Mission statement:

Armed and Safe is a gun rights advocacy blog, with the mission of debunking the "logic" of the enemies of the Constitutionally guaranteed, fundamental human right of the individual to keep and bear arms.

I can be reached at 45superman@gmail.com.You can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/45superman.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I'm no statistician, but . . .

. . . I can't help but think that even if I were a statistician, I'd have trouble figuring this out.

Using the latest available data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the group Connecticut Against Gun Violence reports the Nutmeg State had the fifth-lowest rate of gun-related homicides of any state in 2004 — 5.3 deaths per 100,000 people, compared with a national average of 10.3.

It also had the seventh-lowest rate of suicides involving guns, 8.4 per 100,000, compared with the national average of 11.1.
5.3 shooting deaths per 100,000 people, but 8.4 suicides (per 100,000) in which a gun was used (assuming, anyway, that "suicides involving guns" refers to suicides committed with guns, rather than people slashing their own carotid arteries because of depression over draconian gun laws). Call me dense, but I can't figure out how suicides can outnumber deaths.

Anyway, let's forget all that, and look at the comparison of Connecticut's total shooting death numbers relative to the national average. 5.3 per 100,000 comes out to .0053%--which is certainly an encouragingly low number. Compare that to the national figure of 10.3 per 100,000, for .0103%--that means that in terms of shooting deaths, Connecticut is .005% safer than the rest of the country. I'm not a betting man, but I'd say a 99.9897% chance of not being shot to death in a given year is pretty damned good. When one considers that I'm not the suicidal type (thus cutting my risk of being shot to death about in half), and that I don't break into houses, sell drugs, or run around with gangs, it would seem that my chances of being shot to death are low enough for me to legitimately wonder "What 'epidemic of gun violence'?"

The statistics quoted in the article also pay no attention to sociological factors like income, employment, education, and--dare I say it--race, and how those compare to the rest of the country. Such factors would almost certainly affect the number of shooting deaths.

The thrust of the article is that the more common gun ownership is, the more shooting deaths there will be. I'm not trying to deny that there is probably some truth to that assertion--just as skiing accident fatalities tend to be more commonplace in Colorado than in Nebraska, and traffic fatalities tend to be more numerous in areas with heavier vehicular traffic than in the trackless wilderness.

From there, the article goes on to praise Connecticut's restrictive gun laws. Since the point of the article seems to be that lower rates of gun ownership are a desirable outcome, the conclusion I draw is that the mechanism by which restrictive gun laws are hoped to reduce shooting deaths is the discouragement of gun ownership.

If discouraging gun ownership is good, then banning it outright (the article's claim that "the solution isn't to ban guns," notwithstanding) must be even better, right?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

(Pleasantly) shocked

When I see an article about what a Canadian police chief has to say about gun control, I expect to see enthusiastic cheerleading for forcible citizen disarmament. Canada isn't exactly what one would consider the friendliest ground for gun rights, and even in the States, metropolitan police chiefs tend to prefer that the "Only Ones" with guns answer to them for their paychecks.

It's therefore a very pleasant surprise to see the chief of the Calgary Police Service express disdain for gun bans.

Banning handguns, as politicians on the federal campaign trail have suggested, is a "weak-kneed" strategy that won't stop the flow of illegal weapons in Calgary, the city's police chief said Friday.

Rick Hanson, while announcing charges against a suspect in the shooting of Brazilian student Neto Ribeiro, said the accused has "one of those feared prohibitions for possessing firearms."

"There's a little bit of sarcasm there because, personally, I'm tired of when serious events like this (happen), politicians trot out the same tried and tired old solutions of 'we're going to ban certain types of weapons, or make it more restrictive.' They're not getting it. These are criminals who use illegal means to perpetrate illegal activities," he said.
What? Criminals break laws, so passing more laws won't help? That's crazy talk.

And he's not done:
Hanson said a ban on handguns would not affect those committing violent crimes.

"It's about criminals that are bringing guns into the country illegally. These are unregistered. Any of these weak-kneed solutions that speak to tired, old suggestions that aren't our problems today. There's no sense even talking about it."
It would be interesting to discover the mayor's position (I see that he's a member of the Liberal Party). You certainly wouldn't see a police chief serving under Mayor Bloomberg or Mayor Daley making statements like that. Then again, I don't know how these things work in Canada--perhaps the police chief is not a political appointee, beholden to the mayor for his job, and thus obligated to say only what the mayor wants him to.

Even if Chief Hanson is not putting his job at risk with such comments, though, I can't help but be impressed.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Laugh, or cry?

They forgot to mention shotguns.

Well, that was quick. Pointless, but quick

Yesterday, I asked Senator Obama to support Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison's efforts to pressure Senator Harry Reid to bring H.R. 6842 up for a Senate vote. I did so with exactly zero expectation that Obama would sign the letter--the intent was simply to highlight the contrast between reality and Obama's relentless efforts to convince gun owners that he's on our side.

To my surprise, I have already received a reply.

Dear Kurt:

Thank you for contacting me regarding gun policy. I appreciate hearing your perspective on this important issue.

I respect the Second Amendment and responsible gun ownership. But I am also concerned about the human consequences of guns falling into the wrong hands and being misused. I do not find objectionable the goal of keeping firearms out of the hands of children, terrorists, gang members and criminals in general. The question for me is how to best accomplish that goal without abridging the rights of hunters, sportsmen, and other legitimate gun owners. As I consider gun legislation, I will work to find the appropriate balance between these two objectives.

For example, Senator David Vitter (R-LA), in response to complaints about the confiscation of firearms during the recovery from Hurricane Katrina, offered an amendment that would prohibit such confiscations in areas hit by natural disaster. I voted with Senator Vitter on this amendment. On the other hand, I support the re-imposition of the ban on the sale of assault weapons that expired in September 2004 because I believe these guns are used primarily for criminal rather than sporting intent. I also support requiring gun manufacturers to install child safety locks on all of their products.

Again, I have always believed that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms, but I also identify with the need for crime-ravaged communities to save their children from the violence that plagues our streets through common-sense, effective safety measures. I do not believe that these two principles – the individual right and the rights of a community to maintain public safety – are contradictory.

On June 26, 2008, the Supreme Court endorsed that same view. Although it ruled that the D.C. gun ban went too far, Justice Scalia himself acknowledged that this right is not absolute and subject to reasonable regulations enacted by local communities to keep their streets safe.

Anyone who lives in a large urban center like Chicago is aware of the terrible toll gun violence is taking on American society. As a statewide elected official who has traveled our state extensively, I appreciate how strongly sportsmen, hunters and collectors feel about their rights to own firearms. But I am convinced we can more aggressively attack the problem of gun violence without interfering with the rights of responsible gun owners.

Again, thank you for contacting me. I look forward to keeping in touch.


Barack Obama
United States Senator
Nothing like breaking one's fast on canned . . . nothing, is there?

Anyway, I'll take that as a "No" to my request that he sign the letter.

School administrators eager to repeat the results, if not the spirit, of the Alamo

I don't know when, or even if, the Students for Concealed Carry on Campus (SCCC) movement will win any victories--they're fighting against a deeply entrenched prejudice in favor of disarmament (mandated defenselessness, in other words). Still, I can't help but be impressed by the progress made so far. Ten years ago (or even five), I suspect one would have been hard pressed to find any serious discussion about revoking colleges' victim disarmament zone status. Now, such discussions are commonplace.

One such discussion can be found here, in a newspaper serving San Antonio College and the Alamo Community College District. Predictably, administrators are less than keen on the idea.

"I don't think it's a good idea. I think that the risk of doing additional harm or mistaking a situation and harming someone is greater than the benefit," President Robert Zeigler said.
"The risk of doing additional harm or mistaking a situation and harming someone" must be great indeed, if it exceeds the benefit of stopping something like the Virginia Tech butchery a couple dozen victims short of the toll that was actually reached.
"Guns aren't the problem. They're the result. A better response would be to be sensitive to others and keep your eyes open. You can generally avoid these situations." Tim Rockey, dean of continuing education, said.
Oh--so that's the problem. The victims at Virginia Tech and Norther Illinois University weren't "sensitive to others" enough, and had their eyes closed. If not for that, they could have "generally avoid[ed]" being killed. One problem with that, Mr. Rockey, is that one only has to be killed once to be permanently dead. Generally avoiding being killed ain't good enough.

President Zeigler is also not impressed by the idea of deterring would-be shooters.
"I think that anybody who would seriously contemplate killing other students knows that they might die." Zeigler said. "In fact, that's their goal. They want to take as many people with them on their way out as they can,"
They might be willing, or even planning, to die, but they seem to have a tendency to want to do so on their own terms--killing a bunch of helpless victims, and then using their last round on themselves. Dying at the hands of one of their intended victims seems to have a lot less appeal.
Several of the faculty feel safe on campus, referencing the quick response time of the security, and say they prefer to leave guns in the hands of law enforcement.
True, they often set up a perimeter around the killing ground pretty quickly. It seems to work, too--so far, none of the killers has escaped after slaughtering his helpless victims and then killing himself.

Finally, Mr. Rockey seems to be under the impression that he is being asked to carry a gun, against his inclinations.
"After 22 years in the military, I had enough with guns. That's why we have law enforcement officers with uniforms, guns and the proper training," Rockey said.
And those law enforcement officers with uniforms do indeed seem trained well in the subtle nuances of sheltering behind trees and parked cars, while the killer goes about his business.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ask him to prove that he 'supports the Second Amendment'

Now that H.R. 6842 (which, by virtue of House Amendment 1171, now contains the language of H.R. 6691) has passed in the House, the next (very unlikely) step is to get it passed in the Senate this month.

As I mentioned Monday, not only do I not see this going anywhere in the Senate, I don't think it was ever intended to go anywhere--the intent, as I see it, is merely to give the impression that pro-rights forces are fighting the good fight.

Still, as Sebastian points out (also here), some good can perhaps be gotten from this. The following point, in particular, would seem to have some promise:

2. Harry Reid protects Obama by keeping it off the floor, in which case you now have that as an election issue to use against Democratic leadership, including Obama.
Obama is, of course, eager to reassure gun owning voters that he is not a threat, and that he supports an individual right to firearm ownership.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison is apparently trying to muster enough signatures to pressure Harry Reid to being the bill up for a vote. She evidently needs the signatures by tomorrow.

Again, I'm not convinced this is going anywhere, but a refusal on Obama's part to sign the letter gives us one more piece of evidence to point to, to refute AHSA's lie that Obama supports gun owners.

My message to Obama follows.
Dear Senator Obama,

Congratulations on your nomination as the Democratic candidate for President of the United States.

I am writing to urge you to consider the fact that perhaps the greatest threat to the freedom of the American people is posed by the U.S. federal government itself, and as head of that government, perhaps the president's greatest responsibility is protecting the people from that threat.

More specifically, I am concerned that the Constitutionally guaranteed, fundamental human right of the individual to keep and bear arms is at risk. Although the Supreme Court's Heller decision now makes it a settled point of law that outright bans of handguns are unconstitutional, creative citizen disarmament advocates are finding plenty of ways to regulate that fundamental right out of existence. Measures enacted by the Washington D.C. city council are a prime example (although there are many more such examples, in other jurisdictions).

Recently, you have, in a rather dramatic contradiction of your voting record in the Illinois state senate (as an Illinois resident, I am familiar with that record) and as a United States Senator (not to mention your leadership position with the very anti-gun rights Joyce Foundation), expressed support for the Second Amendment, and your belief that American citizens have an individual right to own firearms. I imagine that you are aware that I am far from the only gun owner to view this seemingly new position with a great deal of skepticism.

The good news is that you have an opportunity to go a long way in allaying that skepticism. As you are probably aware, the House of Representatives has passed H.R. 6842, as amended by House Amendment 1171, which would, if enacted, greatly help in the protection of Washington D.C. residents' gun rights. Unfortunately, time is quickly running out for bringing this vital measure to a Senate vote before the end of this Congressional session. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison is leading an effort to persuade Senator Harry Reid to bring H.R. 6842 up for a vote. By cosigning that letter by Friday, September 19th, you could do much to calm the suspicion, held by a great many gun owning voters, that you remain opposed to private ownership of firearms.

Please do so, and help convince gun owning voters that your words of support for the Second Amendment are not merely empty rhetoric.

Kurt Hofmann
Come to think of it, with a few alterations, it would be worth sending to McCain, as well--it's not as if he has earned a free pass, either.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Philadelphia to get some partners in crime

It seems that several Pennsylvania mayors, encouraged by Philadelphia's defiance of state law (which I've discussed before) prohibiting municipalities from arbitrarily enacting citizen disarmament laws of their own, have pledged to follow Philly into criminality.

Members of the coalition, PA Mayors for Gun Safety, pledged to introduce legislation in their cities that would require gun owners to report lost or stolen weapons or be subject to possible fines and/or jail time.

The announcement was made at a news conference at City Hall here. The group includes Mayor Nutter and the mayors of Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton, Lancaster, Reading, Pottsville and York.
What makes this illegal, of course, is that Pennsylvania law preempts local power to enact gun laws--authority to infringe on that which shall not be infringed belongs solely to the state (what gives the state the right to control the Constitutionally guaranteed, fundamental, absolute human right of the individual to keep and bear arms is a discussion for another day).

As the quoted passage indicates, the "law" in question here is the requirement for victims of theft to report the theft of their guns, or face prosecution themselves.

Philadelphia's Mayor Nutter explains why he thinks preemption doesn't prohibit such laws:
Nutter argued that the state legislation that limits the power of local governments to pass gun legislation governs "lawful weapons." The legislation proposed by the mayors' coalition involves "lost or stolen weapons," Nutter said.
This is clearly idiotic--a lawfully purchased and owned weapon doesn't suddenly cease to be lawful if it becomes lost. Likewise, if such a gun is stolen, its lawful owner is still the owner (and by the way, this law could only be enforced against people who owned guns legally--to require someone who owns a gun illegally to report that fact would violate the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination).

When a governing body enacts laws illegally, the rule of law is clearly dead. That makes it a bit difficult to imagine how these cities can expect their "laws" to be respected.

Snowflakes in Hell has more.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

More AHSA obfuscation

As I mentioned last Thursday (and as has been discussed in great depth, for months, by many other people), Obama considers the gun rights vote important enough to be worth pursuing. He also apparently thinks gun rights advocates lack the wit (and the memory) to realize that Obama and Biden probably constitute the most rabidly pro-citizen disarmament major party presidential ticket in U.S. history.

Running interference for him is the "American Hunters and Shooters Association" (AHSA), a phony "pro-gun" group that advocates draconian gun laws, and which the Brady Campaign sees as an ally:

Unfortunately for Schoenke, the Brady Campaign basically agrees with the NRA [that AHSA is an anti-rights group]. "I see our issues as complementary to theirs," Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign, says about Schoenke's association. "They're a positive group."

Helmke even contends that the two organizations are not far apart in approach. Helmke says he, too, shot guns as a boy and is as Middle American as he can be -- a former Republican mayor of Fort Wayne, Ind. "The Brady Campaign is not just East Coast liberal Democrats," he says.
The latest round of Obama's AHSA-abetted claim to be a "defender of the Second Amendment" is a radio ad being aired in New Hampshire, featuring AHSA president Ray Schoenke.
"It's important to me that our next president protects our Second Amendment rights to own guns and defend ourselves," Schoenke says in the ad. "Barack Obama and John McCain will both make sure we can keep our guns. But what about keeping our jobs? Barack's got a real plan that invests in creating jobs here at home and cuts taxes a thousand bucks for working families."

Schoenke then criticized McCain's economic policies.

"It's the same old Bush playbook," he says. "When the coach loses eight years in a row, you don't bring him back for a ninth season! We just can't afford more of the same."
Click here to listen (QuickTime format).

Obama and McCain "will both make sure we can keep our guns"? That's funny, I thought Obama voted to ban shotguns (without even the courtesy of a "grandfather clause"), and that McCain has voted to ban so-called "assault weapons." It looks to me as if neither can be trusted to keep their hooks out of our gun safes, although at least with McCain, disarming America hasn't been a signature issue throughout his political career, and in choosing Governor Palin as his running mate, he is running with someone clearly vastly better with regard to gun rights than Senator Biden is.

As to Schoenke's claims about who would be better for the economy, I'll acknowledge that my understanding of economic issues is somewhere between thin and anorexic, but I do know that it's not the president's place to "create jobs," and that the less the feds interfere with the economy, the less they'll screw it up.

I won't urge anyone to vote for McCain (I myself won't be doing so), but a vote for Obama is a vote for forcible citizen disarmament.

Monday, September 15, 2008

No right to violate rights

I haven't written, so far, about H.R. 6691, which would, if enacted, invalidate most of Washington D.C.'s most egregious violations of the right to keep and bear arms, and also preempt local officials' ability to set gun policy in the future. The reason for my reticence has been that even if, as expected, the bill passes in the House, I think it very unlikely to go anywhere in the Senate. Such an outcome (House passage, followed by quiet oblivion in the Senate) would be, for politicians, the best of both worlds--the people remain disarmed, but ostensibly "pro-gun" legislators can claim to have done their best (as could the NRA). I am not alone in seeing this as mere political theater, designed to keep the pro-gun natives from getting restless.

I hope I am wrong about the foregoing, and as often as I'm wrong when I don't want to be, it certainly wouldn't be a man-bites-dog situation if I blew this call, too.

Anyway, the reason I decided to write about this today is to rebut a claim that the citizen disarmament crowd is making a lot these days--that H.R. 6691 is wrong because it is an attack on local authority. The New England Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, for example, charges that it is hypocritical for Congresspeople representing New Hampshire (the "Live Free or Die" state) to support the bill.

But the gun lobby is not satisfied with the D.C. Council’s efforts and is taking this opportunity to encourage Congress to meddle in local legislation. They are pushing hard for H.R. 6691, a bill that would not only repeal D.C.’s current gun regulations but also prevent the D.C. City Council from enacting any gun-related legislation in the future. It is an obscene attempt to prevent the residents of Washington, D.C. from governing themselves. How ironic that the only two congressional cosponsors from New England come from the state with the motto Live Free or Die.
Columnist Tom Teepen (whom I have mentioned before) makes a similar argument, whining that the bill "would strip the district of its right set its own firearms regulations . . . ."

The Brady Campaign says:
Can anyone imagine citizens in St. Augustine, Florida or Marion, Indiana or Clemmons, North Carolina standing by while Congress erased any of their laws?

Of course not.

Well, the people of the District of Columbia don't like it either.
. . . And the Washington Post:
HOUSE DEMOCRATS make much of their support for the right of the District to self-government. Too bad they are willing to sacrifice this basic tenet of American democracy to the political self-interests of members cowed by the powerful gun lobby. How else to explain a planned vote on legislation so extreme it would strip the District of all power to regulate guns?
. . . And the New York Times:
The bill is a gross trampling on the right of the district to govern itself, but it is far more than that.
Etc., etc.

The point missed by all these people is that what would be "trampled" by H.R. 6691 isn't a right, because there is no right to deprive others of their rights. Residents of Washington D.C. have, like all Americans, a Constitutionally guaranteed, fundamental, absolute human right of the individual to keep and bear arms, and if the D.C. city council chooses to violate that right, then the federal government is obligated to thwart them.

Those lamenting the "trampling" of D.C.'s local authority tend to claim that the people of D.C. overwhelmingly support such draconian gun laws. Perhaps that is true; perhaps not, but such claims are irrelevant. If one person wants to exercise something approaching the full extent of his Second Amendment rights, the majority have no right to stop him from doing so. As has been pointed out innumerable times before, we do not live in a democracy, in which 51% of the people can vote away the rights of the other 49%; we live in a Constitutional republic, in which the rights of the minority are to be protected from the whims of the majority.

The recent activity with regard to H.R. 6691 might be nothing more than a cynical bid to mollify gun rights advocates without actually doing anything, but it is not a hypocritical attack on anyone's rights.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Brady Campaign eyes another Illinois General Assembly seat

I've been trying to get away from being categorized as a specifically Illinois gun rights advocacy blog, but I should probably just learn to accept the fact that that's, to some degree, what this is. I live (unfortunately) in Illinois, and thus can't really help but be smacked upside the head with the forcible citizen disarmament tyranny that characterizes this state, and that being the case, I'm gonna talk about it.

So, although I've pretty much avoided Illinois-specific politics for a while, today I feel compelled to talk about a Brady Campaign endorsed candidate for the Illinois House. Gary Nowak has received the Brady Campaign's endorsement, as a candidate who will "Fight To Keep Dangerous Weapons Out Of The Hands Of Dangerous People."

I have few problems with that, right from the get-go. First, just about anything can be used as a weapon, including a bikini top. Second, once something becomes a weapon, it is--pretty much by definition--"dangerous." A "non-dangerous" weapon is basically no weapon at all (as Texas Ranger Charlie Miller would no doubt have agreed).

Therefore, a promise to "fight to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of dangerous people" is basically a promise to keep everything out of the hands of "dangerous people"--which sounds more than a little unlikely. Then, there's the little problem of defining "dangerous people," and the citizen disarmament advocates' tendency to approach that problem by making everyone's acquisition of firearms more difficult, apparently on the grounds that we must assume that everyone is a "dangerous person," until they can prove otherwise. "They hate us because we're free," indeed.

Nowak's opponent is incumbent Representative Dennis Reboletti, who most recently incurred the Brady Campaign's wrath, and earned freedom loving Illinoisans' (yes, there are a few of us) gratitude, by voting against HB 758, which would have outlawed private handgun sales in Illinois. (From the Nowak endorsement announcement):

Nowak’s opponent, Dennis Reboletti, has repeatedly sided with the gun lobby and has opposed strengthening Illinois gun laws. Rep. Reboletti cast a “no” vote on HB 758 earlier this year that would have extended Brady background checks to all handgun purchasers. The bill lost by two votes. Mr. Nowak has pledged to support the legislation. The Brady Campaign sent postcards to constituents in the 46th district urging them to call Rep. Reboletti to express their outrage regarding his vote against the bill. The Brady Campaign plans to let voters know about his “no” vote on HB 758 before the November elections.
Rep. Reboletti stood up for Illinois gun owners, and for freedom, and the citizen disarmament advocates want to punish him for doing so. If we allow that strategy to work, we'll lose the few friends we have in the General Assembly.

As for Nowak, what do we know about him, aside from what the Brady Bunch tells us? Nothing about guns here. I guess we don't know much about him at all:
Gary Nowak repeatedly refused to provide any responses to citizens on the issues through the 2008 Political Courage Test when asked to do so by national leaders of the political parties, prominent members of the media, Project Vote Smart President Richard Kimball, and Project Vote Smart staff.
On second thought, we know the Brady Campaign likes him, and that he seems to be lacking in political courage. I think I know enough.

By the way, the Brady Bunch is also running a similar campaign for a candidate for the 15th District seat of the California General Assembly, Joan Buchanan. I know nothing about California politics, or Buchanan's opponent, the incumbent Representative Guy Houson, but I can't help but imagine that California's dire environment for freedom would be made even worse by the election of another Brady Bunch endorsed candidate.

What I would like to see is for a Brady Campaign endorsement to be the kiss of death for a candidate. Helmke and Co. are already scrambling for relevance, but I would like to see them become political pariahs.

So would this 'attack on Senator Obama's stand on the 2nd Amendment' be considered 'unfair'?

Obama, interestingly enough, has tried for the last few months to portray himself as, if not exactly a friend to gun owners, at least not a mortal enemy. Obama likes to talk about "audacity," and I have to acknowledge that he has no shortage of it. Few things could be more audacious than to claim, with a legislative record like Obama's, that he is no threat to private gun ownership.

Perhaps the most telling example of his rabidly pro-forcible citizen disarmament voting record can be found here.

Yep--any shotgun larger than .410 (28 gauge shotguns have a bore diameter of about .550 inches) would be banned, and there would be no "grandfather clause." If you owned a shotgun for dove hunting or trap shooting, Obama voted for legislation that would require you to turn it in. So much for "I'm not going to take your guns away."

What I would like to know, though, is what the American Hunters and Shooters Association has to say about this. The AHSA has, you'll remember, endorsed Obama, and have gotten their little knickers in a twist over the fact that some nasty folks would dare claim that Obama is a threat to private gun ownership.

We believe recent attacks on Senator Obama's stand on the 2nd Amendment and his commitment to our hunting and shooting heritage are unfair and American Hunters and Shooters Association is stepping up to set the record straight.
Their "setting the record straight" consists of pointing out that Obama voted for Senator David Vitter's amendment to HR 5441 (a 2007 appropriations bill), protecting against government confiscation of firearms during emergencies. Left unmentioned is the fact that if Obama has his way, the government wouldn't need to wait for an emergency to confiscate guns--they could do it right away.

That one vote is what AHSA is hanging Obamam's "pro-gun" hat on.

Of course, I guess it's no surprise that AHSA supports a candidate who tried to ban shotguns because their bores are "too large"--they're quite open about wanting to throw .50 caliber rifle owners under the bus.

The AHSA--the Brady Campaign in (ineffective) camouflage.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Not 'the time or the place to show your rights'

Somehow, I had missed, until now, this account of a man arrested at an Obama rally in Pennsylvania while openly (and utterly legally) carrying a handgun.

Beaver County District Attorney Anthony Berosh said the issue isn’t whether Noble was legally carrying a gun. State police said Noble did not violate the state’s open carry law, under which you don’t need a permit to carry a weapon in plain sight.
But in the U.S. these days, one doesn't have to--you know--break the law to get arrested.
Instead, Berosh said, it’s a battle between two constitutional rights: The right to bear arms and the right to assemble peaceably and without fear.
OK, Anthony--I'm familiar (obviously) with the right to keep and bear arms, and I'm also on board with the Constitutional protection of the right to peaceably assemble, but the "right" to do so without fear? My copy of the Bill of Rights must be defective. Actually, how would protection for such a "right" work? People have all kinds of fears, some rational, many not. Some people have a fear of crowds. Tell me, Anthony, how do you protect that person's "right" to peaceably assemble "without fear"?
Berosh said Noble did not have the right to alarm anyone around him attending the Barack Obama rally in Irvine Park.
So if someone "alarms" me, I can have him arrested? Or does that only work at Barack Obama rallies (and do such rallies have to be in Irvine Park)? Hmm--I find it rather alarming to see people go into quasi-religious swoons over political candidates--can I have most attendees of Obama rallies arrested?

Beaver County Sheriff George David, a self-proclaimed "gun advocate," kindly provided me with the title for this blog post:
“I don’t think this was the time or the place to show your rights,” David said.
So he acknowledges Noble's right to be armed, but this wasn't "the time or the place" to exercise that right. If one can be arrested for exercising a right (because it's not "the time or place" to do so), I can't help but wonder how much of a right it actually is. There's also the little problem of the fact that there wasn't a law (even an unconstitutional one) against what Noble did.

Berosh then helpfully makes this observation:
Berosh said, “You have a right to strike a match, unless you’re in a TNT factory.”
Then again, striking a match in a TNT factory is in itself a grossly, irresponsibly dangerous action that can lead directly to death and destruction, while carrying a holstered firearm at a political rally is not. Work on your analogy, Anthony.

In a society that supposedly places a premium on personal liberty, it is always the right time and place to "show your rights."

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Woman 'caught' . . . doing nothing illegal (aside from tailgating)

From Texas, we hear of a woman pulled over for tailgating. The Sheriff's Office corporal who pulled her over apparently found her behavior suspicious, and decided to have his drug sniffing police dog partner check her vehicle.

Right away, the dog found . . . no drugs.

The woman was shaking and started telling Kirkpatrick a story that didn’t make sense, he said. The woman wouldn’t let Kirkpatrick search her car, so he got the help of his partner Rocky, a 4-year-old Belgian malinois police dog.

Rocky smelled something near the back door of the SUV, O’Connor said. When Kirkpatrick looked inside, he found duffel bags filled with parts of AR-15s, 200 rounds of .50-caliber ammunition, 40 magazines and a bullet-proof vest that can stop assault-rifle bullets.

Rocky isn’t trained to sniff for weapons, Kirkpatrick said, so the guns were likely covered with residue from drugs. No drugs were found in the vehicle.
Of course, if people are to be held responsible for anything they might be transporting that has "drug residue" on it, we had all better stop carrying cash in denominations larger than $10 bills (and I'm not sure that would be small enough to avoid the danger of being inadvertently caught with "drug residue").
There’s not an outright ban on anything found inside the car, [Victoria County Sheriff Michael T.] O’Connor said. Deputies questioned the woman, but she wasn’t arrested. Her name was not released because she’s being investigated.
Not an "outright ban," and presumably, not a "conditional ban," either. In other words, there is no evidence that she was committing any crime more serious than tailgating.

The wise sheriff has other thoughts, though.
Sheriff T. Michael O’Connor suspects the assortment of rifle parts and ammunition was headed to Mexico and could be used by drug cartels, he said.

“I don’t regard this as a hunting trip,” O’Connor said as he stood behind three tables loaded with guns and ammo Monday afternoon. “We felt that this was a significant find.”
However the Sheriff "regards" what the woman was doing, there is exactly ZERO legal requirement for hunting to have had anything to do with it, and however the Sheriff's department "felt" about the find, if there's no evidence of a crime having been committed, they have no legitimate authority to detain either the woman or her property.

I'm not saying that the Sheriff is necessarily wrong in his theory about what the woman was up to, but are we "innocent until proven guilty," or not?

Monday, September 08, 2008

Gun ownership debate

My attention was recently brought to a debate on a discussion forum called Opposing Views. The basic idea is that a question about an issue of our times is asked, and various groups and individuals who have been involved with that issue weigh in with their opinions. The specific debate to which I refer is titled "Does Owning a Gun Make You Safer?".

Arguing for the "Yes" side are the National Rifle Association (NRA), Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA), Gun Owners of America (GOA), and the Second Amendment Sisters.

Arguing that "Just because hundreds of millions of Americans exist with hundreds of millions of privately owned firearms without being shot doesn't mean that firearms aren't horribly dangerous," are Ceasefire PA, my favorite Joyce Foundation funded forcible citizen disarmament advocates--the cynically misnamed "Freedom States Alliance," and States United to Prevent Gun Violence.

To be honest, a more relevant question, in my estimation, would be "Does owning a gun make you freer?" I certainly believe that a person equipped for effective self-defense is significantly safer than one who is not, but it's my belief that the Constitutional guarantee of the fundamental, absolute human right of the individual to keep and bear arms exists primarily to equip the people to resist tyranny, and that the ability to fend off Joe Meth-addict or Johnny Rapist is just a nice side benefit. Even if gun ownership did somehow constitute a net danger for the owner (a point I am wholly unwilling to concede), I would argue that freedom is worthy of the sacrifice of some degree of safety--"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety . . . " and all that.

I also believe that whether my ownership of a gun makes me safer, or (by some odd mechanism) less safe, is my business, and public policy need not concern itself with my personal decisions about my own self-defense.

Still, it's a discussion worthy of one's time to check out, if only for the fact that the anti-rights crowd rarely dares enter a two-way discussion of the issue.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Yeah--that's the country I want to emulate

Satire rarely reaches the heights(?) seen in this (apparently serious) praise of forcible citizen disarmament in Cuba.

Guns tend to scare away tourists and keep locals in their homes after dark. There are few capitals left in the hemisphere like Havana, where you don’t feel like the nighttime is your enemy.
I can certainly understand why it would be unpleasant to believe that "nighttime is [one's] enemy"--nightfall occurring, as it does, on a pretty regular basis. The thing is, I don't fear the night in the U.S. As far as nighttime not being the enemy in Havana, that's great, but I don't imagine that people living under a dictatorship need any more enemies than they already have.
Following sharp cutbacks in state budgets during the 1990s, many other countries of the Americas made deep reductions in their law enforcement budgets as part of the IMF and World Bank recommendations to reduce government spending. The de-funding of public services directly affected citizen safety, as well as health and education.
So that's the key to public safety--give the government more money. How, exactly, does this differ from paying money to a gang for "protection"?

Unfortunately, many countries (including the U.S.) haven't caught on to the joys of submitting to extortion:
In countries from Colombia to Brazil, Jamaica to Guatemala, as in the USA, people’s response to fear was to purchase weapons for self-defense. And in many places this meant not just having a gun, but a high powered one with loads of ammunition.
Don't get me wrong--I'm not saying that to "purchase weapons for self-defense" is the only viable option, but I'm morally opposed to stealing weapons, and lack the mechanical skills to fabricate them myself (although for other, less mechanically incompetent people, that's certainly an option).
Cuba has taken a different approach.
Now there's an understatement!
Firearms are not sold on the island in any store and are only legally held by authorized security personnel, police and armed forces and a limited number of hunters. Illegal weapons possession is considered a very serious offense.
Perhaps even as serious as saying impolite things about the "Maximum Leader."
Citizen safety as well as security for visitors is a top priority in the country. The law enforcement budget allows for sufficient foot and car patrols and a considerable number of traffic cops on motorcycles.
Yeah--I don't think anyone will accuse the Castro brothers of failing to spend enough on "security."
Of course the rightwing Miami crowd asserts that the reason the Cuban government doesn’t allow people to own hand guns is that it fears an uprising against the Revolution. Such an accusation is easy to make from afar, but clearly lacks a basis of fact on the island.
Oh, that crazy "rightwing Miami crowd"--where do they get these ideas?

I get the idea that "Circus Robinson" (the apparent name of the author) would agree with Garen Wintemute's idea of "ordered liberty."

I don't know, maybe he's on to something--there's got to be some reason people are so desperate to escape the mean streets of U.S. cities that they're willing to brave a dangerous crossing in insanely overcrowded, rickety boats, to reach the safety of Cuba's worker's paradise.

Wait--you mean that's not how it works?

Friday, September 05, 2008

Irony of the day

Once again, it looks as if I won't have much time for blogging today, but I do want to take a minute to point something out. Wednesday, in my "Doctors for Defenselessness" post, I quoted "PalMD" mentioning a link to what is, according to "Pal," evidence that guns pose a "public health problem" that cannot be debated.

I got so caught up in the breathtaking arrogance of someone who would presume to dictate what can, and what cannot, be debated, that I didn't really get around to talking about the the New England Journal of Medicine article that was linked to. As mentioned above, I don't have time for a detailed look today, either, but I am pronouncing the following statement, by Garen Wintemute, the Irony of the Day.

As noted by Wintemute, a court decision that broadened gun rights "could weaken the framework of ordered liberty."
I wonder if he also said "War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength."

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Constitutional rights--not 'necessarily good ideas'?

I was planning to write a follow-up to yesterday's blog post about "Doctors for Defenselessness," but this bit of commentary by Lino A. Graglia (a "Catholic conservative," according to Wikipedia) demanded an immediate response. The very first sentence sets the unbelievable tone.

In striking down the District of Columbia's gun control law, the U.S. Supreme Court raised the question whether constitutional rights are necessarily good ideas.
"Raised the question" among whom--people who think tyranny has gotten a bad rap?

Graglia then goes on to criticize the notion of examining the Second Amendment by exploring late 18th century attitudes about gun ownership--apparently, people have far less reason to fear a power-hungry government now than they did then--the people of Burma (or Myanmar, if you insist) will be pleased to hear that, I'm sure. Then, he goes into the obligatory plug for the (now officially discredited) "collective rights" interpretation of the Second Amendment.
It is arguable — as the 5-4 split on the Supreme Court indicates — that the Second Amendment does not guarantee an individual right to possess guns; "bear arms" has a military ring.
And how about "keep arms," genius? I still can't believe there was ever serious discussion about the possibility that 10% of the Bill of Rights was dedicated to protecting the government's right to have an armed military. By the way, in my reading of the Heller decision, the "collective rights" interpretation lost 9-0. The four dissenting justices acknowledged the individual right--they just apparently think it's a right that can permissibly be rendered meaningless.
If democracy is the norm, only policy choices clearly precluded by the Constitution should be struck down by the courts. The view of elected legislators should prevail in cases of doubt. The court might well, therefore, have refrained from taking the gun control issue out of the political process.
I don't know what "the norm" is, but I do know that the United States was founded as a republic--not as a democracy, in which 51% of the population can vote away the fundamental rights of the other 49%. As to "clearly precluded by the Constitution," what more would the Second Amendment have to say to make it clear to you that citizen disarmament is not an option? Should the original twenty-seven words of the amendment be followed up with another sentence--something along the lines of "We're really serious here, guys; no f***ing infringing, damn it!"?

Graglia disparages constitutionalism on the grounds that it "takes policy options off the table." That's what it's supposed to do, Einstein. Certain policy options have no business being brought to the table, and a government monopoly on force is definitely one of those.

Oh, by the way--Graglia is a law professor at University of Texas--just gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling about the future, doesn't it?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Doctor's advice: defenselessness

Sorry for the silence of late--been a bit busy the last few days.

Anyway, today I want to look at the ever-expanding trend of physicians jumping on the forcible citizen disarmament bandwagon, citing as their reason for doing so that it's a "public health" issue. Specifically, let's look at a blog post written by someone who calls himself "PalMD" (sounds friendly enough).

One such question came up in a comment recently. The question revolved around whether doctors should ask patients about firearms.

It is the policy of my professional organization to inquire about firearm ownership and safety. Is this a valid position, and if so, why?
"Pal's" response? You're darn tootin' it's a valid position! (As if there had been any doubt what the response would be).
First, physicians are charged with prevention and treatment of human disease/injury. Prevention encompasses screening for risk factors, and preventative treatments such as vaccination. It also includes counseling regarding important health behaviors, such as seat belt use.

So, we must ask, "are firearms an important, preventable health problem?" Then, "if so, how do we intervene to prevent firearm injury and death?"
Are firearms a health problem? Well, no. Getting shot poses some pretty obvious problems for one's health, but until firearms start loading themselves, pointing themselves at people, and pulling their own triggers, the firearms clearly aren't the problem. In the same vein, falling off a mountain tends to be bad for one's health, too, but that doesn't mean that mountains are a "health problem."

Let's ignore all that for a minute, though, and momentarily concede, for the sake of debate, that firearms are a health problem--is it a "preventable" one? Well, some of the strictest laws pertaining to gun ownership and use in the world haven't prevented it. As another example, Mexico's gun laws are notoriously strict (you can be thrown into a Mexican prison for accidentally carrying a single round of ammunition across the border), but that hasn't prevented the drug gangs from gunning down thousands of people. So, "Pal," is that your idea of "prevention"--emulating Mexico's stunning success?

"Pal" then goes on to tell us that "[t]he data regarding firearms and preventable injury is unassailable." You know what? No data is "unassailable"--it might be correct, but that doesn't put it in a position that it must never be questioned. He goes on to say something even more annoying:
The exact magnitude of the problem can be debated, but its health significance cannot.
It "cannot" be debated? Who the hell are you, Pal, to tell people what can and cannot be debated? What do you plan to do if we decide to go ahead and debate what "cannot" be debated, anyway? By the way, the above quoted link is to a New England Journal of Medicine editorial from April, the gist of which seems to be that the Supreme Court, in the (then pending) Heller decision, should ignore pesky details like the Constitution, and instead read Garen Wintemute's proof that guns cause global warming (I'm kidding . . . mostly).

The bottom line is that if I have an illness or injury that I need diagnosed and/or treated, I'll go to a physician, but when it comes to securing my person and my freedom, I'll look to someone with more expertise on the subject than is generally taught in med school--these folks, perhaps.