthouse March 18 in New York. Lawyers for four men who say they were illegally stopped said many of the 5 million people stopped, questioned and sometimes frisked by police in the past decade were wrongly targeted because of their race.

Protesters participate in a rally near the federal courthouse March 18 in New York. Lawyers for four men who say they were illegally stopped said many of the 5 million people stopped, questioned and sometimes frisked by police in the past decade were wrongly targeted because of their race.

In the Southern District of New York federal case of Floyd v. City of New York, the plaintiffs are suing the city over the policy, which they claim has resulted in hundreds of thousands of unlawful stops, primarily (84%) involving blacks and Hispanics.  The plaintiffs asserted and tried to prove in a recently ended two-month trial, that the policy is nothing more or less than racial profiling.  The trial concluded on May 20, 2013, and post-trial submissions are due on June 13, 2013.

See notes 2 & 3 below for information about this case.

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The Center for Constitutional Rights Expert Report

The 2012 Center for Constitutional Rights expert report on the subject of these stops (available through the link in Note 3 below), notes in part:

Race-based police stops, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause

* Blacks and Latinos are significantly more likely to be stopped than Whites. Overall, Blacks and Latinos constitute 84% of the stops, a far higher percentage than their proportion of the city’s population. Even after controlling for crime, local social conditions and the concentration of police officers in particular areas of the City, Blacks and Latinos are significantly more likely to be stopped than Whites.

* This is true at both the neighborhood and the individual level.

Unjustified stops, in violation of the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure

* Analysis of the information recorded by police officers themselves in their stop and frisk reports indicates that more than 95,000 stops lacked reasonable, articulable suspicion and thus violated the Fourth Amendment.

* The NYPD continues to frequently and indiscriminately use the highly subjective and constitutionally questionable categories of “high crime area” and “furtive movements”. “High crime area” is checked off in more than 60% of all stops. A comparison of actual crime rates to the claim that a stop was in a “high crime area” reveals that this factor was cited at roughly the same rate regardless of the crime rate. “Furtive movement” was also checked in a majority of stops, 53% of them. Here, too, there was no correlation between the frequency of this stated reason for a stop and actual crime rates. Both the frequency of these classifications and their complete absence of any relationship to actual crime rates suggest strongly that they are not legitimate indicators or reasonable, articulable suspicion.

* Only 6% of stops result in arrest, an extraordinarily small number given that stops are legally supposed to be based on reasonable, articulable suspicion. The rates of seizure of weapons or contraband are miniscule – .12% of stops yield gun seizures and 1.8% contraband – and are lower than the seizure rates of random stops. (Emphasis added)

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Justifications:  “High Crime Area” and “Furtive Movements”

During the time period 2004-2012, the NYPD averaged approximately 43,400 stops per month.

Anyone who has ever worked in either law enforcement, criminal prosecution or criminal defense knows that the assertion of “high crime area” (cited as justification for almost 61% of all stops) as the “reasonable suspicion” in support of detention is pure BS.  This would allow detention of anyone who happens to be in what the officers believe to be a high crime, regardless of whether there is any other reason to suspect that person of being involved in criminal activity.

Nor do “furtive movements” (cited in almost 54% of all stops) add anything to the “reasonable suspicion” that the individual is involved in criminal activity.  A sampler of “furtive movements” cited by NYPD officers in support of “stop & frisk” contacts, as described in the Floyd expert study, include such “suspicious activities” as:  riding a train, “looking around”, running from one train to another, crouching next to a vehicle, stopping “prematurely” for no reason, “evasive” movements or behavior, “hiding” in a room, holding an item “under a jacket”, “hanging out” in a lobby, “ducking in & out” of a building, “looking around”, looking “nervous”,  “furtive movements” by a wall, “furtive movements” with black marker, “hiding behind” other people, “evading” a bus driver, “hiding” between vehicles, and “looking around at” subway gates.

(Separate and apart from this expert study, I have personally seen police reports in which “furtive movements” justifying “stop & frisk” contacts were described as:  looking away or turning away from cops, walking away from cops, walking toward cops, putting one’s hands into pockets, taking one’s hands out of pockets, standing up from a squatting position, squatting down from a standing position, jerking one’s head from side to side, and simply making “suspicious” movements.)

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Conclusion:  Blatant and Rampant Unconstitutionality

These statistics paint a compelling picture of blatant and rampant unconstitutionality in the implementation of the New York stop & frisk policy.  Nevertheless, Mayor Bloomberg commented, “I can’t imagine any rational person saying that the techniques are not working and that we should stop them.”

I’m not sure in what alternative reality Mayor Bloomberg’s “rational persons” must reside.  Or how 41% of Americans can logically come to the conclusion that this policy is a good idea … or constitutional … or even particularly effective.  It clearly is none of those things.

I consider myself a fairly “rational” person and I say, yes, Mayor Bloomberg, you should stop violating the constitutional rights of the citizens of your city.

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Note 1:  The full text of Terry v. Ohio is available here:

http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/392/1/case.html

Note 2:  For an NPR online article about Floyd v. City of New York, see:

http://www.npr.org/2013/05/20/185458137/court-case-winds-down-in-new-yorks-stop-and-frisk-challenge

Note 3:  The Center for Constitutional Rights webpage about this case is available here:

http://ccrjustice.org/floyd

This site contains links to all of the Floyd case expert reports and court documents, including the complaint, motions, declarations and court orders.  Anyone who is interested in this issue would do well to review the documents linked on this site.  I cannot begin to do justice to this material here in my blog.

Trashing the 1st & 5th Amendments in Illinois


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It is a never-ending source of amazement to me just how badly American public schools are being administered these days.  I am compiling a collection of “Zero Tolerance” articles for use in a future blog post, but today am motivated to write by an event which occurred on April 18 at Batavia High School in Batavia, Illinois.

On that date, Batavia High social studies teacher John Dryden discovered that the school was administering to students a “survey” in which they were asked, in part, about their use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco — use of all of which is, of course, illegal for high school students.  The name of each student appeared on these “surveys”, which also asked about other highly personal matters, including mental health.

Dryden John Batavia (Ill) High School Teacher

Upon discovering the content of the “survey”, teacher Dryden reminded his students in several of his classes of their 5th Amendment right not to incriminate themselves.  For this lesson in civics and constitutional law, Dryden has been threatened with placement of a “letter of remedy” in his personnel file.

Under Illinois law, a “letter of remedy” informs a teacher that his conduct was improper.  The school board can impose adverse consequences ranging all the way up to dismissal.

Former students, parents of current students and even one Batavia alderman have rallied to Dryden’s support and a “Defend and Support John Dryden” petition has garnered more than 1000 signatures (though some apparently are duplicates).

Separate and apart from the absurdity of disciplining a teacher for teaching his students about their constitutional rights, the survey itself raises other concerns.  It was prepared by a private company and is being reviewed by school officials, including social workers, counselors and psychologists.

According to an article in the Batavia Herald, Mr. Brad Newkirk, the school’s “chief academic officer” (whatever that is), commented that, “The survey was not a diagnostic tool, but a ‘screener’ to figure out which students might need specific help.”  Newkirk and other school officials involved in distributing this “survey” are apparently oblivious not only to the constitutional implications, but also to the blatant invasion of personal privacy and the fact that none of this is any of their business.

Despite being targeted for possible discipline, Mr. Dryden defended the school’s administrators, generously stating, “These are good, professional, smart people on the other side who want to do what is right by kids.”  On that point, I disagree with him.  If these administrators really want to “do what is right by the kids”, they will concentrate on teaching and leave law enforcement and mental health issues to professionals qualified to act on those issues.

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The Batavia Herald article discussing this issue is here:

http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20130525/news/705259921/

The petition supporting Mr. Dryden, which I have signed, is here:

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/927/122/050/defend-and-support-educator-john-dryden/

Summary of 2nd Amendment & Gun Control Posts


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Rich Estes, one of my West Point classmates and with whom I more often than not agree on political issues, posted the following on Facebook today, saying, “… this pretty well sums up my understanding of the 2d Amendment. I’m interested to hear some rational, well informed comments, pro and con.”

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Thanks to The Knowledge Movement for sharing this...

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In response, I posted a summary of my blog posts here on the subjects of the 2nd Amendment and gun control.  Having done so, it occurred to me that re-posting that summary here might help others follow the discussion as well.  So, here it is:

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My first post on the subject was in 2008, shortly after the US Supreme Court decided in the Heller case and contrary to the interpretation contained in “What the 2nd Amendment REALLY Says”, that the “right to bear arms” is an individual right, independent of the establishment of any militia:

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https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2008/06/26/supremes-uphold-individual-handgun-ownership-right/

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After taking a long break from blogging, I resumed in late 2012.  On December 29th, shortly after the Sandy Hook murders, I wrote in part:

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“… in the absence of an amendment to the Constitution modifying its terms, the Second Amendment means that the government (federal directly and state/local through the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment) has no authority to “infringe” (per Merriam-Webster online Dictionary:  “to encroach upon in a way that violates law or the rights of another”) on the right of individuals to keep and bear arms.  Period.  Not handguns.  Not rifles.  Not shotguns.  Not even “assault weapons”, regarding which, by the way, there really is no such thing.  When the federal government passed the so-called “Assault Weapons Ban” in 1994, Congress had to make up a definition of what constituted an “assault weapon” within the meaning of the law.”

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After discussing various gun control issues, I concluded: 

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“We should not be teaching our children to live in fear.  And, as horrific as were the events in Sandy Hook, the occasional occurrence of such events is one of the prices we pay … and must pay … to live in a truly free society.”

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The full discussion is here:

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https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2012/12/29/what-now-for-the-second-amendment-gun-control/

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That discussion prompted a comments and questions by another classmate, Terry Atkinson, who’s opinions I value highly.  In response, I wrote a lengthy analysis of the language of the 2nd Amendment and what it meant at the time it was written:

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https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/more-on-the-2nd-amendment-and-gun-control/

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I wrote there that my own “strict construction” interpretation of the 2nd Amendment would “… exclude from constitutional protection such weapons as fighter aircraft, naval ships and weapons, artillery pieces, napalm, nukes & other bombs, as well as even such lesser weapons as 50 caliber machine guns, shoulder mounted rocket launchers, flamethrowers, hand grenades and most other military-style weapons.”

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(As a side-note, I have since come to realize that the term “military-style weapons” is a poorly worded attempt to describe the kinds of weapons used by the military.  It is probably more useful to simply use the term “fully automatic”.)

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I also concluded there that “… a strict construction of the 2nd Amendment would also require that … the mentally ill, like convicted felons, can be thought of as not having any 2nd Amendment right to be infringed by governmental action.”

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Other gun-related discussions on my blog include:

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https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/dispelling-the-myth-that-more-guns-more-murders/

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… in which I contend and explain the basis for the contention that:

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“… proponents of more restrictive gun control laws rely on a bald-faced lie to support their efforts to disarm law-abiding citizens.  That lie, of course, is the claim that possession of more guns by private, law-abiding citizens results in more violent crime and, in particular, more murders … and the corollary thereto, that reducing the number of guns in the possession of such citizens will reduce violent crime and murder.”

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This blog post motivated objections from classmate John Douglas, which led to an even more detailed discussion, which appears here:

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https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/the-advocates-for-self-government-on-guns-gun-control/

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This post includes a number of contemporary (or shortly thereafter) historical references to the meaning of the 2nd Amendment, several of which make the point that the right to bear arms is as much for protection against the government as for any other purpose.  It also includes an analysis of gun violence statistics and their meaning.

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Other posts:

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https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/assault-weapons-band-aid/

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… which is a discussion of why the 1994 so-called “assault weapons ban” was ineffective.

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https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/the-advocates-for-self-government-on-guns-gun-control/

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… for the Libertarian view of guns & control.

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https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/gun-control-and-your-right-to-defend-yourself-your-home-and-your-loved-ones/

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… regarding the use of firearms in self-defense and in cases of large-scale regional or national emergencies.

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https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/no-one-is-coming-to-take-your-guns-yet/

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… on why we should be concerned about governmental confiscation of firearms.

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https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/the-virtual-president-of-the-united-states-on-gun-control/

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… which discusses and links to the absolutely brilliant “Virtual President’s” state of the union address on guns.

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https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/trashing-the-constitution-on-hbo-bill-maher-wrong-again-wrong-again/

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… a response to Bill Maher’s claim that “the Second Amendment is bullshit”.

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https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/02/20/2nd-amendment-letter-to-the-editor-june-17-2000/

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… which reproduces a letter to the editor I wrote in 2000 regarding gun control.

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https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2012/12/30/congressman-ron-paul-is-a-voice-of-reason/

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… on Ron Paul’s Libertarian take on gun control and personal security.

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… and finally:

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https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2012/12/31/powerful-congressional-testimony/

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… a link to powerful congressional testimony about the 1991 Luby’s Cafeteria murders in Killeen, Texas.

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Would be happy to hear any response anyone might have to any of these discussions.

Trashing the Constitution on HBO: Bill Maher “Wrong Again, Wrong Again.”


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Just as Michael Bloomberg did recently …

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/03/31/trashing-the-constitution-in-new-york-city/

… Bill Maher has gone from Just Plain Incorrect …

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/04/07/bill-maher-just-plain-incorrect/

… to falling off the edge of the political table.

Friday night, April 12, 2013, on his HBO television show “Real Time”, Maher was discussing gun control with his guest panel.  After castigating “liberals” for what he perceived as their “weakness” in the gun control debate, Maher, not exactly making an insightful or clever  addition to the conversation, said:

“Everyone on the left is so afraid to say what should be said.  Which is, the Second Amendment is bullshit.”

http://www.guns.com/2013/04/13/bill-maher-the-second-amendment-is-bullshit-video/

Bill Maher 041213

Maybe so, though I disagree.  But if it is, anyone who thinks it is BS should have the courage to try to change the 2nd Amendment, rather than simply ignoring it and trying to enact legislation which violates its terms.

One of Maher’s guests on this show was David Stockman, former budget director for President Ronald Reagan.  Stockman, an ostensible conservative, commented that the idea of armed citizens rising in the face of the government is a modern day fantasy, saying:

“People who believe in liberty, like I do, we’re up against a 21st-century state equipped with drones, hundreds of satellites in the sky, watching everything we do.  Why would you believe that an 18th-century civilian militia equipped with the equivalent of muskets has anything to do with liberty? It doesn’t.”

Which, to be blunt, is just dumb.  For starters, no one involved in today’s gun control discussion is advancing the idea that an “18th century civilian militia” has anything to do with fighting “a 21st century state … watching everything we do.”  And if you think that a “well-armed civilian militia” equipped with modern weapons cannot resist a “21st century state”, please explain to me how a ragtag militia in Afghanistan has managed to resist the two most powerful military organizations in the world for a combined total of 21 years (the Russians for 9 years, the US for 12).

Never mind the possibility that a time will come when there are no drones, satellites or 21st century weapons and we will have to protect ourselves against or without the aid of any government.  I have discussed this before:

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/gun-control-and-your-right-to-defend-yourself-your-home-and-your-loved-ones/

Scroll down to the second half of that discussion, “Self-Defense in Case of a National Emergency”, for a more complete discussion of this issue.  To briefly repeat the primary point, the book One Second After by William Forstchen, fictionalizes what might happen in the US in the aftermath of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) event.  An EMP event (which could occur as part of a foreign attack or as a result of natural occurrences) could conceivably shut down all electricity in large portions of the US.  That would mean no electrically operated devices would work — some obvious examples, computers, televisions, radios and telephones.  Less obvious examples, refrigerators & freezers, microwave ovens, washers & dryers, both interior and exterior lighting, and even most modern motor vehicles (the engines of which are operated by electrical commands).

Should this happen, of course, most “21st century” weaponry, as well as drones and satellites, would be rendered useless.  And, as Forstchen says:

You are on your own … for weeks, maybe months.   Those of you living in Louisiana, Mississippi and coastal Texas know what I mean.  Don’t count on the government to come to your rescue in a post EMP America.  Consider yourself on your own from “one second after,” the event.  Those who realize that now have the greatest chance of survival.”

And, if you think his book is science fiction and farfetched, see the Wikipedia article on EMP:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electromagnetic_pulse

And this Heritage Foundation article about Congressional hearings on the subject:

http://blog.heritage.org/2012/09/11/congressional-hearing-raise-emp-awareness-now/

The possibility of an EMP event and the potential consequences thereof are science fact, not science fiction.

And keep in mind that an EMP event can also result from natural occurrences, such as a major solar flare, and not just as a result of a nuclear attack.  The website “Disaster Survival Resources” …

http://www.disaster-survival-resources.com/emp.html

… provides a relatively minor example of what can happen as a result of a solar flare:

“On March 13th, 1989 a huge solar induced magnetic storm that played havoc with the ionosphere, and the earth’s magnetic field. This storm, the second largest storm experienced in the past 50 years, totally shut down Hydro-Quebec, the power grid servicing Canada’s Quebec province.”

As we grow increasingly dependent on electronically controlled devices, we also become increasingly vulnerable to the adverse effects of an EMP event.  And, having the ability to protect ourselves in case of such an event becomes increasingly important.

So, I call bullshit on Maher, who is wrong again, wrong again.  And on Stockman, who is not just wrong, but dangerously so.

Trashing the 1st Amendment in North Carolina


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North Carolina state representatives have introduced legislation that would, if adopted, purport to exempt the state from the strictures of the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and would allow North Carolina to establish an official state religion.

The proposed legislation, reported today on HuffingtonPost.com …

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/03/north-carolina-religion-bill_n_3003401.html#slide=467436

… is co-sponsored by state representatives Carl Ford (R-China Grove) and Harry Warren (R-Salisbury) and is backed by nine other republican representatives.

The proposed laws read as follows:

SECTION 1. The North Carolina General Assembly asserts that the Constitution of the United States of America does not prohibit states or their subsidiaries from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

SECTION 2. The North Carolina General Assembly does not recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools, or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

The name of the bill is “A JOINT RESOLUTION TO PROCLAIM THE ROWAN COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA, DEFENSE OF RELIGION ACT OF 2013” and is denominated House Joint Resolution DRHJR10194-MM-54.  The full text of the resolution is here:

http://www.ncleg.net/Applications/BillLookUp/LoadBillDocument.aspx?SessionCode=2013&DocNum=2501&SeqNum=0

The introduction to this bill acknowledges that the “Establishment Clause” of the 1st Amendment says “… Congress shall make no law respecting an Establishment of Religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ….”  It goes on, however, to declare that “… this prohibition does not apply to states, municipalities, or schools ….”

Supporters of the bill cite the 10th Amendment …

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

… for the proposition that the federal government cannot expand its powers beyond those specifically enumerated in the Constitution.  They also also assert that the Constitution does not authorize either the federal government or federal courts to determine what “is or is not constitutional” and that, consequently, the ability to determine constitutionality is reserved to the states and the people thereof.

Apparently, these state legislators stopped reading when they finished with the 10th Amendment.  They certainly didn’t get to section 1 of the 14th Amendment, which says in part …

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.

… and which has been repeatedly held to mean that all of the protections of the Bill of Rights apply as to the states as well as the federal government.  In other words, the Constitution of the United States of America does “prohibit states or their subsidiaries from making laws respecting an establishment of religion”.

And it does require the North Carolina General Assembly to “recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools, or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion”.

Thus, the state of North Carolina cannot constitutionally declare a state religion, whether this resolution passes or not.

On the other hand, I have to admit that it might be fun to watch them trying to do so.  Fewer than 48% of all North Carolinians consider themselves active participants in any religion.  The most popular religion in the state is Southern Baptist;  however, just 19% of people in the state are active Baptists.  Methodists total 9% and Roman Catholics (the fastest growing religion in the state) just over 4%.  Other Christian denominations, including Episcopalian, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Latter Day Saints (Mormon), range down from less than 3% to less than 1% each.  All other splinter Christian denominations combined make up roughly 7% of the population.

Jews, Muslims and adherents of Eastern religions (who together total less than 1% of the state’s population) may, in any discussion of this subject, be voices in a Christian wilderness.  However, adherents of which of the various Christian denominations do you suppose are going to stand idly by while some other denomination is declared to be the official religion of the state of North Carolina?  Even if the proposed state religion is Baptist, will this be acceptable to the other 30% of North Carolinians who actively practice some other religion (never mind the 52% of the people in the state who are not active in any religion)?

And then, even if the North Carolina legislature is able to pass this resolution and declares an official state religion, we’ll have the consequent litigation and inevitable smackdown by the U.S. Supreme Court, the members of which — contrary to the beliefs of the sponsors of this legislation — believe it does have the authority to determine what “is or is not” constitutional.  And which will certainly find any “establishment” of a state religion violative of the 1st Amendment.

Oh, by the way, one more thing — it appears that the sponsors of this bill have not even recently read their own state constitution, since the proposed bill violates Article 1, section 5 of the North Carolina  constitution.  This provision requires the state and its citizens (presumably including its legislators) to comply with federal laws:

Every citizen of this State owes paramount allegiance to the Constitution and government of the United States, and no law or ordinance of the State in contravention or subversion thereof can have any binding force.

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For other interesting (and somewhat amusing) discussions of this proposed legislation, see these articles on TheAtlantic.com website:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/04/north-carolinas-proposed-state-religion-isnt-as-unprecedented-as-it-sounds/274646/

… which notes, in part:  “You can safely file this under Not Gonna Happen. Even if the state passes the law, there’s no chance it would be upheld. Phillip Bump at The Atlantic Wire explains the fun circular logic going on: Yes, Marbury v. Madison established federal judicial review, but it was a federal decision so it’s not binding. (The Tar Heel State could of course try seceding, but that didn’t work out so well for them the first time around.)”

and:

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2013/04/north-carolina-official-government-religion/63833/

… which opens:  “Let’s say you’re a state and you want, for some reason, to declare an official government religion. You’d probably recall that such behavior runs a bit afoul of the First Amendment to the Constitution. Leaving you with only one option: Decide that your state gets to interpret the Constitution however it sees fit.”

… adds:  “Yes, the 1803 case of Marbury v. Madison clearly settled the issue of the primacy of federal judicial review, but that was decided by the Feds and they don’t have the right, so it doesn’t count. As WRAL notes, this strategy has been tried before to block federal measures that any particular state didn’t like at any particular time. Never, we should point out, successfully.”

… and concludes:  “Anyway, the bill will never ever pass and if it did would quickly be struck down by the federal courts, since they have complete authority to do so. The end.”

The Virtual President of the United States on Gun Control


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This is absolutely brilliant.

Click on the following link or the picture of Virtual President Bill Whittle below:

http://www.mrvirtualpresident.com/blog/article/guns-virtual-state-union-2013

Mr. Virtual President headerMr. Virtual President on 2nd Amendment & Guns

For additional virtual speeches, see the main page of the Virtual President here:

http://www.mrvirtualpresident.com/

On that page, you can also sign up for “Virtual Updates”, so as not to miss future offerings of the Virtual President.  I did.

You can also download a pdf version of the text of the gun speech by clicking on the link on the site — or here:

http://www.mrvirtualpresident.com/sites/default/files/transcripts/SOTU2013%20GUNSv3.pdf

Trashing the Constitution in New York City


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Perhaps the single most dangerous politician on the national scene these days is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  He is dangerous in part because he appears to be a megalomaniacal would-be dictator and in part because he is a billionaire who is willing to spend considerable sums of his own money to achieve his blatantly unconstitutional political aims.

Whatever rationality Bloomberg may once have brought to political discourse has rapidly dissolved with his recent series of assaults on personal freedom and liberty in New York and across the country.  Hizzoner “I Know What’s Best For You” is well-known for his attempts to dictate to his subjects when where and how much they can eat (transfats), smoke (cigarettes) and even drink (sodas).  See, for example:

http://www.refusetoregain.com/2012/06/mayor-bloombergs-war-vs-the-freedom-to-eat-whatever.html

And now, Bloomberg has now gone off the statist edge of the political platform, declaring:

“I do think there are certain times we should infringe on your freedom.”

Bloomberg Infringe on Your Freedom

Bloomberg’s irrational and unconstitutional claim has been reported and discussed on any number of websites, such as:

Hotair.com:

http://hotair.com/archives/2013/03/25/mike-bloomberg-i-do-think-there-are-certain-times-we-should-infringe-on-your-freedom/

The NRA Institute for Legislative Action:

http://www.nraila.org/news-issues/articles/2013/3/outrage-of-the-week-bloomberg.aspx

PoliticalOutcast.com:

http://politicaloutcast.com/2013/03/mayor-michael-bloomberg-government-infringe-freedom-piers-morgan/

To all of which, I say, NO, there aren’t certain times when you should infringe on our freedoms.

Here are some thoughts for you Michael:

“[It is] the people, to whom all authority belongs.” —Thomas Jefferson to Spencer Roane, 1821.

“… all power is inherent in the people … it is their right and duty to be at all times armed ….” –Thomas Jefferson to John Cartwright, 1824.

“But of all things, they least think of subjecting themselves to the will of one man.” –Thomas Jefferson to Francis W. Gilmer, 1816.

“Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” –Thomas Jefferson: Declaration of Independence, 1776.

“What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them.” –Thomas Jefferson to William Stephens Smith, 1787.

“The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the atmosphere.” –Thomas Jefferson to Abigail Adams, 1787.

“Most codes extend their definitions of treason to acts not really against one’s country. They do not distinguish between acts against the government, and acts against the oppressions of the government. The latter are virtues, yet have furnished more victims to the executioner than the former, because real treasons are rare; oppressions frequent. The unsuccessful strugglers against tyranny have been the chief martyrs of treason laws in all countries.” –Thomas Jefferson: Report on Spanish Convention, 1792.

“I hold it that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms are in the physical. Unsuccessful rebellions, indeed, generally establish the encroachments on the rights of the people, which have produced them. An observation of this truth should render honest republican governors so mild in their punishment of rebellions, as not to discourage them too much. It is medicine necessary for the sound health of government.” –Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1787.

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.” –Thomas Jefferson to William Stephens Smith, 1787.

Thomas Jefferson — remember him, Michael?  You couldn’t carry his slop jar.

Why You Should Never Talk to the Cops


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A post today on the “Personal Liberty” Facebook page on the subject of how to interact with law enforcement prompted me to both respond there and to address the subject here.

In his interesting interview about how to respond to attempted over-reaching by law enforcement officials, Attorney Evan Nappen emphasized three responses with which I agree — invoke your right to remain silent, demand your right to speak with an attorney and never consent to anything until you have spoken with an attorney.

Expanding on those basics a bit:

Never submit to a police interview, even if you are innocent. I have seen many cases in which innocent responses to accusatory questions were twisted to make the suspect look guilty. Even statements which you believe to be exculpatory can ultimately be used against you. On the other hand, anything you say which is truly exonerating is generally not admissible in court, so you can’t help yourself by talking to the cops.

Contrary to popular belief, if the cops have enough probable cause to arrest you, you are not going to be able to talk your way out of that arrest.  And don’t even think about believing it when a cop says he can help you out if you talk to him or that you can help yourself by doing so.  The only objective of a police officer interrogating a suspect is to gain additional evidence to make proving the case easier.  Furthermore, cops have no authority to make “deals” about criminal prosecutions;  only the prosecutor’s office can do that.

Even denying that you committed any crime won’t help.  For starters, the cops won’t believe you … and the denial will not be admissible in court, so you gain absolutely nothing by making such a statement.

There are other good reasons for not talking to the cops — even if you’re innocent, you might tell a small lie or even just make a mistake, either of which can be used against you in court.  And, unless the statement is being video or audio recorded, the cop may mis-recollect or even lie about what you said.  I recently tried a child molestation case in which my client said within hearing of a police officer, “I just tickled her”, but the cop who heard the statement testified that he said, “I just diddled her”.  The statement was not recorded and the jury believed the cop’s version.  In the end, this made a huge difference in the minds of some of the jurors.  Maybe the cop mis-understood what was said and maybe he lied about it.  In either event, this damaging statement could not have been used against the defendant if he hadn’t made it to begin with.

By the way, this is true even for such simple situations as traffic stops. For example, if a cop stops you and asks if you know why, do not answer because whatever you say can be used against you if you decide to fight the ticket. If you feel coerced by his position of authority into answering, the only acceptable answer is “no”.

Because of the inherent dangers in speaking with the cops, always invoke your rights to remain silent and to speak with an attorney before answering any questions.

Never consent to anything. Without a warrant, police cannot enter your home. So, if they ask if they can come in, the answer is “no”. If they ask you to step out of your residence, the answer is “no”. If they ask you to open the door to your residence, the answer is “no”. If you’re in a vehicle and they ask if they can search it, the answer is “no”. If they ask if they can search your person, the answer is “no”.  Do not let them intimidate you into consenting, either.  Politely suggest that if they think they have grounds to conduct a search, they can get a warrant, at which point you will let them search.

If the cops have probable cause to arrest you, they will do so and you’ll have to go with them involuntarily. If they don’t have probable cause to arrest you, they cannot compel you to go anywhere with them. So, if they ask if you’re willing to go to the station to be interviewed, the answer is “no”.

Also, do not be fooled by the old, “if you have nothing to hide, you’ll talk to us” trick. If you have nothing to hide, refusing to answer questions, consent to a search or go with the cops cannot hurt you. Answering questions, consenting to a search or going with the cops can hurt you even if you have nothing to hide.

Finally, even if you’re actually guilty, don’t admit it to the cops.  There will be plenty of time later, during plea bargaining between your attorney and the prosecutor, for you to accept responsibility for your actions.  The terms of any plea agreement … and, in particular, the amount of time that you might have to spend in jail or prison … may well depend on the strength of the prosecution’s case.  So, don’t help them increase your ultimate punishment by making incriminating admissions.

So, to reiterate the primary points, never talk to the cops, always invoke your rights to remain silent and to consult with an attorney, and never consent to anything, particularly searches by the cops of your person, vehicle or residence.

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For a detailed constitutional discussion of the 5th Amendment and why you should never talk to cops, see this video by Regent Law School Professor (and former criminal defense attorney) James Duane:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wXkI4t7nuc

For more on why you should not talk to the cops, also see this video of my KRON-TV (Channel 4) interview on June 23, 2010, uploaded on YouTube November 29, 2010. In it, I discussed the impact of the US Supreme Court case of Berghuis v. Thompkins, which was decided on June 1, 2010.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqY2smL1oJo

Berghuis essentially held that individuals must affirmatively and unambiguously invoke their rights.  Simply remaining silent and declining to respond for an extended period of time (3 hours in this case) is not, by itself, enough to constitute an invocation of rights.

For the full text of the Berghuis decision, see:

http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/08-1470.ZS.html

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The “Personal Liberty” Facebook page is here:

https://www.facebook.com/personalliberty

And the article on the “Personal Liberty” webpage with the interview of Attorney Nappen is here:

http://personalliberty.com/2013/03/21/interview-attorney-evan-nappen-explains-the-moore-ordeal-and-how-to-protect-yourself-from-unconstitutional-activity/

My Facebook page is here:

https://www.facebook.com/jamest.reilly.3

2nd Amendment Letter to the Editor June 17, 2000


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While looking through an old file today, I ran across this clipping of a letter to the editor of the Marin County Independent Journal (IJ) that was published on June 17, 2000.  Thirteen years later, it would seem that little has changed.

Note in particular the final sentence of the letter.  It presages where the government would now like to go — registration of every gun in the country, so that government officials know where all guns are.  Well, I own one, obtained before changes in the law required government involvement and approval.  I remain of the opinion expressed in this letter:  Unless and until I commit a crime using one, it is none of the government’s business whether I own a gun.

Letter to the Editor, Marin Independent Journal -- June 17, 2000

Letter to the Editor, Marin Independent Journal — June 17, 2000

“No One is Coming to Take Your Guns” … Yet


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In an effort to re-assure people that stricter gun control laws are no threat to law-abiding gun owners, gun control advocates often say, “No one is coming to take your guns”.

Yet.

A recent example is a column published on Saturday, February 16th, by Sam Pollak of the Oneonta (NY) Daily Star:

http://thedailystar.com/columns/x1525014201/No-one-is-coming-to-take-your-guns

In this column, Pollak asserts:

“I have some very disappointing news for some of the more-virulent foes of sane gun-control legislation.  If you’re what the National Rifle Association loves to call a “law-abiding American citizen,” no one is going to take away your guns.

Not the federal government.  Not the state government.  Not the local government.  Not the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard.  Not the United Nations.”

Obviously, Mr. Pollak hasn’t been paying attention.  Legislators in at least five states, including his home state of New York, have recently introduced gun control proposals which would include, to at least some degree, confiscation of firearms which are lawfully owned by citizens of those states.

Perhaps even more important than possible gun confiscation legislation is what might happen in one of those disaster situations, or MCEs, discussed in my previous blog post.  After reading that post, #2 son Matt brought to my attention one aspect of the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans of which I was unaware or which I had forgotten — the confiscation of civilian firearms at the very time they were most needed by their owners.

On September 8, 2005, New Orleans Police Superintendent Eddie Compass, without any legal authority whatsoever and in blatant violation of the 2nd Amendment, issued an order to local police, the Army National Guard and Deputy U.S. Marshals to confiscate all civilian owned firearms in the City of New Orleans.  He said, “No one will be able to be armed.  Guns will be taken.  Only law enforcement will be allowed to have guns.”

Pursuant to this order, New Orleans cops seized privately owned weapons without benefit of search or arrest warrants and, sometimes, by use of excessive force.

One such excessive force incident was the seizure from 58 year old New Orleans resident Patricia Konie of a revolver.  Konie had declined to evacuate her home, which was well-provisioned, and kept the revolver for self-protection.

Several police officers entered her home and demanded that she surrender the revolver.  When she refused to do so, they took it from her by force, fracturing her shoulder in the process, then took her into custody for refusing to give up her weapon.

Unfortunately for the cops, the incident was video recorded and became the basis of virulent criticism of the confiscation order and the police tactics.  Several lawsuits ensued and, on September 23rd, a federal court issued an order restraining any further confiscation of lawfully owned weapons.

In response to the criticism (and the lawsuits), the city initially denied having confiscated any weapons.  Ultimately, however, the city admitted that more than 1000 weapons had been illegally seized.  And, despite several court orders that the weapons be returned, it was more than two years before this was finally accomplished.

As a result of these seizures, Louisiana enacted a 2006 law which prohibits confiscation of firearms during an emergency, unless the seizure is necessary to prevent immediate harm to a police officer or other person, or if it is part of a criminal investigation during which seizure would otherwise be lawful.  Subsequently, several other states passed similar laws.  And, as part of the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2007, a federal law prohibiting the seizure of lawfully owned private weapons during an emergency was enacted.

There are some law enforcement officials who understand and are prepared to uphold the law and the 2nd Amendment.  A group of Montana sheriffs has spoken out on the subject, vowing that they would not enforce any unconstitutional new federal gun laws.

Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton, in a written statement, announced:  “You will not find the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office deputies participating in ANY confiscation of firearms in an unlawful manner.”

In a letter to Vice President Joe Biden, Powell County sheriff Scott Howard said:  “We must not allow, nor shall we tolerate, the actions of criminals, no matter how heinous the crimes, to prompt politicians to enact laws that will infringe upon the liberties of responsible citizens who have broken no laws.”

For more information about these sheriffs, see this Helena, Montana, Independent Record article and photo:

http://helenair.com/news/local/sheriff-i-m-not-going-to-take-your-gun/article_ff94517a-6d8a-11e2-9deb-0019bb2963f4.html

Montana Sheriffs Scott Howard & Leo Dutton

Montana Sheriffs Scott Howard & Leo Dutton

Nevertheless, there are plenty of government officials like New Orleans Police Superintendent Compass who are more than ready to ignore the law and the Constitution in their zeal to disarm people.  That they may claim, as they often do, that they are acting out of concerns for “public safety” does not justify their unlawful actions.

This kind of official mentality brings to mind the saying — often mis-attributed to Thomas Jefferson — “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance”.  Whoever may have actually said it, the sentiment expressed remains valid.  Today, on the subject of private ownership of firearms, it is necessary to assert that vigilance against our own government officials and in favor of our constitutional rights.

Gun Control and Your Right to Defend Yourself, Your Home and Your Loved Ones


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Following up on the conclusion to my previous post, two points to discuss here:

1)  Gun control from the perspective of those who have actually used guns in defense of themselves, their homes and their loved ones;  and

2)  Why and under what possible future circumstances the availability of firearms for such protection would be desirable, if not essential, to the survival not only of individuals, but our society as a whole.

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Your Right to Defend Yourself, Your Home and Your Loved Ones

Lost in the gun control debate, which has focused almost exclusively on the negative uses of firearms by criminals, is any discussion of the right of people to use guns to defend themselves and protects their homes and families.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much available in the way of reliable statistics about such use — in part for the same reasons that the subject is ignored in the gun control debate.  One nut killing a number of people with a gun is BIG news.  A homeowner using a gun to protect himself and his family against criminals rates barely a mention in the local newspaper and none whatsoever in the national news.

A recent article by Paul Barrett on the Bloomberg BusinessWeek website summarized the statistical dispute over defensive use of firearms. This article is available here:

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-12-27/how-often-do-we-use-guns-in-self-defense

Barrett notes that one 1994 study (by Gary Kleck, an accomplished criminologist at Florida State University) extrapolated a result of 2 million self-defense uses per year.  Conversely, an annual federal government research project, called the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), estimates in the neighborhood of 100,000 defensive gun uses per year.

Finally, Barrett notes, “… other social scientists have suggested that perhaps a figure somewhere between 250,000 and 370,000 might be more accurate.”  In support of this statement, he cites a 1997 article by Tom W. Smith of the National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago, in the Northwestern Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, which is available here:

http://www.saf.org/lawreviews/smitht1.htm

So, what does this all mean in terms of the gun violence/control debate?

There is, of course, no way of knowing how many innocent lives are saved every year by these defensive gun uses.  Not every such use saves a life, but some assuredly must do so.  What percentage?  5%?  10%?

One gun rights source, Second Amendment Sisters, in an article entitled “Nine Myths About Gun Control”, estimates 20%. See the concluding sentence of the discussion of Myth #1 in this article here:

http://rense.com/general76/mths.htm

This estimate, in turn, is based on the 1994 article “Guns in the Medical Literature — A Failure of Peer Review” by Edgar A. Suter, MD, in the Journal of the Medical Association of Georgia, which is available in full here:

http://www.rkba.org/research/suter/med-lit.html#abstract

Dr. Suter observes, correctly in my opinion, that:  “The true measure of the protective benefits of guns are the lives saved, the injuries prevented, the medical costs saved, and the property protected ….” by defensive gun use.

Gary Kleck’s analysis of defensive gun use notes that:  “Each year about 1500-2800 criminals are lawfully killed by gun-wielding American civilians in justifiable or excusable homicides, far more than are killed by police officers.”

So, for purposes of this discussion, let’s use the lowest estimate of defensive gun uses per year, the NCVS estimate of 100,000.  And let’s assume that only one in ten of such uses saves an innocent life.  In that case, the total number of lives saved is 10,000, at a cost of between 1500-2800 dead bad guys.  Sounds like a pretty fair trade off to me.

Furthermore, it also means that every year guns save nearly as many innocent lives as they take … and that’s a low estimate.  If we use the “more accurate” estimate of 250,000 to 370,000 defensive gun uses per year, guns are saving upwards of three times as many innocent lives as they are taking.

What this means in terms of the gun control debate is this — the more we restrict access by law-abiding citizens to self-defense firearms, the fewer innocent lives those citizens and their firearms will save.  And, since it seems likely that most crooks won’t any more attention to stricter gun control laws than they currently pay to the existing gun control laws, the relative rate of innocent lives lost compared to those saved will rise.  In other words, the stricter the gun control, the higher the relative loss of innocent lives.

All of which says nothing about the other “protective benefits of guns” — “the injuries prevented, the medical costs saved, and the property protected“.

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Self-Defense in Case of a National Emergency

Earlier today, I posted on Facebook a comment about the recent Public Service Announcement by Milwaukee County WI Sheriff David Clarke in which he urged citizens to arm themselves for self-protection.  In this PSA, Sheriff Clarke said:

“You can beg for mercy from a violent criminal, hide under the bed or you can fight back.  But, are you prepared?  Consider taking a certified safety course in handling of firearms so you can defend yourself until we get there.  You have a duty to protect yourself and your family.

Sheriff Clarke’s full 32 second PSA is available here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8TCx-sM1vw

My comment about this announcement is here:

http://www.facebook.com/jamest.reilly.3

I said:

“If you think that the government — national, state or local — will always be able to protect you in an emergency, just ask the folks in New Orleans. And, even if it is a personal emergency only (such as a home invasion), how quickly do you think the local cops will get there to rescue you? Ten minutes? Five? Two? Too late in any event. Your personal safety is your personal responsibility. Have a family? They are your responsibility, too. Not the government’s. Not the local sheriff or chief of police. You are your family’s first line of defense and, perhaps, the last as well.”

In the U.S. government’s assessment of its own response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans, it was noted that:

“Almost immediately following Hurricane Katrina’s landfall, law and order began to deteriorate in New Orleans. The city’s overwhelmed police force–70 percent of which were themselves victims of the disaster—did not have the capacity to arrest every person witnessed committing a crime, and many more crimes were undoubtedly neither observed by police nor reported. The resulting lawlessness in New Orleans significantly impeded—and in some cases temporarily halted—relief efforts and delayed restoration of essential private sector services such as power, water, and telecommunications.”

This comment appears in the section of the report entitled “Critical Challenge: Public Safety and Security”.  The report in full is available here:

http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/reports/katrina-lessons-learned/chapter5.html

In this regard, of course, New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is not unique.  Any time there is a breakdown in civil order, crime is increasingly prevalent as civil disorder increases.  And, all too often, in the midst of such civil disorder, governmental authorities, including law enforcement officials, will simply not be available to protect most citizens.  As Sheriff Clarke says, “You have a duty to protect yourself and your family.”  If the bad guys have guns and you don’t, it is going to be difficult or impossible for you to fulfill that duty.

In a 2012 “Mass Violence & Emergency National Training Conference” program entitled “Dealing with Secondary Crime Arising from Mass Casualty Events”, several key points are addressed:

1)  During major disasters (“Mass Casualty Events” or MCEs), people are more vulnerable, local law enforcement officers are distracted or overwhelmed, and criminals can exploit the situation.

2)  As a result, property crimes, including looting, are common.

3)  Regarding Hurricane Katrina in particular, “a growing body of evidence suggests there were more storm-related sexual assaults than previously known.

4)  “Disasters contribute to a significant increase in domestic violence, including acts such as domestic-related criminal homicide, rape, aggravated assault, stalking, and violent threats or intimidation.”

5)  “An increase in human trafficking often comes in the wake of a natural disaster.”

6)  The incidence of hate crimes can rise after a major disaster:  “Post-disaster hate crimes have consisted of telephone, internet, mail, and face-to-face threats; minor assaults as well as assaults with dangerous weapons and assaults resulting in serious injury and death; and vandalism, shootings, arson and bombings directed at homes, businesses, and places of worship.”  (emphasis added)

The complete slide presentation for this program is available here:

https://ncjtc.org/CONF/Ovcconf/AttMat/Dealing%20with%20Secondary%20Crime_Crimando.pdf

In short, during a major disaster, you are more likely to become a victim of crime, including violent crimes like rape, aggravated assault, arson and murder, than at other times.  At the same time, local law enforcement is being overwhelmed by the demands of the disaster.  Meaning that those upon whom you might otherwise depend to protect yourself against increased crime are simply not available to do so.  At such times, more than ever, you have a duty to protect yourself and your family.  How are you going to do so?

And what happens in the event of a more generalized breakdown in civil order.  Localized disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, are bad enough.  But what happens in the event of a more widespread disaster?

In an earlier post about gun control …

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2012/12/29/what-now-for-the-second-amendment-gun-control/

… I referred to the book One Second After by William Forstchen, in which the author fictionalized what might happen in the US in the aftermath of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack.  For those unfamiliar with EMP, such an event could conceivably shut down all electricity supply in large portions of the US.  That would mean no electrically operated devices would work — some obvious examples, computers, televisions, radios and telephones.  Less obvious examples, refrigerators & freezers, microwave ovens, washers & dryers, both interior and exterior lighting, and even most modern motor vehicles (the engines of which are operated by electrical commands).

Forstchen’s book focuses on how one American community in North Carolina deals with the consequences of an EMP attack.  And makes clear just how important having firearms for self-protection would be in the event of such an attack.

See Forstchen’s website for detailed discussions of EMP and how to prepare for such an attack:

http://www.onesecondafter.com/

In the section of this site entitled “Preparing for EMP” …

http://www.onesecondafter.com/pb/wp_194d9c9d/wp_194d9c9d.html

… Forstchen says:

You are on your own … for weeks, maybe months.   Those of you living in Louisiana, Mississippi and coastal Texas know what I mean.  Don’t count on the government to come to your rescue in a post EMP America.  Consider yourself on your own from “one second after,” the event.  Those who realize that now have the greatest chance of survival.”

With respect to personal security, Forstchen says:

“This is a tough one to discuss.  In 1999 I kinda chuckled at some friends who were convinced Y2K was going to wipe us out and I think were slightly disappointed when it did not. I am not some right wing gun fanatic who sees conspiracies lurking round every corner, but I do take personal security seriously. This is a personal choice you will have to make on your own, I can’t advise other than to say this:

“There is a percentage of our population who will view a post EMP world as a paradise, where their system of survival, their personal greed, their willingness to use any means possible to survive will come to the fore. Yes, it is a plot point of the novel, but it is also a harsh reality. There are places in this world, at this very moment, where someone would kill you for a can of food. Someday, that could be America.   

“If you do not own a gun but should decide to do so now, please get the proper training.  I was fortunate in that my father was a firearms instructor during WWII and my training from him was the best, a training I have passed on to my daughter.  Always remember the valid statistics that a weapon in your house is an increased danger to you and your family, especially without proper training of all family members and not just yourself, but on the other side, it might be the crucial factor of survival in a post EMP world.  If you are unfamiliar with firearms but decide to purchase one, talk to the experts, you will find your local police are great guys to point you in the proper and safe direction.  I have a permit to carry a concealed weapon.  I know that in some areas you cannot obtain that. If you can, the training to get the permit is superb and again crucial to your own safety and that of your family and does insure that your having a loaded weapon on you is legal.”  (emphasis added)

And, if you think his book is science fiction and farfetched, see the Wikipedia article on EMP:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electromagnetic_pulse

And this Heritage Foundation article about Congressional hearings on the subject:

http://blog.heritage.org/2012/09/11/congressional-hearing-raise-emp-awareness-now/

The possibility of an EMP event and the potential consequences thereof are science fact, not science fiction.

And keep in mind that an EMP event can also result from natural occurrences, such as a major solar flare, and not just as a result of a nuclear attack.  The website “Disaster Survival Resources” …

http://www.disaster-survival-resources.com/emp.html

… provides a relatively minor example of what can happen as a result of a solar flare:

“On March 13th, 1989 a huge solar induced magnetic storm that played havoc with the ionosphere, and the earth’s magnetic field. This storm, the second largest storm experienced in the past 50 years, totally shut down Hydro-Quebec, the power grid servicing Canada’s Quebec province.”

As we grow increasingly dependent on electronically controlled devices, we also become increasingly vulnerable to the adverse effects of an EMP event.  And, having the ability to protect ourselves in case of such an event becomes increasingly important.

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Conclusion

You have a right to defend yourself, your home and your loved ones.  You have that right today, tomorrow and every day thereafter … and under all circumstances.  You cannot know in advance when it may become necessary for you to do so, either against a routine criminal assault or during a localized or national emergency.

In fact, as noted by Sheriff Clarke, you not only have a right to defend yourself, your home and your loved ones, “You have a duty to protect yourself and your family.”

Do not allow the government to impair your ability to fulfill that duty by diluting or eliminating your 2nd Amendment right to “keep and bear arms” … or by restricting that right in such a way as to make it impossible to effectively use those arms should it become necessary to do so.  Do not succumb to the fear-mongering of those who would disarm you, or unduly restrict your ability to use your weapons, in the name of “public safety”.

Ongoing Debate re 2nd Amendment & Gun Control


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My earlier post here “Dispelling the Myth that More Guns = More Murders” …

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/dispelling-the-myth-that-more-guns-more-murders/

… generated considerable discussion among my West Point classmates.  One of them, John Douglas, is also an attorney with whom, on political issues, I more often than not agree.  On this subject, however, he disagrees with both my interpretation of the language of the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution … discussed in detail at …

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2012/12/29/what-now-for-the-second-amendment-gun-control/

… and my position on gun control.

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The “plain language” of the 2nd Amendment

In response to my comment that proponents of gun control demonstrate an “inability or unwillingness to read and comprehend the plain language of the 2nd Amendment”, John replied:

… the 2d Amendment has a contradictory construction, a tortured legal history and is notably devoid of “plain language.” The Amendment (in the version ratified by the States) reads, “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.”  According to gun rights advocates, this Amendment that speaks so highly of regulation clearly prohibits regulation of guns.  Hmmm.  Whatever it might have meant back then or should mean now, “the” meaning is hardly “plain”.

As I have said previously, I believe that the introductory clause to the 2nd Amendment is just that — an introduction which explains the reason for the right which is protected in the second clause, “the right to bear arms”.  The fact that the introduction refers to a “well-regulated militia” implies regulation of the militia (that is, the body of non-military citizens who can be organized, if necessary, for military service), not a limitation on the rights of the individuals who comprise that militia.

I replied to John:

In any event, the “tortured” historical interpretation of the 2nd Amendment came to be only because representatives of the government contorted what is, on its face, clear and unequivocal, so as to make it possible for the government to impose controls which would otherwise have been impermissible.

A detailed explanation of my “plain language” interpretation of the amendment is here:

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/more-on-the-2nd-amendment-and-gun-control/

John then responded:

I don’t think the tortured history of the Second Amendment is due to ‘contortions by representatives of the government’, but is rather due almost entirely to the amendment’s obtuse wording.  I’m told the former headquarters of the NRA had on the side of the building: ‘THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED.’  That is, of course, only half the amendment.  So far as the NRA and like-minded folk were (and mostly are) concerned, that’s the whole amendment.  Except it isn’t.

The next most important factors in the tortured history would be the historical evolution of gun ownership in the US and the role of gov’t here.  In our early years, the federal gov’t’s role with guns was not particularly controversial.  Early on it mandated musket ownership by all military age males AND regulated that (by requiring regular musters for inspections of the muskets & registration of the same).  Despite what some now argue about prohibitions on regulations on ownership, our Founding Fathers actually altogether prohibited some classes of people from owning guns (such as slaves and even white males who refused to swear allegiance to the country).  We have had many changing alliances and understandings regarding the roles of guns in our society (particularly those that followed the upheaval of the Civil War), which have accompanied the evolving and multifaceted interpretations of the 2d Amend.  The short of it is that neither the wording of the Second Amendment nor the varying historical understandings of it are ‘plain’ or simple.

1792 Militia Act:  It is true that in 1792, Congress passed a law essentially requiring, with some exceptions, all able-bodied white male citizens and residents between the ages of 18 and 45 to acquire and maintain a musket, related supplies and other military equipment.  This law was poorly and unevenly enforced and did not, in fact, prohibit ownership of guns by slaves;  it simply did not require them to have guns.  Restrictions on gun ownership by slaves were imposed in the slave-owning states, but not by federal law.  Of course, under the constitution, slaves were not considered citizens (or even “whole” people, counting as they did under the constitution as only “three-fifths” of a person each), so would not have been covered by the 1792 militia act in any event.

Commentary by St. George TuckerA good indication of what the 2nd Amendment “plainly” meant can be ascertained from the early legal commentaries on the subject.  The earliest known such commentary was written in 1803 by St. George Tucker, whose annotated five volume edition of Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England contained the observation that the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment was not subject to the restrictions that were part of English law:

The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed … and this without any qualification as to their condition or degree, as is the case in the British government ….”  (emphasis added)

Tucker went on to express the hope that Americans “… never cease to regard the right of keeping and bearing arms as the surest pledge of their liberty.”

Commentary by William RawleIn 1825, William Rawle, in A View of the Constitution of the United States of America, characterized the second clause of the Second Amendment as a general prohibition against government control of private gun ownership, saying:

No clause could by any rule of construction be conceived to give to congress a power to disarm the people. Such a flagitious attempt could only be made under some general pretence by a state legislature. But if in any blind pursuit of inordinate power, either should attempt it, this amendment may be appealed to as a restraint on both.

Rawle’s comment is particularly interesting in its suggestion that the 2nd Amendment could be relied upon to restrain state laws infringing on the right to bear arms.  This comment presaged the limitation on state power ultimately included in the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, which was not passed until 43 years later.  Section 1 of the 14th Amendment provides in part, “… nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”.

Commentary by Joseph Story:  In 1833, Joseph Story published his Commentaries on the Constitution. As expressed in those “commentaries”, his view the meaning of the Amendment was clear (and “plain”):

The importance of this article will scarcely be doubted by any persons, who have duly reflected upon the subject. The militia is the natural defence of a free country against sudden foreign invasions, domestic insurrections, and domestic usurpations of power by rulers. It is against sound policy for a free people to keep up large military establishments and standing armies in time of peace, both from the enormous expenses, with which they are attended, and the facile means, which they afford to ambitious and unprincipled rulers, to subvert the government, or trample upon the rights of the people. The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.  (emphasis added)

In short, one of the primary purposes of the 2nd Amendment was to enable the people to protect themselves, if necessary, against the government.  That objective can hardly be accomplished if the government has the power to constitutionally infringe on the right of those same people to bear the arms needed for that very protection.

It was not, in fact, until after the American Civil War and on into the 19th century that legal scholars and commentary began to call into question whether the 2nd Amendment provided an individual right to bear arms or merely a “collective” right of the people to maintain an armed militia.

And that question, of course, was finally answered by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 2008 decision in  District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), the full text of which can be seen here:

http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/search/display.html?terms=heller&url=/supct/html/07-290.ZS.html

In this decision, the Supreme Court held that the 2nd Amendment does protect an individual right to possess firearms unconnected with service in a militia;  that such weapons may be used for “traditionally lawful purposes”, such as self-defense;  that the first clause of the 2nd Amendment “announces a purpose”, but does not limit the second and operative clause of the amendment;  and that the text and history of the phrase “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” indicates “an individual right to keep and bear arms”.

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The effects of gun control

John Douglas also took exception to my discussion of the statistical evidence regarding the effects of gun control, saying:

I am also immediately turned off when a gun rights advocate attacks statistics on the effects of gun control with the ‘there is no evidence’ chain of reasoning.  One of the reasons we have limited evidence on the effects of gun possession in the US is the NRA’s successful stifling of research in the area – and, indeed, in the very collection of data upon which research might be done.  At the peak of gun violence in the early 90s, research results were released showing the higher death rates in homes with guns.   (emphasis added)

John then cited two studies funded by the Centers for Disease Control in support of that conclusion, studies the results of which are available at:

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199310073291506#t=article

and

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199208133270705

The first of these studies addressed homicides in three American counties (Shelby County, TN;  King County, WA;  and Cuyahoga County, OH) during the years 1987 through 1992.  This study notes that more than 24,000 homicides were being committed across the country every year, indicating that approximately 120,000 homicides were committed during the five years addressed by the study.  However, the study actually considered just 420 homicides, or roughly 1/3 of 1% of the total U.S. homicides committed during those years.

Regarding the 420 homicides that were considered, the study noted:

Two hundred nine victims (49.8 percent) died from gunshot wounds. A knife or some other sharp instrument was used to kill 111 victims (26.4 percent). The remaining victims were either bludgeoned (11.7 percent), strangled (6.4 percent), or killed by other means (5.7 percent).

The study ultimately concluded that there was an increased risk of homicide in the home if guns were present (though it is readily apparent that even without guns, if people wanted to kill other people in their homes, there were a variety of other effective means available for that purpose).  However, the study also concluded that there were other factors which were “strongly and independently associated with an increased risk of homicide in the home”, including rental rather than ownership, living alone, previous violence in the home, previous arrest of any resident of the home and drug use in the home.

In fact, four of these five other factors were found to have created a greater increased risk of homicide in the home than did the presence of guns. Use of drugs created an increased risk of homicide that was more than double that of the presence of guns in the home;  previous violence and living in a rental home each created a risk of homicide in the home 63% greater than the presence of guns;  and living alone created a risk of homicide in the home 37% greater than the presence of guns.  The only characteristic that created a lesser increased risk of homicide in the home than the presence of guns was the prior arrest of a resident in the home.

The sample in this study was so small as to be virtually meaningless in the big picture of gun violence and control.  Nevertheless, if taken at face value, it indicates that it is more important, in terms of reducing homicide in the home, to control drug use and violence in the home than it is to control the presence of guns.  In fact, if governmental policy is to be based on this type of statistical analysis, it would also appear to be more important to prohibit people from living alone or renting homes than it is to control the presence of guns.

In other words, this study isn’t very helpful in determining whether or not increased gun controls are useful in preventing homicides in the home or generally.

The second of the two studies John cited addressed 554 in-home suicides in two counties (Shelby County, TN, and King County, WA) over a 32 month period from 1987 to 1990.  Of these suicides, approximately 58% were committed using firearms.

While this study found an increased risk of suicide based on a gun being kept in the home, four other factors were found to have an even higher correlation to increased risk of suicide than the presence of a gun.  Use of prescribed psychotropic medication created an increased suicide risk 7.5 times that created by the presence of a gun; previous hospitalization for alcohol use more than three times;  use of drugs more than double;  and living alone slightly higher than the presence of a gun in the home.  Even failing to graduate from high school had a correlation to an increased risk of suicide that was almost equal to that created by the presence of a gun in the home.

In short, this study is even less useful than the other in determining whether or not greater government control of guns would be appropriate or effective at achieving the desired goals of gun control.

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A straw man argument?

John also took exception to my discussion on another ground:

Finally, and perhaps most egregiously, you set up a straw man argument and, not surprisingly, defeat it, when you claim that gun control advocates are asserting that an increase in the number of guns – irrespective of all other variables – leads to an increase in crimes, especially murder.

To which I say, anyone who contends that reducing the number of guns in the possession of law-abiding citizens will reduce violent crime and murder is also necessarily claiming that an increase in the number of guns will have the opposite effect.  If you don’t contend that reducing the number of guns in the possession of law-abiding citizens will reduce violent crime and murder, then what is the purpose of imposing new laws and regulations designed to accomplish that goal?

John added:

I’m sure there are a few ill-informed fringe gun control advocates who think that way, but no reasonable proponents do.  We all have to recognize that violence levels have many causes. 

And to that I say, exactly.  And that is in fact the primary point of my opposition to the reflexive response of so many that simply imposing stricter gun controls will substantially reduce or even eliminate violent crime.  Interestingly, the two studies cited by John above actually support the conclusion that there are other factors which are much more important, at least with respect to deaths in the home, whether homicides or suicides, than the mere presence in the home of firearms.

John also disagreed with the statistical analysis I presented in “Dispelling the Myth …”, suggesting that the best comparison regarding prevalence of guns and murder rates is not between the U.S. and countries such as Mexico and Honduras, but “comparable” countries like Canada (even though Canadians have no rights comparable to those granted to Americans by the 2nd Amendment).  He notes that Canada is 31st in “homicide rate” (below the U.S., which is 14th), while the U.S. has a homicide per 1000 guns rate that is  7 times that of Canada.

And yet, the overall homicide rate in the U.S. (4.8 per 100,000 people in 2010) is just 3 times that of Canada;  meaning, of course, that Canadians are easily finding other ways, in the absence of ready access to guns, to kill each other.  Just as Americans would if they did not have access to guns.

There are other considerations which must be accounted for in any comparison between the American and Canadian gun-related and overall homicide rates.  For example, while it is true that the homicide rate is higher in the U.S., the overall difference in the rate of violent crimes, including homicides, has decreased, as the rate of violent crimes dropped faster in the U.S., during the 1990’s and 2000’s, than it did in Canada.

Other factors have a significant impact on the relative homicide rates for reasons that are largely unrelated to access to or possession of guns.  The U.S. has more cities with large, concentrated populations, and cities almost invariably have higher murder rates than rural areas, even in countries with strict gun controls and relatively rare private gun ownership.  The U.S. also has substantially more and a higher rate of both gang activity and drug related crime than does Canada; each of these criminal activities contribute disproportionately to the rate of gun-related homicides.

Elimination of the “insane war on drugs” and adoption of social policies designed to reduce gang activity would each do more to reduce the “gun-related” homicide rate in the U.S. than any of the proposed “gun control” measures.

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Conclusion

John wrapped up his comments by saying:

As for the effects of gun control, I harbor no illusions that implementing even draconian restrictions would quickly alter our level of gun violence, since we are awash in guns and it would take decades to ‘drain the swamp’.  The modest restrictions on gun ownership that have been implemented here and there in the past, and that are likely in the future here, are mostly band-aids on a large open wound and will have at most a modest effect on gun violence.  To me, that’s sad, but that is the political reality. 

However, despite my pessimism on what can be done in the US, I stand by what I regard as the clear balance of evidence in regard to the relationship between the level of violence and the prevalence of guns.  When you compare countries with comparable levels of development and comparable social structures, the ones with much lower levels of gun ownership have much lower levels of gun violence.

And I stand by my own analysis in this regard, though I have to agree with the ultimate extrapolation of John’s concluding comment.  That is, there can be no doubt that if there were no guns in the U.S., there would be no gun violence in the U.S.  That, however, is not really the point, as we are never going to have a society in which there are no firearms, nor would or should we want to have such a society.

Furthermore, neither I nor John have addressed the issue of gun control from the perspective of those who have actually used guns in defense of themselves, their homes and their loved ones.

Or why and under what possible future circumstances the availability of firearms for such protection be desirable, if not essential, to the survival of not only individuals, but our society as a whole.

I will address both of these subjects in future discussions here.

Trashing the 1st Amendment in Arizona


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Right wing conservative legislators in Arizona have proposed a new law which would, in blatant violation of the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, require that high school students recite an oath of allegiance as a prerequisite to graduating from high school.  The legislation would require recitation of the following oath:

“I, _______, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge these duties; So help me God.

See Note 1 below for online news articles and commentary about this proposed legislation.

“Freedom of speech” including both the freedom to speak and the freedom not to speak, any requirement that a high school student recite an oath of allegiance in order to graduate is almost certainly unconstitutional as a violation of the 1st Amendment.

More significantly, and the primary point of the controversy over the proposed legislation, is that  the requirement that students invoke “god” in the oath clearly violates the 1st Amendment’s freedom of religion clause.

As a reminder, here is what the 1st Amendment says:

          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.

Proponents of this proposed oath can draw no support from the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Newdow v. Rio Linda Union School District, in which the phrase “under god” in the Pledge of Allegiance was upheld in a 2-1 ruling.  The majority opinion in that case, by Judge Carlos Bea, said:

          We hold that the Pledge of Allegiance does not violate the Establishment Clause because Congress’ ostensible and predominant purpose was to inspire patriotism and that the context of the Pledge—its wording as a whole, the preamble to the statute, and this nation’s history—demonstrate that it is a predominantly patriotic exercise. For these reasons, the phrase “one Nation under God” does not turn this patriotic exercise into a religious activity.

See Note 2 below for the full text of the Newdow decision.

Significantly, however, this ruling was predicated, in significant part, on the fact that the practice involved, teacher-led recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, was required only of “willing” students.  The ruling was therefore consistent with other Circuit Court decisions upholding similar practices in Virginia and Illinois.  The statutes in each of those states allowed any student who objected to reciting the pledge to sit or stand silently.

See Note 3 below for the Virginia and Illinois cases citations.

As noted by Judge Stephen Reinhardt in his Newdow dissent, even this option should not have saved the school policy:

          Were this a case to be decided on the basis of the law or the Constitution, the outcome would be clear. Under no sound legal analysis adhering to binding Supreme Court precedent could this court uphold state-directed, teacher-led, daily recitation of the “under God” version of the Pledge of Allegiance by children in public schools. It is not the recitation of the Pledge as it long endured that is at issue here, but its recitation with the congressionally added two words, “under God”words added in 1954 for the specific religious purpose, among others, of indoctrinating public schoolchildren with a religious belief. …  Only a desire to change the rules regarding the separation of church and state or an unwillingness to place this court on the unpopular side of a highly controversial dispute regarding both patriotism and religion could explain the decision the members of the majority reach here and the lengths to which their muddled and self-contradictory decision goes in order to reach the result they do.

          To put it bluntly, no judge familiar with the history of the Pledge could in good conscience believe, as today’s majority purports to do, that the words “under God” were inserted into the Pledge for any purpose other than an explicitly and predominantly religious one: “to recognize the power and the universality of God in our pledge of allegiance;” to “acknowledge the dependence of our people, and our Government upon the moral direction and the restraints of religion,” … and to indoctrinate schoolchildren in the belief that God exists. Nor could any judge familiar with controlling Supreme Court precedent seriously deny that carrying out such an indoctrination in a public school classroom unconstitutionally forces many young children either to profess a religious belief antithetical to their personal views or to declare themselves through their silence or nonparticipation to be protesting nonbelievers, thereby subjecting themselves to hostility and ridicule.  (emphasis added and citations omitted)

In any event, it is clear that even under the rulings in Newdow, Myers & Sherman, the proposed Arizona legislation, which provides no exception for those who object to the final clause of the oath and which prevents an objector who declines to recite the oath from graduating, would be unconstitutional.

Regarding the lack of an exception for conscientious objection to the oath, one of the sponsors of the bill, freshman Republican representative and Tea Party member Bob Thorpe,  said, “In that we had a tight deadline for dropping our bills, I was not able to update the language”.  Which is all well and good, except I can’t help wondering why it is that “the language” wasn’t properly — and constitutionally — crafted in the first place.  Are representative Thorpe and his co-sponsors — Republican representatives Sonny Borrelli, Carl Seel, T.J. Shope, Jeff Dial, David Livingston, Chester Crandell and Steve Smith — all really that ignorant of the law and the constitution that they couldn’t have written this bill correctly and constitutionally in the first place?

Thorpe also said,Even though I want to encourage all of our students to understand and respect our Constitution and constitutional form of government, I do not want to create a requirement that students or parents may feel uncomfortable with.”  In that case, Mr. Thorpe, perhaps you should withdraw your ill-considered and unnecessary proposal.

Finally, as noted by Comedy Central’s Ilya Gerner, “Nothing says ‘I take this obligation freely’ quite like a state law that withholds your diploma unless you swear an oath”.  Maybe Arizonans should consider electing Gerner, who appears to have a better understanding of the law than their current representatives, to their state legislature.

See Note 4 below for Gerner’s “Comedy Central’s Indecision” blog post.

A personal aside:  I was a 9 year old elementary school student when the Pledge of Allegiance was modified on June 14, 1954, to add the words “under god”.  Although I did not speak out against the change then, as I would now, I soon after adopted the practice of omitting those words each day when we recited the pledge, and have continued doing so to this day. 

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Note 1:  For news article about this proposed legislation, see these websites:

http://current.com/groups/news-blog/94031387_arizona-bill-would-require-loyalty-oath-for-high-school-graduation.htm

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/01/26/arizona-bill-would-require-hs-students-to-swear-constitutional-oath-under-god-to-get-their-diplomas/

For a commentary about this proposed legislation from the atheist perspective, see this article on the website “Friendly Atheist”:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/01/25/arizona-republicans-propose-bill-that-would-not-allow-atheists-to-graduate-high-school/

Note 2:  For the full text of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Decision in Newdow v. Rio Linda Union School District, see:

http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=11662288665673910405&hl=en&as_sdt=2&as_vis=1&oi=scholarr

Note 3:   The Virginia case referred to above is Myers v. Loudoun County Public Schools.  The full text of the opinion in this case is available here:

http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=1292322060893856606&hl=en&as_sdt=2,5&as_vis=1

The Illinois case referred to above is Sherman v. Community Consolidated School District 21 of Wheeling Township.  The full text of the opinion in this case is available here:

http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=17988630665576858060&hl=en&as_sdt=2,5&as_vis=1

Note 4:  For Ilya Gerner’s “Comedy Central’s Indecision” blog post about this proposed legislation, see:

http://www.indecisionforever.com/blog/2013/01/23/arizona-legislators-propose-loyalty-oath-for-high-school-graduation

“Lies the Government Told You”


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I just finished listening to the audio book, “Lies the Government Told You” by former New Jersey Superior Court Judge Andrew P. Napolitano and highly recommend it.  In fact, this is a book that every American should read (or listen to the audio version of).  In it, Judge Napolitano discusses the many ways in which the US federal government has deceived and continues to deceive the American People as it arrogates unto itself more and more power, diminishing in the process both individual liberties and the power of the states.

Judge Napolitano concludes his compelling discourse with a bold and detailed statement of what We The People must do to rectify this situation and reverse the federal government’s ongoing and increasing power grab.  To whet your appetite, I am going to quote the concluding paragraphs of the book in full:

We will need a major political transformation in this country to rid ourselves of persons in government who kill, lie, cheat, and steal in our names. We will need to recognize some painful truths.

First, we must acknowledge that through the actions of the government we have lost much of the freedom that we once all thought was guaranteed by the Constitution, our laws, and our values. The lost freedoms have been cataloged in this book and need not be restated here. In sum, they are the loss of the primacy of the individual’s inalienable rights and the concept that government is limited in its powers. We have lost the diffusion of power between the states and the federal government. We have lost a federal government that stays within the confines of the Constitution.

Second, we must recognize that we do not have a two-party system in this country; we have one party, the Big Government Party. There is a Republican version that assaults our civil liberties and loves deficits and war, and a Democratic version that assaults our commercial liberties and loves wealth transfers and taxes.

Third, we must acknowledge that there is a fire in the bellies of millions of young people who reject both wretched visions of the Big Government Party. These millions of young folks need either to form a Liberty Party or to build on the libertarian base in the Republican Party by banishing Big Government conservatives, neocons, and so-called social conservatives who want to use government to tell others how to live their lives back to the Democratic Party from whence they came.

Then we need a political fever that consumes the careers of all in government who voted for the Patriot Act, the illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the TARP and stimulus programs, the federal takeover of education, spying on Americans without warrants, and all other unconstitutional monstrosities that have tethered lovers of liberty to Washington, D.C.

We should abolish the federal income tax, prohibit eminent domain, impose term congressional limits, make Congress part-time, return the power to elect senators to State legislatures, abolish the Federal Reserve system, and prosecute for malfeasance any member of Congress who cannot articulate where the Constitution authorizes whatever he or she is voting for or who has voted for any law that he has or she has not certified under oath that he or she read and fully understands. And we must reject the nice smiles and easy ways and seductive promises of anyone in government who lies to us.

The Big Government Party crowd is obviously not afraid of lying or being caught in a lie. Its members do not fear their own lawlessness or our loss of freedom. They only fear the loss of their own power. So let’s use that fear against them. Jefferson understood and articulated this best when he wrote: “When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty.”

If we fear our own government, if we accept its deceptions, its lies to us, if we take no action to redress them, our freedoms are doomed.

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For Judge Napolitano’s personal website, see here:

http://www.judgenap.com/

For Judge Napolitano’s biography, see here:

http://www.judgenap.com/bio/

The “Lies the Government Told You” page of the judge’s website is here:

http://www.judgenap.com/books/lies-the-government-told-you/

The Advocates for Self-Government on Guns & Gun Control


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For excellent articles presenting the Libertarian perspective on guns & gun control, see the current issue of The Liberator Online, published by The Advocates for Self-Government, here:

http://us2.campaign-archive1.com/?u=8f8d44f1fc10bd074f648a4de&id=f71e617efd&e=16f5dddde4

“Assault Weapons” Ban(d-aid)

Aside


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Following up on my previous post on this subject, which is at …

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2012/12/29/what-now-for-the-second-amendment-gun-control/

John R. Lott, Jr., in a January 17th Wall Street Journal article, provided an excellent review of the ineffectiveness of the so-called “assault weapons” ban of 1994:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323468604578245803845796068.html

The long and the short of it is, that “ban” was worthless in accomplishing its supposed purpose.  Lott cites a 2004 study which concluded, “”we cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence. And, indeed, there has been no discernible reduction in the lethality and injuriousness of gun violence.”

Commenting on current proposals by President Obama and Senator Diane Feinstein to once again ban “assault weapons”, Lott echoes a point I made in my earlier blog post linked above, stating, “… they continue to mislabel the weapons they seek to ban.”

As I said in that earlier post, there really is no such thing as an “assault weapon” and those weapons likely to be “banned” by any new legislation are not truly “military-style” weapons at all.  As Lott says, no self-respecting military would ever go into combat using the semi-automatic weapons available for sale to civilians.

“Assault weapons” were defined in the 1994 legislation based on appearance, rather than function.  Any weapon that does not require reloading after each shot is a “semi-automatic” weapon — which really means nothing more or less than that one pull of the trigger fires one bullet.  Which pretty much means every modern firearm, pistol, rifle or shotgun.

Unfortunately, neither the executive orders already signed by Obama nor whatever new “assault weapons” ban is ultimately enacted are likely to accomplish the desired goal of reducing or eliminating incidents of mass murder or even reduction of the murder rate in the US.

The reason, of course, is that neither the number of guns nor their accessibility to law-abiding citizens is the underlying cause of murderous incidents (the two most common motivators being mental illness and simple revenge).  Stricter gun control addresses neither of those motivators, nor any of the other social factors which often play into handgun murders (such as gang violence, drug turf wars, armed robberies and other possession/use of firearms by criminals).

Dealing with gun related murders by enacting an “assault weapons” ban or otherwise imposing stricter gun control laws is analogous to treating a gunshot wound by taping a band-aid across the entry point and ignoring the internal damage caused by the bullet.

Dispelling the Myth that More Guns = More Murders


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Aside from their inability or unwillingness to read and comprehend the plain language of the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution, proponents of more restrictive gun control laws rely on a bald-faced lie to support their efforts to disarm law-abiding citizens.

That lie, of course, is the claim that possession of more guns  by private, law-abiding citizens results in more violent crime and, in particular, more murders … and the corollary thereto, that reducing the number of guns in the possession of such citizens will reduce violent crime and murder.

Despite the strident bleating of gun control advocates, the truth of the matter is that denying law-abiding citizens access to firearms does not result in a decrease in murders or other violent crimes.  In fact, world-wide statistics demonstrate conclusively that the opposite is true.

It is understandable that mass murders like those at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, arouse the passions … and fears … of, well, just about everyone.  Nevertheless, public policy ought not be driven by the irrational fears generated by such aberrational events.  And make no mistake, mass murder in the US is aberrational.

Gun control advocates cite in support of their efforts to impose new restrictions on personal gun ownership the fact that the US has the highest number of guns per person of any country in the world and that the homicide rate in this country is the highest in the world.  The first of these claims is true;  the second is demonstrably false.  Some gun control advocates are more honest (and more accurate), claiming only that the US has the highest murder rate among “western countries” (also false), or among “developed nations” (also false), or at least that it is higher than the counties of Europe which have strict gun controls (which is largely, though not entirely, true).

The problem with all of these claims, even with respect to those countries which have stricter gun controls and a lower murder rate, is that it fails to properly correlate the two key statistics (number of guns and number of murders) and also fails to take into consideration other factors which are essential to a full and complete understanding of the gun control issue and what, if anything, should (and can constitutionally) be done about it.

So, what are the true facts about gun ownership and murder rates around the world?

First, it is true that the US has the world’s highest per capita ownership of firearms.  As of 2007, Americans owned, on average, nearly one firearm each;  or to be more precise, 88.8 firearms per 100 residents.  In fact, Americans own, on average, more than twice as many guns per person as the citizens of all but three other countries in the world.  See note 1 below.

Second, and on the other hand, the US ranks only 14th in the world in number of firearms related homicides (at 3.7 per 100,000 population per year).  This is not even the highest rate on the North American continent (Mexico coming in at 10.00, despite having only roughly 1/6 the number of guns per person as the US).  See Note 2 below. 

Third, and more significantly, when considering intentional homicides by all means, the US ranks 102nd out of 206 countries in the world (as of 2012).  The intentional homicide rate in the US is approximately 4.8 per 100,000 population per year.  This is less than 1/20 of the intentional homicide rate of the country with the highest rate in the world (Honduras at 91.6).  Honduras, by the way, has less than 7% of the number of guns per person as the US.  See Note 3 below.

Other “western” or “developed” countries with higher intentional homicide rates than the US include Mexico and Greenland, as well as virtually every country in Central & South America and the Caribbean.  It is true that most European countries, including all of those in Western Europe, have lower intentional homicide rates that the US.

Nevertheless, these statistics alone belie the claim that more guns equal more murders.  Otherwise, the US, which has nearly twice as many guns per capita as any other country, would also have twice as many intentional homicides per capita as any other country.  Not even close.

However, to truly evaluate the claim that “more guns = more murders”, there is one more correlation which must be considered — that is, the rate of homicides per firearm in each country.  Finding this statistic proved elusive.  In fact, I could not find it anywhere, so had to do the calculations myself.   I had what I considered sufficient statistics for 173 countries and the chart I produced is here:

Murders per 1000 guns

Now, if “more guns = more murders” and “fewer guns = fewer murders”, then the countries of the world which have the highest per capita gun ownership should have the highest per gun murder rates.  As you can see by reviewing my chart, this is not only NOT true, there is a very strong NEGATIVE correlation.  That is, for the most part, the countries with the highest per capita gun ownership tend to have the lowest per gun murder rates!

The US, with by far the most guns and the highest per capita gun ownership, ranks 81st in the world, averaging 146.35 murders per 1000 guns.  None of the other top 16 countries in the world in per capita gun ownership ranks in the top 100 in murders per gun — see list here:

Top 16 Countries in Per Capita Gun Ownership with Ranking in Murders per 1000 Guns

On the other hand, of the 15 countries with the highest murder rates, only one (Brazil, which is 12th in murders per 1000 guns and 75th in gun ownership) is in the top 100 countries in the world in terms of highest gun ownership.  Every other country with the 14 highest murder rates per 1000 guns ranks 102nd or below in gun ownership.

The only logical conclusion to be drawn from these facts is that it is neither the presence nor absence of guns which determines the rate at which people will kill each other.  There are obviously other factors involved, but what these facts unequivocally do show is that when people want to kill other people, they will find a way to do so, even if they do not have ready access to firearms.

Furthermore, the aberrational occurrence of mass or spree murders correlates with neither the rate of gun ownership nor the normal murder rates per gun or per capita.

The worst mass murder in modern history (not counting, of course, state sanctioned or military mass murders, a wholly different subject) occurred in the country which ranks 164th in murders per 1000 guns and which otherwise has a murder rate of just 0.6 per 100,000 people.  This, of course, was the 2011 killing of 77 people in Norway, 69 of whom were shot by firearms and 8 of whom were killed by a bomb.  The nut-ball who committed these murders, by the way, was a self-styled anti-Muslim militant, though his targets were not particularly Muslims.

The worst mass murder ever in an American school occurred in 1927 in Bath, Michigan, when 44 people, including 38 elementary school students, were killed by three bombs set off in the school.  This particular killer used no firearms at all.  Only the fact that most of the explosives he had placed in the school failed to detonate prevented a much higher death toll.

In the US, there are other factors involved in both the general and firearms murder rates, including “The Insane War on Drugs” and gang warfare problems.  The rate homicides resulting from these two issues are unlikely in the extreme to be reduced by further restrictions on the possession of firearms by law-abiding citizens.

Retired Texas Congressman Ron Paul, a nominal Republican but at heart a Libertarian, issued a statement after the Sandy Hook murders in which he said, in part:

“… do we really want to live in a world of police checkpoints, surveillance cameras, metal detectors, X-ray scanners, and warrantless physical searches?  We see this culture in our airports: witness the shabby spectacle of once proud, happy Americans shuffling through long lines while uniformed TSA agents bark orders.  This is the world of government provided “security,” a world far too many Americans now seem to accept or even endorse.  School shootings, no matter how horrific, do not justify creating an Orwellian surveillance state in America.

“Do we really believe government can provide total security?  Do we want to involuntarily commit every disaffected, disturbed, or alienated person who fantasizes about violence?  Or can we accept that liberty is more important than the illusion of state-provided security? Government cannot create a world without risks, nor would we really wish to live in such a fictional place.  Only a totalitarian society would even claim absolute safety as a worthy ideal, because it would require total state control over its citizens’ lives.  We shouldn’t settle for substituting one type of violence for another.  Government role is to protect liberty, not to pursue unobtainable safety.

“Our freedoms as Americans preceded gun control laws, the TSA, or the Department of Homeland Security.  Freedom is defined by the ability of citizens to live without government interference, not by safety. It is easy to clamor for government security when terrible things happen; but liberty is given true meaning when we support it without exception, and we will be safer for it. ”  (emphasis added)   See Note 4 below.

Americans of all political persuasions should take his words to heart.

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Note 1:  For the Wikipedia article “Number of guns per capita by country”, see:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Number_of_guns_per_capita_by_country

Note 2:  For the Wikipedia article “List of countries by firearm-related death rate”, see:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_firearm-related_death_rate

Note 3:  For the Wikipedia article List of countries by intentional homicide rate”, see:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

Note 4:  For the full text of Ron Paul’s statement, see his webpage here:

http://www.ronpaul.com/2012-12-25/ron-paul-seeking-total-security-leads-to-a-totalitarian-society/

Trashing the 1st & 2nd Amendments in Tennessee


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James Yeager is the owner of Tactical Response, a weapons training center in Camden, Tennessee.  His business trains people in weapons use and tactical skills — a sign on door of the business warns that the staff is trained to kill.

In response to reports that the Obama administration might take executive action to impose additional restrictions on individual rights under the 2nd Amendment, Yeager posted a You Tube video in which he said, among other things, “I’m telling you, if that happens, it’s going to spark a civil war, and I’ll be glad to fire the first shot,”

In response to Yeager’s comments — and in blatant violation of both the 1st and 2nd Amendments — the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security suspended Yeager’s carry permit.  TDS&HS Commissioner Bill Gibbons said in a news release announcing the suspension, “The number one priority for our department is to ensure the public’s safety. Mr. Yeager’s comments were irresponsible, dangerous, and deserved our immediate attention. Due to our concern, as well as that of law enforcement, his handgun permit was suspended immediately. We have notified Mr. Yeager about the suspension today via e-mail. He will receive an official notification of his suspension through the mail.”

Perhaps the “number one priority” of the TDS&HS ought to be upholding the 1st and 2nd Amendments of the US Constitution.  And perhaps Commissioner Gibbons ought to be more concerned about upholding the oath of office he took upon assuming control of his department, in which he swore to “support the constitutions of Tennessee and the United States”.

This suspension is clearly and unequivocally a violation of Yeager’s 1st Amendment right to free speech.  As decided by the United States Supreme Court in the 1965 Brandenburg v. Ohio case, the government cannot punish an individual who engages in “inflammatory speech” unless it is directed to inciting, and is likely to incite, “imminent lawless action“.

Yeager’s comments were unquestionably “inflammatory”.  Nevertheless, they are constitutionally protected against punishment by the State of Tennessee by the 1st Amendment, as applied to the states through the 14th Amendment.

In Brandenburg, a per curiam (unanimous) decision, the court said, “Freedoms of speech and press do not permit a State to forbid advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.”  (emphasis added)

Because comments were conditioned on uncertain future events (“if that happens”), they cannot be taken as “inciting or producing imminent lawless action” and cannot be “likely to incite or produce such action”.  As the Brandenburg court also noted, “The line between what is permissible and not subject to control and what may be made impermissible and subject to regulation is the line between ideas and overt acts.”  (emphasis added)

In unlawfully punishing Yeager for the exercise of his 1st Amendment rights, the state of Tennessee has also “infringed” on Yeager’s 2nd Amendment right “to keep and bear arms” — a constitutional “two fer”, if you will.

Yeager has since revised his You Tube video to remove some of the more inflammatory comments.  He is now referring all questions about the situation to his attorney and intends to pursue a legal review of his license suspension.

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The Huffington Post article about Yeager’s diatribe is here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/10/james-yeager-start-killing-people-obama-gun-policy_n_2448751.html

The MSNBC post regarding the suspension of Yeager’s handgun carry permit is here:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/50429293

The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security website is here:

http://www.tn.gov/safety/

The Wikipedia article on Brandenburg v. Ohio (which discusses the Supreme Court 1st Amendment decisions on this issue which preceded Brandenburg) is here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brandenburg_v._Ohio

The Brandenburg decision is available on Justia.com here:

https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/395/444/case.html

More on the 2nd Amendment & Gun Control


 

My December 29th post “What Now for the 2nd Amendment and Gun Control?” …

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2012/12/29/what-now-for-the-second-amendment-gun-control/

… motivated a lengthy and somewhat contentious email conversation among my West Point classmates.  There are several aspects of that conversation which I will address in my blog over the next few days, starting with some perceptive and pertinent comments and questions by Terry Atkinson.

First, Terry commented:  The logic behind the belief that the 2d amendment’s protection of an individual’s right to own arms is limitless eludes me. If one truly believes that, as Jim states fairly unequivocally in his blog discussion, then it must follow that ‘arms’ such as M109 howitzers  enjoy the same protection as handguns or semiautomatic weapons. It seems to me, however, that the logic would also cover such weapons as nuclear weapons and, let’s say, B-1 bomber delivery systems. If, indeed, you all belief that, it seems to me that your logic fails the common sense test.  I can’t imagine any country that allows its citizens unfettered access to say nukes, thousand pound bombs, napalm canisters, sarin gas canisters, cobra gunships with flechette rockets, or any number of mass-killing weapons would last.

Actually, my “strict construction” view of the 2nd Amendment does not envision a “limitless” right to own weapons.  In fact, a strict construction reading of the amendment’s language makes clear that it does not apply to modern warfare weapons such as howitzers, nukes and bombers.

A thorough analysis of the 2nd Amendment requires a thorough review and understanding of the amendment’s language and what that language meant at the time it was ratified.  To be a “strict constructionist”, one must strictly construe the entirety of the particular constitutional provision being discussed.  Therefore, to respond to Terry’s first point, it is primarily necessary to understand what the term “to keep and bear arms” meant when the 2nd Amendment was ratified in 1791.

First and most important, what did the word “arms” mean at that time?  Historical commentary and arguments both for and against the adoption of this amendment make it clear that by “arms”, the author of the Bill of Rights (James Madison), and those who voted to ratify it, meant weapons that were neither designed for military use nor typically put to such use.  By “arms”, the amendment was intended to refer to personal weapons, such as pistols, rifles and shotguns.  It clearly was not intended to refer to military-style, 18th century artillery pieces and, by analogy, cannot now be thought to refer to the 21st century successors to such military weapons.

The phrase “to keep and bear” arms confirms this interpretation.  To “keep … arms”, of course, means nothing more than to be able to have them in one’s possession.  At the writing of the 2nd Amendment, “to bear” meant “to carry”.  Although that term is now somewhat archaic, it clearly refers to weapons which an individual could carry with him on his person.

Thus, the phrase “to keep and bear arms” meant (and means) that the government cannot infringe “the right of the people to have and carry personal weapons such as pistols, rifles and shotguns”.

This would currently exclude from constitutional protection such weapons as fighter aircraft, naval ships and weapons, artillery pieces, napalm, nukes & other bombs, as well as even such lesser weapons as 50 caliber machine guns, shoulder mounted rocket launchers, flamethrowers, hand grenades and most other military-style weapons.

The US Supreme Court holding in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), reached the same conclusions.  The court in Heller said that the previous Supreme Court decision United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939), did not “limit the right to keep and bear arms to militia purposes, but rather limits the type of weapon to which the right applies to those used by the militia, i.e., those in common use for lawful purposes”.  The court went on to find support for this conclusion in what it called the “historical tradition” of prohibiting the carrying of  “dangerous and unusual” weapons.

Terry’s second comment:  If you don’t believe that nukes and these other weapons enjoy the protection of the 2d amendment, then it seems to me you are recognizing a limitation to the amendment — a limitation that does not appear to be written into the ‘strict constructionist’s’ reading of the amendment. Logic then suggests that there ARE limits to the constitutional right based on ‘reasonableness’ or current conditions or changing societal mores or something. If true, it seems to me the issue is no longer whether the 2d amendment prevents the government from restricting arms ownership but rather a question of where the line of reasonableness is drawn. This, IMO, is an entirely different argument and one that I can understand.

As should be clear from my preceding comments, I do not believe that nukes and other military weapons are protected by the 2nd Amendment.  I disagree, however, with Terry’s conclusion that this implies a “limitation” on the 2nd Amendment’s protections.  Rather, my “strict construction” interpretation of that amendment is that such weapons were not then and were never intended to be covered by the 2nd Amendment.  A true “strict construction” of the amendment still leads to the conclusion that the government cannot infringe on “the right of the people to keep and bear arms”, within the original meaning of that language.  This reading has nothing to do with “reasonableness”, current conditions or changing societal mores.

Nevertheless, the end result is, with respect to military style weaponry, the same and it appears that Terry & I agree that the government can constitutionally restrict individual access to, or possession and use of, such weapons.

Terry’s third point was in the form of a question, and a very good one, at that:  Where in the 2nd amendment or constitution for that matter does it state that the rights stated therein do not cover persons who have committed crimes or are diagnosed with mental illnesses? My “strict interpretation” of the Constitution tells me that anyone can own a weapon whether they have a criminal past or not. Isn’t that right?

Answering this question requires further analysis — initially, what governmental action would “infringe” on the individual’s right to bear arms?  Or, in simpler terms, what did (does) the word “infringe” mean?

The oldest definition I can find is from Webster’s Dictionary of 1828, which likely reflects fairly closely what the word meant in 1791:

1.     To break, as contracts; to violate, either positively by contravention, or negatively by non-fulfillment or neglect of performance. A prince or a private person infringes an agreement or covenant by neglecting to perform its conditions, as well as by doing what is stipulated not to be done.
2.     To break; to violate; to transgress; to neglect to fulfill or obey; as, to infringe a law.

With this meaning of “infringe”, a “strict construction” interpretation of the 2nd Amendment would be that the government cannot “break or violate” (or perhaps “deny”, as in “neglect to fulfill”) “the right of the people to have and carry personal weapons such as pistols, rifles and shotguns”.

What the 2nd Amendment itself does not address, however, and what must then be considered both in terms of the contemporaneous understanding of what the amendment meant and what it must be understood to mean now is whether or not, and if so, how a particular person can lose his constitutional rights, including his “right to keep and bear arms”.

Although neither the Bill of Rights nor the Constitution proper address that possibility, there are constitutional provisions which provide guidance in this regard.  Article I, section 8,  and Article III, section 3, empower Congress to define certain federal crimes and to establish the punishment to be imposed for violations thereof.  Article III, section 2, and Article IV, section 2, acknowledge that the states have the authority to define crimes and punishments.  Furthermore, it is clear that all of the Founding Fathers of this country, and probably the vast majority of the populace, recognized that the government could revoke even the “inalienable rights” of the people by fining, imprisoning or, in extreme cases, executing those who violated the laws of the country or the states.

Clearly, the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” could be forfeited by those who committed crimes.  There is neither any logical reason nor any historical interpretation by which it could be concluded that the 2nd Amendment “right to keep and bear arms” was somehow exempted from forfeiture as a result of a sufficiently serious criminal conviction.  Nor is there any logical reason to conclude that this right cannot now be forfeited for the same reason.

Thus, as a general proposition, a person who has committed a sufficiently serious (felony) crime no longer has a right to keep and bear arms to be infringed.  And governmental restriction of that person’s access to firearms or other weapons would not violate the 2nd Amendment.

I do have personal reservations about the constitutionality of the extensions of this concept being enacted by some states, including denial of access to firearms based on misdemeanor criminal convictions, such as domestic violence.  That, however, is really a subject for a separate discussion at another time.

With respect to the remainder of Terry’s question in this regard, the issue of denying 2nd Amendment rights to people suffering from mental illnesses is constitutionally troublesome.  There is nothing in the Constitution by which it can be inferred that either the federal or state governments have lawful authority to revoke the rights of a person due to mental illness.

Nevertheless, it was common practice in the 1700s and early 1800s for local government to confine the mentally ill to either jails or poorhouses.  Since the Constitution does not otherwise address the issue, it must be understood in the context of the times.  The implication of this historical perspective, of course, is that the mentally ill could, on that basis alone, lose some or all of their “rights”.  Presumably, Madison and those who ratified the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, were aware of this common practice and had it in mind when formulating and ratifying those documents.

Therefore, a strict construction of the 2nd Amendment would also require that it be understood in that context.  Which means that the mentally ill, like convicted felons, can be thought of as not having any 2nd Amendment right to be infringed by governmental action.

There are, of course, other issues with respect to the 2nd Amendment, such as whether or not licensing requirements and concealed carry restrictions are constitutional or whether it is constitutionally permissible to restrict the carrying of weapons into certain places (such as public buildings).  And there is the question of whether gun control is a meaningful and effective way of dealing with the problem to begin with.  I will address some of these issues in future blog posts.

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The full 157 page opinion of the Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), is available here:

http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/07pdf/07-290.pdf

The Supreme Court decision in United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939), is available here:

http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0307_0174_ZO.html