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Monday, February 11, 2013

Some interesting court cases

I have been thinking about how the courts have been ruling on the Second amendment lately. It seems that after many decades of ignoring it they have been looking at it more closely. I have been looking at the more well known cases and have a few thoughts.

One of the earliest cases involving the Second amendment was US V. Miller in 1939. In this case the defendant, Jack Miller, was stopped by Oklahoma State police and arrested for possession of an unregistered short barreled shotgun. This was a violation of the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA) which required a $200 tax stamp and background check to own several types of firearms, including shotguns with a barrel shorter than 18 inches. The district court dismissed the case on the grounds that the NFA violated the Second amendment. This ruling was appealed by the government and eventually made it to the Supreme Court, which reversed the decision, stating (incorrectly) that "a shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length' at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia". Other arguments made by the government included 1) the theory that the NFA was a revenue collecting measure, 2) since the defendant transported the shotgun across state lines it was used in interstate commerce, 3) the Second amendment protects military style firearms for use in a well regulated militia and 4) the shotgun in question was never used in any military organization.

Let's start with the last argument first. Whether or not a piece of hardware was ever used in a military organization or not should have been of no consequence. The fact that it was a personally owned piece of property means that the government had no right or authority to take it away. Any firearm can be used in a militia, which according to founding father George Mason consists of "the whole people, except a few government officials".

Since we have determined that the militia is the whole of the people that eliminates the third argument as well. The whole "well regulated" part is often misunderstood by the left, usually intentionally. You need to go back to when the phrase was used to get the context and meaning. At the time (and in certain circles today) the phrase "well regulated" meant either "well trained" (pertaining to men or groups) or "well adjusted" (pertaining to equipment). It had absolutely NOTHING to do with government control, and still doesn't.

The second argument, that the firearms was transported across state lines and so was used in interstate commerce, comes from one of the most tortured misreadings of any part of the Constitution ever. First, the defendant already owned the firearm, it wasn't being bought or sold. Second, commerce doesn't apply to private transactions but to businesses. I'll try to go more into depth on the proper (and improper) application of the interstate commerce clause some other time.

On the first argument, while it may be true that the NFA was and is a revenue collecting measure, it was put into place as a punitive measure. At the time it was instituted the cost of fully automatic firearms was around $200, the amount of the tax. The stated goal was revenue collection, but even the BATFE admits that the real goal was to discourage purchase of those firearms.

The NFA also covers short barrel shot guns, "destructive devices", silencers/suppressors and what are termed "any other weapons". In most European countries, the use of suppressors is considered polite and is even mandated in some areas. Most industrial equipment anywhere near as loud as a firearm is required to have some form of noise reduction, Cars, trucks and motorcycles, even on some race tracks, are required to use mufflers. Why would the same device for firearms be so regulated as to need a $200 tax and 6-9 month wait for government permission to own? (sorry for the side rant).

Friday, February 8, 2013

Firearms laws continue to fail us.

We have over 20,000 gun control laws in this country, with more being proposed all the time. We also have had a declining rate of violent crime for the past two decades. You may think that these two are related but as I will try to prove there seems to be a negative correlation between the two, meaning that more laws do not mean less crime. The areas with the most restrictive gun laws seem to have the highest rates of overall crime crime, while the areas with the least restrictive laws enjoy a lower rate of overall crime.

Lets start with the city that seems to lead the nation in number of murders, Chicago, IL. In Chicago it is virtually impossible to get permission to own a handgun. This will be changing as they have been told by the Supreme Court, in McDonald V. Chicago, that it is unconstitutional to deny the Second amendment right that the rest of the country enjoys. It is also impossible, for the time being, to carry a handgun anywhere in the state of Illinois. This will be changing as the state has been ordered to enact some form of carry as a result of the Shepard V. Madigan court case, which overturned the total ban on carrying a firearm outside of ones home. With these two restriction still in place there were over 500 murders in Chicago last year, and they are on a pace to beat that this year with 42 in January alone (just extrapolating that number gets them to almost 500, and violence tends to increase as the weather gets warmer). This in a city where the law abiding are prohibited from defending themselves outside of their homes and discouraged, via strict regulations, from doing so inside of their homes.

Or perhaps you would prefer to look at the most violent city in the US, Detroit, MI. They are at or near the top in every category of crime per the FBI statistics. 2137 violent crimes per 100,000 people, 48 murders, 60 rapes, 695 robberies, 1333 aggravated assaults. This city had, until 2001, strict licensing of handgun ownership, a habit that takes time for the people to break.

We can now move on to some place with much less restrictive gun laws, like Manchester, NH. In Manchester, indeed in all of New Hampshire, one can carry a firearm openly without getting permission from the government to do so. If you would like to carry a concealed weapon it will be issued as long as you are no prohibited from owning a firearm (basically, the chief of police in your town needs to prove you shouldn't have it), and costs a whopping $10 - for FOUR years- for a resident. The latest stats from the Manchester Police Department, for 2010, lists 2 murders, 63 rapes, 154 robberies and 290 aggravated assaults. Since the population is about 100,000 those can be taken as the rates per 100,000. These numbers are all down from the 2009 numbers as well.

In every city or state where the have loosened restriction, crime rates plummet. When Florida went to a shall issue permit law, the left predicted blood in the streets, shootouts over fender benders and general mayhem from gun owners. What happened there, and in every other place that has followed suit, is that crime dropped in every category, and in every segment of the population save one. At the time Florida issued distinctive plates for rental cars, making them easy to identify. The only segment of the population that didn't enjoy the same drop in crime was, you guessed it, tourists, as the criminals could be reasonably sure their targets would be unarmed if they were driving a rental car. A few years later Florida started issuing the same series plate to rentals as to the general population and the crime rate against tourists dropped to almost the same level as the rest of the population (some criminals work near the airports and attractions).

Law abiding citizens who get government permission to carry a firearm (which shouldn't be necessary but we'll get to that later) are not the problem with crime in this country. The biggest problem is criminals that aren't punished severely early in their career, with the police and courts playing catch and release while the criminals get taught that there are no repercussions for their actions. Another problem is the (lack of a) mental health system in this country, which allows those like the maniacs who have been committing the recent shootings to fall through the cracks. Most of them exhibited signs on mental instability in school, but as soon as they were removed from the school no one cared enough to keep track of them or report them to authorities who might of been able to enter them into the NICS database, allowing most of them to buy firearms legally. Leave the law abiding alone to be able to protect themselves and punish those who break the laws.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Long time, no blog

I really need to pay more attention to this blog. There is so much going on in the world that needs to be discussed in a logical manner, rather than relying on feelings. I think I'll concentrate on what the left calls "gun control" but what in reality is just "control".

Since the last time I posted here there have been several tragedies in this country, most notable being the slaughter of 26 innocent souls in Newtown, CT. Predictably, the left has jumped on this tragedy to promote "gun control", knowing that it will be easier to get passed while emotions are high. Senator Feinstein (D, CA) is trying to push a new "assault weapons" ban, even more stringent than the one that thankfully expired in 2004. This time she has carefully crafted it in such a way, using subtle language, that it could conceivably used to ban ALL semi-automatic firearms. The relevant passage is from page 13 and reads

     3 ‘‘(46) The term ‘pistol grip’ means a grip, a thumb
     4 hole stock, or any other characteristic that can function
     5 as a grip."

Since every firearm needs a way to hold (or grip) it, this simple looking phrase can, and likely will, be read to mean any semi-auto firearm. Since she is on record as wanting to ban all privately held firearms (60 Minutes Feb 5, 1995) this is not likely to be an accidental phrasing of her desires.

New York state was the first to actually pass new legislation after the tragedy, passing the misnamed SAFE act without even following state law requiring 3 days for reading and debate. They were so intent on passing something that they even forgot to carve out an exemption for law enforcement, meaning that even the police are now limited to 7 round magazines (while the criminals, since they will ignore the law as they always do, will continue to carry full capacity magazines). The stated goal was to remove firearms from the streets, but in reality it will only affect the law abiding. As usual, the politicians ignore the fact that criminals, by the very definition of the word, will ignore this law as they do all laws meant to control their actions.

The only reason for any laws like this (or any laws for that matter) is to control the actions of the law abiding. The best way I have heard it said concerning laws is "Bad men won't heed them and good men don't need them". The goal seems to be to just slowly tighten the noose on our rights, a little at a time, until we have voluntarily given up everything. This we cannot allow to happen. We need to push back, hard and fast, until we get our country back. And don't think it is just the Democrats that work this way. Both major political parties in this country have similar goals, just using different tactics and timetables.