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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Riddle me this...

Why would anyone think that any criminal, who already is breaking laws, would be deterred by making one of his tools (more) illegal? This is the premise of gun control. If I am not mistaken, it is against the law for a person to carry a weapon, any weapon, with the intent of using it to commit a crime. Thus, the gunman who opened fire in Tuscon was breaking the law by carrying the (legally purchased) firearm he used to shoot Gabrielle Giffords and others in Arizona last year. Why, then, was the response from the left to try to make the tool he used harder for law-abiding citizens to purchase? Had he driven a car or truck into the crowd. likely injuring and killing more people, would they be calling for car control? Had he tossed several molotov cocktails into the crowd would there have been calls for gasoline waiting periods or limits on how much you could buy at one time?

In this case, the perpetrator was mentally ill, had been reported to both police and school officials as dangerous, but never entered into a police or mental health database. Even the letter he wrote to Rep. Giffords was never properly dealt with. Any of these actions would have likely prevented him from passing the NICS check that was required for him to take possession of the tool he used. Had he not gotten a gun, either no one would have been injured by him that day or he would have found a different tool, possibly causing more injuries and deaths. This doesn't mean that I support more government reporting in our lives, quite the contrary. But if we have these systems and don't use them, then, first why have them and second if we don't use them why do we need more. If we can't stop people like this from getting firearms, and we can't stop hardened criminals from getting firearms, then why do we need to make it harder for law abiding citizens to get firearms to defend themselves?

While I don't like the idea of criminals being able to get firearms easily, I think it is worse for those who aren't criminals to have to get permission from the government to own them. In the courts it is said that it is better for 100 guilty men to go free than for one innocent man to go to jail. Why does this principle not also apply to the rest of our lives? If there are legitimate reasons for the government to be involved in the firearms trade I can't think of them. If you can think of them please let me know.

I also think that if we can't trust someone with a gun (or a ballot during voting season) that this person should not be walking the streets. If the person is still a threat to society, then he hasn't finished paying his debt to society and needs to be removed from society for a longer period. If they are no longer a threat then restore all God-given rights as guaranteed in the Constitution. Any other way of doing this is just plain wrong.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

For some reason, Federal abuses of the Constitution are on my mind this morning.

Strange guy that I am, I woke up thinking about the many ways the feds abuse or ignore the Constitution, which is really meant to severely limit the power and authority they have. The most abused section of the Constitution is Article 1, Section 8, 3rd paragraph, the so-called Interstate Commerce Clause, which reads "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;". What was intended by this was for the federal government to be able set international trading policy, so each state didn't set different tariffs and rules for import/export (thereby causing some states to become too powerful in international trade), to prevent trade wars between the states by one state regulating prices and taxes on incoming goods, and to allow for common trade practices with the various Indian tribes, which were not considered citizens at the time (I'll deal with those abuses at a later time).

The feds have, until fairly recently, done a passable job on the whole international trade issue. There have been some problematic times and issues, but on the whole it has worked out fairly well for the whole country. Some of the mistakes that come to mind are things like the tariff on imported motorcycles over 700cc displacement (put in place in 1983 to protect Harley-Davidson, which at the time could not or would not produce a quality product), which expired after 5 years, and a ban on sales of certain game consoles to some foreign countries because of the computing power they contained. There were two problems with the last example, the first being those consoles weren't even produced in this country, how did our government have the authority to regulate them (don't sell to our enemies or you won't be able to sell to us, the largest consumer market in the world, is how it worked) and two, it was a game machine. Yes, at the time it had better graphics capability than a PC or Mac, but it was very specialized hardware and not readily usable for anything else.

The Interstate commerce thing, now that's a whole other problem. They have, starting in the 1930s, used this "power" to try to regulate virtually everything that is sold in this country, even if it doesn't cross state lines. In the case of Wickard v. Filburn, the feds had put quotas for the maximum amount of wheat a farmer could produce in order to boost prices during the great depression (what was so great about it anyway, most people think it sucked). Roscoe Filburn was growing wheat for use on his own farm, not for sale, and exceeded his quota. He was sued by the feds because, by growing his own wheat, he would negatively affect the interstate market. If he wasn't selling his wheat there was no interstate commerce for them to regulate, but the Supreme Court decided that the feds were right, driving a rather large nail into the coffin of free trade.

They have also used the same clause to control firearms sales (NFA '38, GCA '68, FOPA '86, etc) to the point that several states have passed or are considering laws stating that firearms and ammunition produced in the sate for sale in the state are not subject to federal regulation. These laws have yet to be tested in court but I have high hopes, although the feds will probably use the Wickard argument when it get to the US Supreme Court.

They even used this clause to prosecute pot growers in states where the state has declared it legal. Now I don't use drugs but I also don't think they should be illegal. Treat them like alcohol and tobacco, with similar age restrictions and taxes, and stop wasting money trying to stop the import and sale of something you can't stop, and hold the users responsible for their actions under the influence. In Gonzales v. Raich the feds destroy a medical marijuana users plants (grown for his own use) and arrested her. The argument for the government was two-fold. First, they claimed the feds had the authority to regulate the use of marijuana (not covered in the Constitution, so I kind of doubt it would fly with the framers of that document). Second, they fell back on the flawed Wickard argument, that by growing for home use they impacted an interstate market. If their first argument is true, that they can ban the use of a product, then their second argument must be false, because if a product is banned then there is no market for that product, legally.

Let's do the right thing in this country and start doing away with the alphabet soup of agencies which are unconstitutional. The DEA and BATFE (especially) have no constitutional basis for existing, nor do most of  the other large agencies. Really the only agencies that are mentioned that the feds can legitimately have are the Department of Defense (not offense), the State Department and, unbelievably, the Post Office (and to create Post Roads, but not a federal highway system). Oh, and maybe the IRS,but I guarantee the framers would not have approved the 16th amendment, nor would they allow a tax code that even those who administer it can't understand.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Gun control reasons, continued

How about accidental fatal shootings? My personal opinion is that, unless there is a defect with the firearm, all accidental shootings are really negligent. What I mean by this is that someone involved forgot at least two of the four rules of firearms safety, meaning it was their negligence that caused it, not an accident. However, we will look at accidental deaths from firearms as reported. In 2007 there were 613 accidental deaths from firearms, most, if not all preventable. This works out to 1.9% of the total firearms deaths, or .0002% of the population. Again, a number so small as to be lost in the noise of reporting.

This would leave us with 13,259 deaths by firearms that aren't yet accounted for. How about looking at medical malpractice causing death. According to an article in JAMA, about 225,000 people die each year in the US due to medical negligence or malpractice, over 7 times the total number killed by firearms, or .07% of the US population in 2007. If we eliminate the suicide numbers it is closer to 17 times the firearms deaths. Perhaps we should consider banning doctors and hospitals, those places can be dangerous.

How about looking at the way children are reported for firearms deaths. In 2007, 1,520 deaths in children aged 0 to 17 years, legally children for most purposes. But if you add in one more year, to age 18 (typical of gun control proponents), you get 1,547 more deaths for a total of 3,067. How many of these deaths, particularly between the ages of 15 and 19, are gang  and drug related? We may never know for sure, but I'd bet it's a substantial portion. Again the deaths are tragic, but if criminals want to kill each other, as long as they leave the innocent out of it, I say let them have at it.

Speaking of the kids, do you know where shooting sports rank for injuries as compared to other, more widely accepted sports?  Volleyball injuries are 11 times greater; snowboarding mishaps by 19 times; cheerleaders and bicycle riders suffer injuries 25 times more; soccer players and skateboarders will be hurt 34 times more; and tackle football results in injuries 105 times more. So if you want to keep your kids safe keep them off the football or soccer field and take them to a shooting range or hunting.

If any gun control advocate can come up with a legitimate reason to infringe on our Second Amendment rights (although any infringement is unconstitutional and therefore illegitimate) that can't be destroyed with just a few minutes on Google I will admit they are right and post an apology. I figure I can have one of my descendents do it for me since I won't live that long (I'm only 47 now with maybe that or more ahead of me).
How about we take on gun control this time.

This is a subject that is dear to my heart. I hate to see some of the arguments that are used to try to justify more stringent gun control, especially "if it saves one life then it's worth it". Let's look at some numbers for this one, shall we. I am going to use numbers from 2007 as it was the easiest to find compiled data for. If you have newer data , please link in a comment and I will update. In 2007 there were 31,224 deaths by firearm in the US, out of a population of about 301,140,000, or .01% of the population. Please, before you call me callous, understand that I believe every unnecessary death is a tragedy, especially youths. Please also realize that this number is statistically insignificant, merely noise in the numbers, except to those directly affected by it.

First, about half of the deaths in the US by firearm are suicides, 17,352 in 2007, about 55% of the firearms deaths. These people will, for the most part, find a way to kill themselves even if a gun is not available. Some of these may survive their first attempt using another method, only to try again until successful. Others may survive, but with a greatly diminished capacity for life, possibly including a persistent vegetative state, requiring a lifetime of care (with modern medical care it could be along time). While I think life is sacred, I also believe that you should have the choice to end your own, if that is your desire. You will be missed by family and friends, and you will also be responsible in whatever afterlife you believe in for your actions, but it is still your choice. These deaths should not be reported as firearms deaths but as suicides, the tool the person uses is not important.

So, removing suicides from the total of firearms deaths leaves us with 13,872 people killed with firearms, still too many, but an even smaller percentage of the population, now only .0046%, or less than 5 per 100,000 people. By way of comparison, traffic accidents killed 41,059 people, more than the total killed by firearms in the US, in 2007. I very rarely hear of anyone wanting to ban cars, except for some hardcore environmentalists, but wouldn't this save even more lives than banning guns?

To be Continued...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

So tell me if you've heard this one before...

The leader of a great country going through hard times has promised to improve the business environment and energy independence, to make it easier for the citizens to make a decent living. This great country currently serves a large portion of its energy needs by buying oil from distant lands, mostly where the inhabitants don't much like the great country. This country has also not built a new nuclear energy plant in  three decades and all the existing ones are nearing end of life, not being economical to keep repaired for much longer.

This country has, within its borders and just offshore, perhaps a century or more worth of petroleum products. There are many companies willing to invest in the infrastructure to retrieve this oil and natural gas, they are just waiting for permission to build the pipelines and drill the wells. To do this would cost the government nothing and the government would be able to tax the products sold from these wells and pipelines.

A neighboring country, with which this great country has had a long-standing positive relationship, also has large reserves of energy (oil, natural gas, even timber) and has offered a partnership. They will produce what the great country needs and the great country provides money and transportation (actually, private companies offer this, but you get the idea). In this case the great country would get tariffs on the imported products and taxes on the products, again, when the are sold within its borders.

Private companies have also offered to build nuclear energy plants, which would be taxed by the local governments and employ thousands of workers nationwide, who would all pay income taxes to the great country. These plants would reduce the amount of electricity the country buys from the good neighbor and possibly allow the electricity (and money) to reverse direction.

Other ways to generate electricity are available but all have other issues that, while not insurmountable, make them less desirable. Wind power, while environmentally clean, is not steady, requiring a backup system, and has been shown to interfere with the flight patterns of birds and bats. Solar power, again environmentally clean to produce power, also requires a backup system due to weather conditions, is most definitely not clean to make the infrastructure and requires large areas to be productive.Hydro-electric power interferes with fish, requires damming rivers (which causes problems for residents) and there is not enough vertical drop on all the rivers to supply more than a small fraction of the power needs. Fossil fuel plants are very reliable, but not environmentally friendly, although they are improving. There are others but they are still experimental and may bring other issues when scaled up, such as wave power (what does it do to the sea life and birds that depend on it?), fusion (has been 10 years from being ready for at least 25 years) and biofuels (currently requires more energy to produce than is recovered)

So what does the leader of this great country do about the energy independence he has promised to work towards? He has the bureaucracies that control permitting for all of these deny every application to produce more energy, no drilling for oil/gas, no nuke plants and, for good measure, let's throw hard earned tax money at unproven technologies being offered by unproven companies who will (not) produce their (non) products in this country, sending those possible jobs overseas. He also tells the good neighbor thanks, but no thanks we don't want to build a pipeline. This makes the neighbor, who still needs money, contact another country (who also doesn't like the great country much) to sell the petroleum to them. The net effect is to drive up the price of energy, including fuel for vehicles, which in turn drives up the price of everything else (you need energy to produce everything and to move it to market, so the price of everything is related to the price of energy) which makes the leader say "rising gas prices are a sign of a healthy economy".

What, you don't like this story? Not funny enough for you? Find politicians who did not learn their philosophy at the feet of Marxists and statists, like Saul Alinksy. Elect politicians who don't have as their closest advisors "former" terrorists like Bill Ayers. Defeat politicians who feel that your rights, as defined in (but not granted by) the Constitution, are unimportant but feel that entitlements (which are not listed anywhere in that most important of documents) should be listed as rights.

Now for the real humor. The left thinks that they have a good chance to regain control of the US House of Representatives, even with the economy in the toilet (with the president having his foot on the flush handle) while the people are finally waking up to what is happening.

Notice I have not mentioned party lines. I believe the two party system we have suffered under for far too long needs to go away. Let those who would lead run on their records and philosophies and not on the back of an elephant or a donkey. Make people think about who they vote for by listing ballots alphabetically, not by party.

Monday, February 13, 2012

I have been thinking about starting something like this for some time. What finally made my mind up was the proposal by some leftist democrats in Washington to create a government agency to regulate oil company profits on gasoline to a "reasonable" level. Unfortunately, I was reading "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand again at the same time and realized that these fools were using this book not as a warning but rather as an instruction manual. How did we end up with this type of person getting elected to any public office, much less the United States House of Representatives? Where in the Constitution, Bill of Rights or other Amendments does it even hint at the federal government having this level of authority? Do our "leaders" even read that hallowed document anymore?

From the current state of our country I would guess that the answers to both are a decisive NO followed by "Why should we be limited by a centuries old scrap of parchment? We know what is best for you so sit down and shut up." Even the Supreme Court is polluted with this type of thinking. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was quoted in an Egyptian interview as saying "I would not look to the US constitution, if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012." Isn't she sworn, like all government officials, to uphold and defend the constitution? Yet she, and three others on the Court completely ignore ALL the writings of the Framers of the Constitution in virtually all of the decisions they hand down. To understand the meaning of the document which is supposed guide the lawmakers and judges of this country (which isn't that hard to do in any case) you need only to read a few readily available documents. If you don't understand the terminology, and admittedly the meaning of some words and phrases have changed, a few more minutes of research will turn up the older meanings.

If this country is to survive the current set of problems we need to get back to what the Founding Fathers intended. And before you mention that some of them owned slaves, do some of that research I mentioned. You'll find that at least some of them were working towards freeing them, and that most of the signers didn't own slaves to begin with. What was intended was a loose collection of states with a relatively weak central government, the only jobs of which were to prevent tariff wars between the states, manage interstate and international relations, maintain a Navy and raise an army in time of need. Oh, and run a postal service, actually one of the few legitimate federal activities that occurs today. Nowhere in the Constitution does it allow for massive government agencies controlling virtually every aspect of trade and commerce (EPA, FDA, SEC, etc) or interstate law enforcement agencies (FBI, TSA, DHS, etc). Nor does it allow for requiring the people to purchase anything (Obamacare) or preventing them from purchasing something (DEA, BATFE). These agencies have invaded our lives to an extent that has Thomas Jefferson and George Washington spinning in their graves.

All I ask is that the people we elect to represent us follow a relatively simple rulebook for running this country. It would also be nice if they would stop writing new laws for a few years and compare the existing laws to that rule book, repealing any that don't have a Constitutional basis. Do the same for ALL government agencies. If a law or agency doesn't belong in the Constitution, it doesn't belong in this country.

If these problems weren't so serious this would be the funniest set of stories I have ever heard. Perhaps in a future post I can come up with something to make us laugh, but for now think on what has been written, research what has been said and decide for yourself how you can help save this country.