The Government You Paid For

Number 8

From WND

Wait for it. It’s coming. It’s coming. Wait! It’s here!

Washington (CNN) — President Donald Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio on Friday, sparing the controversial former Arizona sheriff a jail sentence after he was convicted of criminal contempt related to his hard-line tactics going after undocumented immigrants.

There. It’s done. Did you ever doubt it was going to happen? To find anything more predictable I had to go all the way back to… To last week, when an eclipse of the sun raced across this country from the west coast to the east. That was more predictable. But it was close.

So, what does it take to draw a get-out-of-jail-free card from President Trump? You might not be surprised:

Arpaio has been accused of various types of police misconduct, including abuse of power; misuse of funds; failure to investigate sex crimes; improper clearance of cases; unlawful enforcement of immigration laws; and election law violations. A Federal court monitor was appointed to oversee his office’s operations because of complaints of racial profiling. The U.S. Department of Justice concluded that Arpaio oversaw the worst pattern of racial profiling in U.S. history, and subsequently filed suit against him for unlawful discriminatory police conduct. Arpaio’s office paid more than $146 million in fees, settlements, and court awards.

Over the course of his career Arpaio was the subject of several federal civil rights lawsuits. In one case he was a defendant in a decade-long suit in which a federal court issued an injunction barring him from conducting further “immigration round-ups”. A federal court subsequently found that after the order was issued, Arpaio’s office continued to detain “persons for further investigation without reasonable suspicion that a crime has been or is being committed.” In July 2017, he was convicted of criminal contempt of court, a crime for which he was pardoned by President Donald Trump on August 25, 2017. In a separate racial-profiling case which concluded in 2013, Arpaio and his subordinates were found to have unfairly targeted Hispanics in conducting traffic stops.

Yes! Those are exactly the qualities that are going to earn you a nod from Donald Trump. Did we ever not see this coming?

We complained, and we complained, but now we need to quit complaining. At last we have the government we paid for.

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Friday Funny

Number 70 of a series

A Facebook friend posted an item referencing “God’s ACLU.” It’s about an organization to defend religious liberty:

Advocates for religious liberty in America are part of what might be seen as the second wave of rights activism in the courts, the first being the wave that began in the 1950s and ’60s with litigation over the rights of minorities, women and criminal suspects, among others. In the past 25 years, conservative and libertarian groups have applied lessons that the liberal vanguard learned about how to select test cases for litigation as a way to steer the law. The focus today is still on the individual, but on his right to own guns, send his children to the school of his choice, or—Ms. Alvarado’s field of concern—worship freely and live a full religious life uncramped by the state.

“Our first case at Becket was in 1996,” Ms. Alvarado says. “A boy name Zachary Hood wanted to bring a ‘Beginner’s Bible’ to his first-grade class on share-your-favorite-story day. His teacher said, ‘No, you don’t get to do that.’ ” The family sued the school board but lost the case, and the Supreme Court declined to hear their appeal. But the board eventually settled in a related matter—having to do with a Thanksgiving poster the 6-year-old had drawn saying he was “thankful for Jesus”—and the federal Education Department issued official guidance shortly thereafter, affirming a student’s right to express religious beliefs in all schoolwork.

Some who know me may be surprised, but I an in favor of religious rights, otherwise known as the right to  act foolishly in public. That said, someone seriously in need of such protection is whacked out pastor Rick Joyner:

Right-wing pastor Rick Joyner posted a video on his Facebook page today claiming that the chaos that is engulfing the Trump White House is actually a sign that President Trump is an “extraordinary leader” … just like Jesus.

“I’m expecting some chaos in the White House team for the duration of Trump’s administration,” Joyner said, “and I am saying this is because he is such an extraordinary leader. It’s not a lack of leadership; it’s a different kind of leadership.”

Few would not agree that this is funny to an extraordinary degree.

Please join me in protecting Pastor Rick Joyner’s right to act foolishly in public.

Majority of One

A Continuation—Number 2

Four years ago I posted on the Edward Snowden business:

Snowden has seen something that is wrong with this country, and he has acted to correct it. From his point of view. The issue is currently being batted about in the halls of government, and some are saying PRISM and FISA are bad, and some are saying they are good. The discussion will likely go on for some time, and in the end some disagreement is sure to persist.

In the mean time Snowden has nullified all those other votes with his one vote. He has become a Majority of One. It would appear that sometimes it is necessary to destroy one part of democracy in order to save another part.

There’s a long tradition of defying the law to do what’s right. Mohandas Gandhi was one such person. Martin Luther King was another. We have to wonder whether Snowden saw himself in the same light as these two. Both saw a wrong that needed to be corrected, and both went beyond the law. Of course, there’s a difference. Gandhi and King owned up, didn’t flee, didn’t back away. They offered themselves up to suffer the legal consequences of their actions. Both were murdered. Snowden, to the contrary, sought refuge from justice within the purview of one of the most corrupt and anti-democratic regimes on the planet, refusing to submit to the legal consequences of what he did. It takes some of the shine off.

That said, I never condoned Snowden’s methods. The government actions he exposed were not part of a great scheme to subjugate people and to suppress equal opportunity under the law. Furthermore, there is serious question whether anybody’s civil rights were in jeopardy. Snowden figured he had a vote in the matter, and he cast it—a majority of one.

There’s more.

While the Edward Snowden affair was still fresh in people’s minds, others figured they had a better lock on what was right and just than the American court system. There was the episode I titled High-Pocket Pickpocket.

Bundy’s family has been grazing cattle on the disputed piece of public land since the 1800s. The government allows private entities to use public lands for commercial purposes on a fee basis. The trouble with Bundy began in 1993 when the government changed the rules for grazing in this area, and Bundy quit paying the fees in protest. From all appearances, Bundy is getting a lot of support from locals and from out-of-towners who share a disdain for government regulations:

What I found most impressive was the support Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy got from those whose pockets he was picking. The cold facts are this. Bundy’s ranch was grazing its cattle on government land for which a fee was required. He refused to pay the fee. In essence, he was getting for free the use of the land and the grazing. Contrast this to somebody in competition with the Bundy ranch. The competition, those raising cattle and selling to the same market, either owned their land or else leased it, often from the government. It’s a nice arrangement for Bundy, he can 1) undercut the competition and still break even, or 2) he can go head to head with the competition and pocket more of the proceeds. Either way, it’s a win for Bundy. As I mentioned three years ago, this arrangement put Bundy ahead of his competition to the tune of $1.3 million over the previous 20 years. And civil liberties be damned.

What really caught the news was the armed confrontation with government agents. Bundy’s friends and neighbors were not of the same ilk as Gandhi and King. They brought their guns. And they pointed them at the G-men. There were further developments and ultimately consequences. See the image above from the FBI video in Oregon last year. Bundy’s sons and some like-minded people took command of a government building in the wilderness and held out for several days. They had guns. As the confrontation with the FBI came to a conclusion, one of the Bundy fans, Robert LaVoy Finicum, was shot and killed by an agent. So much for a majority of one.

Subsequently there was a trial, and the anti-government gunmen were acquitted of the charges against them. Additionally, an FBI agent who participated in the confrontation with Finicum has been indicted for making false statements concerning the event:

An FBI agent, W. Joseph Astarita, is alleged to have fired two shots at Finicum’s pickup, one of which penetrated the roof of the pickup and exited through a window. FBI agents were believed to have recovered the ejected empty cartridges. A five-count indictment for lying about the circumstances at the scene of Finicum’s death, and obstruction of justice, has been obtained in Portland against Astarita by the Department of Justice. He is being represented by a public defender.

There have been other developments. The consequences of Bundy and supporters pointing guns at federal agents are winding their way through the justice system. The first to go down has been one Gregory Burleson:

The weight of a heavy sentence landed in the quiet federal courtroom Wednesday morning, leaving Gregory Burleson occasionally stroking his graying beard and his attorney pleading unsuccessfully for leniency.

The 53-year-old Burleson was the first to be sentenced for his role in the 2014 standoff between federal agents and supporters of Cliven Bundy near his Nevada ranch.

He got 68 years in prison.

Again, so much for a majority of one. An additional Bundy friend has been convicted and is due to be sentenced in September, unlikely to get the breaks obtained by Burleson. Four others obtained acquittals on offenses related to the ranch standoff, but they are now schedule for trial on federal charges. Once that trial is concluded, according to the Los Angeles Times, Cliven Bundy and his son Ammon will go to trial for their part.

As you may have guessed, that’s not the end of the list of people who think American law is for other people. Most recently we have the case of former  Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff Joe Arpaio. In years past he made a name for himself as the toughest sheriff in the United States of A. This by being rough on prisoners and also on those not yet prisoners. On multiple occasions the courts have had to smack Sheriff Joe down for wandering outside the laws governing civil rights in this country. Bypassing all that and getting to the most recent, a federal judge enjoined the sheriff from enforcing his policy of profiling suspected illegal aliens, an injunction which he disregarded. He was charged with contempt of court, and about the same time the voters of Maricopa County ended his decades-long tenure. And the majority of one has also come to an end:

Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio committed a crime by defying a court order to stop detaining suspected undocumented immigrants, a judge ruled on Monday, in the latest rebuke for a once-popular politician who was voted out of office last year.

United States District Judge Susan R. Bolton found Mr. Arpaio, 85, guilty of criminal contempt of court, a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail. Mr. Arpaio’s lawyers said he would appeal.

So that’s what it all comes to. There is the rule of law, and there is personal preference. Keep your personal preference close to your heart and defy the law at your peril:

Lying here in the darkness
I hear the sirens wail
Somebody going to emergency
Somebody’s going to jail

And Edward Snowden will need to learn to speak Russian.

Is too late for me to get my money back?

Number 2

Did I mention I receive regular emails from Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas? Yes, I’m sure I did. Here’s another one. See above.

There is no way I can make too much of this. Read the message and realize this is aimed at adult humans inhabiting one of the most advanced and modern countries on this planet. Once you let that soak in, look at the message:

Six Practical Strategies to Defeat Satan’s Destructive Plan for Your Life!

You did not read that wrong. The supposedly adult audience is presumed to believe in the reality of a fictional character. To put it into perspective, let me restate the above with a minor word change:

Six Practical Strategies to Defeat The Joker’s Destructive Plan for Your Life!

Yes, the fictional character known as The Joker, Batman’s nemesis, has a destructive plan for your life. Of course we always knew that. When did The Joker ever have anything socially beneficial. The Joker always worked against society and toward his own self interests. Fortunately there has always been Batman to protect us.

There is somebody else working toward his own self interest.

The First Baptist Church of Dallas wants your money:

First Baptist Dallas is a Southern Baptist megachurch located in Dallas, Texas. It was established in 1868 and, as of 2016, has a congregation of about 12,000. The church, considered influential among evangelical Christians in the United States, also owns and operates a school, several radio stations, and Dallas Life, a mission for the homeless on the southern edge of Downtown Dallas. The current pastor is Robert Jeffress. Jeffress is currently leading the congregation in a $130 million campaign to re-create its downtown campus. The project is the largest in modern church history.

The church operates a mission for the homeless. That’s good. That’s socially responsible. The homeless are not the only beneficiaries of the church’s good will:

For the 2016 US Presidential election, Jeffress endorsed and appeared at rallies for the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, though he initially endorsed Dr. Ben Carson. Jeffress also declared that Christians who would not vote for or support Trump as the Republican nominee were “fools” and “motivated by pride rather than principle”, despite Trump’s lack of an evangelical or Christian background. Jeffress also stated that if a candidate ran on the principles found in the Sermon on the Mount, he “would run from that candidate as far as possible” and would still vote for Trump. On June 21, 2016, candidate Trump named Jeffress to participate in an advisory board of evangelical leaders.

This appears to be a mutual admiration society. Also a political collaboration:

On Thursday morning, as part of National Day of Prayer festivities at the White House, President Donald Trump signed an executive order he said delivered on a campaign promise to evangelical leaders. The order instructs the Internal Revenue Service not to enforce the Johnson Amendment, a 50-year-old law banning pastors from making endorsements from the pulpit.

The order essentially calls for the end of a law that’s never been enforced.

First Baptist Church Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress, who pushed Trump throughout the campaign to repeal the Johnson Amendment to remove the threat that it could be used as a cudgel against pastors.

Jeffress is controversial, having repeatedly linked homosexuality to pedophilia and called Catholicism and “Babylonian mystery religion” inspired by Satan. Wednesday night, Trump invited Jeffress and some of his fellow pastors to the White House before signing the executive order. “Mr. President, we’re going to be your most loyal friends,” Jeffress said at the dinner. “We’re going to be your enthusiastic supporters. And we thank God every day that you’re the president of the United States.”

After the president issued the order Thursday morning, Jeffress praised it as a promise kept, despite the fact that the Johnson Amendment is still on the books.

First an explanation of the Johnson Amendment from Wikipedia:

The Johnson Amendment is a provision in the U.S. tax code, since 1954, that prohibits all 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates. Section 501(c)(3) organizations are the most common type of nonprofit organization in the United States, ranging from charitable foundations to universities and churches. The amendment is named for then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas, who introduced it in a preliminary draft of the law in July 1954.

Now, from Wikipedia, here is a description of a political action committee (PAC):

In the United States, a political action committee (PAC) is a type of organization that pools campaign contributions from members and donates those funds to campaign for or against candidates, ballot initiatives, or legislation. The legal term PAC has been created in pursuit of campaign finance reform in the United States. This term is quite specific to all activities of campaign finance in the United States. Democracies of other countries use different terms for the units of campaign spending or spending on political competition (see political finance). At the U.S. federal level, an organization becomes a PAC when it receives or spends more than $1,000 for the purpose of influencing a federal election, and registers with the Federal Election Commission, according to the Federal Election Campaign Act as amended by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (also known as the McCain-Feingold Act). At the state level, an organization becomes a PAC according to the state’s election laws.

Now that everybody understands the ground rules, here is how it works out:

You want to contribute to your favorite candidate running for office, say $1000. Perfectly legal. It’s going to be $1000 down a black hole, but it’s for a good cause. You earned the $1000 as salary and paid $250 in federal income tax on it. So that was $1000 you donated plus the $250. Sounds like a raw deal, yes?

But wait. Salvation is at hand. Jesus is your friend. You “join” a church with the name “Jesus wants Donald Trump for President.” You donate you $1000 to the JWDTFP Church, and you don’t pay taxes on  that income. That church meets in rented office space in a strip mall in on Legacy Drive in Plano, Texas. They hold services on Sunday, attended by the pastor, his wife, his accountant. They open the envelops and count the money.

They take the money to a professional adversing firm and pay that company to  create television ads promoting Donald Trump for President. Donald Trump’s re-election campaign is now underwritten by the American taxpayers. Breathtaking inanity!

Can’t happen, you say. The IRS will never accept the JWDTFP as a legitimate church. Think not? Suppose the IRS does push back. Imagine the backlash. The United States government is now in  the business of deciding what is a church and what is not a church. Didn’t we previously visit that problem in merry old England? It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, and the government told citizens what was a church and what was not a church. Hence:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…

Are we about to  rewind this issue? Has it come to  pass we now have the government we paid for?

There is going to be more of this. Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

Upstairs Downstairs Inside Out

Revisiting a theme from a few years back

What is it about diplomats behaving badly? There was this business about an Indian diplomat abusing the employment of a member of her household staff in violation of American law and also contrary to the terms of the staffer’s work visa:

Anyhow, society in other places is much more stratified, and it’s expected there will be a privileged class and a servant class. That’s the way it was in this case.

Arrest, strip-search of Indian diplomat in New York triggers uproar

(CNN) — The prosecutor in the U.S. government’s case against an Indian diplomat charged in New York with visa fraud related to her treatment of her housekeeper expressed dismay Wednesday over the direction the case has taken.

So, that sort of thing is not going to happen again.  Except when it does:

(CNN) — A high-ranking Bangladeshi diplomat based in New York accused of forcing his servant to work for up to 18 hours a day without pay was charged Monday with labor trafficking and assault.

In a case described by the district attorney as “very disturbing,” Mohammed Shaheldul Islam, 45, a deputy consul general of Bangladesh, is alleged to have used a combination of physical violence and “vile” threats to control the victim, Mohammed Amin, for a period of several years.

Americans need to get used to the fact that in other cultures human exploitation is normal and a way of life, particularly for those privileged to be the exploiter rather than the exploitee. Accounts of what transpired in the Devyani Khobragade case would indicate the caste system remains intact, and the Indian government comes down on the side of the exploiter:

On January 10 the Indian government ordered the expulsion of US diplomat Wayne May because he had assisted Richard’s family in securing T-visas and traveling to the United States. Media sources stated that May had taken “unilateral actions” in expediting the travel of Richard’s family from India and violated various procedures with respect to actions taken related to the case. Media sources also quoted disparaging remarks about India and Indian culture made by May and his wife on their personal social media accounts since their posting to New Delhi. At the time of his expulsion, May was the head of the embassy’s diplomatic security contingent managing a staff of 424 security officers including 10 Marine Security Guards, and had been in India since 2010. The expulsion of a US diplomat by India is viewed as unprecedented. In the history of the US-India relationships, a similar event has happened only once when India blocked appointment of George G B Griffin, a Reagan appointee to the post of US political counselor, the third-ranking post in the United States Embassy.

The best we can hope is the United States continues to place its regard for human rights above any need to curry favor with a foreign  power. More may develop. Keep reading.

Merry Christmas From The ADF

These people are still around.

religion-adfsnowflakes

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is curiously named. Here are some details:

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF, formerly Alliance Defense Fund) is a 501(c)(3) American conservative Christian nonprofit organization with the stated goal of “defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.” The Southern Poverty Law Center has described the organization as “virulently anti-gay”.

ADF supports the inclusion of invocations at public meetings and the use of religious displays (such as crosses and other religious monuments) on public lands and in public buildings. The ADF opposes abortion, and believes that healthcare workers have a right to decline participation in the performance of abortions and other practices an individual health worker finds morally objectionable. ADF opposes same-sex marriage and civil unions, as well as adoption by same-sex couples based on their belief that children are best raised by a married mother and father. ADF believes parents should be able to opt their children out of sex education in schools that run counter to a family’s religious beliefs.

That’s from Wikipedia, and if I interpret it correctly—and I do interpret it correctly—what it says is this: The ADF supports the use of funds (taxes) collected by government officials using the power of United States law to proselytize for the Christian religion.

Full disclosure: I readily admit a lack of favor for the Christian religion. As a consequence I object to having money, collected from me under the force law, being used to promote this foolishness. Being as forthright as I am required to  be, I also object to my tax money being used to support all kinds of foolishness. Details on request. However, in the case of using tax money to proselytize for Christianity, there is specific United States law that backing me up:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

It is particularly the establishment clause at work here. What we see is a public school teacher, using his paid time, paid through public funds, erecting promotional posters and such on property, paid through public funds and established by public law. This is especially egregious when the purpose is to sway young children toward a specific religion.

Here is the crucial section of the Facebook posting by the Alliance Defending Freedom:

This wasn’t the first time that the Christmas classic found itself on the chopping block, and unfortunately, it wasn’t the last.

Recently, an employee at a public school in Texas was told by the principal to remove a poster on her door featuring the infamous Peanuts Christmas tree, Linus, and these words:

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior which is Christ the Lord. That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

As the Daily Caller reports, the employee was told to remove the poster “because non-Christian students might be offended.”

Where to begin?

First of all, I don’t see anyone tearing down posters of Santa Claus or Frosty or Rudolph for fear it might offend those who believe that Jesus is the reason for the season.

This tells me that either (a) people who aren’t self-described Christians are more easily offended than those who are; or (b) these school administrators simply care more about being “politically correct” than they care about the Constitution.

After all, free speech and free expression are protected by the First Amendment. And as Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told the school, “The U.S. Supreme Court has held repeatedly that neither students nor teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

I have highlighted the significant text. Let’s look at it:

  • Foremost, it is false. Jesus was most surely not born on 25 December, and not in Bethlehem. Actually, I think the “City of David” is Jerusalem.  I’ve been wrong before.
  • Second, the proclamation that “Jesus is Lord” is religious propaganda—proselytizing quite pure.

The meat, and the title then of the ADF posting, is this paragraph:

It’s time to stop treating the next generation like precious snowflakes who will melt at the tiniest disturbance in their atmosphere. I know it’s hard considering what’s been happening on college and university campuses across the country—but these students didn’t become this way on their own.

Yes, ADF writer, Marissa Mayer, is casting this as an instance of PC police protecting fragile little souls from offenses to their delicate feelings. Really? How about this? How about casting this as an instance of showing respect for the American legal framework that protects citizens in a minority position from ultimate government power?

Mayer talks about “snowflakes.” Let’s talk about snowflakes. Let’s talk about a teacher in a public school putting up a poster saying something like, “There is only one God (Allah) and Muhammad is God’s messenger.” I suspect (I have been wrong before) that should such a thing happen we would see snowflakes melting like… Well like the proverbial snowball in Hell.

Your Friend The Handgun

Nothing new here, folks.

CasingsInTheStreet

These days it’s up to private citizens to keep themselves and their families safe from terrorists and an ever-present criminal element. People increasingly rely on the 2nd Amendment for the right to arm themselves. It is impressive how well this is working out:

CLARKSVILLE, TN (WSMV) – Clarksville police said a 3-year-old boy has died after being shot in the face.

Police said the shooting happened Friday evening in the 500 block of Samantha Lane.

The child had been shot in the face with a handgun. The 911 call said the boy had found the gun and shot himself in the mouth.

The victim was transported by ambulance to the hospital, where he later died.

The .40 caliber handgun was owned by a resident of the home.

Remember, the handgun is your friend. Keep it handy.

Getting Real

Continuing from a previous post

I previously posted on reasonable legal measures to counter this country’s massive problem with gun violence. Quoting myself:

In the wake of the mass shooting and murder at the Pulse night club in Orlando, there has been a renewed call for restrictive gun legislation. And some response. Vis, a recent Facebook posting:

Nobody added comments to my post, but a link I posted to Facebook received some response. A screen shot captures a summary, omitting 22 additional comments.

Gun-FacebookPage-01

Here is a transcription from the above image:

Steven Breed So back to the first bullet point then: How does it reduce gun deaths?

John Blanton It does not.

Steven Breed Now I’m confused. Does it work in conjunction with the other bullets to reduce them? What is it supposed to do?

John Blanton Steve, because you have shown so much interest in this topic, I am now encouraged to give it the full attention it deserves. Stand by for another Skeptical Analysis post.

Hence this post. To recap, following is my current (revised since the original post) bullet list:

  • Firearms must be registered. Yeah, yeah, this is a preamble for taking away your guns. Get over it.
  • Severe restrictions on the carrying of guns. If you want to handle your weapon anywhere outside your home, anywhere besides a shooting range or a hunting location, you’re going to need a permit, and to obtain that permit you’re going to need to demonstrate you have a good business reason for carrying a gun on the street.
  • Severe penalties for violations. You don’t register your gun, the government can seize it, you won’t get it back, ever. Carry your weapon on the street without the proper permit, and you lose it. Besides, you are going to jail. And you will receive no compensation from the government.
  • Sever penalties for using a gun in the commission of a crime. These laws exist and are enforceable. Penalties can be increased.
  • The need for an automatic weapon must be demonstrated before such a weapon can be used outside the home. Gun people like to pick words over what is an automatic weapon, but as an engineer, any machine that operates itself is by definition automatic. Any weapon that reloads itself is automatic.
  • Automatic weapons will not be authorized for hunting.
  • Guns being transported must be locked up. We had these laws in Texas for years. You’re going hunting? You need to keep your weapons in the trunk of the car until you get where you’re going.
  • It will be illegal to transfer a gun from one person’s ownership to another’s without a proper background check.
  • It will be illegal to lend a gun to somebody who does not have the right to possess a gun.
  • Violation of gun laws will result in the forfeiture of the right of ownership for life.
  • Pistols will be regarded as exceptional weapons, requiring additional restrictions for ownership.

Steve’s question is “Does it work in conjunction with the other bullets to reduce them? What is it supposed to do?” I was hoping Steve would have figured that one out, but I am prepared to do the legwork and outline how registration of firearms will lend itself to reducing gun fatalities. Not being a lawyer or legal scholar by any measure, I am sure to get various points wrong. Challenges and corrections are solicited.

  1. When a gun is registered it becomes associated with an individual.
  2. If an individual registered as a gun owner is convicted of a felony, especially a felony involving violence, all guns registered to that individual become subject to confiscation without reimbursement. These guns become the property of some government agency.
  3. If a registered gun from 2 above cannot be located, then the gun will be placed on a watch list.
  4. Any attempt to transfer possession (ownership) of the illegal weapon will incur criminal charges.
  5. The person found in possession of the illegal weapon will be prosecuted.
  6. If a registered weapon is stolen it will be recorded as an illegal weapon, with criminal penalties attached to its subsequent possession.
  7. The above procedures will reduce the free circulation of weapons and will also provide government authorities the ability to remove illegal weapons from circulation.
  8. An obvious result of the above is that a gun removed from circulation will not shortly become involved in death or injury to somebody. People legally possessing a gun will be dissuaded from illegally selling, lending, or giving the gun to somebody who should not have it.

All this may seem minor, and somebody is going to argue that it places undue burden on legitimate gun owners at very little accomplished toward reducing gun violence. The point is conceded, except for the “undue” part. The burden is due and will become part of the cost of gun ownership.

A full transcript of the Facebook exchange is available on request. Again, comments and suggestions are solicited. If you are reading this from a Facebook link, comment in the section below rather than on Facebook. This saves me the trouble of transferring Facebook comments to this posting.

Getting Real

It has come to my attention that my bullet list was incomplete in its original form. This post has been revised to correct that.

It’s getting about time for a reality check. See the photo below.

GunDebate-MariahDavis

That’s five-year-old Mariah Davis. Only now she’s dead. She was not the victim of international terrorists. She was not the victim of a crazed shooter. She was not the victim of a scumbag criminal. She was killed, either by herself or by another child in her own home. Laws banning assault rifles would not have prevented this tragedy. She was killed by a handgun owned by her grandmother, supposedly a responsible gun owner.

In the wake of the mass shooting and murder at the Pulse night club in Orlando, there has been a renewed call for restrictive gun legislation. And some response. Vis, a recent Facebook posting:

Guns-HarlowKeithOrlandoShooting

Silly remarks are laid upon both sides of this debate. Those notwithstanding, some things are real.

The embarrassing rate of gun-related deaths in the United States cannot be attributed to mental illness. Mariah’s grandmother was not mentally ill. Also, she did not do the shooting. Let’s get real. Let’s toss out all the mentally ill and all the drug gangs and the terrorists attacks. How many countries can even approach the United States when it comes to killings by children under the age of 10?

It is not solely a matter of criminals and deranged individuals with guns. Strike those, and the United States is still number one among advanced countries. The truth is that the more guns there are around the more people will be killed by guns.

Underlying that problem is the Second Amendment to the Constitution. This amendment protects the right of citizens to keep and bear arms. Contrary to the thinking of the National Rifle Association and legions of gun rights advocates, the Amendment nowhere mentions guns. Apparently the Second Amendment was intended to be interpreted. Interpretations have been many. For example:

Its foggy wording and odd locution stand out in the Constitution. Lawyers and scholars debate its commas and clauses. For 218 years, judges overwhelmingly concluded that the amendment authorized states to form militias, what we now call the National Guard. Then, in 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court upended two centuries of precedent. In the case of District of Columbia v. Heller, an opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia declared that the Constitution confers a right to own a gun for self-defense in the home. That’s right: the Supreme Court found there to be an individual right to gun ownership just a few years ago. Now, when we debate gun control we do so in the context of a Supreme Court ruling that limits what we can do (though we don’t yet know how much).

Waldman, Michael. The Second Amendment: A Biography (Kindle Locations 39-44). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

This has been a critical decision by the Court. Not being a legal scholar, I take this to mean that if you want to own a gun the government is going to need a good reason to deny you the opportunity. Even the NRA concedes convicted criminals can be denied the right to have a gun.

My opinion: this has escalated beyond all sensibility. States have enacted open carry laws, allowing people with permits to carry weapons concealed or in plain sight just about anywhere they want to go. And this has resulted in greater safety for all of us.

No, it has not.

What is reasonable? Is it too early to start getting reasonable? Maybe the time has come.

Some plans are top of the head foolish. Take away peoples guns. Never going to happen. People purchased guns at a time when the law allowed them to do so. Seizing their property now would, at the least, be in violation of due process, part of the Bill of Rights.

Gun buy-back programs are also foolish and on the face unworkable. People will game the system, even purchasing cheap, often unworkable, weapons and working the program for a profit.

Prohibiting the sale of certain weapon designs. That has gone nowhere in the past, as minor changes in design can defeat the definition of what is prohibited. Exception: machine guns, what gun buffs call automatic weapons, can be outlawed.

Prohibiting the manufacture of certain weapons. Nah.

Holding manufacturers and marketers responsible. No, again.

Enough of that. What can be done? What can be done that has the slightest chance of passing muster with the courts. My suggestions:

  • Firearms must be registered. Yeah, yeah, this is a preamble for taking away your guns. Get over it.
  • Severe restrictions on the carrying of guns. If you want to handle your weapon anywhere outside your home, anywhere besides a shooting range or a hunting location, you’re going to need a permit, and to obtain that permit you’re going to need to demonstrate you have a good business reason for carrying a gun on the street.
  • Severe penalties for violations. You don’t register your gun, the government can seize it, you won’t get it back, ever. Carry your weapon on the street without the proper permit, and you lose it. Besides, you are going to jail. And you will receive no compensation from the government.
  • Sever penalties for using a gun in the commission of a crime. These laws exist and are enforceable. Penalties can be increased.
  • The need for an automatic weapon must be demonstrated before such a weapon can be used outside the home. Gun people like to pick words over what is an automatic weapon, but as an engineer, any machine that operates itself is by definition automatic. Any weapon that reloads itself is automatic.
  • Automatic weapons will not be authorized for hunting.
  • Guns being transported must be locked up. We had these laws in Texas for years. You’re going hunting? You need to keep your weapons in the trunk of the car until you get where you’re going.
  • It will be illegal to transfer a gun from one person’s ownership to another’s without a proper background check.
  • It will be illegal to lend a gun to somebody who does not have the right to possess a gun.
  • Violation of gun laws will result in the forfeiture of the right of ownership for life.
  • Pistols will be regarded as exceptional weapons, requiring additional restrictions for ownership.

Good, sensible gun advocates like to remind me that no gun law will prevent gun violence. Of course. No piece of paper will keep a bad guy from having a gun. Of course. What the piece of paper does accomplish is to give police the authorization to seize a weapon and even arrest a person. Without the “piece of paper” the police have to stand by until a crime has been committed or is about to happen. There is a case in point.

This is from news reports. People reported a man on the street carrying a gun. Police did not respond. Without probable cause the police could not stop the man and interfere with his going about his business. After the man killed two people the police were able to respond. Here is a case:

Case study: the Neenah stop. Recently in Neenah, WI, a woman called the police to report a man with a gun strapped to his back walking down the street. The call was placed to the non-emergency police number and the caller didn’t report that the man was doing anything threatening, but she did suggest that the police check on the situation. As a result, an officer stopped the man and his companion. The officer engaged in a protracted dialogue with the man, at one point telling the man that he would be shot in the head if he made any furtive movements. Other officers also responded, and at least one drew her weapon. The man who was stopped remained calm throughout the interaction and was eventually permitted to depart. The full 18-minute video of the stop is here. A local news article about the stop is here. It has generated quite a bit of controversy. Were the officer’s actions lawful and justified by public safety concerns? Or was it an unjustified response to lawful open carry? This post breaks down the legal issues.

Here is another:

As I first reported late Monday, questions are hanging over how the Colorado Springs Police Department handled a 911 call on Saturday morning, when a resident saw a man carrying a rifle on her residential block prior to a deadly gun rampage. The caller, Naomi Bettis, was alarmed about 33-year-old Noah Harpham—who soon went on to shoot three people to death in the area before being killed by police. But when Bettis made the 911 call, her first of two, the police dispatcher apparently reacted without urgency, telling Bettis about Colorado’s law allowing firearms to be carried openly in public. Bettis hung up, and when she called back it was because the killing was underway.

Yes, I’m thinking we’ve had about enough of this business. It’s time to get real.

Friday Funny

One of a series

So, why am I showing this image of a brown (?) Probe? Maybe it has to do with today’s funny headline:

Kenyan Judge Says Anal Probes Are a Legal Way to Determine if Someone is Gay

In Kenya, a nation where sodomy is a criminal offense, a judge just ruled that anal probes are a legal way to determine someone’s sexual orientation.

And that’s funny.