Monday, December 11, 2017

Control

I'd like to talk to you about an object. I'm not going to name it now, but you'll be able to figure it out from my description. As a hint, it is a three letter word.

You can find this object in every part of the world, but nowhere as much as in America. Americans have a unique obsession with these objects, owning more of them than any other country in the world. Some Americans feel naked going anywhere without this object. There is a whole culture around this object. There are clubs where people can go to practice, compete, or just show off this object. There are shows where these objects can be admired or traded. There are even national organizations that lobby to fight government regulations for these objects.

And yet they are dangerous. They kill over 30,000 Americans every year. What do you expect when such objects are ubiquitous? And these objects don't discriminate. Often their victims are children. Sometimes they turn children into killers, when owners fail to secure this object at home and a curious child decides to try it out. This is also one way criminals get a hold of these objects. Once they are stolen they are either traded to other criminals or used in crimes themselves.

What do you think we should do with these objects? Should we ban them outright? Should people undergo background checks and mental health checks before being allowed to buy one? Should we have the police do surprise inspections of the owners' homes to see they are properly secured, and lock up people who don't secure them? Should we limit how large or powerful they could be? Impose bans on accessories or ones that are styled in an aggressive manner? Ban accessories that make them faster or more powerful? Maybe restrict ownership to certain places? After all, maybe out in the boonies people need these, but surely we should ban them in cities. What would you do?

Oh, and I am talking about cars, by the way. What did you think it was?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

HR 38

Brian Fletcher and family, from NJ.com article linked to below
Imagine the following scenarios:
  • You are going to a concert. No video recording is allowed. Earlier that day you were at Chuck e Cheese for your daughter's birthday party, and forgot to take the camera out of your bag. One of the concert personnel catches a glance of the camera as you are getting your money out, and you are successfully sued for five million dollars for intellectual property theft.
  • You are getting gas, and absentmindedly light up a cigarette. You are immediately arrested and after a month in jail and a lengthy and expensive trial are sentenced to prison for arson and attempted manslaughter.
  • There is a pair of nail scissors in your carry-on bag when you check in at the airport. You are arrested, charged with attempted murder and terrorism, and face years in prison with no possibility of parole.
Ridiculous? Of course. In reality the person with the camera is asked to disable it or check the bag. The smoker is told to put out the cigarette (and even if he refuses is fined, not imprisoned). The nail scissors are removed and the owner can either put them back in their car, mail them home, or discard them. You don't prosecute someone for merely being able to commit a crime when they haven't actually committed a crime and they have no intention to ever commit a crime.

But that sort of harassment is exactly what happens to gun owners all the time.
  • Shaneen Allen was a mother of two and a nurse in Philadelphia. She drove into New Jersey to arrange a birthday party for her son, and mistakenly brought her legally owned and carried gun, secured in her purse. At a routine traffic stop she showed the officer her weapons license, and informed the officer that there was s gun in the car, as is the law in most states. She was sentenced to three years in prison without the possibility of parole. After public outcry that was reduced, but she still had a felony charge, which would prevent her from working as a nurse and take away her rights for the rest of her life. Governor Christie was able to pardon her, but not until she had spent months in jail awaiting trial, spent thousands in legal fees, lost her job and lost custody of her children.
  • Brian Fletcher was a lineman from North Carolina, who traveled to New Jersey to help with disaster relief after superstorm Sandy. He had a legally owned gun in his vehicle for protection. He also showed police his weapons license and informed them of the weapon. He was also arrested, convicted and sentenced. He too was eventually pardoned by Governor Christie.
  • Raymond Hughes was a corrections officer in Pennsylvania who took his wife to dinner and a concert in New Jersey. On the way home, they were hit by a drunk driver and had to be hospitalized. He informed police that he was a law officer and he had a gun, and asked them to secure it from the damaged vehicle. Because PA corrections officers do not have "statutory arrest" powers under PA law, New Jersey did not consider him a law enforcement officer and prosecuted him for felony gun possession. After public outcry charges were eventually dropped.
I would like to say that these are the only three cases, but New Jersey has, according to gun rights lawyers, over a thousand people currently serving prison terms for being in the state with a gun that they own legally, and that they had no intention of using for a crime. These cases are significant because of their notoriety. And although in these three cases the citizen was eventually freed, it was not without spending tens of thousands of dollars, losing months or years of their lives, and massive public awareness campaigns, and ultimately depended on Chris Christie being governor. Under our next governor, Phil Murphy, these people would be rotting in jail (not just in my opinion, Murphy has said as much).

Multiple that number by eleven states who have such laws - California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Rhode Island, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Washington D.C. and you can imagine the magnitude of the problem.

This week the house passed HR 38, the "Concealed Carry Reciprocity" bill, which does three things.
  • It creates a study to address the issue of bump stocks (like the ones used in the recent concert mass shooting in Las Vegas).
  • It removes immunity from legal consequences for states and agencies that do not report violent criminals to the NICS system (the National Instant Criminal Search system is what is used to identify people who should not be allowed to purchase guns).
  • It treats weapons licenses the same way as other state issued legal documents (marriage licenses, birth certificates, drivers licenses) so that states must recognize gun licenses issued by other states. This would address some of the issues above.
It does NOT (as some are claiming)
  • Allow criminals to possess guns.
  • Allow legal gun owners to violate state laws regarding firearms.
  • Allow people to have guns in schools.
  • Allow people to carry a gun who cannot otherwise carry a gun.
  • Create a "public safety crisis." This law does not protect anyone with criminal intent.
Soon the Senate will take up bill S 446, the "Constitutional Concealed Cary Reciprocity Act" which is the corresponding similar bill in the senate. This bill does not address bump stocks or the loopholes in the NICS system fixed by HR 38. Please contact your senators and ask them to support S 446 and adopt the language of HR 38.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Gettysburg... How long, O Lord?



When my older son joined the boy scouts, one of the first camping trips I went on with him was to Gettysburg. We camped on the battlefield, and hiked the "Johnny Reb" and "Billy Yank" trails, following in the footsteps of the soldiers of the Confederate and Union, respectively.

This October, my youngest son arranged that we would camp at the same spot, on one of the last camping trips we would make together. We did some of the same things, but one thing we did differently was a ranger tour of the cemetery and a tour of the town. What an eye opener.

After the battle of Gettysburg the town was in bad shape. The Confederate army fled south after the battle, the the union army pursued them, leaving the town, population 2,400, to deal with the 8,000 bodies left behind, the 3,000 horse carcasses, not to mention 14,000 wounded and 8,000 Confederate prisoners.

People came from all over the country. Many to look among the dead for their loved ones (this is before the age of dog tags, many soldiers were hard to identify), some volunteered to help bury the dead, burn the horses, and tend to the wounded. Many people were sick from the stench. Flies were so numerous they covered entire houses. Every possible building was turned into a field hospital to care for the wounded. One of the churches had to have holes drilled in the floors to drain out the blood because it was getting deep.

For the most part the Union soldiers were buried and the Confederate soldiers were left to rot and be eaten by scavengers, unless their families came and claimed the bodies. The battle happened in July, so it was imperative that things be taken care "quickly".  It wasn't until October, when the weather was cooler, that the bodies of Union soldiers were exhumed and moved to the National Cemetery where they have a place of honor today. The Confederates were still left where they fell.

On our camping trip we visited the national cemetery, where a ranger gave us a tour. It was later, walking through town, that we wound up finding the "colored" cemetery. Even though we like to think of the North as fighting for African Americans, the colored troops were not allowed to be buried in the national cemetery, but buried in a not-so-good part of town, in their own cemetery.

And even today, that cemetery is separate, and is along Cemetery Ally, behind an abandoned auto body shop. Gettysburg is a stark reminder that the desecration/denigration of people we don't consider "worthy" is not a new thing.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

A Clear Case for Carrying

You surely have heard of the latest mass killing, at a Baptist Church in Texas. As of this writing 26 are dead and 20 more wounded. First of all, let's stop and pray for the victims, their families, and all affected by this horrible crime (including the murderer).

What you likely won't see get very much coverage in the mainstream media are the following. Even though it happened in Texas, under law the victims most likely would not have been allowed to be armed, because they were in church. In Texas churches (and businesses) can forbid guns on the premises, and that carries the weight of law. I don't know if this particular church allowed guns on the premises or not, but given that nobody was able to defend themselves or their children, I'm guessing no. I can't imagined an armed person watching children get mowed down and not trying to return fire.

Secondly, the slaughter was stopped by a citizen with a gun, before law enforcement was able to get there. How high would the death toll be if this happened in New Jersey or California, where people can't have guns outside their homes? The killer would have had a much longer time to kill his helpless victims. How much lower would the death toll have been if the victims in the church had been able to return fire?

I already see people calling for more gun control. Truth is there isn't a law that could be passed to stop this. The killer was dishonorably discharged, and so under law was not permitted to own or handle a gun. The church (presumably) forbid guns on the premises, by law, and yet the killer brought a gun into the church. Lastly, murder is illegal, and yet the killer murdered helpless people.

All another anti-gun law could possibly do is prevent the hero of this story from being able to stop the killer and chase him away. Rather than using this as an excuse to weaken the defense of Americans, why not actually address the problem and arm more good people? If there is a better argument for concealed carry reciprocity, I don't know it.

The laws... which forbid to wear arms, disarm those only who are not disposed to commit the crime which the laws mean to prevent. Can it be supposed, that those who have the courage to violate the most sacred laws of humanity, and the most important of the code, will respect the less considerable and arbitrary injunctions, the violation of which is so easy, and of so little comparative importance? Does not the execution of this law deprive the subject of that personal liberty, so dear to mankind and to the wise legislator; and does it not subject the innocent to all the disagreeable circumstances that should only fall on the guilty? It certainly makes the situation of the assaulted worse, and the assailants better, and rather encourages than prevents murder, as it requires less courage to attack armed than unarmed persons.
- Cesare Bonesana di Beccaria, "An Essay on Crimes and Punishments" [1764]

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Bump Fire Stocks

Everyone has come out with their opinions on bump fire stocks. I guess I am the last (probably not, as people are still arguing over it). Thought I would share mine. For those who don't know, a "bump fire stock" is a device that attaches to an "AR" style rifle - aka "Modern Sporting Rifle." It consists basically of a plastic guard to hold your finger in place and a spring to allow the gun to bounce back from recoil, into your finger. So instead of pulling the trigger, you push the gun forward, and as the gun bounces on the spring your finger activates the trigger multiple times.

A bump fire stock was used by the Las Vegas shooter to increase his rate of fire.

On the one hand...
  • There is no reasonable hunting use for bump fire stock.
  • It is gimmicky.
  • It is inaccurate.
On the other hand...
  • It is not a machine gun (more on that in a minute).
  • You don't need a special stock to bump-fire a gun.
    • It is trivial to rig up a device to bump fire a gun (see image above)
    • You can, with a little practice, do the same thing with no hardware whatsoever.
A number of people/organizations  have come out in favor of banning bump fire stocks (including the NRA), based on the first set of bullet (pun intended) items above. Those people/organizations are wrong. I am dead set (again pun intended) against banning bump fire stocks for the following reasons.
  • It is not a machine gun. Therefore it can't be banned based on the definition of "machine gun" but must be banned based on what it is, but on what it does. That's a very important distinction, because what it does is increases the "normal" rate of fire of a weapon. If you're going to ban anything that can increase the "normal" rate of fire, you have established a principle that will also ban lots of other things. For instance, a semi-auto action increases the rate of fire of a magazine fed gun - let's ban all semi-auto firearms! A heavier recoil spring (or even replacing a worn spring) increases the rate of fire of a firearm - let's regulate recoil spring repairs! Training increases the rate of fire of a firearm (exactly the same way as a bump fire stock, in fact, by enabling your finger to activate the trigger more quickly). Let's ban training!
  • Even if it were, machine guns shouldn't be banned. The ATF has the authority to ban machine guns under the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1930. That law was and is unconstitutional. It was upheld by the supreme court in 1938 because of a failure of the defendant to appear. I would dearly love to see this challenged in the supreme court today, as the reasoning behind the law is that machine guns (and certain other weapons) are not used by the military (which is clearly false).
Aside from the legal technicalities, the whole thing runs counter to the second amendment. There have been oceans of ink spilled over the whole issue of the second amendment, so my few drops shouldn't bother anyone. The intention of the second amendment is to make sure that private citizens had weapons equal to or superior to their government. Yes, you read that right.

In the Revolutionary War, the colonist prevailed, in part, because they had superior weapons. The British were equipped, for the most part, with smooth bore muskets. The reasoning of the British army was that such weapons were faster to load, and therefore the soldiers would have a higher rate of fire than their enemies. Many of the colonists had rifles. Rifles took 50% longer to load, but they were more accurate. So, in terms of fighting, the colonists could kill British soldiers at distances where the British could not return fire.

The founders who framed the second amendment were well aware of that, and also of what the colonists realized, and which is still true today. The greatest threat of murder comes not from your fellow citizens, but from your government. The greatest mass murders have been perpetrated by government over an unarmed population. Consider Nazi Germany, which disarmed its populace and proceeded to set up death camps. The Soviet Union, and the millions who died there, also unarmed. The Armenian Genocide - I could go on, but you (should) get the point. Yes, there are those who disagree, but there is no counter example to the rule that they can provide, it's all just opinion of what might have happened had things been different. The fact is that technology can make a 90 pound elderly woman able to defend her rights against a 220 pound attacker. To say that that doesn't make any difference is naive at best.

The wording of the second amendment is
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.
In other words, the stated purpose of the right of the people to keep and bear arms is because a well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state. Free citizens must have the ability to defend themselves effectively. Before you get hung up on the words "well regulated" and "militia" let me offer the following. George Mason, one of the delegates of the Constitutional Convention, said, in debate "That the people have a Right to mass and to bear arms; that a well regulated militia composed of the Body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper natural and safe defense of a free state, that standing armies, in time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, and therefore ought to be avoided."

You may disagree with his sentiment, but you cannot disagree that the sentiment was one held by many of the founders of our nation. Clearly the second amendment was included to support such a belief. Also, the word "regulated" has been (mis) interpreted to mean "under restrictions from government" but the usage here (which is still a definition today, but was the "main" definition at the time) was "to ensure accuracy of operation" - in other words, that the militia should be well trained.

You may disagree with the Constitution as well, and if so you are welcome to suggest and try to pass an amendment retracting the second amendment. It's been done before, with prohibition. But if you want to pass legislation that ignores the Constitution, you will come up against it at some point.

So, although I don't personally see a "need" for bump-fire stocks, and I agree they are gimmicky, I will not support such a ban, and urge others to examine the issue and make a decision to either amend or support the Constitution, not move towards a dictatorship by subverting the law itself.

The Boy Scouts

The Boy Scouts of America's stated goal is to help boys become men who are of good moral character and good patriotic citizens. For over one hundred years it has long held certain policies to support this goal; policies directly based on those principles of the organization. The Boy Scout oath is:
On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight. 
Because of that the scouts did not accept atheists (since they do not believe in God), presumably they would not accept traitors (duty to country) and those who hold principles contrary to morality. "What morality?" you may ask. It doesn't really matter. Whether you are Christian, Jew, Muslim, etc. pretty much every religion held to the same moral principles, since those moral principles were based on natural law.

The Boy Scouts of America has been sued over their membership policies numerous times, until in 2000 things came to a head in the supreme court, with the case "Boy Scouts of America v. Dale". In that case, the court confirmed that any private organization has a constitutional right to "freedom of association". In other words, the Boy Scouts have the right to exclude a person from membership when "the presence of that person affects in a significant way the group's ability to advocate public or private viewpoints". In a five to four decision, the Supreme Court ruled that opposition to homosexuality is part of BSA's "expressive message" and that allowing homosexuals as adult leaders would interfere with that message.

Think about that. The Boy Scout's opposition to homosexuality was, according to the supreme court, part of their "message."

Fast forward to 2013. The board of directors of the Boy Scouts of America decides that homosexual boys can be members. This is a fundamental abandonment of the core values of the organization. However, it was couched as "well, these boys are just confused, and cannot be held responsible for their sexuality, and we should help them." A noble goal, but help them to what, exactly? It was pointed out that any Boy Scout who engages in any sexual activity can be expelled form the organization, and that policy wouldn't change and so we're not talking "active" homosexual boys.

There are a number of things wrong with that statement, but ignoring that, it is still a fundamental abandonment of principle in favor of political correctness. At that point, in my opinion, the Boy Scouts ceased to exist.

Two years later, in 2015, the board decides to accept openly homosexual adult leaders. This directly invalidates their supreme court case, which was about not accepting openly homosexual adult leaders. If there is a clearer case of abandoning one's moral principles in favor of political correctness, I don't know what it would be.

Two years later, in 2017, the board announces that transgender "boys " (aka girls) would be accepted, and when that "flew," that all girls would be accepted (but only for Cub Scouts, for now). Two things are of note here, which have kept the organization from disbanding (which I believe it will in the next 20 years or so) and which have kept me from walking away.

First off, all of these decisions have been "optional." Each troop has a "chartering organization" that supports it. It is typically a town, or church, or some other group. All of these changes have been made at the national level, but accepting them has been made subject to the approval of the chartering organization, That means that the local Catholic church that charters the local troop can decide "no homosexuals" while the Episcopal church down the street can decide differently for the troop they charter. Doesn't this create disunity? You betcha! What does this mean, legally, for troops? It probably means that somewhere down the line they will have to go back and re-fight the "freedom of association" case, and since they are small and won't have the financial resources to fight it, they will lose.

Secondly, Boy Scouts exists for boys ages 10.5 to 17. When you turn 18 you are done. Announcing a change every two years is analogous to "boiling a frog." Each scout will only see a few changes, and will be gone. Over the next few years I expect to see even more changes, such as allowing atheists, allowing active sexual behavior, supporting abortion, etc. We've already seen that with the Girl Scouts, so it's not as big of a stretch as you might think.

May God help the Boy Scouts of America.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Fears and Dreams

This morning I saw a post on FB by someone who is a real life friend. Someone I would actually hug if i met them (which, if you know me, is rare). The post decried the fact that illegal immigrants are being used by big business. They are being paid too little and not given benefits or decent working conditions.

I wanted to comment "Amen! This is exactly why we need to end illegal immigration" but then I got to thinking. This person is a self-professed liberal. I know that if I posted such a thing I would be immediately attacked by the person's friends, called names, and the whole thread would go up in flames. Perhaps this person would even unfriend me, and certainly it would make it awkward (at best) when next we met in real life.

So I said nothing and moved on. I have two things to say about that (well, probably more, we'll see).

First off, I am saddened that I can't have a discussion with people, who I am otherwise good friends with,  about basically anything important in life, or in current events. Yes, I know, this was on FB, but I know (or at least I'm pretty sure) in real life the conversation wouldn't go much better. It would certainly be more polite, but the end result would be the same. At best, disappointment. At worst, "unfriending." I have a (short) list of relatives and friends for whom this has happened with me.

Why is it that so many people can't associate with people who have different views from them? Are people so shallow that they say "I love you, but only if you believe 'X' and 'Y' and not 'Z'?" There seems to be mode of though that says if I believe Z or fail to believe X or Y, then I am an 'A' (substitute your favorite bad person word there - bigot, hater, idiot, denier).

Nobody cares enough to find out why I believe 'Z' and don't believe 'X' and 'Y'. Nobody cares enough to say "even though we disagree you are still a good person." How petty! How narrow minded have we as a society become? Free speech, but only for me, because your speech is not "tolerant."

I could rant but onto point number 2. Immigration. I would normally be on the side of the immigrants, except for a few things. One is the way illegals get treated (low wages, poor working conditions, no benefits, etc.). Another is the horror stories coming out all the time. People found dying in Walmart parking lots, mass graves near the border. Stories of robberies and rapes of people trying to cross the border.

By supporting illegal immigration you are saying "I don't want to stop these things from happening." Now I'm not saying that people want these things to happen, or are supporting them, but when you create a "black market" for US residency, you surely can't expect there not to be black marketeers.

"Well, lock up the criminals who are doing this to the illegal immigrants!" you say? Then how would they get here, without the coyotes and human traffickers? The solution we should all agree on is to stop illegal immigration! If there is no illegal immigration, there is no reason to take people's money, kill them, rape them, or lock them in trailer trucks in 100 degree weather. There is no reason to pay them low wages and give them poor working conditions.

"What about the people already here?" you say? Give them a path. I propose we give illegal immigrants some amount of time (6 months, say) to register as illegals. Their cases would be considered and they could be vetted and either made legal immigrants or deported. Anyone who didn't register after the deadline would be deported on sight. But make the laws and let them work. Operating outside the law perpetuates a scenario where justice cannot operate, and the weak will be preyed upon. Surely everyone can see that.

But then again, maybe not. It seems too many people consider their world view more important than the world.