Freedom and security are a zero-sum game. The more freedom you
have, the less security the government can give you, and vice
versa. While, in general, I like the idea of the FBI evesdropping
on suspected foreign agents in our territory in order to capture them
and disrupt their plots, I think that the restrictions on their ability
to do so have been weakened substantially by the Patriot Act -- and not
necessarily wisely. But even with those weakened restrictions, they can't seem to obey the rules (according to papers obtained by the EFF), and that is troubling.
Alphecca is soliciting comments about the War on Drugs. I'm a
Libertarian (yes, big-L, though I do have some serious differences with
the party's positions on some things). Thus, it should not come
as a surprise that I oppose the drug war. I do so for several
First, there is no Constitutional authority for drug prohibition.
The federal government has no authority to regulate or ban the
possession of any substance, though they can regulate commerce in that
substance IF it crosses a state line or international border. The
government is exceeding it's Constitutional authority in this respect,
and for decades that was driving the expansion of Federal powers in a
way that caused dramatic harm to the rights of the people.
If drug regulations were to operate on the State level, people could
choose to live under regulations that they approve of -- and suffer the
consequences of that choice. The federal system would work as it
was intended, allowing both choice and policy experimentation.
Second, I believe that drug use is a personal choice. People have
the right to do whatever they wish so long as their conduct does not
harm others. If a drug user can't keep a job, he's harming
himself, not anyone else -- and not being able to keep a job might well
motivate him to change! The same argument applies to
alcohol. Social pressure has reduced the problem of alcohol abuse
far, far more than regulation has. Those who want to be
successful will choose to drink or use drugs responsibly -- and
"responsibly" may mean complete abstinence for many. I drink
rarely, and I choose not to use the sort of drugs that people mean when
they talk about "using drugs". I don't even like simple
painkillers for a headache or cold medicine; I don't like the way that
they interfere with my thought processes.
Third, some of the drugs we're talking about are just plants. Why are we outlawing weeds?
Fourth, Jeff comments about lost productivity resulting from alcohol
abuse. While that's a good argument for appropriate social norms
discouraging alcohol abuse, it's not an argument for government
intervention. It is not the government's job to make us more
Fifth, Jeff also notes that crime is often associated with
alcohol. Granted, but correlation is not causation -- would these
same people be committing crimes if they were not drunk? Probably
not in some cases, but there are millions of people who manage to drink
and get drunk without breaking the law. The causal chain is not
direct, but instead involves reduced judgement and reasoning.
Drinking does not cause crime; it causes stupidity. The problem
is the crime itself, not that drinking led to the crime, and the way to
address it is to punish the crime. Someone who notices that when
they get drunk, they end up in jail, should put two and two together
and stop getting drunk.
It is not appropriate for the government to walk back up that chain of
causality. Deal with the crime. Social organizations that
are not wielding the threat of lethal force to bankroll their
operations can handle the causes.
Sixth, and finally, drug prohibition is unenforceable. Our experience with it so far has made that abundently clear.
All that said, I agree with Jeff that hard drugs can destroy
lives. But government is not there to help us make good
choices; it's there to prevent us from harming one another, not from
Others have died for my freedom, now this is my mark.
The New York Times recently celebrated the 2000-death "milestone" (or
is that "millstone"?) in Iraq. The photo they used to present the
story was of one Colonel Starr, who left a letter on his laptop
intended to be found in the event of his death. They quoted from
his letter. Unfortunately, they didn't quote all of it. I
present, below, a more complete citation (the bold text was not
included by the NYTimes):
Obviously if you are reading this then I have died in Iraq. I kind of
predicted this, that is why I?m writing this in November. A third time
just seemed like I?m pushing my chances. I don?t regret going,
everybody dies but few get to do it for something as important as
freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, it?s not to me. I?m
here helping these people, so that they can live the way we live. Not
have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. To do what they want
with their lives. To me that is why I died. Others have died for my
freedom, now this is my mark.
I can't take credit for this story; Michelle Malkin and Patterico are both way, way ahead of me. But I can't let this man's last words go unnoticed, either.
... or at least, so says the Gun Owners of America. The concern
they have is that Alberto Gonzales is still on the President's short
list -- and he's not acceptable. Why not? Well, for one thing, he
thinks the Assault Weapons Ban was Constitutional -- and in fact
We need to contact the President
with the names that we support. Here's GOA's short list, and it
looks remarkably like mine (but is not identical -- mine is shorter):
Janice Rogers Brown: the individual right to keep and bear arms is a "right expressly guaranteed by the Bill of Rights."
Samuel Alito: Argued that Congress cannot regulate the private possession of machine guns.
Edith Jones: "unalienable rights were given by God to all our fellow citizens."
Alex Kozinski: "All too many of the other great tragedies of history... were perpetrated by armed troops against unarmed populations."
See your point. Did you read the rest of the post? It touches on much
of the argument you make. However, I still stand by what I wrote. It is
not serving the best interest of the citizenry as a whole to allow arms
into the hands of those who are neither 'sane nor safe'. And it
certainly doesn't help the cause of Gun Owners, as a whole, to advocate
'anyone and everyone' having the ability to keep and bear arms. Am also
of the opinion that a person, not a citizen of the United States,
should not be allowed possession of arms. That the right is reserved
for citizens only.
By suggestion, you indicate it would be perfectly acceptable for
Charles Manson, should he be released, to keep and bear arms? There is
a matter of responsibility involved. The whole case being made by the
Gun-Grabbers is reinforced by irresponsible uses of firearms. They jump
on each instance and pronounce "I told you so!" With freedom comes
responsibility! A fact not touched on much these days.
Should Charles Manson be released, he'll NEED arms -- because there
will be a hell of a lot of people who want him dead, and the police for
sure won't be protecting him. The problem I have with your
scenario isn't arming Charles Manson once released, it's releasing him
I don't disagree that it would be politically expedient to pass
against "bad people" having guns. The problem is that the
government defines the "bad people". If it's valid to
prevent "bad people" from owning the tools of self-defense while they
are free in society, what will you do when the government defines "bad
people" to be... oh... anyone who ever got a speeding ticket?
Putting the right to keep and bear arms in the Constitution was
intended to take the issue off the table as close to permanently as the
Founders were willing to go. And until you are willing to submit
to a background check before buying a computer or connecting to the
Internet, calling for background checks before buying a gun is a
position of weakness that indicates a lack of moral clarity.
Politically, it will probably
be impossible to get rid of the felon-in-possession prohibition, and
difficult to get rid of the mandatory background check. But
background checks are Constitutionally invalid, and the
felon-in-possession laws are questionable. It shouldn't matter
how expedient they are.
This blog has been without an About Me section for quite a while, so I figured it was time to reintroduce myself.
Let's start with the disclaimer.
This blog does not engage in argument from authority. What that means is that I claim no special knowledge about firearms, legal issues, or the intersection thereof. I am not a lawyer. I am a gun hobbyist, but not the type with an encyclopedic knowledge of projectile physics. I write about the things that I am interested in, which (for this blog) consists of firearms and the laws and politics surrounding them, with a side order of libertarian activism. What I know about them consists of what an interested hobbyist can learn in his spare time over the course of about 10 years now. I know about the same amount about a variety of martial arts, particular Aikido, fencing, and archery.
Those areas on which I can claim some professional knowledge and qualifications have nothing to do with this blog, but they are computers in general, Java programming and Linux administration specifically, and hopefully someday speculative fiction writing.
My life continues to generate stress and upheaval. While this
blog isn't about my life, sometimes life interferes with
blogging. Please be patient. If this site should disappear
suddenly, don't panic; the gun blogger who shall no longer be named
disappeared for similar reasons. I'll make my way back towards
regular posting as time and energy permit.
UPDATE: Thanks for the kind words of encouragement, folks. I'm
turning this entry back into a normal one. I think I'm past the
hump, and things should be OK from here out, but I'm not absolutely
certain. It's good to be back. If you want to know what was
up, email me; I won't post anything more about it publically.
Activists convinced Paramount Pictures to take down posters of rapper
50 Cent's new movie that showed the rapper holding a gun. They
claimed it glorified gun violence (especially since the posters were
displayed very near a day school), and so Paramount decided to pull the
posters from many locations. But while it's great that Paramount
realized their message was wrong, it's not really the
pictures of the guns that we're after.
Y'know, it's almost sad. They're reduced to crowing about the
fact that they managed to convince one of their Hollywood allies to
stop advertising guns. They can't convince anyone else and they
are having a hard time convincing themselves, apparantly, at least when
there's money involved.
It's interesting for another reason as well.
Yes, in this internal email to supporters, they are calling for guns to
be removed from the home. All homes. They don't quite come
out and say they want to ban them... but they definitely want them
"removed". Somehow. By moral 'suasion or theft or police
action, I suppose, so long as they are gone.
And let's not forget the other angle... The left, supposed champions of
the First Amendment, mounting a pressure campaign against one of their
own allies for exercising their right of free speech.
Don't they realize we're watching them melt down in slow motion... with popcorn?
Bush announced today that his controversial nominee for the Supreme Court, Harriet Miers, requested
that he withdraw her name from consideration. The official reason
was due to the potential for conflicts over her work as White House
counsel; with little other basis to evaluate her work, even strongly
conservative Senators were hinting that they would need to see those
documents. Unofficially, the vocal discontent of the Republican
base was probably a factor.
With Miers out of the way, and Democrats already speculating that her
nomination was a Rove plot all along, the question of who Bush will
nominate as her replacement surely looms large. Will he take
offense at what he might perceive as a betrayal by the right, and
nominate a similar candidate? Or will the right receive what they
are demanding -- a judge with both stellar qualifications on
Constitutional law and a record demonstrating an originalist judicial
That's hard to say, but I am convinced we dodged a bullet with Miers. Here's why I finally came down as opposing her:
No judicial record. First and foremost, a Supreme Court
justice is a judge. The task of judging cases is different from
the task of being an advocate for a client; the difference is not
insurmountable but the results reached may well be different.
Her only significant experience with Constitutional law consists of documents unquestionably protected by executive privilege.
The writing samples available to us are relatively unclear and
muddled. Clarity of thought is usually expressed in clarity of
the written word. Lack of clarity in the writing of a Supreme
Court decision can cost billions of dollars in legal fees.
Leaked rumors that Miers may once have owned a gun and may once
have had a concealed carry permit sound like a bone tossed to a stray
dog. There's no meat on it. Owning a gun, even carrying a
gun while a public figure and government official, does not translate
into a favorable position on guns. Just ask Feinstein.
The fact that she has not specialized her career in
Constitutional law means that she has begun forming serious legal
opinions about the Constitution only recently. There would be a
substantial risk that an inexperienced Constitutional lawyer on the
court would grow up... like Souter.
No sense of what her positions are on Constitutional issues
(assuming she has even formulated them). Bush may trust her, but
I don't trust Bush.
As a case in point, noting her evangelical religion is not a positive. God does not decide cases. The law decides cases.
Miers may be a lot of things, but one of the top Constitutional lawyers and scholars in the nation is not one of them.
Most people involved in the firearms community were born into it.
The vast majority of shooters have brothers, uncles and grandparents
that own guns and are eager to pass their legacy on to the next
generation. This means that it?s most likely that a shooter will
already have a huge storehouse of facts, figures and gun lore inside
It is very difficult for experienced shooters to understand the
mindset of those who are just beginning to explore this hobby of ours.
What is obvious or self evident to us is arcane and obscure to the
beginner. This is a problem when introducing someone to the shooting
advice for sure. I'm going to use it as a springboard to talk
about something else that I've known for a while, but haven't said much
about here. It's something that I first realized while reading Unintended Consequences, though Ross does not address it directly. Quite simply, there is a culture that exists around firearms (and also hunting), and that culture is a repository of knowledge and skill that is finite.
Efforts at gun control are not solely aimed at controlling the
inanimate objects we call firearms, they are aimed at controlling --
and eventually, destroying -- a culture.
And in a large part, it's working. There are millions of gun
owners but few of them are politically active regarding their gun
rights. Guns are generally not shown in public because they tend
to panic people who aren't part of that culture. People who move
from the country to the city often leave their guns behind, drifting
away from the recreational uses that they once enjoyed because it
becomes too much time and trouble to shoot regularly. Even while
they lose on the political front, the anti-gun media continues to press
the cultural battle.
We have to bring new people into the culture, and keep those who join
interested. If we do not do that, if we cannot do that, we will lose.
I'm a case in point.
I was not born a member of the gun culture.
In fact, I was born in a city which has a near-complete ban on
firearms, in a gun-free home. No one I knew owned firearms (or at
least admitted to owning firearms) for the entirety of my
childhood. Though my family moved to a less restrictive city
eventually, the no-guns rule remained in place. It didn't bother
me much, it just wasn't something I thought about much as a kid.
Leaving the restrictive laws of my birthplace aside, it should be
surprising that I was raised in a gun-free home, particularly after my
family moved. My father and grandfather both served in the
military; my mother was born and raised on a farm in the country, and
her family owned several firearms. (I did not learn of this until
after they had been sold with the estate.) Even my last name is a
direct reference to an activity normally performed with a firearm.
Yet throughout my childhood and teenage years, firearms were quietly
but firmly prohibited. My mother did not like them; my father did
not like them enough to make it an issue.
I was drawn into the gun culture through politics. I saw that
firearms and firearms rights were being ceaselessly attacked, despite
their obvious utility for self-defense and the explicit protection of
the 2nd Amendment. I decided to dedicate a large part of my time
and energy to protecting those rights in particular, which is how I
ended up running this blog.
It was not easy to get here. In some ways, I'm still not
"here". I own firearms; I shoot them when I have time. I've
done a lot of research, mostly on the law, but also on firearms in
general. But there are a lot of things that I don't know as well
as I would like, and others that I know nothing about at all. For
example, I've never been hunting; no one in my circle of friends hunts,
and I don't even really know where to start looking. I don't know
if I'd like it, though I would like the chance to find out. (I'm
still working on that one).
I have no illusions regarding the willingness of the general public to
put in the same amount of time and effort it has taken to bootstrap
myself into a position of even occasionally patchy knowledge about the
The bottom line: we need better outreach. Don't just hand a new
recruit a gun and let him try it for a day at the range... welcome him
or her into the culture. Share your out-of-the-way shooting spots
and your hunting grounds. Invite people to participate once they
show an interest. There are a lot of people out there who don't
even know what they are missing.
Canadian dignitary to raise the issue of gun control with Condi Rice...
Y'know, the Prime Minister of Canadian has every right to raise the issue with a US official,
just like he can raise any other issue he wants. But if it's not
too much trouble, I'd like to request at least one news camera be
positioned to record his departure from an unusual angle: the rear.
Bush signs the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act
SaysUncle reports that the President signed the bill (via the NRA). I'll keep my eyes peeled for updates to the cases that would be affected by this.
He also asks "What next?" Good question. In the past I've
argued that repealing the Hughes Amendment would be a good step
forward. I'm going to back off of that a little -- I think it
might make a better test case for our shiny new Justice and his
friends, depending on who the second one turns out to be.
Sporting purposes test is a good target, but mostly
I figure national concealed carry is the next legislative target.
To short-circuit federalism concerns, treat it just like a driver's
license -- if you can carry in your home state you can carry anywhere,
with criminal penalties for police harassment. Hell, piggyback it
on the state-issued IDs -- amend the RealID act to add a "carry
endorsement" to the standard. Lemonade from lemons...
It is evident that the Federal Government has not only the Right but the
duty to perform 'Background' checks on prospective purchasers of
Firearms. It is quite apparent that our Founders desired that Firearms
be in "safe and sane" hands. That the Federal Government assures that a
citizen is indeed capable of possessing a firearm is a matter of
Ensuring Domestic Tranquility.
such thing is "evident". First, the federal government does not
have rights; it has powers, granted to it by the Constitution.
Second, "ensuring domestic tranquility", despite the appearance of
those words within that document, is not a grant of power. It's a
statement of purpose, similar to "promote the general welfare", to
which those specifically granted powers should be applied.
(Unless you want to contend that drugging the water supply with valium
The present prohibition on felons possessing firearms is doubly
offensive to the Constitution; it is an infringement of the right to
keep and bear arms, and it lacks any Constitutionally-enumerated power
from which its authority is derived. While removing or
overturning it is both unlikely and probably unwise, only the naive
proponents of gun control imagine (usually only for brief moments of
supreme concentration, accompanied by a supportive chorus) that it
actually prevents criminals from getting their hands on a gun if they
A Constitutional government would lock its criminals up without their
guns, preferably for long enough to ensure that they would trod the
straight and narrow in the future, and restore them their arms upon
release. Those criminals who repeatedly committed violent crimes
would find Darwin close upon their heels before long.
While it may be politically expedient to publically voice support for
background checks, it is neither effective in reducing crime nor is it
sound in principle. Even if prohibitting felons from firearms
possession is considered a wise and successful policy, background
checks on ordinary citizens represent a prior restraint upon a
protected right. We must always remember that it represents a
compromise, not a victory.
The Volokh Conspiracy examines the interaction between the 2nd and 14th Amendments. (If your Constitutional crib sheet isn't handy, the 2nd Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms, and the 14th Amendment
provides for Federal protection of the "privileges and immunities" of
citizens of the United States, along with equal protection of the
People who claim that the 2nd Amendment does not bar states from enacting gun control are forgetting about the 14th.
Looks like I won't be seeing the next Bond movie.
The other Bonds weren't stupid enough to make their opinion known
publically before the release, at least not while I was paying
attention. What does he think people did with swords, knives,
axes, arrows, spears, catapolts, ballistae, rocks and even simple clubs
before handguns were invented, hmm?
CBS Public Eye on Wallace's Handgun Control appearance...
I spoke with Mason late yesterday and she told me how CBS News will
deal with this issue in the future. Mason said that if Wallace
?suggests a story that we feel is a potential conflict, we?ll look at
it and if we see a conflict, we?ll turn it down.? I take that to mean
we won?t be seeing Mr. Wallace doing any more stories involving Second
I did not call for the GOP to steadfastly defend the president and his
nominee against obviously meritous charges of perjury, etc. I argued
that the Democratic Party's example of absurd and wrong headed loyalty
of a scandal-plagued Clinton contrasted sharply with many among the
GOP's immediate turn on Bush/Miers even before the hearings, when Bush
deserves political support from the very people he has aided, at a
minimum until the hearings begin. The GOP and allied pundits cold move
a long way towards party loyalty and the sort of political maturity
that enduring majority coalitions need without ever coming close to the
line the Democrats crossed with Clinton, and that move would serve the
party and their goals in the long run.
got a point -- there's a difference between loyalty to a President on
the matter of perjury charges and similar crimes, and a Supreme Court
nomination. But Hugh is arguing here that those the President has
aided owe him loyalty in return. Fine, to a degree. Those
the President has aided with his Presidency do perhaps owe him
something. But what has President Bush done for me?
He's passed tax cuts... that will expire in a few years. But he's
also spending like a drunken sailor, including massive new drug
He's kept America "safe" from terrorism... while undermining vital
civil liberties. And he won't even close off the southern border,
something that is vitally important to preventing terrorists from
smuggling in weapons of mass destruction.
He's appointed a justice to the Supreme Court... whose opinion on vital questions is still a mystery. No credit there.
He's supported the Firearms Liability Protection Act... while also
supporting the Assault Weapons Ban. He has failed even to propose
meaningful reforms to bring our nation's gun laws back to sanity.
He's failed even to propose meaningful social security or tax
reforms. Never mind pass them -- he hasn't even proposed them,
aside from broad speculative outlines of possible future proposals that
fade into mist once Democratic opposition crystalizes.
In short -- we, the People, put a single party in control of the
Presidency and both Houses of Congress. And what has he changed
about our government? Not much. He's changed how we
interact with other nations, to be sure, and mostly in positive
ways. But domestically, he's done nothing for gun owners, nothing
for libertarians, nothing for small-government conservatives.
So when Hugh says that "we" owe Bush... well, maybe someone does. But I don't owe the man a damned thing.
A while back I reported on an interesting case: David Bach, an
experienced military officer and alleged "badass", was suing New York
to obtain a concealed-carry permit valid in that state. Bach
lives in Virginia, but regularly travels to visit family in New York,
and would like to be able to protect himself on those journeys by
carrying his personal firearm. New York, of course, would rather
he did not.
Although Bach lost his case, there's a law review article
out suggesting that he should have won. It should come as no
surprise that I agree. He should have won. Even leaving
aside the combination of the 2nd + 14th amendments that should protect
the right to bear arms universally, if a marriage license in Virginia
is valid in New York under the Privileges and Immunities and
full-faith-and-credit clause, so should a concealed-carry license be.
It's an interesting exploration of a little-visited section of the
Constitution, and worth the read if you're interested in that sort of
There's one that stands head and shoulders above all others, in my opinion: US v Miller.
Give me a thoughtful, considered opinion about that case, and it will
reveal two important facts about her... whether or not she thinks that
the Constitution means what it says, and how willing she may be to
overturn the governmental apple cart.
According to the Geek, who is reporting an email from the Second Amendment Foundation,
FEMA has reversed its policy on firearms in temporary housing for
hurricane victims. He notes that this has been a good week for
gun rights. I think this smells like progress.
... so that they can evesdrop
easier. Ye gods. There is absolutely no reason for anyone
to be forced to design their network, their software, or anything else
to make it easier for the police to violate the Fourth Amendment.
That onus falls upon the police. Some networks are even
deliberately designed to be difficult or impossible to intercept, and
their users generally consider this a feature. Is all public speech on the topic of cryptography now verboten unless it includes an FBI backdoor?